Games for Kids
November 24, 2004 1:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some fun kids games that don't rely on words to play. From one kid to fifty. Got any good ones? [more inside]

...the [more inside] part...

I'm travelling and often assume the role of basically, camp counselor. Right now I'm using : "Duck, Duck Goose"*, the interactive spectacle that is "The Hokey Pokey", Red Rover, paddy-cake, freeze tag, and hide-and-seek.
(There's another one but I don't know it's name. Everyone gets in a big circle with one person in the middle -- usually me -- and two kids at a time try to swap their places in the circle without me seeing. If I can jump into one of the places that they vacate, then they have to go in the middle)

Duck, Duck Goose seems to be the odds-on favorite and good for all ages but after about 20 minutes even DDG gets old. Red Rover can be problematic unless the kids are roughly the same age and not too rough-housey. The Hokey Pokey, well, it's classic, but only good for about two minutes.

Preferably, I'd like suggestions for games that don't require equipment (balls, jump-rope, lemurs), but if you've got a really good one with a ball or a lemur, let me know anyway as I can probably lay my hands on something.

* okay, Duck, Duck Goose does have two words, but you don't need to know what they mean in order to play. And really, even knowing what the words mean doesn't lend much more insight into the game.
posted by blueberry to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If nonsensical words are OK, what about the hand-slapping/elimination circle game where you sing the "Crocodile Morey(sp?)" song? I tried googling for it and I didn't turn it up, but I found this song about bullfrogs that you can use as well (but the words are more structured than "Crocodile Morey").

As a side note, the kids we taught this to in Africa loved it--especially when it came down to just the last couple of people. It also works well if only one or two people sing along--not everyone has to know the words or sing them.
posted by handful of rain at 7:36 AM on November 24, 2004

Can you elaborate on how to play the Crocodile Morey / bullfrog song?
posted by humuhumu at 8:12 AM on November 24, 2004

These are all games I remember from my childhood.

King of the Mountain: Everyone tries to dethrone the king. The king stands on top of a hill (not too steep... ;) and everyone rushes him/her in an effort to be the new king. The king pushes everyone down the hill as fast as he/she can - the first person to make it past the king becomes the new king. You can make it non-gender specific by calling it something else.

Statue: Best non-prop kid game ever. One person is the wizard, who brings statues to life. Everyone else stands in a circle around this person. The wizard takes each kid by the hand, one at a time, and swings them around a few times until they get dizzy, and then releases them. The kid being released always goes staggering and reeling off somewhere - watching them try to regain their balance is half the fun. So, while the kid is reeling, the wizard yells "Freeze!" and the kid stops and stands still as can be expected, thereby becoming "a statue". The wizard, inspired and amused by the ridiculous position the kid is standing/sitting/laying in, yells out something that he/she wants the kid to "be". If the kid freezes with arms up in the air, the wizard may yell "Ballerina!" and the kid has to start twirling and tiptoeing like a ballerina. If the kid freezes on all fours, the wizard may yell out "Bullfrog!" and the kid has to start leaping around and croaking. The wizard judges who was the best come-to-life statue, and that person becomes the new wizard.

Monkey in the Middle: Someone is the monkey. That person stands in the middle of a bunch of kids, or just two. The kids throw something (anything handy that won't leave a scar) back and forth to each other, while the monkey tries to intercept it. The person who throws the thing that the monkey eventually intercepts is punished by becoming the new monkey.

There are always impromptu scavenger hunts - we had a ton of those. And putting on shows is always good! Kids can put together a production worthy of Broadway in 15 minutes, with no props.
posted by iconomy at 8:36 AM on November 24, 2004

Oh, sure...sorry, maybe it's not as prevalent elsewhere as it was where I grew up (midwest?).

It can involve as many folks as you like--the more the better--and all players stand in a circle with their arms stretched out to the side and palms open and facing up. Each person in the circle should have their right palm above their right-hand neighbor's left palm, and (therefore) their left hand beneath their left-hand neighbor's right palm.

The song starts, and a wave of hand slapping moves around the circle to the beat of the song (right palm across body to slap left-hand neighbor's right palm, and so on). The trick comes on the last beat of the song: if your neighbor slaps your palm on the last beat, you're out. However, if you're quick-witted enough to pull your palm out of the way, leaving empty air for your neighbor to slap, then your neighbor is out. The circle then tightens, and the song begins again...

You can see the kids calculate where the final slap will be as the song winds down, and strategize how to avoid being slapped. Everyone laughs when you catch someone zoning out. I remember playing this is a child, and as I said above the African kids loved it.

Finally, when only two people are left, the last round is played by standing across from one another, locking fists (sort of an arm wrestling stance) and moving the locked fists back and forth between two vertical palms. The winner reigns triumphant over the playground for a few minutes.

We did occasionally have trouble with kids (especially boys) slapping too hard. A good way to resolve that is to make kids who are "out" judges of slapping etiquette. Slap too hard and you're out, too!

I'll try to recreate the Crocodile version of the song phonetically. Anyone else remember this?

Say, crocodile morey, croc, croc, croc
Hey sinco sino, sinco sinco sock-ah!
Hey sinco sino, malo, malo, malo malo malo
one-two-three-four You're out!

Sheesh, that looks weird...someone else back me up and tell me I'm not just making it up!

posted by handful of rain at 8:47 AM on November 24, 2004

When I was a summer camp counselor I had the 8-9 year olds for two years. The counselors' favorite game for that age was called Heaven and Tragedy. All you need is a field and a passel of kids - the more the merrier. Set up two goal lines: one is called Heaven, and the other is Tragedy. Get all the kids lined up halfway between the goals and designate one of the counselors as caller. As the caller calls either "Heaven!" or "Tragedy!" the kids run toward one goal or the other. Calling opposite goals in quick succession makes the kids all laugh and get really tired and ready for bed (aha - the real purpose of this game). If the caller lets everyone cross a goal line, the last one over is out. If the caller calls "Freeze!" then the last kid to freeze is out. We would play this anytime the kids got fidgety while waiting for other things to happen.
posted by booth at 8:54 AM on November 24, 2004

One of my favorite games for young kids is Elephant (that's what we call it, but I'm sure it varies):

Before play, each kid has to come up with an animal, which becomes their 'name'. All the kids sit in a circle, facing in. One person is in the middle with a rolled-up newspaper in his/her hand. Before play starts the first round, go around the circle and let the kids state their animal name, so that everyone knows which animals are present.

Play starts when someone in the circle (usually the adult, to get it going) yells out one of the animal names present - for example, 'lion'. The kid in the middle has to remember who the lion is, and then try to swat him/her with the rolled-up newspaper before the 'lion' is able to think of another animal name to yell. If the 'lion' is able to name another animal (obviously, only animals present count) before getting hit - for example, 'rabbit' - the person in the middle moves on to try to swat the 'rabbit'. Play continues until the person in the middle is able to swat someone before they can come up with another kid's animal name (or they name an animal that isn't present, or their own name - which happens frequently as the game is fast-paced and the kids get flustered).

If the kid in the middle manages to swat a child before they can think of another animal, then the child who gets hit becomes the new person in the circle. The previous kid in the middle takes the empty seat and takes over that animal name and starts out the next game by yelling out the next animal.

This game is generally a big hit (no pun intended) with kids - they love choosing their animals, they love to get to hit each other (not too hard, of course), and they love to try to get their friends hit (or not hit). I've actually played this game with adults as well - it's one of those silly, simple games that work well if you're in the proper 'frame of mind'... ; )
posted by widdershins at 9:58 AM on November 24, 2004

Two games we used to play a lot...

Spaghetti Legs - Kinda like monkey in the middle, except the two throwers at each end of a defined playing field use a frisbee instead of a ball, and the rest of the players get in the middle and try to avoid being hit by the frisbee. You get hit, you sit out until the next game. Last player remaining becomes one of the next throwers. The rules on who the next throwers will be are up for debate - our rules were pretty nebulous. You could also vary by having four throwers instead of two (better for larger groups).

Murder - We never came up with a better name for this one. It's basically hide and seek but in reverse - kinda. One player gets a set amount of time to hide (depends on how big your playing area is), the rest just hang out and wait for the limit to be up. At the end of the time limit, all players set out to find the "murderer". Once a player finds the "murderer", they hide with him/her. This continues until the last person discovers the "murderer" and all of his/her "victims". That person becomes the next "murderer". This works great if you have a huge house/building to play in, or a friendly neighborhood block (don't piss off your neighbors by having unwanted kids trampling their flower beds). It was perfect for us because we lived on a dead end street that bordered on a garden apartment complex. Hours and hours of fun. This doesn't work so well with a huge group of kids, as 12 kids trying to hide in one place become very easy to find.
posted by MsVader at 10:04 AM on November 24, 2004

that game is called sardines when I play it.
posted by mai at 10:12 AM on November 24, 2004

We played "Sneak-up Granny", where one person (Granny) would stand a distance from the rest and turn their back, and the other kids would sneak up as quietly as possible. Granny can turn around again at any time and the kids have to freeze. If Granny catches someone moving, they go back to the start. The first person to reach the Granny wins and gets to be Granny next time. You can also play it as "Red light, green light", without turning around. The leader just calls red or green light and the kids run up on green and freeze on red.

We also played a variation of Tag called Candlesticks. One person is It and if they tag you, you freeze with feet wide apart and arms out, pretending to be a candlestick. If someone else crawls between your legs, you're free, otherwise you're stuck like that. When everyone is a candlestick, the game is over and you choose a new It and start again.
posted by tracicle at 11:33 AM on November 24, 2004

We use to play a game called "What Time is it Mr. Fox?"

Sounds a little like "Sneak-up Granny" above, but this time around the kids stand side by side on a field (at base), and one person is on the opposite end with their back towards them. The kids in line would, in unison, ask Mr. Fox what time is it, and the lone person (Mr. Fox) would answer something between 1 and 12 o'clock. They would then take that many number of steps towards Mr. Fox. The object is to take as large steps as you could possibly take in order to get past Mr. Fox. However, at any time, Mr. Fox can answer "Lunch Time!" and lunge around and chase you. The first person he catches that doesn't reach base then becomes Mr. Fox.

It's been a while, so there's a detail or two I may have left out. A slightly different version is here.

(Um, re-reading the question, it looks like you wanted something without words. Ooh, this might not work then.)
posted by icontemplate at 11:46 AM on November 24, 2004

Say, crocodile morey, croc, croc, croc
Hey sinco sino, sinco sinco sock-ah!
Hey sinco sino, malo, malo, malo malo malo
one-two-three-four You're out!

You're thinking of Stella Ella Ola, you sillyperson ;)

Well, that's what we call it in Canada, anyway. Same rules, mostly, but the words are:

Stella Ella Ola
Chack chack chack
say ess chigo chigo
chigo chigo chack chack
ess chigo chigo
valo, valo, valo valo valo
say one two three four five!

(and that's when you slap hands).
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:25 PM on November 24, 2004

You're thinking of Stella Ella Ola

Too funny!

I wonder if it's a regional thing...everyone I knew (as a kid) used the crocodile version pretty consistently. I don't think I was just mis-hearing all those years (excuse me while I kiss this guy)?
posted by handful of rain at 4:02 PM on November 24, 2004

Oh! Tangled Spaghetti! I've been thinking about kids' games a bit lately, so these all came to mind.

Kids form a line side-to-side, holding hands. Then the kids on each end endeavour to tangle the line as much as possible by going under and over the linked hands of the kids in the middle of the line, pulling everyone with them. When the line is nice and tangled, the two end kids join hands making a really, really tangled circle. One kid who has been watching this gets the job of instructing the kids on how to detangle themselves. It could be done without words quite easily.
posted by tracicle at 4:47 PM on November 24, 2004

Okay, one more: Cat and Mouse. One child is the Cat, another is the Mouse. The rest stand in a circle with hands joined. The mouse starts inside the circle and the cat outside, and the cat (obviously) has to catch the mouse. They can move in and out of the circle by going under the kids' joined hands, but only if the kids let them. Eventually the cat catches the mouse and you start all over again.

Right, shutting up now. :)
posted by tracicle at 4:50 PM on November 24, 2004

Ohhh, kids games! I was a nature intepreter for kids ages 6-9 this summer, so I've got lots, but many have a ecological/nature bent. They pair well with nature lessons, but can be played free-from as well! These all work within the age group I mentioned, but can easily be dressed up or down for older and younger crowds.

A variation on tracicle's Cat and Mouse Game was our "Owl and Mouse" game. You do need blindfolds, or kids good at keeping their eyes closed. You have two kids in the middle, both without sight in some way, and the rest stand in a circle around and are "trees." The child who is the owl tries to find the mouse by sound alone, and the mouse similarly tries to keep away from the owl by sound alone. The trees can make whooshing/wind sounds if one of the players blunders towards them, or if you have a gentle group, can nudge the player back into the circle. I find this is extremely popular with the smaller kids, and even those as trees are very actively engaged. Just make sure everyone gets a turn being one or both the players, or sadness ensues.

Another variation is "Deer Hunter." You need something to be the "fawn" such as a shoe, or a pair of keys, something small. The deer sits in the middle of the circle, hands over her eyes, and the other kids can make LOTS of noise while the teacher places the "fawn" somewhere near, but not touching, the deer. I reccomend running several laps around the deer while doing this. Then the teacher joins the circle, and silently points at a child in the circle to be the hunter. Then everyone needs to be really quiet and you tell the deer the hunter is coming. The hunter can take any route or method of moving that they chose, but the point is to pick up the fawn and carry it back to their place in the circle without being heard. The deer meanwhile, points to any sound they hear. If they point at the hunter, rounds over. But if they point at something else, the game keeps playing (you may or may not need to say anything, most kids catch on that they didn't point at the "right" sound).

There is "Sharks and Minnows" which you'll need a field or large running area where you can define endzones in some way. You have one or two sharks standing out in the field, the rest of the kids are minnows and stand behind one of the endzone lines. The sharks call out something along the lines of "Swim little fishies, swim!" and the minnows have to dash from one endzone to the other without getting tagged. If they do get tagged, they are frozen in place as anemones. They can now tag the minnows too, but must keep one foot planted. The minnows run back and forth, the numbers getting wittled down until one or two remain, and they become the next round's sharks. This is my patented "wear the kids out" game.

Ohh, and then there is the game I affectionately refer to as "Pick up Ticks" but is technically called "Camoflauge." You have one kid as a predator species of some kind, and a contained bit of field or nature that the other kids can go hide in without getting lost. These kids are a logical prey species, and they MUST be able to see the predator kid's face from where they are hiding. The predator must then try to pick out kids as they can see them: "I see a blue shirt and bond hair, I think it's Susie!" Using the names is vital (and a good way to learn them), because otherwise you run into semi-hilarious situations where four children with blue shirts and blond hair stand up, but the predator only actually saw one of them. Once a kid is seen, they can come up and help the predator find the other kids. I introduced this game as a way to kill 15 minutes and it ended up being played forever, until I finally cut it off, because the kids got so excited about hiding. If you do play this, PLEASE tell the parents to check the kids over well for ticks afer they go home :P

That's a start anyway, I'm sure I can think of more!
posted by nelleish at 8:22 AM on November 25, 2004

Oh, for Camoflauge, if the predator kid is having a hard or impossible time finding the prey, you can have them start trying to move forward without being seen, and the one who can tag the predator wins the round. This is helps with the younger kids since it's pretty much impossible for the prey to get very far without being stoppted
posted by nelleish at 10:05 AM on November 25, 2004

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