Marco Polo

(for ages 6+)


  • Blindfold (optional)

Prep Time:

  • 5 minutes

Recipe for Fun!

Who was Marco Polo and why is a children’s game named after him? Marco Polo was a real person. He was a merchant from Venice who wrote about his adventures traveling on the Silk Road in the 13th century. His tales were widely read in Europe, and his name became synonymous with venturing into the unknown. The game of Marco Polo is played with either a blindfold or with closed eyes - inspired by Marco Polo’s own adventurous spirit.

Object of the Marco Polo game: The player who is Marco Polo uses call and response and their sense of hearing to locate other players. The player who is Marco Polo is working to tag another player in order to win the game.

Here’s how to play the Marco Polo game:

  1. Set the boundaries of the play area, and consequences for players who leave the designated play area.
  2. One player volunteers to be Marco Polo.
  3. The person playing Marco Polo is either blindfolded or closes their eyes and keeps them shut for the duration of their turn as Marco Polo.
  4. The person playing Marco Polo puts their arms out and shouts “Marco!”
  5. The other players respond, “Polo!” while avoiding being touched by the person playing Marco Polo.
  6. The call and response repeats for 5 minutes.

How to win the Marco Polo game:

  1. If the person playing Marco Polo successfully tags another player, the tagged person then assumes the role of Marco Polo.
  2. If after 5 minutes the person playing Marco Polo does not successfully tag another player, they have lost, and another player takes a turn at being “it”.

Tip: Sometimes children skip setting a time limit, which can lead to the weakest player in an unending role as Marco Polo. To avoid a bullying situation, offer to watch the clock or set an alarm.

How do you play Marco Polo in a swimming pool? The object and rules of the Marco Polo game are the same when kids are playing it in the pool. Instead of running from the person playing Marco Polo, they simply swim away from them. When played in the pool, there is no blindfold involved for safety reasons. The person playing Marco Polo just closes their eyes. And as is true for all pool time involving children, adult supervision is required.

What do kids learn by playing the Marco Polo game? The Marco Polo game is a great way for kids to build communication skills. Kids can try to fool the person playing Marco by playing with the pitch of their voice to try to sound farther, or closer than they really are.

While playing the role of Marco Polo, kids also hone listening skills. Winning the game of Marco Polo requires kids to listen intently - not just for the voices of other players, but also for smaller sounds like breathing and movement. Like other games of tag, Marco Polo is a great gross motor skill-building activity for kids.

Marco Polo also packs a lot of emotional experiences into an action-packed game. Kids learn how it feels to be the “odd person out” when playing the role of Marco Polo, and also how to work as a team to evade another person playing the Marco Polo role.

Children must also keep their frustrations in check while trying to catch another player without the benefit of seeing them. The game also is a good way for children to get practice setting rules, and holding each other accountable for breaking the rules. When playing Marco Polo, kids are quick to watch for the player who is “it” cheating by taking a peek.