Not being able to play with friends has been tough for children during the coronavirus lockdown. Young children are programmed to play. Play fuels their development and it is through play that they learn the social skills to take turns, work in teams and build relationships. However, with social distancing here to stay for a while, there’s unlikely to be a sudden return to traditional play dates or playground games. We are all going to have to learn new ways of playing together in socially distanced games.
Children are naturally inventive so I am absolutely sure they will have no problem adapting and will come up with brilliant ideas for games (much better than mine!). But it might help them get started if you set them up with a few ideas. So, here are 16 ideas for socially distanced games to get them playing safely.
Whether you are meeting up with family in your garden, doing play dates in the park or even hosting a socially distanced birthday party, there are some great games that children can enjoy and still stay at least 1 or 2 metres apart. You’ll probably remember most of them from your own childhood! And this list is also a great starting point for children who are heading back to school and wondering what they can do in the playground. All these games can be played without the need to pass any objects between each other. And all of them are screen-free – which is a great rebalancer after the digital overdose in lockdown. Enjoy!
Socially distanced games for pairs or small groups
If you are venturing out to the park or to a friend’s garden for play dates, these games are perfect for small groups or pairs.
- Try to make me laugh! One child has to try not to laugh while the others say/do things to try and make them laugh. Simples!
- Copycat: Children love this. One child leads and the others have to copy what that child is doing.
- Hopscotch: Because this is a one-at-a-time game, it’s easy to stay apart. Use chalk to draw your own.
- Yes/No game: One child has to answer questions without ever saying Yes or No. Not as easy as it sounds!
- Rock/paper/scissors: If you have more than two children in the group, you can play this as an elimination game.
Outdoor play & bigger groups
Some of these involve a lot of running around so really need a big green space. Others are played sitting still so you could play them in a garden.
- Who said that? Sit your group in a socially distanced circle, with one participant in the middle. The person in the middle closes their eyes. Then someone in the circle says their name and they have to guess who said it. Great for funny voices!
- Wink Murder: While you are all in a circle, try this. One participant is secretly designated as the murderer and has to wink at others in order to eliminate them from the game. But without being seen. If you think you know who the murderer is, you can accuse them. But if you’re wrong, you’re out!
- Water pistols: Hot summer day? A water pistol fight naturally keeps people apart and it’s also really good fun.
- Running races: Don’t go for the simple version. Do races running sideways or backwards or hopping or using two hands and one foot… get creative!
- Hide & Seek: An old classic that quickly spreads out a group of kids.
Best with an adult
There are lots of traditional party games that can easily be played even 2 metres apart. These ones work best when led by an adult.
- Simon Says: I love trying to catch out the kids with this one. Lulling them into a concentration lapse with “Simon says stand on one leg…. Simon says hop. Simon says put your hand on your head.” And then catching them out with a sneaky “Now hop again!”
- Musical statues: The luxury of smartphones means you don’t even have to prepare this in advance. Put on a jiggy tune to get them dancing and then stop the music and see who can’t stay still!
- What’s the time, Mr Wolf? This needs an adult to be the wolf to make sure it stays socially distanced – you mustn’t catch them, remember! Best outdoors or in a big garden.
Socially distanced games for two families
There is no reason why adults can’t get in on the play action too. If you have another family over for a BBQ, for example, these games can be played in household teams.
- Charades: It takes a little creativity to avoid passing paper between each other, but smartphones are quite helpful for this. Pick a theme (TV programmes, Bond films, Christmas dinner etc) and mime away.
- Word games: You could play Animal Alphabet (working through the alphabet naming animals that start with that letter) or a memory game like “I’m going to the shops to buy…” (where each person adds an extra item to the list and has to remember all the items already added).
- Parallel board games: Both families will need to have their own set of the same game. You can replicate the play on each board or play something like ‘Articulate’ or ‘Pictionary’ as a whole group but with each team using their own equipment. I am told that Twister works really well this way!
Got a great idea that isn’t on this list? Please do share it in a comment below. If you want even more ideas, you might find these other posts useful too:
- No-prep indoor play ideas for young children
- Fun card games for children of all ages
- 12 ideas for outdoor play when it’s cold or wet
- Growing resilience through play
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©Anita Cleare 2020