Child's Play (game show)

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Child's Play
Created by Mark Goodson
Directed by Ira Skutch[1]
Presented by Bill Cullen
Narrated by Gene Wood
Theme music composer Score Productions[1]
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 258
Producer(s) Mimi O'Brien[1]
Location(s) CBS Television City
Hollywood, California
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 22–24 minutes
Production company(s) Mark Goodson Productions
Original network CBS
Original release September 20, 1982 (1982-09-20) – September 16, 1983 (1983-09-16)

Child's Play is an American television game show in which adult contestants tried to guess words based on definitions given by children. The Mark Goodson-produced series debuted on CBS from September 20, 1982 at 10:30 am EST (immediately following The New $25,000 Pyramid, which debuted the same day). That time slot was held by Alice for a little over two years. Despite running for almost a year, Child's Play was never able to make ratings headway against either Wheel of Fortune or Sale of the Century, two hit game shows that NBC aired opposite it; CBS ended the series on September 16, 1983 and replaced it with Press Your Luck, which performed much better for CBS.

Hosts and announcers

Child's Play was hosted by game show veteran Bill Cullen. This was both Cullen's final game for CBS and his last for Mark Goodson, ending a 30-year association with the Goodson company as an emcee. Gene Wood was the primary announcer for the entire run, with Johnny Gilbert and Bob Hilton (who also announced on the pilot) filling in on occasion.[1]

Cullen first plugged the show during his only appearance on Bob Barker's version of The Price Is Right.

Main game

Two contestants competed. The object of the game was to correctly identify words based on videotaped definitions given by elementary school-age children (ages 5–9). The game was played in two rounds.[1]

Round 1

In the first round, a word was given to the home audience, and a video clip of a child defining that word was played. (e.g., a child stating "It's when you run around and wave your arms back and forth." to describe "arms race.") Any incriminating words (including the word itself) were censored.

Once the clip ended, the contestant had a chance to guess the word; a correct response earned one point. If the contestant was incorrect, his/her opponent viewed a clip of another child defining the same word. If the opponent was wrong, control passed back to the first contestant, who saw one final clip (usually of an older child, and the answer usually not that hard to guess by this point). If the contestant was still wrong, Cullen announced the correct answer and no points were awarded.

The first round continued, with the players alternating control on words (originally the winner of the previous word played first on each new word), until the first commercial break.

Round 2: Fast Play

Both contestants were given the opportunity to guess what word the child was defining by hitting a buzzer to interrupt the video clip and guess the word. Two points were given for a correct answer, and if the player buzzed in with an incorrect guess the rest of the clip was played for the opponent before he/she got to guess. Play continued until a school bell rang to end the game, and whoever was ahead won $500 and advanced to the bonus round.[2] If the game ended in a tie, one additional word was played.

In the first three episodes Fast Play was played in two halves, with the school bell ringing twice. In the first half answers were worth one point and doubled after the bell rang the first time. Also, if a contestant buzzed in with an incorrect guess the opponent got to see the entire clip from the beginning again. This rule was discontinued in favor of the rules above.

Bonus round

Two different bonus round formats were used, each with a $5,000 top prize and a 45-second time limit.

Format 1: Triple Play

In the original bonus round, the winner of the main game tried to guess words based on definitions written by three children ("Child A", "Child B", and "Child C"). The contestant started by picking one of the three children, whose definition was then read by Cullen, and then either provided a guess or chose another child's definition. If the player was not able to guess the word after seeing all three definitions, they passed to the next word.

Each correct guess was worth $100, while getting six before time expired won $5,000.

Format 2: Turnabout

In this round, instituted April 25, 1983, the winner was joined by five of the children who were appearing in the film clips and had to describe seven words to them. Each time the champion got a correct answer from a child, they won $100 for themselves and the children won $100 to be split among them. The champion was able to pass and return to a word if time permitted. If the champion was able to get the children to guess all seven words within the time limit, they won $5,000 for themselves and the five children shared $1,000.

If the player gave an illegal clue (such as saying the word or any form of it), the word was thrown out and the player and children lost their chance at their respective top prizes. However, the round continued until time ran out or all of the remaining words had been played.

Champions returned until they were defeated or won five consecutive games; thus, the maximum a champion could win was $27,500.

Episode status

The series is intact, and has been seen on GSN at various times. As of June 2015, the show airs on Buzzr.

Notable contestants

Several celebrities appeared on Child's Play before they became famous: Jeff Cohen, Breckin Meyer, Masi Oka, and Tara Reid were all featured children on the show. In addition, Anne-Marie Johnson appeared as a contestant. Also, Sugar Ray Robinson appeared in the audience of the July 4, 1983 episode, and Bill Cullen introduced him as the boxing coach of one of the Child's Play kids participating in the Turnabout game.

International versions

Country Local Name Host Channel Year Aired
 Australia Child's Play Jeff Phillips Seven Network 1984
 Germany Dingsda Fritz Egner
Werner Schimidbauer
Bayerisches Rundfunk 1985-1994
Thomas Ohner kabel eins 2001-2002
 Greece Ta παiδíα παíζεi
Children Play
Lefteris Eleftheriades ERT2 1987-1988
Isabella Vlassiadou ANT1 1998
 Indonesia Kata Si Kecil Kepra antv 1996-1998
 Netherlands t Is Kinderspel Fred de Graff NCRV 1984
Dinges Martine Bijl(1986-88)
Frank Masmeijer(1989-93)
Jo de Poorter(1995)
 Russia Уcтaми млaденцa
Mouths of Babes
Alexander Gurevich PTP
Maxim Vitorgan Disney 2013-present
 Spain Juego de niños Amparo Soler Leal(1988-1989)
Ignacio Salas(1989-1990)
Tina Sainz(1989-1991)
Javier Sarda(1991-1992)
TVE 1988-1992
 Sweden Lekande Lätt Kjell Lönnå
Erik Nyberg
Sveriges Television 1987-2001
 United Kingdom Child's Play Michael Aspel ITV 1984-1988
 United States (English) Child's Play Bill Cullen CBS 1982-1983
 United States (Spanish) Dame la Pista Alessandra Rosaldo TeleFutura 2008



Australia ran their version for a brief period in 1984, hosted by former pop star and host of Happening 71–72 Jeff Philips.


Germany ran their successful version of Child's Play under the name Dingsda ("Gizmo/Whatsit") on Bayerischer Rundfunk from 1985-2000 with Fritz Egner from 1985–1994, followed by Werner Schmidbauer from 1994–2000. Then a year later, a revival of the show ran on kabel eins with Thomas Ohrner for a brief period from 2001–02.


Their short-lived version titled Tα παiδíα παíζεi (Children Play) originally ran on ERT2 from 1987–1988 with Lefteris Eleftheriadis as host. ten years later, its revival ran on ANT1 for a brief period in 1998 hosted by Isabella Vlassiadou.


ran their version of Child's Play from 1996–98 on antv under the name Kata Si Kecil ("Little Words"), hosted by Kepra.


had two different versions of Child's Play running on NCRV, the first version was called 't Is Kinderspel ("It's Child's Play") running for a brief period in 1984 hosted by Fred de Graaf. one year later, the show was revived under the new name of Dinges ("Whatchamacallit") which had a much more successful run than its precursor from 1986-1995. the original host was Martine Bijl from 1986-1988 followed by Frank Masmeijer from 1989–1993. Its third and final host of the series was Jo de Poorter (of Familieraad fame) in 1995.


Уcтaми млaденцa (Mouths of Babes) hosted by Alexander Gurevich originally ran from 1992–1996 and 1999–2000 on PTP and on HTB from 1997–1998. Thirteen years later, the show is revived on Disney Channel Russia now hosted by Maxim Vitorgan since 2013.


Their version is called Juego de niños ("Child's Play") running on TVE from 1988–1992. unlike previous international versions, when a contestant guesses a word correctly he or she earns a "Gallifantes" (a puppet like creature) and at the end of the show, whoever gets the most "Gallifantes'" was the winner of the day also unlike the other previous international versions, this one in particular had four host the first host was Amparo Soler Leal from 1988-1989 then he was replaced by Tina Sáinz from 1989-1990 then Ignacio Salas from 1989-1990 and finally, Javier Sardá from 1991-1992.


Their version is called Lekande Lätt ("Swimmingly/Light as") aired on Svergies Television from 1987-2001, hosted by Kjell Lönnå then from 2002 until 2003 hosted by Erik Nyberg.

Spanish (US)

On September 15, 2008, FremantleMedia, owners of the Goodson-Todman catalog of games, revived Child's Play in the Spanish-speaking market as Dame la Pista ("Give Me a Clue"), hosted by Alessandra Rosaldo on Univision-owned TeleFutura. This show was the lead-in to ¿Qué dice la gente?, a Spanish-language version of Family Feud, during its run. The show was eventually cancelled.

United Kingdom

see under:

the long-running 1984-1988 British version, hosted by Michael Aspel.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Schwartz, David; Ryan, Steve; Wostbrock, Fred (1999). The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows (3 ed.). Facts on File, Inc. p. 42. ISBN 0-8160-3846-5. 
  2. [1]

External links