While teaching kids about nature I’m always looking for ways that will get them moving around, quite often acting out a behavior exhibited by a specific animal. Why not just tell them the facts and then have them parrot back the information? I’d rather engage them in the learning process. Instead of just telling them that bats, shrews, and whales use echolocation to find food, an active game lets them see the concept in action.
Adapting Activities for Kids
What do you want your group to remember or better understand? Can you translate those facts into a game? If you want your students to remember the identity of historical figures, playing a game of “Who Am I?” could help. Make up a set of cards with pictures of the people you want your students to review. Glue the pictures onto index cards, punch a couple of holes in each card, and then loop through some yarn long enough to fit around a child’s neck.
Players wear these pictures around their back so they don’t know their identity. The students mill about, going up to classmates and asking them yes or no questions that will help them reveal the identity of their historical figure. When they determine their identity, they flip the card around to their chest and continue to answer other players’ questions.
This game could be played with inventions, wild animals, mythological figures, novels, etc. Both the student asking the questions and the student answering the questions must possess enough information about the topic in order to be successful.
Games for Kids
I love the preschool game, “Mr. Bear Are You Awake?” in which children take a few steps toward the child who is the sleeping bear and ask the question. The bear can answer “no,” which draws the children a few steps closer, or “yes,” at which point the bear turns around and chases the children back to their home base, trying to tag as many children as possible. This game adapts well with a variety of predatory animals. You may even be able to alter the game for older children, perhaps including a question about historical armies.
Do you have a topic in which the players need to collect specific elements in order to survive or thrive? Requiring players to collect game chips of specific colors and quantities to represent the different things they need to acquire. Introduce a player who represents some sort of challenge or hazard and who tries to tag the game-chip-collecting-players
Memory card games, such as Concentration, work with any topic that provides five-to-fifteen visual images that can be duplicated on a couple of cards. Shuffle the deck. Players take turns flipping over two cards, looking for matches. Players hold onto matching pairs while turning over cards that don’t match. When players get a match, require that they give facts about the image.
Get a book on playground games or classic children’s games so you have a resource that provides numerous games that you can adapt when teaching. Whether you are a preschool or elementary school teacher, naturalist or forest ranger, or scout leader or the leader of a homeschool group, revising traditional games to your topic can help students remember information as they use it in the game.