Play has changed. It is more organised, professionalised, and competitive than ever before. Teams of children get together and usually show an intense opposition to their opposition and not friendly respect. This competitive spirit in society brought a preoccupation with winning that has caused us to forget how to play for fun. We need to learn again that enjoyment is more important than competition and participation is more important that observation or performance. Unfortunately, some children regard having fun playing games as un-cool. Yet they still look for ways to have fun and have opted for destructive forms of pleasure. The responsibility that rests on the shoulders of leaders is to give children an opportunity to have fun through playing fun games that will satisfy their need for excitement and arousal in an acceptable way.
1. THE EFFECT OF GAMES ON CHILDREN
Play gives children an opportunity to learn and test their competency. But it can also have negative consequences if the game is so designed that only the brightest and best achieve. Children evaluate their sense of self and their feelings of worth by comparing their achievements to the achievements of others. We need to avoid games that will create in chilren a feeling of insecurity about their competence. Games need to be found and played that will leave children feeling competent about their abilities. Avoid catering play to the popular children, do not allow put-downs to occur, and watch out for an undue emphasis on winning and losing.
2. TEACHING CHILDREN HOW TO PLAY
We may have heard the saying often, “It is not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” but trying to recapture this attitude is difficult in an age where “winning is everything.” Restoring a playful attitude in a youth group can be reached. David Lynn offered these hints:
A. BE PATIENT WITH CHILDREN
Children have forgotten how to have fun playing games, because of:
* The effort to maintain a cool image which leads to aloofness
* A preoccupation with winning which destroys the joy of play
* An fear of embarrassed which causes withdrawal from play
* A spectator mentality based on inferiority
Being patient with children as you give them many opportunities to play games will help them to gradually break through the hindrances. As a generation that are better spectators than participants we must learn to become involved in play again.
B. CHILDREN WATCH THE LEADERS
A new attitude to play will more likely be caught than taught. If the leaders of the group do not get fully involved in the games the children will stay uninvolved. If the leaders push children to win, the games will become tense and competitive. Leaders can do a great deal of good by encouraging children to play and checking any wrong attitudes or actions during play.
C. ENCOURAGE HEALTHY COMPETITION
Play must involve competition that challenges the skill of all the players, not just those of the sporty types. Choose games that require thinking as well as reacting, subjective and objective responses, agility and raw speed. Games that offer all the participants an equal chance to win allow everyone to have fun and not just the winners. The competition is healthy when children forget about the score, and see winning as irrelevant or anti-climactic.
D. EXPLAIN GAMES CLEARLY AND QUICKLY
Before you introduce a new game make sure that you have everyone’s attention. Never shout instruction above the noise of an inattentive group. Give everyone an invitation to play that will draw support. This can be done by giving the assurance that the game will be fun and it will build them up. Then explain and demonstrate the game so that all can see clearly what it is all about. Tell them the name and show your own excitement about playing. Lead children in a practise round before starting. A trial run will build trust in the play process. Do not make the game too serious by getting mad with the child who has not got the rules. Always divide the teams up before the game is explained so that you can move from the explanation straight into the game.
E. GAMES MUST BUILD SELF-ESTEEM
Avoid the traditional game that ends with a winner (at the top) and losers (at the bottom). Structure the winning and the losing around team efforts and present prizes to the whole team. When the individuals begin to learn a new attitude to winning they will be able to apply it when they play traditional competitive games.
3. CHOOSING THE RIGHT GAME
Before you grab a game out of a book or from memory consider the following principles:
A. DETERMINE YOUR PURPOSE
We play games with children because they are fun, but there are other reasons for playing, ie. to become better acquainted, to burn off energy, to practise co-operation, or to teach a truth. Playing a game can achieve all of these but you need to know specifically what you are trying to achieve.
B. INVOLVE ALL THE CHILDREN
Choose games that will be inclusive and not exclusive. Remember the needs of all the children and not just the popular, sporty types. Give each child a chance to be “It” or to take a key role in the game.
C. BE AWARE OF AGE DIFFERENCES
Most games have an age-appropriateness that needs to be kept in mind. Trying to get high school youth to play a game for children will fail dismally. Try to choose games that are suited to the age of the group. If the group is mainly composed of guys then the games may be more physical that for just girls.
D. LET CHILDREN SELECT GAMES
While the leader needs to choose games that will fit in with the purpose, it is important to allow children to be involved in the decision making process. Choosing the games together will bring a greater commitment to playing.
E. BE PREPARED FOR THE GAME
Most games require that there is prior preparation, of equipment and the area, so ensure that everything is ready before the game is introduced. Do not be afraid of games that require extra preparation. The time and effort will be greatly rewarded.
F. BE AWARE OF GROUP SIZE
Some game can take big teams while others are hindered if there are too many players. Rather break up into more groups that kill the game. Rotating groups between different games will keep the interest alive.
G. GO EASY ON FOOD GAMES
Games that require food should not be played unless the food is going to be eaten. Playing games with eggs that will be broken and thrown away gives children the wrong message in a world where people would gladly eat what is being thrown out.
4. CHOOSING TEAMS FOR PLAY
The choosing of teams is often the place where self-esteem is destroyed in children. One of the worst methods of choosing teams is to select two captains who take turns picking their favourites. Most people can testify to the humiliating experience of being picked last for a team when they were a kid. It is generally the popular and sporty types who are chosen first and the ultimate killer comes when near the end of the selection a team leader says, “We’ll take these two and you can take those three, that should be fair.”
Creative and Positive Ways to Choose Teams:
* Numbering - Go around the group numbering the players: 1, 2 for two teams
* Birthdays - Divide people according to the month in which they were born
* Schools - Divide youth into the different schools they represent
* Names - Divide according to the first letter of names, ie. A-L and M-Z
* Hair Colour - Hair, eye, sock colours can be used to divide youth
5. CHOOSING THE PLAY AREA
Choosing a suitable place for the game is as important as choosing the right game. Safety is the most important consideration. Clear away rocks, glass, etc. before allowing children to play there. An indoor area needs to be kept away from stairways, windows and furniture. Suitability is also important. A game designed for a large outdoor area may not be suitable to a small youth room. Each game will have an appropriate are that needs to be found and used. Flexibility is crucial. If you plan to play an outdoor game you need to be prepared for a thunder shower, possibly by being able to adapt the game to an indoor venue or having an alternate game in mind.
6. PLAYING THE GAME
The leaders role only begins when the game gets under way. The leader should observe carefully to make sure that everyone is getting into the game and obeying the rules. Do not insist on absolute perfection or precision in following the rules. An overemphasis on the rules will kill the game. Appoint a “Smooth Sam” to help the game run smoothly and simply, and avoid appointing a “Textbook Tom” who tries to impress everyone with his knowledge of the game but ends up killing the game.
7. ENDING THE GAME
Keep an eye on the players and check whether interest is dropping. As soon as there are signals that the game is going down hill end the game. This can be done by announcing, “one more minute to play” or “last round,” etc. Don’t tell children ahead of time how long the game will last. Leave it open ended and there will be greater interest. Also end a game when one team is slaughtering the other. Re-pick the teams or move on to another game. If the game was designed to teach a truth, then give a brief summary of what was learnt by referring to incidents and people involved in the action. Make the teaching a fun experience with laughter and memories of the lighter sides of the game. Lead on into the next activity with an appropriate transition. Remember that the goal of playing games should be to produce co-operative community. After a game is over, player should be better friends than when the game started. Co-operating in a game does not mean that we do not compete; it simply means that we never allow the competition to get in the way of our relationship with everyone else in the team.
RESOURCES TO CONSULT
Quick and Easy Activities - David Lynn, Get ‘em Growing, Youth Specialties, 1990
Attention Grabbers - David Lynn, Get ‘em Growing, Youth Specialties, 1990
Games Without Frontiers - Pip Wilson, Marshall Pickering, 1988
Fun ‘n Games - Rice, Rydberg and Yaconelli, Zondervan, 1977
Play It - Rice and Yaconelli, Youth Specialties, 1986
Great Games - David Lynn, Youth Specialties, 1990
7. GAMES FOR CHILDREN’S MINISTRY
A. EGG WALK
Choose a “volunteer” and show them a course you have laid out that they must walk. Place a half dozen eggs along the route. Blindfold them and remove the eggs and scatter cornflakes in their place. Point the person in the right direction and watch.
B. FORTY CENTIMETRE DASH
Thread a 40cm piece of string through a marshmallow and have two people place an end in their mouth. The first one to get to the marshmallow by chewing the string into their mouth can eat it. No hands are allowed.
C. GARGLE QUEEN
Give each person a cup of water. Instruct them to take a sip of water and gargle a favourite song of theirs.
Choose a “volunteer” and have them pull on a pair of ladies tights over their jeans while they are blindfolded and are wearing a pair of heavy duty gardening gloves.
E. BISCUIT WHISTLE
Have a “volunteer” eat five Marie biscuits and then try to whistle a song. Do this as a team relay. Use pairs with the guy doing the whistling and the girl drinking a coke.
F. GRAPE SQUASH
Place a bucket, with grapes inside it, it front of each contestant and have them, barefooted, turn the grapes into as much liquid as possible.
G. CHUBBY BUNNIES
Choose contestants who must place a marshmallow at a time into their mouths and then say, “Chubby Bunny.” Try to set up a new record, 15 Marshies is fairly good!
A. BIRTHDAY ROW
Divide into groups of 10-12 and have the children to non-verbally put themselves in line according to their birthday order (Day and month, not year order). Have the winning group call out their dates of birth and check it.
B. ANIMAL LABELS
Stick a label with the name of a different animal on the back of each child and have them walk around and ask questions. The answers can only be yes or no. They can only ask each person one question. (Aim: find out the name of their animal and mix)
C. HAND STACK
Everyone stands in a tight circle (Small groups) and places their right hand into the centre, one on top of the other. They then do the same with their left hand. On the word “go” the bottom is pulled out and placed on the top, followed by the next and so on. The leader can blow the whistle and the children must reverse the direction.
D. PORKY MALLOW
Each child places a toothpick in their mouths. The first child sticks his or her toothpick into a marshmallow and passes it to the next child, leaving their toothpick in the mallow. As it is passed it soon becomes a porcupine.
E. FRUIT SALAD
Seat the children on chairs placed in a square and give each child the name of a fruit, eg. apple, banana, etc. When the leader calls out the name of a fruit, all children with that name must cross the floor and sit on a vacant seat. The last person to find a seat is out, or a chair can be pulled out each time a new fruit is called. When “fruit salad” is called, everyone must find a new seat.
Form a knot by getting group to stand in a circle with their hands in the air. Everybody grabs a couple of hands - make sure no one holds both hands with the same person. Tell the group to untangle themselves without letting go.
G. POISON CARPET
Fold up a carpet and place in in the centre of the group of children, who join hands and try to pull others onto the carpet without touching it themselves. The person who touches the carpet is “poisoned” and must leave the group. Continue until one or two people are left who are still “alive.”
Call three couples and give each a roll of toilet paper with the instruction to wrap their partner until they have an Egyptian Mummy. The winning couple is the first to complete the task with no skin or clothing showing. (Teach: covering truth or Death)
I. CHOCOLATE FEAST
Children sit in a circle with a slab of chocolate on a tray, knife and spoon, gloves, jacket and hat in the middle. Two dice are passed around the circle and when a child throws a double four, five or six, they go to the centre and must put on the clothing before they can proceed to eat the chocolate with the knife and fork. As soon as another child throws the right combination the first must return to their place. When all the chocolate if finished stop the game.
J. ANATOMY SHUFFLE
The group pairs off and form two circles, one inside the other, with one partner in each circle. The outer circle travels clockwise while the inner goes anti-clockwise. The leader blows a whistle and calls out a combination of body parts - ie. hand to toe; elbow to nose; head to stomach. The first part called is the anatomy part belonging to the person on the inner circle, who must place that part on the other partner’s body part, called out second. The last couple to “shuffle” is out.
P. NO TEETH
Everyone sits in a circle. From now on youth group members must not show their teeth. To speak, they must pull their lip inward around their teeth to hide them. One person starts the game by asking the person next to them, “Is Mrs. Mumble home?” The person responds, “I don’t know - I’ll have to ask my neighbour.” This keeps going around the circle until someone’s teeth show because of laughter. Smiling is okay as long as teeth don’t show. As you eliminate members close the circle to avoid any “closet laughter.” This game will show which members has been baptised in lemon juice.
L. DUSTER HOCKEY
An old favourite. Use two chairs as goals on either side of the hall, placing a row of chairs on either side, with the two numbered team’s players seated on them. Call out numbers - ie, “Number 1" - The two opposing players numbered one must race to their own goal to pick up the sticks (Tightly rolled up newspaper, bound with packaging tape) and then to the centre to hit the ball (Rolled up sock) into their opponents goal. Keep the score as goals are scored.
Using the same rules as netball. Use a player from each team as the hoop, by letting them stand on a chair. The team members pass the ball until they are close enough to throw the ball into the hands of their player on the chair. There is no running with the ball or hitting the ball out of someone’s hands. The umpire keeps the scores for the teams.
This is an activity for indoors that still captures the fun of outdoor games. Select events similar to the olympic events making them fun and competitive. Use both team and individual events.
1. JAVELIN - use straws to see who is the champion javelin thrower.
2. DISCUS - use paper plates as the discus.
3. HIGH JUMP - use string, held by two helpers, as the bar. Stand ‘n jump.
4. LONG JUMP - mark the longest jumps from a standing position with chalk.
5. RELAY - use toilet rolls, the team passes the roll down the line, between their legs and back over their heads, unbroken.
6. FLAT RACE - use open space inside to run a few sprints.
7. MARATHON - choose teams of 3 people, and have them run a marked course.
8. FENCING - use spaghetti held by two as swords. The aim is to break your opponents spaghetti without breaking your own.
9. THE SHOT - use a small plastic ball.
O. ROTATION TABLE TENNIS
One person picks up a bat on each side of the table while the other players form a circle around the table. One player serves, drops the bat and moves clockwise around the table while the next person picks up the bat and prepares to return the ball. Keep rotating until someone misses. The player who misses drops out of the game.
Number the players. A player throws the ball into the air and calls a number. The person with that number must catches the ball and shout, “Spud.” Other players, who have been running away, must stop and freeze when the person shouts. If the player catches the ball before it bounces he may take 3 steps toward any player and then try to hit them with the ball. If he hits - the player receives an “S”. Should the thrower miss - the thrower gets an “S”. When a player receives S,P,U,D he is out.
B. DODGE BALL
Divide into two teams, one forms a circle while the other team scatters inside the circle. Players forming the circle throw the ball to eliminate players in the circle. Players inside may dodge but not leave the circle until they are hit. The team in the longest is the winning team.
C. CAPTURE THE FLAG
Divide the youth group into two equal teams. As many as 30 on a team is okay! The purpose is to capture your opponents flag located in their territory without having your flag captured. Those who are tagged when they are in enemy territory are taken to jail (located in enemy territory) and are only freed when a team mate sneaks through and “untags” them by touching one of the prisoners. They take a free walk back to their own side. The “Goalie” watches the flag from 5 meters away as does the “Warden,” who guards the prisoners.
D. FRISBEE ROUNDERS
Play the usual game of rounders with two teams, 3 bases and the home base with a batter, pitcher and fielders except use a frisbee as the ball. It adds an interesting variation to an old game.
E. CIRCLE FOOTBALL
The group form a circle, holding hands. A ball is placed in the centre and kicked around no higher than waist height. If the ball goes between someone’s legs they’re out. If the ball goes between two people they are both out. Anyone who lifts the ball higher than allowed is also out. The winner is the last player or two still in.
Divide the group into two teams and give each person a number. The teams line up behind their own goal line - about 20 meters apart. A towel knotted in the middle is put in the centre. The leader calls out a number and the player on each team with that number runs to the centre and tries to snatch the towel and get back to his goal without the opponent tagging him. Each player to return with the towel gets a point. Keep interest by repeating numbers or calling two numbers at the same time.
G. CONTINUOUS CRICKET
Similar to cricket except the game does not stop. The bowler keeps bowling and the batsman must run every time he hits the ball. One run is scored when the batter runs from his wicket to the other and back. The batting team bats until their whole team is out and then the other team bats. Use chairs as wickets.
H. FOUR SQUARE
Mark out the playing field as below - each square is approx. 1 metre square. The object of the game is to become King (the player who does the serving). So players join the game at square #1 and rotate clockwise till they reach the fourth square. A player joins the others waiting to enter square #1 when the ball bounces twice in his square or he fails to return the ball to another square. The ball must bounce in a players square before it may be returned. If a player steps out of his square he is also eliminated and joins the back of the line of waiting players.
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