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child digging in the forest

Worm Charming: Wriggles And Giggles

Looking for a fun outdoor game for kids? Why not let them have a go at worm charming?


It’s very simple. A plot of land, usually a grass field or village green is divided up into small plots. The participants then have to charm as many worms to the surface as possible in a set amount of time. The winner is the person who collects the most worms from their plot.


In the UK it’s called worm charming. It started out as a quirky activity at Summer Fetes. Several villages claim to have invented it and as well as smaller local fundraisers, annual championships are held at different locations around England each claiming to be the original. In America it is called worm grunting or sometimes worm gruntin; and comes from the tradition in some parts of the US of collecting and selling worms for fishing bait. There are even professional grunters!



Most worm charming societies and fundraisers have found that a plot of 3m x 3m (3yds x 3yds) works best. The grid of plots is marked out with strings or by putting small sticks at each corner. Alternatively a friendly groundsman (with the machine that marks sports pitches) could do a really professional looking job for you. It is usual to allocate plots by lottery. 


Some prefer to work alone but teams of two are common. This allows one to charm and one to collect.

  • Fancy dress can add to the spectacle and make this one of those wonderfully eccentric and really funny fundraising ideas.

  • Some competitors will use elaborate contraptions to encourage the worms to the surface others employ tried and tested techniques.

  • Some others claim mystic powers over the worms!


Must be charmed to the surface. Absolutely no digging is allowed. When enough of the worm is showing above the surface they can be carefully pulled out. All the worms are placed in a collecting bucket or cup containing moist compost. It is possible to gather a surprisingly large number of worms from a quite small plot. The record is over 500!


The event is started and ended by the worm master or a local celebrity ringing a bell.

  • 30 minutes is considered to be about the right amount of time.

  • Scrutineers should patrol the plots to ensure general fair play with no worm poaching and respect for the worms at all times! At the end their job is to count each competitors worms and declare a winner. After the competition they are also responsible for the safe release of the worms.


Is the individual or team who collect the most worms from their plot in the given time.

  • It is usual for them to receive a prize or trophy. 

  • The presentation of some kind of Golden Worm Trophy is a popular end to these funny ideas.


Basically worms are sensitive to sound vibrations and will come to the surface if their underground world is subjected to the right kind of noise. All competitors will have their own peculiar tools to help charm the worms. These will usually involve things to bang and thump the ground. A very popular and traditional method is to insert a garden fork and bang the shaft with a stick so the tines vibrate in the ground. Many techniques will work. Half the fun will be to see what people come up with!