Don’t Wake Daddy Board Game Guide

Don’t Wake Daddy is one of those memorable and much-loved children’s board games that feels like it’s been around forever. Thanks to its simple premise and memorable gameplay, it has stood the test of time despite coming out over twenty years ago in 1992.

If you were a nineties kid, this might make you feel old, but the great thing about Don’t Wake Daddy is that it has triggered a wave of nostalgia in older generations who have, in turn, introduced today’s children to the joys of the game.

So, whether you’re new to the game or you’re returning to it with fond memories, this Don’t Wake Daddy Board Game Guide covers everything you need to know about it.

Don’t Wake Daddy: an overview

While it’s true that some criticism has been leveled at Don’t Wake Daddy for portraying a frightening patriarchal figure who is feared by children, reviews of this kind tend to read too much into the game, imagining a negative backstory that doesn’t exist.

The fact that the game has been around since the nineties and is still popular today proves just how appealing it is to young children. Not to mention the fact that it won “best children’s game” at the Norwegian gaming industry awards in 2019.

Back in ’92, the game was first introduced to the world at the American International Toy Fair. That year it was one of the best-selling children’s games over the Christmas period, and it was also ranked sixth-best toy of the year in the Duracell Kids’ Choice National Toy Survey.

Don’t Wake Daddy is built on a simple idea. It’s late at night, and while daddy is sleeping, the children are hungry for a midnight snack. Unable to ignore the rumbling of their tummies, they creep out of bed with one mission in mind: get to the fridge without waking daddy.

Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Daddy is a light sleeper and there are plenty of hazards in the way as the children tiptoe around the house.

Any sound could wake him, resulting in him jolting up in bed. When this happens, it’s not quite game over, but the children have to go back to the start if he doesn’t fall back to sleep.

One factor which has undoubtedly influenced the game’s popularity amongst younger children is the lack of reading that is involved. There are no complex rules to understand; it’s accessible to a wide range of kids regardless of their reading age.

Instead, the game is driven by visual and aural signals, which are more stimulating for young children.

Design of the game

Even today, Don’t Wake Daddy sports a similar design to that of the earlier editions. It features cartoon illustrations that are reminiscent of the era in which it was first created and plenty of bright colors to capture the attention of little ones.

Likewise, the board itself is extremely simple. It features a red bed in the center where daddy is sleeping, and around the outside snakes a multi-color pathway representing the route from the children’s bedroom to the kitchen.

Along the winding path, several different symbols represent different hazards and obstacles that the children could encounter on their journey.

In addition to this, there are several simple cards with block colors on them and a spinning dial.

The aim of the game

The game aims to be the first player to make it to the refrigerator without waking daddy. On the way, you’ll face numerous obstacles which you’ll have to tiptoe around, or else you could risk being sent back to the beginning of the game!

How to play Don’t Wake Daddy

This is one of the simplest children’s board games out there, so you don’t have to worry about complex rules or hours of setting it up. Here’s how to play a game of Don’t Wake Daddy.


First thing’s first, put daddy’s nightcap on his head and place him on the bed in the middle of the board. To put him to sleep, you need to press him down firmly so that he is lying flat.

Next, each player needs to choose a color to represent them as they move around the board. Take a mover piece in your chosen color and place it at the start of the track. Any leftover mover pieces should be placed out of the way.

Shuffle the picture cards thoroughly and deal them face up so that each player has the same number.

In a three-player game, it’s recommended to put an extra picture card aside. This means that, because nobody has that card, everyone is safe if they land on a space containing that picture.

The game is now ready to play.

Playing the game

The youngest player begins the game, which then continues clockwise.

To start your turn, spin the spinner. If it lands on a color, you should move your character to the first space of that color that isn’t already occupied.

On the other hand, if it lands on the purple star, you should move your character from wherever it is to a space just in front of the current leader. If you are already in the lead, you can spin again, and if there’s nobody else on the track, you can move to the first space.

The space that you land on can also impact your fate in the game:

  • A plain colored space with no image or number means you’re safe
  • A space with a picture and number means you’re in trouble

The latter outcome might yet work out okay for you, but this entirely depends on the cards you have in your hand. If you don’t have one that matches, you have to push the button on the alarm.

Then, clock the number of times that are indicated on the space. If daddy pops up in bed, you’ve failed your mission and woken him up! As a result, you have to do two things.

  1. Collect the matching card from whichever player has it 
  2. Return to your bed at the start of the track

Stay in that position until your next turn if daddy sleeps through the alarm.

How to win

Winning Don’t Wake Daddy all depends on what color the wheel lands on when you reach the end of the track. If there are no more spaces of that color in front of you, you can move onto the rainbow refrigerator – the first person there is the winner!

Who is Don’t Wake Daddy for?

Don’t Wake Daddy can be played with two to four people aged three and above. It’s best suited to young children because the game doesn’t require any strategy; instead, it focuses on fun.

There’s ample opportunity within the game for learning about colors and numbers, so there’s an educational side to the game too, but children are most likely to enjoy the simple gameplay and the thrill of excitement when daddy wakes up.

I wouldn’t say it’s a family game because it is unlikely to spark much enjoyment in adults or older children who play it, but it’s an excellent choice if you want to play one-on-one with your child and use it as a tool for learning or simply bonding.

How many pieces are there in Don’t Wake Daddy?

This board game doesn’t contain many pieces, so it’s easy to pack away. Here are all of the components:

  • 1x Game board
  • 1x Bed (consisting of the bed itself, the headboard, and daddy)
  • 1x Nightcap for daddy
  • 24x Cards
  • 4x Movers
  • 4x Mover bases
  • 1x Spinner
  • Labels
  • Instructions

Other games like Don’t Wake Daddy

Here are a few similar games that I’d recommend trying if you like the sound of Don’t Wake Daddy.

Don’t Break the Ice

This fun-filled interactive board game appeals to a similar audience to Don’t Wake Daddy due to its simplicity. In Don’t Break the Ice, players tap out 1” ice blocks, hoping that each move will keep the structure of the ice secure. To win, you have to be the last player standing; your opponent must cause the central 2” x2” square to fall, causing the polar bear to come crashing down.

  • Players – 2
  • Recommended age – 3+
  • Playing time – 20 minutes

Greedy Granny

The structure of Greedy Granny as a board game is almost identical to that of Don’t Wake Daddy. But instead of creeping around the house to get to the refrigerator, you’re trying to steal candy from right under granny’s nose!

  • Players – 2-4
  • Recommended age – 4+
  • Playing time – 20 minutes

Alternatives to Don’t Wake Daddy

Ready to try something new? These are the best alternatives to Don’t Wake Daddy, which caters to a similar age group.

Baby Dinosaur Rescue

Can you get all the dinosaurs out of the valley before it’s filled with molten lava? To succeed, Baby Dinosaur Rescue requires you to work together to collect all the dinosaurs to win. No reading is required – just matching skills and teamwork.

  • Players – 2-4
  • Recommended age – 4+
  • Playing time – 20 minutes

The Ladybug Game

The Ladybug Game is an award-winning educational board game that features a new and exciting adventure every time you play, from feeding the ants to delivering the ladybug safely home. It introduces children to basic addition and subtraction, and it also teaches them tons of interesting stuff about bugs!

  • Players – 2-4
  • Recommended age – 3+
  • Playing time – 20 minutes

On the hunt for games that are age group-specific? We have a range of guides available, including the best board games for 5-year-olds and how to find the best board games for kindergartners.

Don’t Wake Daddy – is it worth buying?

No doubt Don’t Wake Daddy is a classic board game filled with nineties nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember the craze that surrounded it when it first came out.

That initial craze speaks for itself; the game is enjoyable and has left a lasting impression on many kids. It’s incredibly easy to play, making it suitable for very young children, and it’s also easy for parents and children to play together.

However, it isn’t quite a family board game in my opinion. If you want a game that’s suitable for a wider audience, we have a guide explaining how to find the best family board games.

Despite some criticism being leveled at the game regarding the intimidating character of daddy, most of this criticism has come in retrospect from adults who have re-evaluated the game with a wider perspective of the world – the fact remains that children enjoy the idea of sneaking around and even the thrill of waking daddy.

I think it’s worth having a copy of Don’t Wake Daddy in the house if you have kids. The game offers great value and hours of fun.

Frequently asked questions

Question: Does Don’t Wake Daddy require batteries?

Answer: There’s no need for batteries, so you can play straight away!

Question: What are the cards used for in Don’t Wake Daddy?

Answer: If a player is caught, they can use the card that matches the picture, which made them wake dad to protect themselves.

Question: How long does it take to play Don’t Wake Daddy?

Answer: The game box suggests it takes around half an hour, but in reality, it can take as little as fifteen minutes. It’s a very quick game to play which is great for kids with shorter attention spans.

Question: Can older children play Don’t Wake Daddy?

Answer: The game suggests that children should be three years and over to play, but there’s no reason older children can’t play as well. However, they are more likely to get bored due to the game’s simplicity.

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