10 Tips for Playing Games with Young Children

 From the Book: Great Games for Young Children by Rae Pica. Adapted by Paula Lyra

  1. 1.      Remember that children learn through play.

In this age of academics” and “accountability”, children are getting fewer and fewer opportunities to play. Because we know that children learn through play, we have to stand strong in our convictions. Play is absolutely essential for children, and any curriculum that excludes it is not meeting the needs of the whole children.

  1. Eliminate Games that use elimination.

In the traditional game of Simon Says, for example, the children eliminated first are the ones who most need to work on their body- part identification and listening skills! With simple modifications, almost any game can be played without eliminating children. With Simon Says, try arranging the children in two circles. When a child moves without permission, that child simply goes from one circle to another!

  1. Keep maximum participation in mind.

Waiting doesn’t come naturally to young children and shouldn’t be imposed on them too often. Besides, a child who is waiting is not actively participating and therefore not having all possible benefits. Whenever you can, choose games that let everyone in the group participate. Or, if you play a game that has one child at a time participating, divide the group into several small groups, so it allows more children to be active

  1. 4.      Avoid hurting feelings when organizing partners and groups.

If, you want to form 3 groups, ask the children to count off from one to three. All the ones then belong in one group, and so on. For a partner activity, play a quick game of Back to Back, in which you invite the children to get back to back with someone as quickly as possible while you count down from 5 to 1. By the time you reach 1, all children should have a partner.

  1. Play in a circle.

Although this is not always possible, try to do it as often as you can. Circle games bring about a sense of community, of belonging, that no other formation offers. A circle allows the children to see and hear everyone else. And, to remain part of the circle, they must accept the rules and roles assigned.

  1. Think cooperation – not competition

Children will have plenty of time to experience competition later in life, and it isn’t developmentally appropriate for early childhood years. Play many different cooperative games, which help children, learn to be successful at working together, an essential social skill for becoming part of a society. Research shows that preschoolers prefer cooperative games to competitive ones.

  1. Take it outside.

Whenever possible, play outdoors. Today’s children are spending less time outdoors, than at any other point in history. As a result, they are losing their connection with nature and missing out on the sensory experience only the outdoors can provide. Besides, play a game outside for a change, can add a new whole element to it. With Follow the Leader, for example, new obstacles create new pathways and challenges.

  1. Keep a game repertoire handy.

If you learn how to do games that take varying lengths of time, then you will always know just what to do when an opportunity to play arises. Be sure to include games that focus on a variety of concepts and work with different sizes of groups.

  1. Keep the whole child in mind.

Choose games that develop all three domains. For example, Over & Under is a game that requires a group of children to stand in a circle with each child facing another child’s back. The children alternate between passing a ball over the head and through the legs of the next child. The ball- handling and flexibility aspects contribute to physical development. The circle and the cooperative nature of the game foster a social/emotional development. And the actions familiarize the children with important prepositions, promoting cognitive development.

  1. Have fun! Games should be fun. If fun for everyone is the biggest objective of a game, it is worth playing. After all, fun should be an essential component of every game and of live, too!

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