This week, we’re going to do a traditional games series. You are probably familiar with many of these, but just in case some of the details are fuzzy since when you played them as a child, we’re here to clarify. You might find a few variations that you’re unfamiliar with, as well.
Group games are a great way to socialize while burning some energy. The friendly competition builds cooperation and sportsmanship, while also allowing older kids to learn about strategy.
These games work well for groups of six or more. If you’re hunkering down with cousins, or playing in the yard with neighbors, these can be fun ways to pass the time and get some exercise. Even if you can’t play them now, keep them in mind for when this is all over as fun party games.
Divide the group into two teams. Have each team stand on opposite sides of the play area and link hands to form a chain.
Team one calls “Red rover, red rover, send so-and-so on over.” So-and-so then runs and attempts to break through the other team’s chain.
If they cannot break the chain, they join the team. If they are successful, then they can chose a player to join their original team.
This continues until one team has only one player.
For younger children, or if holding hands is otherwise unsafe, use crepe paper or jump ropes or pool noodles, and change the challenge to be jumping over rather than breaking through.
Capture the Flag
Divide the group into 2-4 teams. Use chalk, ropes, or spray paint to create a territory for each team. Place a flag, or a rag, or any other light object in the center of the territory. Designate a starting point equidistant from the territories.
The goal is to enter the team’s territory, take their flag, and return to your own team’s territory without being tagged. Players can only be tagged while inside another team’s territory, however guarding the flag too closely should be discouraged. (This can be a visual marker around the object or a 10-foot rule.)
Once tagged, the player must take a short break or complete a task. Get creative here. You could say they have to do a number of push-ups or jumping jacks, count to 100, or say the alphabet backwards, it’s up to you, but the rule should be consistent. Once they complete their break, they have to return to their home territory to start over.
Anyone over the age of 3 can play this game, and the rules allow for a great deal of flexibility depending on your group. Make it as simple or as complicated as you like, and for a good game, try to balance the teams as well as you can.
Duck, Duck, Goose
Have the children sit in a circle. The player who is “it” stands and taps their friends on the head, calling each one a duck or a goose. When they pick a goose, the goose then races them around the circle. The first one to sit in the empty space left by the “it” child sits, and the game continues.
It is a very simple game, perfect for ages 4-7 or so. If you’re finding the children continue to say “duck” without picking a goose, tell them they can only go around the circle one time. Also, pick a direction (counter or clockwise) and stick with it.
If tapping heads is a little too much to handle, use music. The child who is “it” can simply pick their goose and they must run or walk around the circle until the music stops. Last one back to their seat has to pick the next goose.
A classic variation on tag is simple, but can be enforced at varying levels to challenge older children. “Freeze” can mean not moving a muscle, or not moving your feet, depending on what you feel is appropriate.
The player who is “it” tags their friends. However, instead of becoming “it” the tagged player must freeze. They can be released by being tagged by active players, whether this is any active player, or two active players in tandem is up to you.
Players cannot be frozen twice in a row, meaning the “it” player must tag someone else before tagging the same person as before again.
The game continues until everyone is frozen.
A fun variant on this is flashlight tag. Best played at dusk or on a cloudy day, rather than physically tagging players, each person has a flashlight. Shining the light on another player functions the same way as a tag would in the original version. You can decide whether turning the flashlight off is foul play or an interesting complication.
Heads up, Seven up
This is a guessing game best played with a very large group of older children. Seven people are chosen as “it” while everyone else closes their eyes. The seven “it” players then tap one person each. This person puts their thumb up or raises their hand. When the “it” players are done, the tapped players then must guess who tapped them. If they guess correctly, the players switch places for the next round.
For smaller groups, change seven to a smaller number, roughly a third of the group size.
A classic! Arrange chairs in a circle, with the seats facing outward. Have enough chairs for every player minus one, so if you have 10 players, arrange 9 chairs.
Play music, and have the players move around the circle. Once the music stops, everyone must sit in a chair as quickly as possible. The player left standing is out. Remove a chair, and repeat until there is a single winner.
Younger kids can play this too, though the competitive element may be a little tricky for those under 4. If the goal is just to run around and have fun, don’t bother with it.
At parties, you could offer a small prize to the winner to make the game more competitive.
Another great game for kids who are old enough to speak clearly, (and a great way to keep a group of them quiet and busy). The players form a line, and must be as quiet as possible. Player one, or the adult supervising, thinks of a funny phrase and whispers it into the ear of the next player. That player then whispers it into the next player’s ear, and so on. The final player then announces exactly what they heard, and everyone has a good giggle over how the words have changed. The last player becomes the first, and the game continues.
Ms. Ashley and Ms. Bri