GAME ideas

By Ron Tucci and Ksenia Babich

Play is a crucial element of any
  youth ministry effort whether it is a camp, retreat, or church school activity.
  In fact, it is a fundamental factor in the lives of all humans, young and old.
  It keeps us fit physically and mentally. It helps us to learn new ideas and
  skills and promotes creativity. Play fosters belonging and cooperation among
  players, allows us to develop alternatives to violence and despair, and through
  it we learn perseverance and gain optimism.

The following list of games was gathered from some of the favorite games of camp directors and youth workers throughout the Church. This list is presented to the planners of youth activities not as a series of ideas to keep the kids happy and busy for an hour or so, but as a tool to help youth workers include this essential element in youth and young   adult ministry.

  Ages 4-12 


1) Up

Age group: 4-8

How to play: Divide the group   into two equal teams and seat the teams on opposite sides of a table. One side   should have possession of a quarter. The team with the quarter passes it back   and forth among players, while the other team counts slowly to ten. When it   gets to ten, the team shouts “Up!” and all the players on the starting   side raise their hands in closed fists above the table. Then the leader of the   team will call “Down!” and all the players on the team with the quarter   must slap their hands down on the table, trying not to reveal who has the quarter.   The other team should be listening for the sound of a quarter on the table,   trying to figure out who has it.

The team without the quarter   discusses who it thinks has the quarter and makes a guess. If it is correct   by the third try, that team gets to hide the quarter. Otherwise, the first team   will hide it again.

2) Contrary   Children

Age group: 4-8

Simon Says takes an interesting   twist in Contrary Children. Children must listen carefully and do the opposite   of what the leader commands. For example, if the leader says, “take three   hops toward me,” all of the children should hop three steps away from the   leader. The leader should not demonstrate the commands. With younger campers,   the directions should be simple, but may be more difficult for older campers.

3) Lemonade

Age group: 4-8

How to play: Divide into two   teams. Mark off the boundaries of a rectangular field, enough room for a good   game of tag; and divide it down the middle. At each end of the field is home   base for one team. Choose which team will go first and send each team to its   home base. The team going first must decide on two things: its job and where   it is from. For example, team members can be firefighters from Boston or lawyers   from Los Angeles, whatever they decide. The profession must be one with which   all players are familiar. Then both teams begin walking toward the centerline.

The first team shouts, “Here   we come!”

The second team shouts, “From   where?”

The first team replies, “New   Orleans!” (Or whatever they chose.)

The second team shouts, “What’s   your trade?”

The first team replies, “Lemonade!”

The second team challenges,   “Show us some, if you’re not afraid!”

Meanwhile, both teams should   be walking so that once the last word is spoken, they are facing each other,   a few feet apart, separated by the centerline. Now the members of the first   team must act out their secret profession. The second team shouts out guesses.   When they get it right, the first team acts terrified and tries to run back   to its home base without being tagged. Any tagged players join the other team,   who retreats back to its home base and decides on a profession for the second   round.

Ages   4-12 (top)

4) Huckle   Buckle Beanstalk

Age group: 4-12

How to play: The counselor   will hide an object away from the group and in a minute send the group looking   for it. Each camper will try to find the object without letting the rest of   the group know where it is. When someone finds the object, he or she may walk   away from it, sit down, and say, “Huckle Buckle Beanstalk.” The other   players are not told where it is hidden. Instead, they must find it. When each   does, each should say, “Huckle Buckle Beanstalk.”

5) Zip, Zap,   Zop

Age group: 4-12

All players stand in a circle.   One person starts the game by clapping his/her hands together and pushing them   towards another person while saying “Zip.” Then, the player who was   zipped repeats the motion while saying “Zap.” Then, the player who   was zapped repeats the motion while saying “Zop.” The pattern repeats   over and over until someone messes up. The person who makes the mistake can   be out for only one round or can be out for the entire game.

6) Smaug’s   Jewels

Age group: 4-12

One player is Smaug who stands   in the center of the circle, protecting but not touching the “jewels” (these   could be a scarf or any suitable object). The other players kneel in the circle   around Smaug. The object of this game is for the others to grab the jewels without   being tagged by Smaug; if a camper is tagged, he or she becomes frozen. The   strategy varies; it is up to the group to work out a way to capture the jewels.   The player who is successful in capturing the hoard becomes the next Smaug.   In a variation, there are two circles, with two Smaugs and two caches of jewels.   When someone is frozen, he or she simply joins the other circle.

7) Around   the Ball

Age group: 4-12

How to play: Divide the group   into two teams and pick one camper in each circle to start with the ball. When   the signal is given, the ball is passed around the circle as fast as possible.   The distance between the players should be determined according to the throwing   and catching skills of the players- the better they are, the further apart they   sit.

The team must count aloud   how many times the ball has gone around the circle. The first team to pass it   around five times wins.

This is a good game to play   over many weeks. It can be an ongoing competition.

8) Sardines

Age group: 4-12

How to play: Divide the group   among the counselors; you should have at least three groups of children. This   game is similar to hide and seek, but an entire group of kids hides together,   while the other groups search for the first. As each group finds the first group,   it should hide quietly with that group, until all the groups have found them.   The first group to find those who hid first wins and will get to hide in the   next round. Pick a large enough area to hide so that all the kids can fit easily.

9) Clapping   Clues

Age group: 4-12

Before the campers begin to   play this game, a counselor can demonstrate in a dramatically funny way, pretending   to have great difficulty.

One camper is selected to   go away from the group. The rest of the campers pick an object for the first   camper to find. That camper returns to try to find the object. The group claps   softly as the camper moves around looking for the object. As the camper gets   closer to the object, the clapping becomes louder. If the camper moves away   from the object, the clapping becomes quiet and soft. When the object is finally   found, the camper gets a standing ovation. Another camper is selected to be   next.


Have a small object to hide   which the camper sees before it is hidden.

Several campers may go together   and look as a group.

Ages   8-12 (top)

10) Octopus   Tag

Age group: 8-12

How to play: This game is   played just like tag, except that the playing field is an ocean and the person   who is “it” is the octopus. The octopus gives the signal and the campers   can run around, trying not to get tagged. But when someone is tagged, that person   must freeze and become a tentacle, now on the octopus’s side. He or she must   not move from where he/she is standing, but can wave arms around, trying to   help the octopus tag the other players.

By the end of the game, the   room should be full of tentacles waving their arms, with only one person still   free. That person is the winner.

* * A variation on this is   blob tag. In this game, the counselor is the blob, rather than the octopus.   When he or she tags a camper, the 2 people hold hands and try to catch other   people, expanding the blob. When the chain of people starts to get very long,   the counselor may break them into groups of 2 or 3.

11) Scribes,   Pharisees, Sadducees or Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics (Wizards, Giants, Trolls)

Age group: 8-12

The motion for the Giants   is for the players to stand on tiptoe and raise their hands up high. The motion   for the Wizards is for the players to step one foot forward while stretching   out their hands to cast a spell. The Trolls crouch down allowing the spell to   go over them. In other variations of the game, motions need to be worked out.   For example, Scribes can mimic writing, etc.

The order is as follows: Wizard   beats Giant, Giant beats Troll, Troll beats Wizard

The game is played with two   teams. The playing area is divided into two areas with a center meeting place.   The teams huddle behind the centerline and decide which motion to use. Then   each team approaches the centerline, and at a count of “one, two, three,”   everyone calls out, “Wizards, Giants and Trolls” and uses the motion that was   decided upon. Whichever team wins chases the other team back to its safety area.   Any player tagged before he or she reaches the safe line changes sides.

They regroup and start over.   If everyone uses the same motion, everyone must go back and choose another motion   again.

The Counselor could decide   at some point to change the game with the goal of having both teams come up   with the same motion to end the game.

12) Buzz

Age group: 8-12

Players count off to 100 in   sequential fashion, replacing 7 and its multiples with buzz.

For example, the players would   count out 1 to 14 as follows: “1,2,3,4,5,6,buzz,

8, 9,10,11,12,13,buzz.” Players   may also eliminate any number containing a 7, such as 37 or 71.

The game may or may not be   competitive.

Ages   8-18 (top)

13) Introduction   Shuffle

Age group: 8-18

People typically sit with   people they know. This activity allows people to know something about everyone.   Announce to all those present that they are going to tell the person in the   seat next to them something about themselves that the other person may not already   know. They will have a total of five minutes to talk before the people closest   to the aisle are going to move to another seat. All the people closest to the   aisle will rotate clockwise and immediately introduce themselves and tell something   about themselves. As the facilitator, feel free to participate. Also note that   the time span for the conversations can be variable.

14) Pushpin   Soccer

Age group: 8-18

Set up the room with rows   of chairs (like on a bus). The group is divided into two teams which are seated   in every other row. Each team has one goalie armed with a pin: one at the front   of the room, the other at the back of the room. A number of balloons (two colors)   are tossed into the playing area with each team trying to get as many balloons   of its designated color as possible to its goalie to pop. At the same time,   each team attempts to the keep the other team’s balloons from that team’s goalie.   A team wins when all of its colored balloons are popped by a goalie.

15) Crazy   Number Game

Age group: 8-18

All of the players are assigned   a number and stand in a line shoulder to shoulder. The players then start the   following rhythm pattern: slap knees, clap hands, snap fingers on left hand,   snap fingers on right hand. Player number one says his/her number on the first   snap and then says another number on the second snap. The person whose number   was called by player number one then calls out his/her number on the first snap   and then another number on the second snap.

The game keeps going until   someone messes up. Then, he/she can stay out one round or stay for the whole   game. Each time, the leader needs to renumber, but with more advanced groups,   the players must avoid saying the missing numbers.

16) Ultimate   Frisbee (Frisbee Football)

Age group: 8-18

Divide into two teams, each   trying to get to the opposite end zone. One team throws off and the other team   receives. When a player catches the frisbee, he/she can only take three steps   and then must throw it. Teams work their way down the field, passing to each   other until a team scores. If the team hits the ground, it’s the other team’s   frisbee. If a defensive player knocks the frisbee to the ground, possession   switches as well. Defensive players must give any person already holding a frisbee   at least three feet clearance.

17) Body   Parts Musical Chairs

Age group: 8-18

Have everyone form a big circle   of chairs with the chairs facing outward. Remove one chair. Have music ready.   When the music starts, everyone must walk around the chairs (it’s fun if you   make them jog). When the music stops, a caller yells out a body part. Then everyone   races to touch that body part to a chair, one person per chair only. If they   touch a chair before the body part is called, they are out. The one person who   doesn’t get a chair is also out. To speed it up, you can remove more chairs.   We usually start out simple - nose, hair, left elbow, etc. but towards the end   we get more complicated - your bare feet, someone else’s left hand (they must   grab one of the people who are already out). The object is to be the last one   left.

18) Narrow   Road

Age group: 8-18

Lay out with masking tape,   or some other method of clear marking, a narrow trail around the room. The campers   then must walk the trail, keeping at least one foot on the tape all the time.   Emphasize that it is VERY important that they complete the course and stay on   course at all times.

  • Put obstacles   on the course to make it difficult to keep one foot on the tape. Also put   chocolate or other goodies just out of reach beside the trail in different   places, to put them off or tempt them off of the trail.
  • The course should   take 3 minutes to complete.
  • Set them off at   30-second intervals.
  • Explain that,   although it is not a race, their best times will be logged (encouraging competitive   spirits, great fun).
  • Near the finish   line, have someone the kids really respect, yourself if you aren’t at the   start line, tell the kids that the exercise is over and, because you are running   out of time they must go back to the start WITHOUT COMPLETING THE COURSE!

Afterwards, invite comments   and reaction about what was the most difficult temptation / difficulty to overcome.

19) Conversations

Age group: 8-18

This simple game, like charades,   requires no props, no special area, no preparation and no skills outside the   ability for theatrics. First, select two players to have the first conversation.   These two players should leave the area momentarily to decide which famous characters   they will play. They should choose a pair of characters with whom everyone else   is familiar; the characters can be real or fictional. You could choose Batman   and Robin, Simon and Garfunkel, Bert and Ernie. The pair should have something   in common so that there is something to talk about.

The two campers return to   the group and proceed to have a conversation. They try their best to sound and   act like the characters they have chosen.

The other players listen carefully   and are not allowed to ask for clues. Once someone figures out who the characters   are, they should not tell, but should join the conversation.

The counselors should demonstrate   first. Later they need to move the game along so that it is fun and that everyone   gets a turn. They may help campers come up with ideas.

Ages   12-18 (top)

20) Create   a Game Game

Age group: 12-18

This is for one of those nights   when you had a really long week and no time to prepare an icebreaker. If you   pitch this with a lot of enthusiasm, your kids just might buy it. Break up into   teams of 5-8 and give them some random materials you found lying around that   nobody was using. Tell them the game is for each team to create a game out of   the materials given them. Have them write it out, then get back together and   have each group present their game. Vote on which one is worthy to be played   that night and give it a whirl. You can save the others for another night or   just spend the whole night playing games.

21) 60, 30,   10, 5

Age group: 12-18

Have two volunteers to begin   this game. Have the others decide on a scene that the two volunteers will act   out, such as “a marriage proposal” or “receiving a Grammy award.”   The first time the volunteers have 60 seconds to act out the scene, then 30   seconds, then 10 seconds, then 5 seconds. It can get really hilarious!

22) Quirks

Age group: 12-18

Intent: To discover we all   do some things differently.

Action: Small groups share   unusual things they do or need.

Highlights: People are sometimes   anxious about sharing quirks or they do not recognize some of the things they   do are quirky. After this exercise, most people find that they share more than   they differ.

Preparation: Think of your   own real quirks to share as examples. Remember that this is an exercise to discover   interesting facts and commonalities about each other, not ammunition to tease   or ridicule

Script: We all have them.   We’ve all seen them in others. They are those strange beliefs or behaviors that   a person has that sets them apart. Some people call them quirks! For example,   my college roommate could not sleep at night unless the room was completely   dark. He put covers on the window, a towel under the door to the hall and made   me turn my digital clock on its face to block the light.

Divide into groups of 3 or   4 people and discuss these behaviors and beliefs. What you should have at the   end of ten minutes is a short list of quirks that your group has. We are not   necessarily looking for unique quirks, so it’s okay to duplicate and share the   same quirks as others. After ten minutes, ask each group to share one interesting   example.

Variations: Narrow the playing   field to quirks related to work or camp. Allow people to pass and/or talk about   their “friend’s” quirks.

All   Ages (top)

23) Sculptures

Age group: All Ages

This game is played in total   silence. All of the players stand in line shoulder to shoulder.

The leader then points to   one player and puts him/herself into a position. The player then mimics that   position. This keeps going until all of the players are in position. Campers   should eventually become the leader of the game. Older players can then create   a story in which to involve the sculptures.

24) Baby,   I Love You

Age group: All Ages

All the players sit   in a circle. One player sits in the middle of the circle. One player on the   outside goes to the player on the inside and says, “Baby, I love you. Won’t   you please, please smile.” The player on the outside must say back without   laughing, “Baby, I love you, but I just can’t smile.” If the person   laughs, the two players switch places. You can do anything to get the players   to laugh (sing, make funny faces, etc.). However, you are not allowed to touch   the players.