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


29 Responses to “Family reunion craziness with Hungry Hungry Hippos”

  1. Let the craziness ensue – ha! – you guys are so creative and how much fun too! Love the Oktoberfest Theme – maybe Stein Pong, Costume Contest, etc. Never a dull moment when you guys get together – love it. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

    • Thanks for the suggestions. We do have an entire collection of steins that my father-in-law purchased, so plenty of those. At least one family member makes beer. I know three people who play accordions. Oh, yes, we could have a full-blown Oktoberfest.

      Yes, we like to have fun. My sister-in-law and her husband did a great job of planning fun activities for all ages.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    Ha! That ‘board’ game never entered our home…..for a couple of reasons. First being the excited “violence” (LOL!) that needs to be employed to play and, second, board games weren’t favored pasttimes in our household. #2 son and I did Backgammon, Chess and a few card games but that was the extent of it. Your 2017 German theme sounds great!!! Bring on the brats & kraut!!!!!

  3. Rosie Quale Says:

    We can bring the games again. They are “built to last”. Lindsey and Katie gave Jon the list of games they wanted to see what he would have time to make. They had the ideas.

  4. Littlesundog Says:

    Well, how FUNNY!! I have never heard of this version of Hungry Hungry Hippos! Hilarious! We grew up with board games. I now suspect it was the only way to get all five of us kids to do something together that didn’t drive mom crazy! 😀

  5. Can I come over?
    I just LOVE that HiPPO game!
    How FUN! x

  6. Jackie Says:

    Your family always has so much fun. Our youth group has played this version indoors, it’s a lot of fun (to watch) 🙂

  7. Don Says:

    Water Balloons! A cold beer for adults and root beer floats for the youngsters a set of dry clothes for after the fun……………………………………

  8. Hungry Hippos is one of the games on display at the National Museum of Toys/Miniatures in Kansas City. http://toyandminiaturemuseum.org/ As many times as I’ve been to Kansas City I had never visited this museum until this week. The museum’s collection of toys is a fun trip down memory lane and its collection of miniatures is simply astounding.

  9. Laurie at MN Machinery Museum Says:

    Hi there! No party suggestions here but I do want to know how can I become part of the family? So much fun you have!

  10. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    That’s hilarious!

  11. Sue Ready Says:

    great recap of Hungry Hippos! Where did they find all those colored balls? Looks like everyone had tons of fun

  12. How fun! We never played Hungry Hungry Hippos with our kids. I don’t think I mind though. Noisy games were never my favorites. I’m more of a Candyland girl.

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