“Play Anywhere” Games

I love playing children’s games that come with no rules, directions, or a box. Any number can play, and the rules can be flexible. And best of all, you can play in the house, outside, or while passing time when you are waiting somewhere.

When I was a child, I knew games were fun. As a mom, I realized I could use games to help my children learn skills while being entertained. Perhaps you’ll remember some of these from your childhood, or it will trigger a memory of a similar game. Here are some my family enjoyed:

I’m Thinking of Something

Oh my, those words are magic to a child! You might have a distracted, angry, miserable, or bored child one moment, and as soon as you say “I’m thinking of something” they are eager to hear more. Smile mysteriously, be a little dramatic if you want to. Give your captive audience a clue, and then more clues, as they guess. Or maybe you’ll ask them to ask you questions until they figure it out. They know it’s fun, and you know they’re strengthening their observational and problem-solving skills. This is a lot like 20 questions without keeping score.

Stop and Go 

I used this game as a way to give my kids practice in quickly stopping when they were young. I wanted my children prepared in the event their safety might depend upon hearing me and immediately stopping. We had lots of giggles when we played this game. You can tell children to dance, jump, run around, anything they want, but when you say stop or freeze, they will. Young children love responding to “stop” when playing this game, and take pride in being so good at it!

Simon Says

This is an old classic based on the very fun idea that you have to do what Simon tells you to do, as long as he says “Simon says”. This is a great way to develop listening skills, following directions, learning body parts, and getting the wiggles out. The usual tactic is to lull the kids into doing everything you say by giving a quick list of instructions: “Simon says touch your head. Simon says touch the floor. Simon says hop. Simon says touch your elbow. Touch your knees —oh! I didn’t say Simon says.” At that point everyone laughs and wants to try again!

Pat-A-Cake (or Patty Cake)

This is also a lot of fun. Start slow and simple, and as your child gets better at it, pick up the pace, and make the clapping hand movements fancier – if you haven’t done it in a while, you can find lots of YouTube videos showing different versions. Besides the important fun element, there’s a lot to remember, and a young child will really work hard to get it right. It’s a great coordination exercise that kids of all ages love.

If you are playing for the fun of the game, with no winners or losers, then you won’t need to exclude anyone from playing. Vary your games to suit the moment or the child. Come up with new variations, and encourage your children to do the same. You’ll be helping your children learn important skills while creating warm memories. It just doesn’t get better than that. And it’s all free!

Originally published at universalpreschool.com


Karen Taylor’s always homeschooled son attended a local community college after graduating from homeschooling. He transferred to UC Berkeley as a junior, and received a PhD in neuroscience from UCSF.  She shares homeschooling comments and links on Facebook, Pinterest, and this blog.