Have you heard of River Stones? I just saw these in a catalog, and I think they are the new and improved polydot! If you have ever been in charge of ordering equipment for youth programs, you know what polydot or polyspots are. You probably have been ordering these for years. If you are looking to add some Bojangles spice to your programming, try the River Stones from “Hey! Play!”. They are on tons of different retailers, and I have seen the packs sold for as low as $49. It is a 6 piece set. Amazon has a 11 piece set for $64.99 (https://www.amazon.com/Gonge-1137385-Riverstones/dp/B000ANIVRG). So what do you do with them once you have them? I have used polydots for many team building games, visual cues for kids, and also for dodgeball games. You can incorporate these stones into almost anything though. I think the game changer is that kids have to learn to balance and coordination. This ultimately provides more of a challenge. They are also safe. My rule of thumb for games is when staff ask me about ideas, I always ask “Is it fun, is it safe?”. If you can answer yes to both, you can move forward. The River Stones have rubber footing underneath and can be used indoors or outdoors. This is not a sponsored post, I just love the idea, and we are going to order these for our programs!
Both of these items are COVID safe. You can sanitize and clean. These toys also keep your kids spread out. If you are looking for more fun ideas, check out the Resource Zone on my website. There are COVID games and also just fun ideas to make your program FIRE.
As COVID-19 continues to hang around, people are wanting to travel and looking for exciting things to do. I was given an awesome resource from a student and her teacher. Her name is Ella and she is as student in a school district in New York! She thought this would be great resource for anyone to enjoy. As we are heading to the weekend, you can travel to all these places from the comfort of your couch and home. This post was written by Carly Hallman and I have attached the link below .
If you are looking for more ideas and activities, please visit the Resource Zone located on my website and check out my posts. I post once a week, sometimes more. Thanks for stopping by and thank you Ella for using these ideas from my website at your school!
We are all in this together (Insert High School Musical)! Across the nation, many school systems have started to send kids back to school. This isn’t an easy task for many childcare workers as there are restrictions and guidelines we must follow from the CDC. Since March I have done several posts and also included a section in my Resource Zone that gives you social distancing game ideas. Some are just games we have played before, but just added in some changes to keep safe and follow CDC protocols. Our YMCA has done programming since March, so we have started compiling games and making it as easy as we can for each other. My goal for this post and my website is to give you more time to focus on building relationships, and less time flipping through game books or getting lost trying to find that “perfect” idea. This is a one stop shop that has free ideas for you to use in any program working with kids, not just the YMCA. I have several friends who work in church programs, work in school systems, or smaller programs with limited resources. Many of these ideas don’ t involve lots of supplies or having to have tons of money to purchase supplies. I also have a deep appreciation for how resilient our childcare staff across the country are as they deal with changes, less staff to help, and smaller budgets. Keep up the great work. Now here are some games that I hope will help…
1. Time Capsule – One school year is a pretty big percentage of an elementary student’s life and a lot can change from September to June without your boys and girls even noticing. Creating a time capsule the first week of school is a great way to reflect on the changes when it gets revisited during the last week of school. You can create one big time capsule or individual student time capsules that you store. Potato chip canisters work particularly well for individual time capsules. Here is what I plan to put inside this year first day of school picture biography that includes current height, favorites, and three goals for the school year a letter each student writes to their future (end of-the-school-year) self. Any trinkets students want to put in that represent themselves at the current point in time. This often includes pictures of best friends and boy bands, sport medals, little toys, etc (Supplies Needed – Markers, Paper, Scissors, Tape)
2. D-Ice Breakers – Roll a dice to see what question you have to answer. Questions are on my Resource Zone attached to this activity or make your own questions for 1-6 on the dice. (Supplies Needed – Dice)
3. Make Your Own Cartoon – Using the cartoon templates, create a cartoon full of characters, text bubbles, and action! Attached cartoon template to the activity in the Resource Zone. You can find these many places online too. (Supplies Needed – Print Comic Template, Pencil, Markers, etc..)
4. Pac Man – This game is for camps with basketball courts with lines. (Supplies – Pool Noodles) Rules:
Spread out group of people around the lines on the gym floor.
Pick one or three (depending on size of group) of people to be the “ghosts.” They stand on the lines in the middle of the court.
The “ghosts” chase down the other “Pac Man” players.
Everyone must stay on the lines, no jumping from line to line.
When a player gets tagged, they must sit down on the line where they are tagged. They become a road block for all of the Pac Man players. Only ghosts can walk around a road block.
The last 2-3 players left standing become the ghosts for the next game.
5. Loose Parts Art – You might have just a few random things in your supply closet – some feather, some google eyes, a few random paper bags. Don’t dictate what the kids have to make (you might give some ideas of what you’ve made), but allow them to fully express their own creativity! (Supplies – Brushes, Markers, Paper, Scissors, Glue)
6.Atlas – This is essentially four corners, but with running. Campers will be assigned a corner to start, and then will be instructed to go to get to different corners without being tagged. (ex. Corner number one, go to four).Counselor picks 2-4 taggers who stand in the middle until the counselor yells “GO!” if people are tagged, they become a tagger. (Supplies Needed – Pool Noodles, Cones)
7. The Maze – Players line up standing 6 feet away from each other. The facilitator will set up cones in a square grid. The cones have a secret maze, and the facilitator knows the pathway through. The first player in line has to make his or her way from the start cone to the end cone. If the player makes a wrong move, he or she needs to do five jumping jacks and go to the end of the line. Then, the next person in line goes. Continue until someone makes it to the end cone, then start a new round with a new maze. (Supplies Needed – Cones)
8. Trick Shot – Have some fun and come up with creative ways to make a basket or goal! Use your imagination and if you have an iPad try to capture it on video! (Supplies Needed – Soccer Ball, Basketballs, Ipad)
9. Slow Race – Line the children up facing forward and make a finish line. The winner is the child that reaches the line last without stopping their movement. If a child is seen to stop moving, they are out and must move to the side. Then they become a judge, looking out for other people that are not moving. No bumping or pushing allowed. Great cool down activity.
10. Musical Hula Hoops – Just like musical chairs, but with spaced hula hoops on the floor. Children can stand in the circles, they don’t have to touch them. (Supplies Needed: Hula Hoops, Music)
11. Waaa Master – Everyone stands in a circle, hands out stretched and no contact with one another. The Waaa Master is chosen by the game leader. Then the Waaa Master will explain that they will do 1 of 3 different actions, an alligator (make jaws with your hand), a snake (put one elbow in the palm of the other hand like a cobra standing up), or a dragon (put hands on your sides like wings). After everyone understands, tell them the Waaa Master will bow to them and say “Waaa”. Everyone else will then bow back and say “Waaa”. Then the Waaa Master says 1,2,3 Waaa and everyone does one of the actions. If someone in the circle does the same action of the “Waaa Master” they are out and play continues until there is a winner.
12. Fire On The Mountain – Have the group lay flat on their back. When you say fire on the mountain, the group is to stand up as fast as possible. The last one out can sit out to the end or do situps, pushups, jumping jacks, etc. When the group is on their back, they must lie perfectly still. If you say something other than mountain like fire on the mickey, mazda, montana, and they flinch or begin to get up they are out.
13. Shoot The Moon – Using dodgeballs, have kids gloved. Line up kids on opposite side of the gym. Big yoga ball is in the middle and is the Moon! The dodgeballs are the rockets. that sends to knock the Moon to the other planet. If the yoga ball crosses their planetary line, KABOOM! (Supplies Needed: Yoga Ball, Dodgeballs, Gloves, Cones)
14. Helicopter – Set the cones up in 4 sections around the playing area. Those are the helipads. The kids are the helicopters flying from helipad to helipad trying to avoid taggers with pool noodles. You cannot stay in a helipad for more than 10 seconds. If you are tagged, you sit where you are tagged and become an obstacle. (Supplies Needed: Pool Noodles, Cones)
15. Grump’s Distanced Island – Modified cross the ocean type game. Counselor is Grump and has pool noodle for tagging. The gym circle or middle of the gym is your island and the dodgeballs are your coconuts. If kids are gloved, balls are ok to share. If kids are not gloved, they can use a color ball only they are allowed to steal. Kids must steal the coconuts without being tagged. (Supplies Needed: Dodgeballs, Pool Noodles)
I hope you enjoy these games that help keep your children socially distanced from one another while still having fun. Check out the Resource Zone on my website for more ideas to help during this crazy time. Thanks for visiting and share your ideas with others. We are all trying our best and we need to help each other.
I took a few weeks off from the website to reset for another year if you have been following along for my weekly posts. I am back, and just in time for Halloween. One of my favorite times in youth programming, but COVID has stayed around and tried to ruin some of my fun. I usually host a huge Trunk or Treat event, but we decided to cancel due to the crowds and attendance we typically get. Safety comes first, and just like with any game you have to ask yourself “Is it safe, and is it fun?” If you can’t answer yes to both, then don’t do it! I am not letting 2020 ruin this party though. I have some fun and safe ideas that you are welcome to steal and bring to your program.
More Than A Pumpkin – Buy some small pumpkins or use a large pumpkin and have everyone write with a sharpie what they are thankful for on the pumpkin. Yes, this can work for November, but during the season of I want all the candy and driving parents crazy with costume suggestions, it’s good to hit reset. Great for a huddle (group of kids), your whole program, or one child to take home and have their parents help decorate and get the whole family involved. This has been a tough year, but we can still be thankful. Pumpkins are not just for carving or just sitting out.
Haunted Maze – Use gym mats or cardboard boxes. Design your own mini haunted maze using the gym mats or cardboard boxes to make dead ends, tunnels, and twists and turns along the way. A safe social distance activity. One kid goes at a time, counselors or other kids scare from a safe distance. I have used the gym stage for my location and turned the lights off. Have some fun music, use some fun spider webs, and other fun decorations to make it feel as real as you can. Remember these are kids. This reminder is for myself haha!
Tangerine/Clementine Decorating – Use sharpies and decorate tangerines/clementines like mini pumpkins. Cheap and easy. Eat the finished product! Healthy activity!
Greasy Pumpkin Race – Use gloves, slather some baby oil, and carry the pumpkin from one end of the field to the other. Use trash bags to cover clothing or costume the child is wearing. Use pumpkins of all sizes and determine what works best for age group. Great game for a parent to compete against with their child or counselor against a kid.
Glow In The Dark Bowling – Use orange lights and design the floor like a bowling alley. Kids can use a small pumpkin with no stem and bowl towards plastic pins. No pumpkin, use an orange ball and sanitize.
Decorate Your Mask – Many police departments I have seen nationally are having contests around this. Have kids design their mask geared towards Halloween. Great chance for them to be creative. Disposable masks are very cost effective.
Zombie Tag – Use pool noodles and if a kid gets tagged they must walk around like a zombie until they are tagged by the doctor. The doctor has the special medicine! Supplies needed are pool noodles, the doctor tagger has a certain noodle color. Use cones to space your field or indoor area out. Switch up the taggers and doctors. Do a round where the counselors are the taggers or just the doctors.
Cake “Food” Walk – Space out your poly spots inside or outside. Play fun Halloween music. Kids walk around the spaced out circle and win the music stops call the number. Put numbers on each poly spot. Have the kid be the caller and switch up the job each game. Use cupcakes, cakes, fruit, cheese, anything you want haha. Budgets are tight!
Halloween doesn’t stop. Keep the fun, the kids and staff need this right now. It’s been a long 2020, but you can change the way we choose to look at how we finish this year. More games and ideas on my website in the Resource Zone.
I am always on the hunt for new games and ideas to play during this pandemic. So I present to you, Soccer Tennis! This game is perfect. You can stay 6 feet apart and enjoy this outdoors or indoors. Even when the virus is over, you can still continue to enjoy this game. Soccer Tennis is a great game to teach skill development and work on the skills needed to play in an actual game of soccer. You can practice headers and work on your touch of the ball. We have been doing soccer clinics, but a great way to set up a tournament with your participants, and see who can be the champion. Break it up by age groups, and have fun making this into a competition. Clinics and skill development is fun, but for the competitors this game should satisfy their craving. So how do your play Soccer Tennis?
1.Put two players on each side, much like a doubles tennis match. You can also play 1 v 1. Adjust rules as needed.
2. One player from Team A “serves” the soccer ball to the other side. Once it goes over the net, Team B has, at most, three touches and one bounce to return the ball back to Team A’s side of the court. Team A, then, has three touches and one bounce to keep the rally going. The bounce can come at any point during the return. So if Team B chooses to let the ball bounce before touching it, they will then have three touches to get it over the net without letting it bounce again. Or, Team B can volley Team A’s serve before it bounces, which means they will then have two more touches and a bounce to get it back to the other side.
3. There is no need to alternate touches between teammates, as they’re required to do in volleyball. If one player from Team B lets the serve bounce, then touches it three times without a teammate’s help and gets it back over the net, it is a legal play. However, participation by everyone is encouraged and helpful toward winning a match.
4. Beginners (and those getting used to the concept of the game) should play more defensively, basically making sure they can collect the ball within the rules and get it back to the other side. Once players become more skilled and comfortable, however, they can start playing strategically. For example, Team B can try to return a serve by dropping it behind the Team A players, so long as it stays within the boundaries. A skilled player on Team B can try to kick it (or head it) at a player on Team A, which would put the Team A player in an uncomfortable position of needing to both avoid the ball and return it.
5. Scoring can be structured depending on how much time you have, but the new method of volleyball rally scoring is usually the most exciting–that is, each rally results in a point by one of the teams. As with tennis and volleyball rules, the team that fails to place the ball in the other team’s in-bounds area loses the point.
You can buy the Soccer Tennis net from several vendors. I featured https://www.kwikgoal.com/product/16B6/All-Surface-Soccer-Tennis which is $120. There are a variety of vendors you can purchase from at different price points. You can create your boundaries using field paint, or markers. Depends on your space, budget, etc…
I have added this game to the Resource Zone on my website. Enjoy and stay safe!
I have come up with several different new programs and activities that I like to place staff in charge of. It has been my experience that when the staff are more involved in the development of a program, it runs smoother and the staff enjoy their jobs more. Below is a list of programs that you can delegate to your staff. Even though times are still crazy, all of these ideas can be used during COVID-19 or when it is gone. Don’t let the virus and limitations you may have hold you back from allowing your staff to have some creative control of the program. The kids and staff need variety and a fun place to spend their time.
After School Sports Clinics (Leagues): Set up skill clinics on Tuesdays/Thursdays or a time during the week that the kids can focus on skill development and a certain sport. Soccer, Football, Basketball, Lacrosse, etc..When the virus goes away, move into sports leagues. Put the kids on teams and have them play each other. The champion could travel to another program to play their team. Find the staff that loves sports and put them in charge. If you have a soccer player on staff, start with soccer clinics!
Junior Counselors: Once a week have the 4th/5th graders that are interested be Junior Counselors. A Junior Counselor is someone that can help with the day to day of the program. Snack, Rides Out, Cleaning, Reading Buddy to K/1st grader, etc…Delegate a staff to lead this. It could be someone on staff that is on student council or someone that loves leadership or coaching others.
Wacky Wednesday: Have the staff and campers dress up on Wednesdays. Make an incentive to dress up, have games align to the theme, and plan them in advance so the parents know what to expect. Put a staff member in charge that has tons of enthusiasm/creativity. Have them plan out the monthly calendar and themes. If every Wednesday is too much, do it two times a month. You can create your own design, let the staff member have freedom.
Friday FUNday: This will be a chance for the kids to choose what they want to do. Give them a few fun choices and let them decide. Find a staff member that loves to be organized, maybe someone that is a veteran staff. They can program the Friday’s and will be great training for them if they want to be an office manager or site coordinator one day. Save your movies, playground, video games, open gym time for this day. Have the kids look forward to this day of the week!
Staff Social Outings: It is important to have staff bonding time. Find a staff that is great at bringing people together. The staff in charge of this will come up with something to do once or twice a month together after work or on a weekend. Make it creative, cost effective, and fun. Have the person create a calendar of events for the semester. This staff member can also plan fun things into the monthly staff meeting. Games, ice breakers, food, etc…
When the staff are empowered, you will see quality programming inside your program. They are energized and excited to come to work. When they are part of the planning, they feel the pressure of showing up and giving the kids an amazing experience each day. That should never fall just on one person. I have listed this in the Resource Zone in the “Staff Training” section on my website.
“Its not the tools you have faith in, tools are just tools, they work, or they don’t work. It’s the people you have faith in or not.” Steve Jobs
Are you in need of some more games for your program? This time continues to move on month after month. I have 4 more games for you to try during COVID-19 or anytime really! These are all safe and easy to do while keeping social distancing as much as possible. I will admit that this time where are in does limit but doesn’t fully shut down everything you can do. Stay positive, look at some of your old games, and tweak them if possible. The four games I am going to share with you are tweaks on a few fan favorites. The full description of these games can be found in the Resource Zone located on my website.
1.International Soccer: Set up your gym, field, or multipurpose room where you have poly spots in offense and defensive sides of the field. This non stop action game is great for developing basic soccer skills because of the additional opportunities for players to make contact with the ball. To start, place two balls in the middle of the playing area. On “GO”, players attempt to gain possession of one of the balls and try to score at one of the opponent’s two goals. Players can’t leave their poly spot. There are no out of bounds when playing indoors, if outside use the standard lines as boundaries. The counselor must help keep ball in play. When a goal is scored, the ball is kicked back into action by one of the goalies and play resumes. The goalies can only use their feet to block the ball. Each team needs to keep their own score. The team with the highest score wins. See the Resource Zone on my website for the full description and layout of the game. Each team is a different country.
2. Freeze Dance with Exercise!: Play music and have the participants run around the room or gym. Stop the music and the participants must freeze. If they don’t they are out and must go to the other side of the room. Once they do 20 jumping jacks, push ups, or any exercise you choose, they can play again. Let kids be in charge of the music and have them stop the music. Simple game and works really well with younger kids.
3. Steal The Bacon Pasta: Create two teams and spread them out on each side of the room giving them a number 1-10, etc… Put the bacon (ball) in the middle of the room, and pasta (pool noodle) in the middle of the room. The game begins when the leader who stands in the middle calls out the number. So if you call number 7, they both run to the middle. The goal is to grab the bacon, if they get the bacon across their team line, they get 3 points. If they tag the player with the pasta, they get 1 point. The team with the most points wins.
4. The Soccer Bull: Spread out your participants in a big circle of 8-10. Assign one player to stand in the middle to be the bull. The other players job is to keep the ball away from the bull by passing the ball from one player to another. The bull chases the ball attempting to intercept or touch the ball with their feet. If successful, the bull switches with the player who last touched the ball. If the ball goes outside the circle, the player responsible becomes the next bull. This game does a great job emphasizing correct kicking and trapping techniques.
These are 4 games to add to your arsenal! Remember when you are choosing and selecting teams, avoid saying Team 1 and Team 2. You are more FUN than that. Say, on this side are “The Apple Jacks” and on this side are “The Cinnamon Toast Crunch”. Kids might say, “I don’t want to be an Apple Jack”, and you just say, its cool, we will switch names again later, you are fine, lets play. Games are meant to be fun, and you can keep that fun by being positive and also playing the game. Don’t just talk to them, play with them. Think about your favorite teacher. I guarantee they didn’t just talk to you, they showed you how to learn. This is true in youth programming, show the kids how to have fun. Have a great weekend!
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!
Who doesn’t love some good sweet Bojangles Tea? As you try and create a fun culture during COVID-19, make sure you don’t forget the cheers and songs that make a program fun. I love Bojangles so much, that we made a cheer about it. It’s pretty simple, which are the best cheers and songs for me. When I try and lead songs, I often get lost when I have to remember too many words or movements. Find your style and delegate if you have to.
You’re sweet (Clap Clap)
You’re sweet (Clap Clap)
Like Bojangles Tea
Like Bojangles Tea
Yes, kids are learning at their computer, they have schedules, but break in some time for cheers and songs when you can. Find time for fun! We can get caught in the negative of this current schedule, and the kids deserve more. These young students and staff are facing challenges like we have never seen before. Their mental health is important. Sing, do silly cheers, find time during their “brain breaks” to talk to them and get them excited as much as you can. I have added some new files and organized the Resource Zone on my website so you can navigate this easier. I have made sure these were all in alphabetical order as many files have been dropped in over the past year. You can find the Resource Zone on your mobile device by clicking on the menu or if you are on your laptop/desktop its listed at the top of the page. These are all for you. You can pull these up right off your phone with your campers or you can print them off and put in a notebook or clipboard. I hope this helps bring a little FUN into your day.
If you are looking for another fun game idea to add to your program during these tough times, try Paper Airplane Golf. This game is similar to how Frisbee Golf is played. Before you even play this game, let the participants know that they can design their paper airplane any way they want. Giving the participants time to be creative is key and makes this game even more fun. For participants that may struggle with building a plane, show them a few ways to make a basic airplane so everyone playing has a fair chance. There are several places to find this information, one of my favorites s is https://www.diynetwork.com/made-and-remade/learn-it/5-basic-paper-airplanes and they have basic instructions for you. So what do you do after everyone has made their airplane?
Create a golf course. Give it a fun name. (Hula Hoop Beach or Augusta Paper Airplane National).
For each hole you can set par 3, 4, etc..Have the older kids keep score, younger kids just let them play! To make the holes different, make the hole farther, add in things like chairs that could block the plane from flying, or anything else you want to add. Water trap, add in a baby pool. Just have fun. If you are pressed for time, just make the holes and get out of the way so the kids can begin playing.
This is a simple and basic game to add into your program. I include links from https://www.ssww.com/ and it is very affordable if you don’t already have these supplies at your location. I hope you enjoy Paper Airplane Golf, and continue to make this challenging time as fun as you can. I have more COVID-19 game ideas and other fun ideas in the Resource Zone on my website.