You have an eager and excited group of kids and or staff ready to PLAY! Don’t be the teacher from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. If you have never heard of this movie, please do yourself a favor and watch. It is a classic. Ok, moving forward. In this strange time of COVID-19 or any time period, kids attention spans are getting smaller and smaller. When you are able to keep their attention and keep the day moving forward, it will drastically cut down on the number of behavior problems you will have to deal with. If you are doing this for a youth group or staff training, it will make your participants eager to come back to another training or meeting. I have included 8 ways that you can frustrate yourself leading a game so you don’t become that teacher!
- Telling the crowd you’re going to play a game: Don’t say, “Now we’re going to play Cross The Ocean.” You’ll hear some cheers but also some groans. Instead start communicating what needs to happen.
- Being unprepared: Time is always crucial. Everyone knows that no one can pay attention to anyone or anything for more than 20 seconds these days. Go ahead and get your equipment prepared prior to activity.
- Not playing with the kids: As a counselor you are there to build relationships with the campers. How can you build relationships sitting on the sidelines?
- Explaining the game for more than 30 seconds: Be as clear and quick as possible. Don’t be afraid to start a game even when some are still confused. You and the other counselors can help those that are struggling with the rules. Most of them will pick it up quickly.
- Taking more than 30 seconds to divide a team: Have a plan on how you are going to split your group. My favorite is to line them up and literally point to one side of the room and watch them go that direction. This will avoid changing teams. Don’t let the campers pick the teams, this will set up awkwardness.
- The kids can’t see or understand you: Put yourself in the camper’s shoes and imagine how they see and hear you. The sun should be in your eyes, not their eyes.
- Yelling at them: If you yell at those stepping out of line you will get them angry and lose the focus of the rest of the group. Start by capturing their attention. Set clear expectations, if they step out follow through. Praise those doing a good job. Remember kids are always watching.
- Playing the game too long: When the game is about to reach its peak, switch it. This will make the kids remember the game fondly, and prevent boredom and discipline issues.
This list may sound simple to you, but these are common mistakes I have made. I am bad about playing a game too long. I am super competitive and you have to remember that the kids are kids. They are not your peers, so your goal is to not win the game or try to win MVP. When the game goes long, I have seen kids get too aggressive and it can lead to pushing, shoving, and behaviors that never should have happened. Play the games with the kids, enjoy the moment, and then take time at the end of the game to do something I call “Golden Moments” where you have everyone take a knee or sit down and reflect. Giving them a chance to shout out their peers for something good they saw. Then you will be able to transition safely to the next part of your day. I have put this training document in the staff training section of the Resource Zone. As you are leading programs, feel free to steal, share, and use. Happy Friday!