Candy canes, those J-shaped red-and-white striped candies that are everywhere from November through December, are more than a tree decoration. You can use them to play games—all fun, some educational. So break out a box of candy canes for a day of fun with these clever candy cane games.
Candy Cane Games for Reading
Let’s start with games that are fun and educational. These games can reinforce reading skills.
1. Candy Cane Writing
Crush candy canes to create a sand that students can write in (but have them write with a straw or chopstick so they don’t end up with candy cane all over their hands). To turn this activity into a game, group students into teams and have them take turns writing words in the candy canes in a relay format.
2. Candy Cane Letters
Give students candy canes and challenge them to break them and reform them into letters. See what they come up with!
Candy Cane Games for Math
Candy canes can be used for reinforcing patterns, geometry, and number sense.
3. Candy Cane Race to the Top
Using a board like this one and candy cane pieces, have students roll a die and move that many pieces. Or students can work in pairs to roll two dice. The student with the higher number moves one space.
4. Candy Cane Symmetry
Give students a set of candy canes and have them create symmetrical designs. Or have students work in pairs, with one student making one half of the design, and the other creating the second, symmetrical half.
5. Candy Cane Patterns
Candy canes have natural patterns on them, so after examining a few different candy canes to see how the pattern progresses, have students make their own. Use drawings of candy canes to create patterns using stripes or dots, or get creative. For older kids, have them race to see how quickly they can create different patterns.
6. Candy Cane Stripe Patterns
Use candy canes and pipe cleaners to wrap stripes for each number. For younger children, work up to the number that you’ve taught. For older kids, have them see how many stripes they can get onto one candy cane.
7. Candy Cane Estimation
Fill a large clear jar with as many candy canes as you can. Everyone guesses how many candy canes there are, and the person who guesses closest without going over wins.
Group Candy Cane Games
These candy cane games are great for a Reindeer Games day, for minute-to-win-it breaks, or a game day prior to winter break.
8. Candy Cane Relay
In teams of three or four players, each team uses a candy cane as a relay baton. Have students line up behind a starting line in groups. The first person carries the candy cane and runs or walks around the “track.” When they are back at the start, they pass the baton to the next player who goes around the track, and so on. When everyone has had a turn (some people may need to go twice if there are uneven teams), you can declare a winner.
9. Candy Cane Wrap
Divide your group into teams of four or five kids. Give each team white and red streamers. Choose one person on each team to be the “Candy Cane” while the others are the “Wrappers.” The Candy Cane person must stand still while the Wrappers use their red and white crepe paper to wrap them up in stripes like a candy cane. The first team to finish wins!
10. Candy Cane Derby
Give each player a candy cane and three large marshmallows. Toss the marshmallows one at a time to the batter. The batter hits the marshmallows as far as they can. After everyone has gone, the person whose marshmallow traveled the farthest distance is the winner.
11. Candy Cane Tree Toss
Each team gets a small artificial Christmas tree and a pile of candy canes. Standing a distance away from the tree, each team must take turns throwing their candy canes at their tree, trying to get them to stick. The team with the most candy canes stuck in their tree at the end of the game wins!
12. Candy Cane String Race
Give each team of two a string and a candy cane. Each pair walks until they are standing 6 feet or so apart (until the string is taut). Then, they have to move the candy cane from one side to the other and back without moving their arms.
13. Candy Cane Spoons
It’s the card game Spoons, but instead of spoons, everyone grabs a candy cane when someone gets four of a kind. The person who doesn’t grab a candy cane is the loser!
14. Candy Cane Balance Relay
A twist on the relay, this time have each player carry two candy canes, one looped onto the other. Kids walk out and back without dropping the candy cane. Then, they pass the candy canes to the next player, who repeats this until everyone has had a turn. If the candy cane drops, you’re out!
15. Candy Cane Fishing
Attach a candy cane to a dowel or chopstick with ribbon and “fish” for anything that kids can hook. For a fun-only game, have kids fish for ribbons or candy. For an educational spin, have them fish for word problems to solve, words to read, or questions to ask one another.
16. Candy Cane Hook Relay
Divide players into teams. Put an empty basket or bowl at the finish line. At the start, each team has a basket filled with candy canes, and each player has their own candy cane. The first person in each line places their candy cane in their mouth, hook-end down, and uses the hook to grab a cane out of the basket or bowl. Then, they run and deposit the cane into the basket at the end. If their cane drops, they have to go back and start over. When all the candy canes have been transferred, that team wins.
Shuffleboard, but with candy canes. On a table, tape three sections. Each one is a different scoring section. Then, give participants a marshmallow and candy cane. Participants use the candy cane to push the marshmallow into a scoring section. The person with the highest score wins.
18. Candy Cane Fencing
Each participant gets a wrapped candy cane. One person from each team fences the other using the candy cane. The first person with a broken cane loses the battle and the winner goes on to fence the next player.
19. Candy Cane Golf
Set up a mini golf course with plastic cups as holes, then use candy canes as golf clubs and sphere candies as balls to play a round of golf.
20. Candy Cane Pond
Place a plate on a mason jar (add a weighted item in the middle of the plate to hold it steady) and hang candy canes over the edge. Each person gets their own candy cane and tries to pull a candy cane off the plate using their candy cane. The trick: They have to keep their candy cane in their mouth.
21. Candy Cane Hide-and-Seek
Hide candy canes around your house, backyard, or classroom and have kids find the candy canes. Give hints to help kids find their way. To make it more challenging for older kids, use riddles or a series of clues to find the candy canes.
Get this printable from The Resourceful Mama.
22. Candy Cane Hop
Draw a hopscotch board or a start and finish line. Then, each participant holds out their hands while another person hooks candy canes onto their fingers. The person then hops through the hopscotch board or to the finish line. If they stop hopping or drop a candy cane, they have to go back and start again.
23. Candy Cane Scavenger Hunt
Divide kids into teams and give them clues for a candy cane scavenger hunt. See how many they can find in the time you give them.
Buy it: Scavenger hunt printable at Little Halo J
24. Candy Cane Horseshoes
Set up a pole (an empty wrapping tube would be a good makeshift pole). Give each player a few candy canes and have students form a line. Each person takes turns tossing their candy cane toward the pole. The person who hooks their candy cane around the pole the most times or gets their candy cane closest wins.
You can also get a cute candy cane horseshoe set like this one from Oriental Trading and use candy canes instead of rope.
Buy it: Candy cane horseshoe game at Oriental Trading
25. Candy Cane Pickup
Players put a candy cane in their mouth and see how many candy canes they can move from the table pile to a bowl in one minute using the candy cane in their mouth as the hook. The player who moves the most candy canes in one minute is the winner.
26. Who Stole the Candy Cane?
Instead of “Who Stole the Cookie?” this is Who Stole the Candy Cane? Sit in a circle and put a candy cane in a jar. Have children close their eyes, then choose one child to take the candy cane and keep it hidden. Then, the other children guess who has the candy cane.
Learn more: Who Stole the Candy Cane? game at Teach Preschool
27. Bobbing for Candy Canes
Put a bunch of candy canes on a table and have kids (and adults!) “bob” for them, using only their mouths, to get as many candy canes as they can.
28. Candy Cane Taste
Think beyond mint. Pick up a package of different-flavored candy canes and have people taste each without looking. The person who identifies the most flavors correctly wins.
29. Candy Cane Hockey
Mark goals on either side of a table with tape. Use a peppermint as the puck and candy canes as sticks for a game of candy cane hockey.
30. Candy Cane Cup
Place one cup for each player on the ground next to a table. Tie a string to a candy cane for each person. Have each player go to the other side of the table so they can’t see the cup. Then, they have to drape their candy cane onto the other side of the table to get it into the cup without looking.