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These days keeping kids entertained and engaged usually involves multiple toys or excessive screen time, but what if you’re caught with no time to prepare and bored children looking for something to do with their (like a lockdown enforced by a pandemic for one thing!).
No need to fret, turns out there are plenty of fun games that are simple and easy to do with no preparation, materials or resources.
Combining ease with silliness, exercise and a little bit of intelligence to boot, here are 20 games that you can set up for one child or a group of them with no supplies.
1. Simon Says
An easy game that not only captures a child’s attention but also builds their ability to be observant follow instructions, Simon Says, is a classic no-material game. Best played with a small group of children (around three) , begin the game by selecting one of them to be “Simon”.
All the other children must do what Simon says. Starting the command – which can be anything from “ Simon Says touch your toes” to “Simon Says jump up and down”- with the phrase “Simon Says”, a child is out of them game if they fail to do the task before Simon gives out the next command. Simon can also trick you into getting out, by starting the command without saying “Simon Says” – and if a child follows that, they are out of the game.
The game can be made more challenging by issuing commands faster or the tasks more difficult to complete as it progresses.
A fun, but quieter variation of the game can be playing with drawing or coloring. For instance, “ Simon Says draw a square.” , “Simon Says draw a triangle,” “Color the triangle black”, if the child colors it black they are out because the command wasn’t preceded by “Simon Says”.
2. The Floor Is Lava
A fun game for pre-schoolers and rowdy, energetic children, The Floor is Lava is easy to learn, and goofy enough to keep kids entertained for a good while. When the floor is declared lava, no one can touch it.
The players have to get to wherever they are going either by stepping from one piece of furniture to another or by stepping on something they can throw on the floor to protect them from the “lava.” If you step on lava- the floor- of course that means you’re dead, i.e. : out of the game.
This blog also suggests a quirky variation where rather than make the floor lava – so you can avoid having children step all over furniture- you can declare something else lava ( “The bed is lava” or “The television is lava”). With this variation you can keep kids on their toes, without destroying the furniture.
3. Slap Wrestling
A relaxed yet competitive ice-breaker game that only needs two people – slap wrestling is not as painful as it sounds but very much as fun as it sounds! Stand facing other shoulder length apart, with feet together.
The aim of the game is to try and make the other player move their feet by slapping their hands only. If you touch anywhere else, move your feet in the process, trip/fall or interfere in anyway, you’re out of the game.
Want a good tactic for this one? Push their hands and quickly pull yours back so they can’t push you.
4. Thumb Wrestling
The sit-down, quieter variant of slap wrestling, this is the perfect game for long periods of time where restless children need to be sat down, like long car rides or boring adult family functions.
The best part is that it’s likely to be just as fun for the parents. The players will have their thumbs facing each other and clasp the other fingers together with each other.
Chant “ One, two, three four, I declare a thumb war!” and start wrestling. The first one to pin down their opponents thumb for five counts wins the war!
A simple game that teaches children some patience and allows parents a few moments of quiet, statue was a personal favourite of my brother and I as kids.
Our version saw us running around in circles and freezing whenever someone called out statues. Never quite understood why it put a smile on our faces every time we played it, but it did and it’s now a fond memory so try it out!
This post suggests a fun variation which involves whispering to kids what kind of statue they should be – a monkey, an elephant, mommy, grandma.
Count to three, and the kids have to freeze into their statues. Pick the best one, the winner will whisper to others what statue to make next and repeat.
6. Scream Till You Drop
Prepare your ears for this loud game for rambunctious kids. No rules except the child who screams for the longest time. Not the most ideal game, but a great last resort if your children refuse to stay quiet, and seem on the verge of a tantrum.
They scream, they win a game and they get the noisy fussiness out of their system.
On the flip side, you could try the quiet game. As opposed to the screaming game where the kid who screams the most wins, in this easier alternative – that’s also not a strain on your poor ear drums – the child you stays quiet the longest wins.
7. Heads Up, Seven Up
Perfect for a medium to large group of children and adults, this is how this game works : All players put their heads down on a table with their thumbs up. Seven people are chosen to walk around and pick other players.
These players are the tappers. These tappers will choose the players by gently tapping on the thumb of one of the people sitting down. After the tapping is done – with one tapper choosing one person each – everyone sits down. Everyone can then look up.
Those that had their thumbs tapped will stand up and try to guess which one of the tappers tapped his thumb. This process repeats itself until we switch out tappers to start over.
8. First Name Game
An underrated game that’s all about creativity, this game involves simply coming up with a name then asking children to come up with a first name for each letter of the name. One point is awarded for each name you come up with, and bonus points if a child comes up with a unique name that no one else has come up with.
While best played with name written down on a piece of paper, this game can also easily be played orally.
Another “quiet time” game, telephone is a game that’s easy, silly and also helps build your child’s vocabulary. Have your children sit in a circle and choose one person to start the game.
The first person comes up with a phrase to whisper into the ear of the person beside them, the second person whispers it to the next person and so on.
The phrase can only be whispered ONCE. At the end, the last person has to say the message out loud. Have a laugh at how silly the message turned out in the end.
10. The Laughing Game
Speaking of laughing, what’s more fun than a game that actively encourages you to dissolve into laughter? Easy to explain and understand, this is one game that can go on for as long as the children are enjoying it. The objective is simple – you have to get everyone else to laugh and not laugh yourself.
Sit together, and when it’s someone’s turn they have to do/say something to get everyone else to laugh. If someone laughs then they are out until the next round. The last person not to laugh wins the game. This is a particular great ice-breaker game for extroverted, silly kids who get a kick out of tickling someone’s funny bone.
11. Jockey’s Up
One game where there’s strength in numbers. A huge group of kids to entertain with no supplies at the ready? Play Jockey’s Up. Get kids to pair off with other kids around the same height/weight as them. One person will be the jockey and the other is the horse.
All the horses will stand in a small circle facing the back of the person in front of them, walking forwards following the steps of the person in front. The jockeys do the same, except in a larger outer circle and in the direction opposite of the inner circle.
A leader will direct the game and say “Horses go” so that the horses can start moving in their circle. Then the leader will say Jockeys go!” and the jockeys move in their circle. When the leader yells “Jockeys up!” all jockeys must find their partners and jump on their back (ie. the horse give the jockeys a piggyback).
The pair to do this last gets eliminated from the next round, and the last pair standing wins.
12. Tag/You’re It!
Everyone knows this one! A game that can be played in small or large groups. Tag begins when you designate one person to be “it”. Everyone else needs to avoid being tagged by the person chasing them. If you’re tagged – by being touched on the elbow- you’re it now and the process repeats. Last one who remains wins.
There are plenty of variations to this simple, classic children’s game. But this one called “Everyone’s It” is quite cool because here everyone’s it! Have everyone put their non-dominant hand on their head, and run around in a specified area. Get other people out by touching their elbows. Whoever lasts till the end wins.
13. I Spy
The classic road trip game for bored kids, “I Spy” involves observation and creativity to keep your opponent guessing. Rules are simple enough, you pick something from around you – if you’re on the road, the trees, the houses or cars that pass by- and the other person has to guess what “you spy with your little eye” by asking a set number of questions that lead to the answer.
It can get repetitive and sometimes frustrating but if you’re in a pinch and need to keep your kids occupied for a short while, it’s a great choice!
14. 20 Questions
Similar to I Spy but for older kids, 20 Questions removes the limit of picking something and allows you to think of whatever you want (within the rules set ; maybe you aren’t allowed to think of celebrities for example), and have the opponent guess what you’re thinking within 20 inquisitive questions.
Perfect for slightly older kids with higher comprehension and interests, as well as bored adults.
15. Rock, Paper, Scissors
A game for all ages, Rock, Paper, Scissors, might seem silly but it involves a bit of clever trickery. Nothing better than getting your opponent thinking you’re going to throw rock, only to throw scissors that cuts up their paper.
Kids, teens, adults, this is a game that inspires many exclamations of “it’s two-of-three, let’s go again!”
You can feel free to jazz up the game. Throw in some fire that destroys everything or a water balloon that puts out the fire because why not?
A game of wits for everyone teen and up, as well as younger kids when they get the hang of it.
Mafia, is built on intense story-telling of a group with someone who is the mafia, killing them off one by one, another person who is the doctor who can save the dying individual, and another one who is the cop to catch the mafia, this gets heated quite quickly in the best of ways.
Involving mind games and brilliant powers of perception, this is perfect for a family or group of friends who like passionate debates.
17. Spin Chasey
This is Chasey/Tag but with the added fun of spinning around before embarking on the journey of tagging someone.
Rules? You spin around – elephant hold where you lead forward, hold your nose with one hand and hang the other arm limp is most effective- and once you’re unsteady on your feet launch off, chasing the others around.
This game is best played outside where there’s more space and lesser likelihood of an accident.
18. Play Dead/Graveyard
All children “play dead” by lying on the ground, closing their eyes and staying still. You can have one person stand up to choose who “plays dead” the best or you can make it more fun by asking the person to keep watch to make sure the others don’t move.
If someone moves or talks, that person is out. The game can go on and on until you’re left with one person or until the kids grow bored, whichever happens first.
19. Chinese Whispers
Similar to Telephone but the aim of Chinese Whispers is to have the phrase the first person comes up with reach the last person ( in whispers) without losing too much in translation.
The closer to accurate you are the better. This game is fun and silly, but it also works as a great exercise to build a child’s communication skills.
While phrases can be picked up from online, it adds a bit of creativity and imagination if the children come up with own phrases.
20. Hide & Seek
No list of games for kids is complete without Hide & Seek, and for good reason. Easily played and enjoyable with two children as it is with a large group of children, everyone knows and loves Hide & Seek with no explanation.
If you want make things a bit more interesting you can try the variant – Hide & Seek In The Dark, which will be equally fun for adults.
Best played in a dimly lit room – making sure the kids know what hiding places are off limits- this version makes it more challenging to find someone and gives it a spooky thrill.
Regardless of age or the number of children you have to entertain, all twenty of these options are engaging, fun and best of all can be tailored according to the number of people playing. Out of all these no-material games for kids, which one are you going to play first?