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Happy Kids...Play on Purpose!

School starts and we, the adults, can get caught up with the school work, homework, routines, etc. What we could do is take some time and let kids play? Children often struggle with communicating thoughts and feelings, especially when they are very young. Planned play times may not seem like a way to communicate, but it is a wonderful and effective way for kids to communicate and gives adults an opportunity to teach social skills. Playing boosts confidence in children by providing and outlet for:

  • Expanding self-expression

  • Increasing self-knowledge

  • Transferring ideas to real-life

  • Problem-solving

  • Relieving stress

  • Relieving boredom

  • Making connections

Adults can help to facilitate intrapersonal and interpersonal social skills and vocabulary. This will improve overall classroom management for teachers and home base management for parents. Example: How did you contribute to the group's activity?

Here are 18 of my Go-To "Planned Play Times"

  1. Puzzles! - Big floor puzzles are my favorite, but all kinds are good.

  2. Legos and/or Blocks - Anything that promotes building, sharing, and teamwork.

  3. Watercolors - This is for the kids who need some "down time". Let them share a paint palette.

  4. Hot Seat! - This super-neat game is one that will really get your students working collaboratively. Divided into two teams, your students will be playing a guessing game, where one player will sit in the “hot seat”. Then, their teammates will be secretly given a word by you. Without mentioning the word or spelling it out, the teammates have to describe the word to their “hot seat” team member. The two opposing teams will rotate, with the fastest team to guess their individual word winning a point in each round.

  5. Rock, Paper, Scissors, ULTIMATE! - You know what rock, paper, scissors is already, so we won’t bore you with those details. But this version of the game turns the volume up, making it an ultimate edition. Each pair will play a standard game of rock, paper, scissors – however, the loser of each game has to become the winner’s “cheerleader”. Then, the winner would take on another winner in the class. Slowly this pattern will repeat, until you will have eliminated the class down to two final players, with a ton of “cheerleaders” cheering them on to a victory. With a little encouragement behind them, you’d be surprised how much fun your students will have!

  6. Articulate Artist - This game is one of the great team-building activities for kids that emphasizes the importance of communication. One chosen teammate will be sat with their back to the other teammates, so they can’t see what’s going on. Then, the other teammates will be given a picture by you, the teacher. The teammates need to accurately describe that picture, so that the chosen teammate may draw it. The results of this activity depend on collaboration, with the importance of clear and concise communication being a valuable skill here.

  7. Lean on Me, Pal! - This one can be a little tricky, so we recommend you play it where there’s a soft landing, just in case! In small teams of 6-8, two teammates will lean on each other, letting their weight rest on their partner’s bicep and shoulder. Then, they need to walk together slowly, crossing the finish line. The next two players in the team will then take their turn. The first team to complete the activity the fastest without falling over, wins! -

  8. Don’t Wake The Sleeping Troll - This is one of the simplest team-building activities for kids that takes almost no preparation and needs very little space. There is a “sleeping troll”, and for the purposes of this activity, that’s you, teachers (sorry!) Then, without speaking, your students need to line up in order of height, tallest to shortest. Once they think they’ve managed this, they need to shout “boo!” at the sleeping troll (which is, again, still you, we’re afraid…) and scare you enough in order to “pass the bridge” successfully. This activity teaches the importance of non-verbal communication, which is vital for building team bonds.

  9. What am I? - In small teams of 4-5 students, one chosen teammate will have a sticky note on their forehead. The sticky note could have a primary color, a shape, or a number written on it. The other teammates will have to answer questions about what’s on the sticky note to the chosen teammate, without giving the game away, until the chosen teammate can correctly guess the answer, or the time runs up. This is an ideal exercise not only for team building, but to benefit logical thinking and processing skills.

  10. Human Words - This team-building activity is the definition of “physical literacy” if ever there was one! After assembling your students in small groups, you’ll start out by shouting out a letter. Once you’ve done so, your students need to make their bodies into this letter. For example, for the letter “T”, they would outstretch their arms. Once they’re accustomed to the directions, throw a short word at the team, and see if they can work together to spell it out using their bodies.

  11. Picnic! - This team-building activity requires super focus and listening skills. In a large circle, all of your students will sit together. You will lead, by saying we’re going on a picnic, and name something you’d take starting with the letter “A”. The next person will have to think of something with the letter “B”. But the tricky part of the game is that each student will have to remember what everyone else before them chose, before they can give their answer. Repeat the game until you’ve completed the entire alphabet without any mistakes.

  12. Pass the Ball - This game is a super fun team-building activity for kids, as it takes a collaborative effort to have a chance at winning. With a large floor mat (or other such equipment that’s wide and flat), you’re going to assemble a small team of 4 children. They will each hold a side of the mat. Then, a tennis ball will be placed in the middle of the mat. The children need to work as a team to gently guide the ball into the waiting bucket. If the ball falls off the mat, they must start again. The first team in your class to complete the task, wins!

  13. Trust Walk - This Trust Walk is an ideal activity for small groups. One of the team will be blindfolded, and the other members of the team will have to guide their friend through an obstacle course, using only their verbal instructions. This is an awesome team-building activity for kids, as it relies on teamwork, good direction, and a lot of trust.

  14. Lifeboat! - Lifeboat is a nifty game that requires your students to really think tactically about the activity. A long rope will be looped into a large circle on the ground, with the ends of the rope touching each other. Then, you’ll cry “life boat!”, and your students will jump into the hole the rope creates. Easy enough, right? But each time the game is played, the rope will become tighter, making the hole smaller and smaller. This means your students will have to get creative to make sure the entire team can get into the lifeboat in time.

  15. Spider Web - This game of Spider Web is an engaging way to learn new information about each other. Have your students stand in a circle, with you starting by holding a ball of yarn. Ask one of your students a question, such as, “What is your favorite color?” Holding onto the loose end of the yarn, throw the ball of yarn to the student to answer the question. The process will repeat, until everyone is holding a piece of yarn and has answered a question, with a spider’s web having been created in the center of the circle. Good luck untangling!

  16. This or That - This game is tons of fun for learning each other’s preferences. Have your learners in one long line, all facing one way, with two long ropes on either side of the line. Then, the teacher needs to shout out a ‘this or that?’ question, such as “blue or red?” or “pizza or fries?”. Students will jump to the left if they prefer the first answer, or to the right if they prefer the second. This game is not only fun for learning more about each other, it’s strengthening gross motor skills and logical processing at the same time. Win-win!

  17. Pass Along - This activity requires your class to be split into four teams. In each team, one person will be the “finder”, although you can repeat this game to let everyone have a chance at playing that role. The rest of the team will be in a line at the end of the room, with a bucket behind them. Each team will have a signature color (we recommend the primary colors of blue, red, yellow, or you could choose something a little different like green). From there, tons of differently-colored objects will be laid out on the playing floor. On the teacher’s signal, the team blue “finder” for instance, will have to find as many blue objects as they can, then race them back to the team, who will pass them down their line and into the bucket. The team with the most correctly-colored objects in their bucket at the end of the time - we recommend a minute - wins!

  18. Cups and Saucers - This is a super-fun game that can be played by the entire class or groups. Have one side of the class as “cups” and the other as “saucers”. There will be dozens of saucer-shaped marker cones laid out on the playing field. The object of the activity is for team “cups” to make sure their cones are facing up, whereas the “saucers” team must make sure the cones are flat, on their usual side. After a minute or so, stop the play, and count up which team has the most cones. The team with the most cones their way will win! This is awesome for building team dynamics and healthy competition, and the exercise is an added bonus.

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