let the games begin

let the games begin

Play is good for everyone. Teach your kids these fun, old-fashioned games – no screens required!

benefits of play

Research shows that children learn primarily through play. They develop social skills, physical coordination, and cognitive understanding of their environment through play. Playing games provide a rich experience that engages a person’s body, emotions, and senses. Bodies are alive and moving, energy is created and released, and muscles are exercised during games. Playing games also has positive effects on literacy development, academic success, and social interaction.

Furthermore, children learn to trust and develop their creative imaginations by engaging in games. Another benefit of games is that they provide a shared play experience for adults and children. When children and adults play games together they experience, discover, experiment, respond, create, and share with each other. Games transform the traditional adult child relationship from one of authority-recipient to one of shared experience of discovery and creative exploration. Perhaps, most significantly, games bring fun, laughter, and bonding into the environment.

The games listed below are all tried and tested with many groups of children of every age group and are sure-fire winners.

duck, duck, cow

A twist on the traditional game. The group sits in a circle. One person begins the game by going around the circle, tapping players on the head and saying “Duck, Duck …” This continues until they pick someone to be the “goose”, but instead of saying goose, they state another animal and the person chosen must run around the circle acting as that animal, complete with sound effects. It is then that person’s turn to tap players on the head.

zip zop zap

Before beginning this game, practice jumping and clapping and then pointing to the right after the clap. Stand in a circle. One person starts jumping, clapping and pointing at someone as they say “Zip”. The person they pointed to then jumps claps and points to someone else, saying “Zop”. That person then jumps, claps and points to someone and says “Zap”. This continues until someone gets out by saying the wrong word or being too slow to respond.

grocery store

Children stand in a line at one end of a room by a chair that represents a shopping trolley. One child at a time runs to another chair at the opposite end of the room and grabs an imaginary grocery item yelling out what it called and running it back to the trolley. This continues until someone gets out by repeating an item that has already been said, taking too long to name an item or stating something that cannot be brought at the grocery store. This game can be adapted to include a wide range of alternative shops e.g. toy shop, clothing shop.

new york, new york

Children form two teams. Teams go to opposite ends of the room. Team A is given an occupation to mime. Team B takes one step toward Team A and asks, “Where are you from?”. Team A then takes a step and says “New York, New York”. Team B takes another step and says, “What’s your trade?”. Team A takes a step and answers “Lemonade”. Team B takes another step and says “Show us if you’re not afraid”. Team A then acts out the occupation and team B takes guesses as to what it is. If they guess correctly, team B chase team A back to the wall. Anyone they tag must join team B. It is then team B’s turn to act out an occupation. The game continues until everyone is on the same team.

boom chicka boom

Someone begins the game as leader and chants the following rhyme. After each line, the group parrot them. The first leader does this in a normal voice and when they get to the part of the rhyme that denotes …..Style, they insert a particular way of speaking, for instance squeaky style. The chant is then redone in that particular style with the next person taking on the role of leader and adding a new style. Ideas for styles could include: angry, suspiciously, like an old person, like a rock star, softly, loudly, like a pirate, like a robot.

Boom Chica Boom

I said Boom Chica Boom

I Said Boom Chica Rocka Chicka Boom

Uh huh


One More Time

— Style.

counting to 10 as a group

The group sits in the circle and counts to 10 together. Only one person at a time may call out a number, and it must be done in random order and everyone in the group must contribute. If two or more people speak at the same time, the group must begin again. The entire game must be played only by watching one another. You may not use solutions like a predetermined order or signals.

big wind blows

Children sit in a circle on cushions. A person in the centre says, “Big Wind blows for everyone who is … ” For example: wearing red, likes ice-cream, has a bike, etc. People who match the chosen criteria must run clockwise around the circle to a new spot. The last person goes into the middle.


This is a great way to learn names and warm up a group. A person is picked out to begin and then the chant is followed. When the spotlight player wigalows, they perform a movement which the rest of the group then mimics.

Group: Hey Mia

Mia:    Yeah

Group: Are you ready to wig

Mia:    Wiga what

Group: Wigalow

Mia:    My hands are high, my feet are low and this is how I wigalow (makes the movement).

sherlock holmes

Each player picks an occupation and thinks about five things that person would use in their occupation. They take turns being the spotlight player and stating the items their person would have in their pocket. The other players must guess the occupation.

name six

Children sit in a circle. A theme environment is picked out, for instance, the beach or space or a restaurant etc. A spotlight player must name six things found in that environment before an object is passed around the circle. It should take approximately 30 seconds to pass the object in order to be fair to the spotlight player, so if you only have a few children playing, pass the object around the circle three times.

family photos

The children stand as a group, as if about to have a family portrait. The leader shouts out, “Today’s family is a … (movie star, circus, tired, arguing, pirate, spy, etc) family – 1,2,3,” and on 3, the children freeze in a pose that illustrates the type of family chosen.

Paula Galey (M Ed Psych (hons) Hdip Tchg) is a teacher who specialised in working with students with learning and behaviour difficulties. She currently writes educational resources while raising her three children


more entertainment and games from tots to teens:

15 Ideas To Keep The Kids Entertained At Home

10 Ways To Encourage Your Kids To Use Their Imagination

3 Games That Encourage Teamwork

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