This is the Games & Closing Activities section from The Lifeskills Handbook. The book is available from our resources section where you’ll also find downloadable storybooks, booklets and posters to help you in your work.

Classroom situations, especially those covering life skills, can encourage children to dig deep into themselves. Activities that are light-hearted, quick and fun can help break the tension and renew group energy. Games can be used at any stage of the session. Some games have a specific purpose and some simply raise or lower the energy level. It is important to adapt games to suit the needs of your group. We have used every single one of these games and we know that they work! We hope you enjoy using them with children!

Community of Five

  1. Ask children to stand in groups of five at the start of this activity.
  2. Tell them that you are going to call out different numbers and they should break up their groups and make new groups of a size matching the number you call. You may call out 3, for example, then 6, 4, 2, and maybe 5
  3. Each time the children have to decide quickly who joins or who should be let go. Those who are not in groups corresponding in size to the number you have called out have to drop out of the game at that point.

At the conclusion of this game, you could open a discussion of how the children felt about belonging to or being left out of groups.

Continuous Storytelling

  1. Divide children into groups of four or five. Ask them to stand or sit in a circle.
  2. Someone starts a story and stops in the middle of a sentence.
  3. The next person in the circle continues the story, stopping in the middle of a sentence.
  4. Repeat until the story ends.

Dragon’s Heads and Tails 

  1. Children line up, each holding the shoulders of the one in front.
  2. The child at the front is the dragon’s head the child at the back is its tail.
  3. The game begins with the dragon in a straight line, standing still. The dragon is asleep.
  4. It wakes up when the one of the children in the middle of the body shouts, ‘Chase!’ Then the head begins to chase the tail that in turn tries to keep out of its way.

The fun of this game is that the body must stay together while the chasing goes on. None of the players may let go of the players in the front.

Fishbowl Game

This game is a useful problem-solving game. Children make an inner and outer circle with partners facing each other.

  1. Children in the inner circle think of a problem, and ask their partner in the outer circle to suggest advice. The partner makes a suggestion.
  2. After a few minutes, all the people in the outside circle move one place to the right. The children with problems ask the same question to their new partner in the outer circle.
  3. The game continues.
  4. The circles can change places so the other half is asking the questions.

Fruit Salad

This game increases the energy of the group. Play it after lunch or mid afternoon when energy levels are usually at their lowest! It is also a good way to divide children into groups. Here is an example of the game where 25 children divided into 5 groups of 5 children in each group.

  1. Children sit on chairs in a circle.
  2. Five children are asked to call out the name of a fruit in turn.
  3. When five children have called out a fruit name (e.g. pear, apple, peach, banana, mango), the 20 remaining children continue around the circle repeating the same sequence of five fruits until everyone has a fruit name.
  4. One child (the caller) stands in the middle of the circle and takes their chair out of the circle. The caller calls out one of the fruits.
  5. All the children with that fruit name stand up and run to a vacant seat, including the caller. One person is left without a seat and they then become the caller.
  6. Repeat the game calling one or more fruit names at a time.
  7. When the caller calls ‘fruit salad’, everyone must stand up and change places.

At the end of this game, the ‘fruit groups’ can be used as working groups for another activity.

Name Game 1: Memory List

  1. Divide children into groups of nine or 10.
  2. Each group forms a circle.
  3. The first participant says the name they would like to be called and the name of a favourite colour, animal, fruit, vegetable, occupation etc. which begins with the same letter as their name (e.g. My name is Clara and I like carrots).
  4. The next participant repeats this and adds their name (e.g. Her name is Clara and she likes carrots. My name is Alberto and I like avocados). The list builds up as you go around the circle.

Name Game 2: Call a Name

You need a ball for this activity.

  1. All children stand in a large circle.
  2. One player stands in the centre with a ball. The player throws the ball high in the air and calls the name of another player. The named person has to run and try to catch the ball (or at least retrieve it when it bounces).
  3. Continue until everyone has had a turn in the middle.

Points Down

  1. Explain to the group that there are seven points of the body that can touch the floor in this game – two hands, two elbows, two knees, one forehead.
  2. Call a number from one to seven and each player must touch the floor with the body part point matching the number.
  3. Ask for groups of people to work together – pairs, then threes, then fours etc.

Note that the number called may not be higher than seven times the number of people in the group (so for three people, the highest number is 21), it may be lower than the number of people in the group (for example, a group of four can go as low as two points by giving piggy-backs while standing on one leg!).

Rhythm Clap

  1. Children sit in a circle with their eyes closed and they each think of a rhythm.
  2. At a signal they begin tapping or clapping their rhythms at the same time.
  3. Listen to see if people gradually begin to move in similar rhythms: from the initial jumble of sound you will find a growing order and after awhile the whole group tapping or clapping in a single rhythm.

Sort the Squares

This exercise helps to show what is meant by working as part of a team. The children may go through a frustrating time during the game. Ensure they understand the instructions before the game begins.

Materials

  • Sets of the six squares you see below. Make as many sets as you will have groups when you do this exercise, so if you have five groups; make five sets of six squares. The squares should be of equal size, but five squares should be cut up differently. Cut along each line and put all the pieces from the five squares together.
  • Keep the complete square separate.

  1. Divide the children into groups of 5. Appoint one observer per group, the rest are the square makers.
  2. Explain the rules: talking, whispering and sign language are not allowed. No one can take a piece of square from another player but anyone can give a piece of square to another person. Make sure the children are clear about the rules. You may want to spend time on this, as the children will not be able to ask for advice once the game has begun.
  3. Ask observers to look out for:
    • The reactions of children
    • Rules being broken. If rules are being broken, which ones? By whom?
  4. Now ask the groups to sit on the floor or at a table. Give each group one set of the mixed up pieces for the squares 2-6. Then give each group the complete square (square 1).
  5. Ask each member of the group to make one square that is the same size as the complete square using a combination of the mixed up pieces.
  6. The game is over when each player in the group has made a square and all the pieces are used up. The game can take anything from 15 minutes to hours! Although it is difficult, it is better not to interrupt.

Final Discussion: Ask the children how they feel about the game. Observers make their comments and the relevant players can say why they broke the rules. Conclusions emerge about working together for example:

  • it is difficult
  • personal needs often have to be given up for the benefit of the group
  • some people are more helpful than others
  • everyone must know the aims of the whole group

Take Your Turn

This game develops the idea that we must value what everyone has to say and give shy or quiet people ‘room’ to contribute.

  1. Divide the children into groups of four or five and have them sit in a circle.
  2. Ask them to talk about a simple topic like, ‘Accidents that have happened in our area.’
  3. Give each child six markers (you can use stones, matches, coins, small twigs etc.). Each time a child speaks; they must place one of their markers in the center.
  4. Practice this several times – it is enjoyable as well as difficult at first. Even when the children say, ‘Hmm’, ‘Yes’, ‘Pardon’, ‘What did you say?’ they must place a marker in the middle. When a person runs out of markers, they can no longer take part.
    • Who gets rid of their markers the fastest?
    • Are there some people who should have more chances to speak?
    • In a teaching situation who does most of the talking, the educator or the students? Why? Who does most of the listening? Why? Are the listeners really listening?

Team Drawing

This game emphasises the benefits of working together agreeing an idea before starting a project.

  1. Ask the children to working silently in group of six to 10. They take it in turns to make ‘one stroke’ with a marker pen or crayon on a large sheet of paper. As each child adds their stroke, the team make a drawing (but without speaking).
  2. After 5-10 mins or when most teams have made some kind of drawing, ask the children to share their drawing and discuss what they felt when they were creating it.

Many children raise the point that if they had agreed on an idea before they began, they would have been able to make a better drawing.

Theme Park

Explain to children that they will be given a theme and they immediately have to form a frozen action relating to that theme. If the educator approaches and touches them, they can unfreeze and start the actions. For example: The theme is ‘Park’. A child might freeze in a pose which shows they are playing with a ball. If the educator touches them, they can do this action – running or throwing a ball. Ideas for themes: Park, Railway station, Hospital, Market, Forest.

The Trust Fall

This game is about putting complete trust in a team and the importance of trust and team work.

  1. In groups of seven to nine, the children make a tight circle by standing shoulder to shoulder. From each group, one child is asked to volunteer to stand in the middle of the circle with their eyes closed (or blindfolded).
  2. The remaining children take a step forward, forming a tight circle around the volunteer.
  3. With their eyes closed and their body relaxed, the volunteer is asked to fall in any direction. Tell the child that their team members will catch them and prevent them from falling.
  4. The children in the circle put both their hands up to support the falling volunteer and gently push them back up into an upright position.
  5. The educator talks softly about the importance of the group to gently support the volunteer.
  6. After a few minutes, another child can be asked to volunteer to stand in the middle.
  7. At the end of the game, children think about the importance of trust • What did you learn from this game?
    • Is trust important?
    • Is it easy to trust in a group? Why?
    • Why makes it easy or difficult to trust someone?
    • How does trust help a group to work well?

The Whistle Blowers

  1. While all the children are talking before an activity (or at the start of a life skills session), quietly ask one child to whistle.
  2. The children are called together and then asked if they heard one child whistling. The educator then talks about how one voice is not often heard in a crowd but if people unite, then their voices together can be heard more loudly.
  3. The children are asked to carry on their talking but if they hear anyone whistling then they should start whistling too.
  4. Within a few minutes all children should be whistling and the sound should be quite powerful.

If the children have trouble whistling then they could use humming or clapping instead.

Who is the Leader?

  1. The children sit in a circle.
  2. Ask one child to volunteer to leave the room.
  3. While the volunteer is out, invite any one group member to act as the leader while two others in the circle act as mirrors. The leader’s job is to start some action (such as clapping) and keep it going rhythmically for a few moments, then change to another action (such as stamping one foot) and again, after a few seconds to another.
  4. Invite the volunteer to return and sit in the circle. The mirrors should watch the leader and copy the movements but without letting the volunteer notice that they are copying not starting the action. The rest of the group should get the cues for the action from the mirrors rather than the leader, to confuse the volunteer who is trying to identify the leader.
  5. After the group has done a few actions, the volunteer should try to guess which person in the circle has acted as the leader of the game.

The Virus Carriers

  1. Cut and fold as many pieces of paper as there are children in the group. Leave all of them blank except for one, which should have the words ‘virus carrier’ written on it.
  2. Fold them carefully and pass them out for children to pick out as in a lottery. People look at the papers they have picked without letting others see them.
  3. Children then walk around the room looking at each other as they do so. The virus carrier must try to catch someone’s eye and wink. That person then imagines they have caught a virus and falls to the ground or falls out of the group taking one or two other persons along (whoever the infected person touches while falling).
  4. All these people leave the game as soon as they are infected, but should not let others know who infected them.

The game goes on until children guess who the virus carrier is before the person has had a chance to wink at them.

Chair Game

  1. Children sit either side of a chair in the middle of the room. Explain that the chair represents movement towards or away from your goal, for example:
    • being able to resist pressure to have sex before you feel ready
    • trying to give up smoking
    • putting into practice lessons learning in the life skills sessions.
  2. In turn, each child comes up to the chair and moves it forward or back as they like with a statement about why they feel they are ‘moving in that direction’. (You can ask the children to begin each phrase with, “I am moving the chair forward/back because…”)

Circle Reflection

Children sit in a circle. In turn, they say what they learned from and what they liked about a session, a programme, a child, an educator. This is a simple but very effective way to develop a positive and loving atmosphere.

Knots Game

This is a good game to use if the activity has involved problem-solving activities.

  1. Divide children into groups of six to nine.
  2. Each group stands in a close circle with their eyes closed. Ask the children to stretch out their arms in front of them and grasp another person’s hand so that they are holding two people’s hand in each of theirs.
  3. Once connected hand-in-hand the children are asked to open their eyes. The whole group is in a knot. Without letting go of their partners hand they have to work together to try to undo the knot so that they are standing together in a circle.
  4. Once the children have managed to untangle themselves, you can all cheer loudly!
  5. Ask children to think about the meaning behind the game (working together and co-operating helps overcome difficult problems).

Physical and Mental Relaxation

  1. Ask children to lie on the floor or to put their head in their hands on a table in front of them.
  2. Ask them to tense up their whole bodies and then relax. Ask them to do the same again, but taking each part of the body. For example: Tense your feet and your toes, then relax your feet and relax your toes.
    • your calf muscles
    • your thighs
    • your chest
    • your shoulders
    • your arms and fingers
    • your neck and face
  3. The final part of the relaxation is to leave the group in silence for 5-10 minutes. Encourage them to breathe deeply and listen to their own breathing. Many children love this experience of peacefulness and relaxation is very refreshing. It is good to play soft music and/or burn incense while you do this.

The Suitcase Game

  1. Either draw a suitcase or bring one with you to the session. Explain that this is the suitcase that you brought with you to the life skills session/programme. It was full of all the things you brought to the session:
    • your experiences
    • your ideas
    • your confidence
    • (perhaps your bad behaviour!)
    • your fears
    • your worries.
  2. Now that the session/programme is over you are going away with your suitcase but you will be taking extra things away with you and leaving some things behind.
  3. In turn, each child says what they are leaving behind and what they are taking with them. For example, “I am taking with me new ideas and confidence. I am leaving behind my cigarettes and my fears about what others are saying about me.”

The Web Game

This activity is particularly suitable if the children are graduating from the programme. Be careful to keep the activity positive. Endings are always a little sad so be sure to emphasise the positive things that you have all earned together so that moving on feels positive.

  1. The children stand in a circle. The educator stands with them and has a ball of wool or string, the end of which is tied to one of the educator’s wrists.
  2. You (as the educator) explain to the children that you will say something about what you have learned from the group during the session/programme. When you have finished, you will throw the ball of string to another person. This person must then tie the string around their wrist (a neighbour can help!) and then say something they have learned from the group. They then throw the ball to someone else.
  3. The game continues until everyone has said something and everyone is connected to each other with string.
  4. The educator finishes this by saying, “We have shared a lot and become connected together during the life skills programme. Let’s look at each other and think about all the things we have learned and shared. Each of us is a stronger ‘me’. I will cut the string to show we are ready and can move on. If you like, you can keep the string around your wrist to remind you of the group and what we have learned together.”