Families turn to Minute to Win It for free kids' entertainment ideas

NBC's Minute to Win It is a show on which you will never hear these words: "Don't try this at home." The Sunday night family fare, a throwback to the game shows of the 1950s, is as simple as a kid's birthday party: perform simple tasks, usually with household objects, in less than a minute. As the games get more difficult, the jackpot grows, up to $1 million. Meanwhile, contestants content with the most difficult task of all: avoiding puncture by host Guy Fieri's hyper-styled hair.

Maybe it was inevitable, but families have started picking up on the games and adapting them for inexpensive home play. It was also probably inevitable that videos of their (often embarrassing) shenanigans have cropped up on YouTube, where they can attract the attention of casting directors.

And, of course, they can be a resource for moms and dads who are stumped for ideas for free summer activities for their kids.

The games are elegantly simple in both their design and schadenfreude. In Shoe Fly Shoe, you toss a shoe onto a table using only a foot. For The Nutstacker, you have to create a stack of metal nuts by sliding them off a chopstick. In the one with my favorite title, Chocolate Unicorn, contestants have to stack seven chocolate snack cakes on their forehead without letting them topple.

It's always funnier to watch people you love and/or hate perform these silly tasks (Kevin Jonas was a recent victim on the network version), but there are plenty of clips of people replicating them.

The network, sensing a growing YouTube subculture, is doing everything it can to make it easier for people to assemble their own imitation MTWI games. It put together a free, 98-page "Summer Activity Guide", downloadable at the show's official site, which includes instructions for dozens of challenges from the show.

As a consequence, the MTWI-themed YouTube uploads are thriving. Here, the Junk In the Trunk game (wiggle ping pong balls out of a box attached at the waist) crops up at a high school pep rally (Go, Mr. Santiago!). An Indiana radio station, Hot96 FM, mounted a version of the show for $250,000. This little girl masters the Stack Attack cup challenge, this church pastor is about to decapitate someone playing a rope-swinging game in a room that's too small, and this church youth group just saved money on movies and field trips by mounting a tournament, complete with intricate scoring rankings.

You would have a hard time re-creating, say, the yodeling mountaineer from The Price Is Right's Cliff Hangers game in your living room, but Minute to Win It is a surprising trove of cheapskate diversions for children. Which is probably a relief for NBC, whose previous big-ticket physical challenge show was the insect-munching, low-class classic Fear Factor.

YouTube's potentially humiliating collection of Minute to Win It-tagged videos can be found here, and the show's own library of instructional videos (or "blueprints") for its most repeatable games is available online here. New episodes return on July 7.

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