Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Family reunion craziness with Hungry Hungry Hippos August 18, 2016

Hungry Hungry Hippos board game cover #9


THUNK, THUNK, THUNK. The rapid clatter of four hippo mouths banging against plastic in a furious game of Hungry Hungry Hippos is enough to make any parent or grandparent crave silence.


Hungry Hungry Hippos game #13


But preschoolers love this noisy Milton Bradley game in which players slam levers that open Henry, Homer, Harry and Happy hippos’ mouths to marble-sized white balls. The object is to gather as many balls as possible as quickly as possible.

For now, my Hungry Hungry Hippos game sits boxed in a spare bedroom closet, the four hippos’ mouths clamped in blessed silence. I’ve strategically placed the game at the bottom of a board game stack, hoping any preschool visitors to my home will fail to notice it. They always spot it.


Hungry Hungry Hippos human version #116


This past weekend my husband’s family took this favorite childhood game to a whole new level with the human version of Hungry Hungry Hippos played at the Helbling family reunion. We were advised in advance to wear bike helmets and long-sleeved shirts and pants if we wished to participate. Just like kids, we didn’t listen.


Hungry Hungry Hippos human version #117


But, just like kids, the young adults loved the game which had them lying tummy down on hand-built creeper type platforms shoved toward a pile of colorful balls with upside down laundry baskets acting as hippo mouths.


Hungry Hungry Hippos human version #119


The human hippos were hilarious to watch. It’s not a game for those without upper body strength or an inability to latch onto a laundry basket while simultaneously attempting to capture all those balls tummy side down.


Hungry Hungry Hippos human version #135


All participants were under the age of thirty.


Reunion, Helbling family 2016 137


After the young adults finished their brief play, the preschool and elementary-aged contestants joined the fun. They loved this version as much as the original. And more.


Hungry Hungry Hippos baskets become train #155


Once done, the kids climbed into laundry baskets set atop a creeper and went for a ride with Engineer Matt pushing the imaginary train.

TELL ME, have you played any such creative games at a family reunion? I’d like to hear. My husband and I are hosting the family reunion next year along with other family members and are planning an Oktoberfest theme in honor of our German heritage. It may be difficult to top Hungry Hungry Hippos, though.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling