Keeping the attention of children is often a challenge. There is so much energy bottled up in a kid that it may seem a bit like a nuclear power plant…the energy seems endless and if it’s not handled right it can cause an “explosion” of chaos.
That doesn’t mean that one must use heavy handed controls to keep that energy in line, but it does mean that creativity and structure can steer that energy in the right direction.
Here in Guatemala we have the privilege of leading a weekly children’s outreach with kids from about 4 to 13 years old. That’s a pretty wide range and a lot of energy.
Before we try and corral the kids in one spot for the lesson, we like to start off with some games that siphon off some of that energy in a positive way and gets the kids’ attention on what we’re all doing together.
Here are some of our favorite games:
- Balloon explosion – Use yarn to tie an inflated balloon to each child’s ankle. The balloon should touch the ground. You can have it be “every man for himself” or make teams with equal numbers of colored balloons. Say, “Go!” and let them try to stomp on the balloon while saving their own. Last team or individual standing wins!
- Hide and seek — Always a classic, this is a hit with kids. The Seeker covers his eyes and counts to 20 or more while the rest of the kids hide. At the end of the count, the Seeker looks for the hiders and tags them. The last one found wins. You can also add in a base or safety zone where the hiders try to get to without getting tagged.
- Conductor– Circle up the kids and send one person out of earshot and sight. They are the “Guesser”. Quietly select someone to be the “Conductor” then have the “Guesser” return. The Conductor starts some actions (clapping, moving arms, or legs, etc. while staying in their spot in the circle.) The others copy the Conductor without giving away who it is by staring at them. The “Guesser” has three attempts to guess who is the “Conductor.” Repeat with different people as “Guesser” and “Conductor”.
- Noodle War — Pair up kids of the same size. Have the first two contestants line up facing each other. Give them each a stiff brimmed hat (straw sombreros are great!) and a pool noodle. At “Go!” they try and knock the hat off their opponent with just their noodle. Participants hands can only stay on their own noodle and can’t protect their hat. Whoever knocks off the other’s hat first wins.
- Mummy – Get four volunteers. Two will be “mummies” and two will be the “wrappers”. Give the wrappers each a roll of toilet paper. At “Go!” The wrapper has to try and wrap up the “Mummy” with the most toilet paper possible in a limited time (1-2 minutes). Vote on which mummy looks the best wrapped. This goes great when telling the story of Lazarus.
- Relays — Line up two teams and have them race to see which team can complete the relay first. Relays can be many things, but usually involve doing something and then returning quickly to tag your teammate so they can do it too. Things like: carrying a sponge that is dipped in water to a distant cup where it is squeezed into the cup, passing beans down the line with a spoon (it’s even funnier if the spoon is held in each persons’ mouth) Running an obstacle course, etc. The first team to finish or the one that has moved the most water or beans in the time allotted wins.