Getting to Know You Games for Kids
Here is an extensive list of getting to know you games for kids. These games will help break the ice for the group and get them interacting and participating. These games and activities will help the kids feel included in the program or activities.
An Introduction to this category: The following are Games and Activities that encourage cooperation; show a fun way of looking at life; help stay in touch with feelings; explore ways of dealing with outside influences and increase trust and sense of kindness.
Community builders will get your children to feel more like they are part of your program or classroom community by interacting with each other… They help children get to know each other and themselves!
NOTE: As with many ‘social activities’ in school-age programs and classrooms, the activities should be open to children who “choose to participate”–IT SHOULD NEVER BE MANDATORY. Some ideas are simple and some will take planning.
1. A “FAN” OF VALIDATION
In this activity students validate one another by sharing appreciative comments:
- Give each child a piece of paper.
- Have students make a fan by folding the paper back and forth into seven equal sections. Once fans are folded, have students write their names on the top section, unfold their fan, and pass it to a classmate.
- The classmate writes something he or she really appreciates about the child in the section immediately below the student’s name, folds the section under so the comment is hidden, and passes the fan to another student.
- Students pass the fans until each section has a positive statement.
- When completed, fans are returned to the student whose name is at the top.
- As students read the statements from their classmates, they realize how many “fans” they have on their team!
2. T-E-A-M CHEER
Create a shared group identity and reinforce the importance of working together as a team by doing a program or school cheer:
- Have students stand in a circle or in lines.
- While shouting out the letters T-E-A-M, have them use their arms to spell the letters over their heads, similar to the YMCA cheer that was made popular by the Village People.
- Have students suggest music and/or lyrics to accompany the cheer.
- Do the cheer whenever your group spirit needs energizing.
Variation: Use this activity with groups of 4-5 students and have each group create a cheer using a different word that relates to a positive aspect of working as a team, such as S-U-C-C-E-S-S, S-U-P-P-O-R-T, or C-O-N-N-E-C-T. When finished, have groups teach their cheer to the rest of the group.
The above activity is based on the PLS graduate course Building Communication and Teamwork in the Classroom™.
3. FRUIIT BASKET
The class sits in a circle on chairs, with one person standing in the middle. Participants are equally divided between three fruits (such as apples, oranges and pineapples). When the middle person calls out a fruit (e.g., “apples”), all the apples change chairs, including the middle person. The person “out” becomes the next caller. If a caller says “fruit basket” all participants have to change chairs.
4. 1-2-3 THEN ASK ME!!! Before coming to you, children are to ask three of their peers to assist them! First, childen who know how to do what is asked feel good with demonstrating their ability; two, children being helped or shown–see that they too will learn what their ‘friends’ can do; three, ‘community helping and sharing’ is encouraged; and four, children that have been ‘helped’ will reciprocate and help others when asked.
Example: If Tommy can’t tie his shoe and he comes to you—question to see if he asked three of his friends to help. If no—say, “Tommy needs help in tying his shoe…can someone help?”
This will NOT embarrass the child as it will be part of program routine and he’ll learn from his friend. In things that Tommy can do–he will return the favor and assist others when asked.
For this to work it needs to be consistent. (Post a sign with the 1-2-3 as a reminder) Yes, it does work. Children become a more cohesive unit, independent, and self esteem soars as they learn from and help each other!
I never had an instance when there wasn’t a child that would not assist another child. With consistency- it soon would become part of program routine. (Barb) Banner and Image by KidActivities.net)
5. TUG-OF-WAR PANTOMIME (Community Building Drama Game)
In theatre tug of war, it is the same as the game – except there’s no rope. The children play with a “ space rope”.
This game can be played with two, four, six or eight players at a time. Staff encourages the children to “Pull!” and challenges them to stay in the same space. If the children totally concentrate on the “object” between them, they will use as much energy as if there were a real rope between them. This is an important exercise in that no one can do it alone – it shows that problems can be solved ONLY by interacting with each other! …A good activity for building community spirit!
You may want to check out the Drama and Drama Game Categories… They are ALL Community Building Activities! There is an introduction to Drama, Pantomime, Improv, and a good variety or Drama Games!
6. SAY SOMETHING NICE DAY! (All Ages)
On “Say Something Nice Day’, notice something you like about a person and tell them.
- Declare a day in your program that this is Say Something Nice Day.
- Each participant promises to approach one person that day and finish the sentence: “One of the things I like about you is _________.”
- When you are back together at the end of the day, share your experiences.
7. ALL IN ONE! Game
Stand in a circle holding hands. One person is in the middle. That person in the middle calls in some one–one at a time. The goal is to see how many people you can fit in the middle- without breaking hands.
You can create your own Guinness Book of Records!
8. PASS IT ON TABLETS….
- Pass it on books are ‘question and answer’ books that are passed around between the kids allowing for quick, creative responses. This is done in a notebook – with one question or name of a child to a page.
- Friends then respond on the pages and sign their name below their response.
- Students can have their own books if they choose—or there can be one program/classroom book. In my experience, many children liked to have their own version.
- Rules are to be courteous and kind regarding each child and comment. If something is written about a person, it should be complimentary! (This is something that goes back to the late 1950’s!)
9. What I want to Be Day
- Have a “What-I-Want-To-Be Day” and invite kids to come dressed up in clothing that REPRESENTS a job that interests them.
- Have students research their chosen profession and report to the group—and/or make posters depicting their chosen occupation.
- Just thinking of things they can wear, design, and make could take up a portion of the week!!!
- Take pictures of the event to add to your program scrapbook and for kids to take home
10. CREATE A ME COMMERCIAL
Have kids write a two- to three-minute television commercial. The topic is why someone should hire them. The commercial depicts the student’s special qualities. After they work on these, the students present their commercials in front of the group. Another variation is for a group of five to create a commercial for each one— and then present this in front of the group.
A version for younger children could be for each child to create a commercial about what is nice about their “friend.” For a novel way to present it–get an appliance box/large box; cut am oblong hole in it to represent the screen. Fun! The kids stand behind the “screen” and present on T.V.!
11. THE JOURNAL
Journaling is a great idea for all! Young children who can’t write yet can draw pictures and/or dictate…
- For Older youth–As a journal entry, each student might write a poem, describe a dream, or share something they are pleased about or unhappy about. It is the student’s journal; you may read an entry only if the student says you may. However, check occasionally to ensure that there are at least two dated entries per week.
- Extension Ideas are: Watch the movie the Diary of Anne Frank and what people would think of their journals if read years later. Have participants write a letter to themselves that they will read years later; develop “program journals” where participants communicate between group members.
At the end of each quarter, after each student rereads their journal, the group sits in a circle and each student shares one thing they have learned about themselves so far this year.
From Fun Literacy Activities for After-School Programs by Sue Edwards & Kathleen Martinez
12. KINDNESS LESSON…
Trace each child’s hand on a piece of paper. Ask children to think of different ways people can be kind to others. Write their ideas on each finger of the hand drawing. It can be completed as described or cut out, mounted and decorated. Can also be put on wall or bulletin board.
13. DREAMY SCRIBBLES
Play some calming music. Listen to the music for awhile. Start to draw with one crayon or marker each. Don’t look at the paper as you draw. By not looking-you won’t judge if it is good or bad—so just flow with it. With hands moving freely, an abstract design will most likely develop. When complete, color in the spaces if you wish.
***TIP: Read and then discuss “MESSAGE BOOKS” with all ages! (Books written with a lesson built in– for children)
A good way to teach life lessons…
14. THE ‘I’ MUSEUM (For ages 9 to 15)
- Assign each player a small space where he or she has thirty minutes to set up a self- exhibit.
- The player can use magazine clippings, a poem, a favorite object, a flower, a lucky number, a favorite color, a photo from a favorite movie, a family photo, a self-portrait, an essay etc.
- When it is time to visit the museum, half of the players stay with their exhibits, while the other half visit and have the creators explain them.
- After all exhibits are presented, discuss how much people were willing to reveal about themselves. Which exhibits were the most interesting?
The above activity is from “101 More Life Skills for Children” (2006 Hunter House)—by Bernie Badegruber. The book presents fun games that help youth from 9 to 15 develop basic social and emotional life skills.
15. FEELINGS for Pre-K and K children…
- At this point in their lives, children are just beginning to understand and express their feelings, especially simple emotions like happy, sad and angry.
- An excellent way to illustrate certain feelings is to make a feelings collage. Have child go through magazines to find pictures of people looking happy, sad, angry, and surprised.
- Create one large collage for each feeling. Have children decorate the collages with crayons or markers in colors they believe represent each feeling.
***A great activity for talking about feelings is this one called “Make the Face”. The instructor calls out a situation such as losing your favorite toy or winning an important game. Each child makes the corresponding face or body movement for that emotional experience.
16. CONNECTING WITH PROVERBS!
- With standard 3″ x 5″ index cards, write a number of famous quotes or proverbs that reflect the core values of your center. Make two cards for every quote, and be sure that the quotes are appropriate for the age and reading level of your kids.
- Distribute the cards face down to the kids—either by passing them out randomly, or by letting them select from a box. Have everyone read the cards silently to themselves. Now tell them that everyone in the room has someone with the same quote; ask them to find that person and talk about what the quote means. (If you have an odd number of children in the group, use a card yourself.)
- Have the kids mingle and talk to each other, sharing the quotes until they find their partner. Make sure they understand that it’s not a race.
Once all the students have found their counterparts, have them return to their seats. You can stop now or continue discussing it as a group.
Try asking questions like, “What strategy did you use to find the other person?” or “What does your quote mean to you in your personal life?” Try this activity using other things written on the cards, such as characters or quotes from books you read during the year.
17. CANDY NECKLACE THAT REPRESENTS “ME”!
Materials: Any type of candies/cereals with holes in them, string, bowls,
and other items you can think of…
Have the group make necklaces of how they see themselves. Each candy would represent a characteristic. (Make a list of food item and the trait it represents)
- Life savers represent helpful
- Cheerios are happy disposition
- Froot Loops are “I like to have fun”
- Jelly Life Savers are Outgoing
- Licorice is Creative, etc.
The children then chose what characteristics they believe themselves to have and put them on the necklace. As a group the can share why they put on certain things. Be as creative as possible.
- Have ribbon available where kids can tie small bows in between to say “I like pretty things” or…
- Actual beads in-between for “I’m creative”…
- You can also drill holes or pierce the center of other candies—and with the kids, decide what each item represents…
18. THE SQEEZE GAME
Equipment: Small random object – keys, phone, stone, etc.
Have TWO parallel, straight, equal lines of youth, and have them hold each others hand.
Have someone at the front of the lines watching, and have someone at the back of the lines watching also. Place a small item in the middle of the two front people, and place it just within their reach. Have these two people place their free hand on their knee.
The back person (who is watching) must give a number to the last two in the line. Whatever that number, that is the number of times they must squeeze the front person’s hand (person in front of them). So if the back person signaled 2 to the back two people, they must squeeze the people’s hands in front of them, twice.
This carries on like a chain reaction, till the front person feels there hand being squeezed. Once they feel that, they can reach for the object in front of them. The team to grab the object first wins!
19. I LIKE MY NEIGHBOR THAT…
Equipment: A circle of chairs for all playing–one less than the amount of youth/children.
- One person stands in the middle of the circle of chairs and announces “I like my neighbor who”….. Example is wearing sneakers or has brown hair, etc.
- Everyone who fits the statement must move (run) to another chair.
- The object is for the person in the middle to find an empty chair. This lot of fun and can be played for a long time
- Remember to use your imagination.
Tip: I initially thought this would be a game for children younger than grade 3. The first time I played it (about 18 years ago) several older kids came to watch and asked if they could join in! As the facilitator also play it with the group—it’s fun…) Barb
20. SPIDER WEB OF FRIENDSHIP (Good for all ages-see photo of adults)
Need: A multi-colored ball of yarn (to call it “Tapestry) or any color if you call it a “Web”)
- Have youth sit on the floor in large circle. You start by selecting a person to roll the yarn to. The person who receives it — holds on to a corner of it— before passing it on to who they choose. When you choose a person, you must say something nice about that person (or whateveryou decide the topic will be) before you pass it on.
- At the end, it looks like a large web of diversity…(Have fun rerolling it!)
21. A GIANT PAPER DOLL CHAIN
What You Need: Paper and paint or markers…
Cut out life-size cutouts of your children. Have them paint them. Put them together in a large paper doll chain with the heading “We are all Friends”…
22. CONTINENTAL DIVIDE – A Game for grades 3 and up!
Have each team form a straight line that is shoulder to shoulder.
Instruct youth that their shoes are fused to the person‘s shoe to their right and left. In this formation have the team move from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. If anyone disconnects shoes, the team comes back to point ‘A’ and starts again. The first Team to point ‘B’ wins!
This activity took place in Michigan and is adaptable to grades 3 and up…It took place during the school day—but CAN be adapted to SAC!!!
23. CHILDREN IN UPPER GRADES OF THEIR SCHOOL can be intimidating and unapproachable.
Older students learn more difficult subjects, are more familiar with the school building and staff, and are just plain bigger than kindergarteners. One 5th-grade class decided to bridge the distance by writing and presenting each younger student with a book.
- Teachers helped collect information about the younger students.
- Each 5th grader then wrote, illustrated, designed, and bound a book about his or her assigned kindergarten student.
- Working in groups during the editing process, they practiced offering compliments and constructive criticism.
- They presented their gifts at a party, where the classes got to know each other better.
- The 5th graders maintained their positive relationship with the kindergarteners by designing and running games at the younger students’ end-of-the-year picnic.
During this project, the 5th graders made connections with other students as well. Many were unfamiliar with the computer lab, so students who use the lab daily instructed them. This project grew positive relationships not only between classes but also between parents and the school. The parents were impressed that the school community was so strong and supportive.
Adapted from “Route to Reform: K-8 service-learning Curriculum Ideas,” © 1994-95 National Youth Leadership Council.
24. THANKS FOR THE COMPLIMENT!
Need: Paper, markers, tape
Everyone gets a piece of paper taped to their back. (Make sure their name is at the top of the paper.) Each person is given a marker. Each person in the group must walk around the room and write a compliment or positive remark about that person on their back….. NO PEEKING!
When everyone has written something positive on each others back, everyone returns to their seat. With a smaller group, everyone exchanges papers without looking at their own. Each participant can take a turn at reading off the person’s list to that person aloud. (Adjust for a larger group)
What a great self-esteem booster. It doesn’t matter if the group knows each other well— because you can say things like…”He seems friendly” etc. But this is a great activity to do with kids who have been in a group for a while.
25. COOPERATIVE STAND UP (From Drama Games Category)
- Have your group get in pairs.
- The pairs will sit on the floor, back pressed to back. They must stand up without using their hands. It can end here…OR…
- After a pair stands up, have them find another pair and all 4 of them must sit down and stand up.
- Go on as such until the entire group is together and have everyone try to stand up.
- This is a good game to promote friendliness and fun when you have an exceptionally large group…
26. ANIMAL GUESSING GAME:
For all ages-Approximately 15 minutes.
This games helps overcome shyness, builds reasoning skills and cooperation…
- Line up youth in two rows with backs to one another.
- Tape a picture of an animal to each child’s back. Do not let them see it.
- Kids must then circulate among others in the room and ask ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions about the animal in an attempt to identify it.
Example: Does it have fur? Does it have hooves? Does it live in cold climate?
They can only ask one or two questions of each individual person. (If necessary help kids circulate around the room and interact with one another.) If they guess correctly they have the picture removed from their back but still circulate to help others.
It’s best to choose a wide variety of well known animals such as dolphin, chicken, duck, lion, elephant, eagle…etc.
27. GOOD APPLES: GRADES 3-6
Good for a “Special Activity” in smaller groups (Also in Diversity/Multi-Cultural Category)
- Tell the children that some time will be spent finding out about how people are the same and how they are different.
- Put apples on a table in front of the group. Have each student choose an apple.
- Tell them to get to know their apple really well. Suggest they notice their apple’s special characteristics.
- Have them make up a story about their apple and tell it to a friend (modeling this step is helpful with younger students). Allow the students to share their stories with the rest of the group.
- Direct the students to return their apples to the table in front of the class.
Mix the apples up and ask the students to come back and find their apple. Ask how they knew which apple was theirs (they will indicate things like color, size, shape, special features). Ask what this has to do with people. Make a list of how people are different. Discuss why this is important. Make a list of how people are the same. Discuss why this is important. The lists may be done in cooperative groups and then shared with the large group.
Tying it All Together:
Summarize the importance of individual differences and similarities in people. Suggest that one way in which all people are similar is that they all have a star inside them (something special that makes them shine, that they especially like about themselves), just like each apple has a star inside it. Cut each apple in half (don’t cut the usual way, but through the center the other way). Let each child see the star inside their apple. While the students eat the apple, allow them to share something about their star, their strengths, their individuality.
By Robbie Fearon
Burlington Elementary School Burlington
28. FIND YOUR FAMILY
One slip of paper for every player. Papers should be in groups of five, and each group represents a family, for example, the Smiths. So the first Smith paper would be Mr. Smith, the second Mrs. Smith, and the third Brother Smith and so on. Each family should have a different last name but the same characters (i.e.) one mom and one dad.
Each player is given one slip of paper and they must walk around trading papers with everyone else in the room. They should try to make as many exchanges as possible, and they should not be looking at which papers they are receiving. The leader then calls out “Find your family”.
The players must find the other members in their family. When they have found them, they must sit in order from dad to baby in a line on the floor. The last family to sit down may be eliminated if you choose to do so. The leader may also give out specific instructions, for example “Find your family without talking”.
29. JELLY ROLL (Read the message following the directions from one program that tried this!)
This isn’t a game but a great way to assemble kids quickly. This can be used when you need to group up kids, sit them down…have a meeting, explain something, etc.
- Previously, assign your large group a method to get them into smaller groups… this can be done by assigning each individual small group a color, season, number, animal, etc.
- Call “Jelly-Roll” and the kids get into their small groups.
- Have each small group hold hands in one long line and then roll from one end to the other into a “jelly roll” — and then sit down.
- Time youth to see which group can “Roll” and sit the fastest…and then see if they can “beat” their best time.
At first this may be confusing—but when the kids get the routine down—it will go quickly. Just practice–practice–practice…
All you need to do is yell “Jelly Roll”…and then they do their thing!
Just wanted to let you know how the jelly roll went. First of all, I decided to rename it the “cinnamon roll” just because I thought the kids would better understand what a cinnamon roll looks like than a jelly roll, for visualization purposes. I separated them around 10 in each group– and they did a great job at it! Before they started we had each group pick which end of the line would make the center of the cinnamon roll, so they knew which way to turn. All the children were very excited because we never really do group or team activities like this. Then we tried having all the children do it together in one big roll. It was a lot of fun for everyone and they were all really pumped! Thanks for this great team building exercise! As far as using it for breaking children into groups, I definitely think it would be a good way to do that in a bigger program. Our program is so small that we never really break into groups, but if we did, we would use this method. I’m sure we will do this again just because the children loved it so much!
Lia-Baldwin Elementary School
30. JOKE AND PUNCH LINE
- Set-up: Write a joke on one card and a punch line on another. Be sure to mix the cards up. The number of different jokes depends on the size of the group.
- Give each person a card. Explain that they may have a joke or a punch line on the card. On a given signal, they are to walk around the group trying to find the other part of their joke/punch line.
- When they find their other half, you may ask them to get to know their new partner by asking things like favorite ice cream or dream vacation etc…
- When this is done, everyone can return to a circle and with their partner, tell their joke.
31. CAPTURE THE BALLOON
To introduce or learn something about each other— To provide physical activity, have fun, build community spirit
•Each child receives a balloon (either inflated or they blow up). Children write their name and decorate balloons with a marker. Put all balloons in a container, box or bag.
Release all balloons at once. Play some music as children bat the balloons around and keep them in the air. When the music stops the children “capture” a balloon and freeze in their position.
•When everyone has a balloon the leader calls on one child and the child says the name of the person’s balloon he/she has. The child whose name is called will then say something about themselves. The topic can be pre-chosen such as: What is the best thing that happened to you this week? —or—If you could do anything for a day, what would it be?—or– My favorite class is________?
Ideas are endless. If the group is large you can have 3 or 4 children make their statement and then start the music again.
32. RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS (See the Acts of Kindness Category)
Example: 100 Acts of Kindness
- Celebrate the 100th day of school! (Usually in February in the States)
- Make a large poster in the shape of the number 100 to hang in your program area.
- Several weeks before the 100th day of school, discuss acts of kindness toward others. Based on the number of youth in your program, three to four weeks before the big day, announce open season on acts of kindness. Encourage the children to recognize acts of kindness by others.
- Each time children see a classmate or friend engage in an act of kindness, they will tell staff and then put a sticker and their friend’s name on the poster. The students can not name themselves, only others.
- It should be easy to reach the goal of 100 acts of kindness. A profound difference in behavior, relationships, and outlook will be noticed.
33. DESIGNING SELF-COLLAGES: Grades 1-6
In order for youth to build self esteem, they need to know who they are and what is important and unique to them personally. Children also need to have a concrete way in which to express this. Children can become resident ‘experts’ in the program and this is one way of finding out what the range of knowledge is among a group of students.
- Using pictures, words, or symbols clipped from magazines that represent things they enjoy doing or own, places they’ve been, and people they admire— or careers they desire, have youth create a collage. They should place their names on the back, and post the collages around the room.
- Have the other students guess which collage belongs to whom and state why they made that guess. This activity gives youth a chance to reflect on who they are and then to share that information in a fun way with the rest of the group. Barb
34. NEVER HAVE I EVER… Icebreaker Game
Ages: 8 and up. Recommended # of people: 10-20.
- Players all sit in a circle. Each player holds out all ten fingers and places them on the floor. One by one, each person announces something that they have never done; for example, they say, “Never have I been on a cruise.” For each statement, all the other players remove a finger if they have done that statement. So, if three other people have been on a cruise, those three people must put down a finger, leaving them with nine fingers.
The goal is to stay in the game the longest (to have fingers remaining). Thus, it is a good strategy to say statements that most people have done, but you haven’t. This can be humorous (e.g. “Never have I ever skipped a class in school” or “Never have I played in mud”) The game provides a good way to find out unique experiences and facts about people.
35. All year long…WELCOME YOUR NEW CHILDREN!
When a new child joins a classroom/program community, there is a great opportunity — not only to welcome the new child, but also to strengthen a sense of cohesion among all of the children in the group. Here are some concrete ways to welcome a new member of the community:
Prepare the class. Share with them some basic information about the new child. What are some of this child’s hobbies or interests? Draw attention to commonalities. Perhaps you can tell Shawna that Kyle also has a pet dog!
Explain the goal of welcoming a new child. Ask the group to brainstorm ways they can help the new child to feel comfortable and welcome. Maybe they would like to make a welcome banner or sign.
Pair up the new child. Assign a buddy. This child can help the newcomer feel welcome and connected as well as serve as a guide by touring the classroom and explaining routines. Pick a child you know would be willing and enthusiastic for this task. An outgoing, highly verbal child is a good choice. Additionally, pairing up children who know each other is an effective way to promote collaboration and teamwork.
Break the ice. Take the time to revisit “getting to know you” games and activities. Have all of the children wear nametags again. Play games that focus on names and identity (e.g., “My name is Tony and I like tangerines”).”
By Joni Levine from her article, A Classroom Community: Where Everybody Knows Your Name, in the September 2008 issue of Exchange Magazine
You can also Compile a “Big Welcome Book” for new students to learn all about your program – each year up-date the book.
36. MATCH THE TEACHERS WITH THEIR PETS… This idea is from the ‘Back to School’ Category-but actually would be fun any time of the year. It’s a fun way to ‘Connect Kids to Teachers’!
- In order to have the students meet the faculty and staff on a different level– have faculty bring in a picture of themselves and a picture of their pet.
- Place the pictures on the bulletin board in a scrambled up manner and have the student decide who goes with which pet.
- Number the pictures and label the pets with a letter. Have paper available for the students to write down their answers.
You could also tie in a reading theme by adding some book jackets of pet books.
37. FRIENDSHIP TOWER
(Good for Building Team/Program Spirit)
Divide the group into teams of four or five children. Distribute construction paper and tape to each team. Explain to the teams that they will have ten minutes to build the tallest tower they can—WITHOUT TALKING. They can use only the given supplies. At the end of ten minutes — have each team display their tower and discuss whether it was easy or difficult to build and why.
Not necessary but —an award or certificate can go to the group who made the tallest tower. You can also award certificates to the smallest, most unique, most straight, most leaning, etc.
38. HAPPY FEEL GOOD WORDS (All Ages): Three different Versions!
WANT TO CHEER THE GROUP UP? Try saying “happy-good feeling words”.
#1…When your sitting with a group of children (during a down-time) have a spontaneous game of talking about things that make you “feel happy or good”!
Start off with what makes you happy —and then take turns calling out things such as: Sunny days make me happy; Sunshine makes me happy; Warm cookies make me happy; Saturday mornings make me happy; Friday nights makes me happy….. Going to the movies makes me happy…..Pizza…..Going on vacation…..Blue skies…..Summer time, etc.
When done in a light-hearted manner, the children will join in and share! You’ll be amazed how the atmosphere can change—as well all realizing it doesn’t have to be a trip to Disney to do it!
(I actually did this with my three grandsons while waiting for their dad in the car not too long ago! Within a few seconds, the atmosphere in the car really lightened up and they were each sharing! Barb)
#2…Take turns saying “joyous” words with children. Any happy word will do. Young children will come up with words such as “yummy”, “lollipops”, “mommy”. Teens use “awesome,” or whatever expression is current.
Examples: Pleasure, delight, enjoyment, satisfaction, ecstasy, bliss, elation, rapture, rhapsody, gaiety, glee, happiness, festive, glad, pleased, cheerful, joyful, excitement, heaven, enchantment, exhilaration, radiant, etc.
#3…Use this as a topic for your ‘Graffiti Wall’. Leave markers out with a large sheet of butcher/roll paper, and have the children write all the happy/joyous words they can think of.
39. I’M A WORK IN PROGRESS!
ADD THE WORD “YET” to any negative assessment children express of themselves or other people.
Make up all sorts of things that can’t be done…”YET.” Remember to use this game when children are discouraged and need to be reminded of “yet.”
Examples: “I can’t do long division”…”yet.”
‘I can’t hit a home run”…”YET.” “I can’t sail a sailboat”…”YET.”
“I can’t do brain surgery”…”YET.” “I haven’t gone to the moon”…”YET.”
(From Spirit Games by Barbara Sher)
40. ***PLAY FOLLOW THE LEADER
Each time the leader stops, children must turn around and pay a compliment to the next person in line.
41. HULA HOOP
- Everyone stands in a circle holding hands. Have two people break hands and put their hands through a hula hoop and rejoin hands again.
- The hoop must be passed the entire way around the circle without breaking hands. Sometimes it goes over and sometimes under…doesn’t matter.
- Discuss what helped and what made it difficult. Then try to “beat” the first “time”.
42. BEACH BALL TOSS
- Get one or two beach balls.
- Write questions all over the beach ball such as favorite ice-cream, most embarrassing moment, favorite color, etc.
- Have everyone stand in a circle and pass the beach ball around the circle by throwing it up in the air—
- The person who threw the ball will then pick a finger such as left thumb. The person who caught the ball must then read out the question and answer (questions nearest to left thumb).
Activities for Older Youth…
43. TRUST FALL (ONLY for Middle School to Adult)
The group forms tight circle around person who stands straight and stiff as a log. The group gently moves that stiff person around taking care to be gentle. The purpose is for individuals to gain trust with the group.
Once comfortable, the person in the center closes their eyes. Everyone in the group should try this. Directions say the next step is to have 3 people of the same relative size match up. Two people stand behind the other and act as catchers. (I think I’d have four) The ‘Faller’ is to remain stiff as a log — and fall backwards. The catchers first stop the fall– after a drop of a foot or so– and then straighten the individual up. The faller falls again — and the catcher let him fall a little further than before. Continue several times and rotate positions. (Really be careful with this one! Many years ago, when I was training for Crisis Intervention Counseling—my group didn’t catch me! hmmmm…)
A Self-Discovery Art Activity
In this activity, children will use their artistic skills to create a “Me-Shirt”, a T-shirt that expresses something important about them.
What you need…
- A plain, light-colored T-shirt from home for each child
- Paints or markers designed for use on clothing
- Smocks (enough for each child)
What to do…
1….Discuss with children the fact that many T-shirts have art or writing on them. Some children may be wearing such T-shirts. Encourage these children to stand up and show their T-shirts to the group. Ask other children if they have any similar shirts at home. On a board, list the reasons children like to wear these kinds of T-shirts. If children have difficulty thinking of reasons, you might offer some, such as they can show what team they’re on, they can show places they’ve been, they’re pretty, they’re funny they just like them.
2….Tell children that they are each going to make a T-shirt with their own design on it. Explain that the design should tell something about who they are. It could include their name, pictures of things they like to do, their family members, or even pets.
3….Have children sit in small groups to brainstorm some ideas for their Me-shirts. They can refer to the list on the board for ideas. Once a child has come up with an idea for a design, encourage him or her to sketch it on a piece of paper first. Then review the design with the child to make sure it conveys the message the child wants to express.
4….When children are ready, have them draw or paint their designs on their Me-shirts. Send the shirts home when they are dry and schedule a special Me-shirt party for a day when children can wear their Me-shirts. At the party, children can share with each other what their Me-shirts tell about themselves.
- You may want to display the Me-shirts as art before sending them home.
- You may want to invite parents or another class to join your Me-shirt party.
See directions for Painting on Fabrics and How to Paint a Shirt, etc,
45. ALL OF ME!
In this activity, children will draw pictures showing some of the different aspects of their lives and share the pictures with other youth. Beside learning about each other, they will develop a better appreciation of the roles they fill in their families and community.
Need: Crayons and/or colored pencils
1. Discuss with children the fact that they fill many different roles in their families. Point out that a girl may be a daughter, a sister, a niece, and a granddaughter, while a boy may be a son, a brother, a nephew, and a grandson. Ask children to tell about the different roles they fill in their families. Record their answers on the board or on chart paper. Then ask children to think about what roles they fill in the community. Point out that they are students, and ask them what else they do. For example, are they on a soccer or T-ball team? Add their responses to the list.
2. Have youth draw pictures to show some of the different roles they fill in their lives (some children may need more than one sheet). Children can refer to the list created earlier for help in labeling their pictures.
3. When children are finished, have them share their pictures with the group. You may want to mount the pictures on an All About Me bulletin board.
46. THE INTERVIEW…This is a great beginning-of-the-year activity—or FIRST DAY OR TWO OF SUMMER PROGRAMS WHEN ALL KIDS DON’T KNOW EACH OTHER…
Have students break into dyads. Each is paired with someone they do not already know well. Allowing five minutes per interview, the students interview each other. Then standing behind the person they have just interviewed, each child tells the group what they have learned about the other, introducing them to the group.
47. FINDING COMMON GROUND
This works best for small groups or for each small group sitting together as a team (4-6 participants).
Give the group a specific time (perhaps 5 minutes) to write a list of everything they all have in common.
Tell them to avoid the obvious (“we’re all here”).
When time is up, ask each group how many items they have listed.
For fun, ask them to announce some of the most interesting items.