How to Use Games to Impact Kids in 10 Easy Steps

Children playing musical chairs-852286Nothing involves/engages kids like games.  Nothing.  Kids are wired to play, not listen, not watch.  Play.  They want to be involved.  They want to do stuff.  You can show kids the latest, cool movie, but if you stand to the side and offer to play a fun, exciting game with them, they will choose to play the game.  Why?  Because that’s the way kids are.  They crave the opportunity to simply be a kid.  That means “PLAY.”

The world is wobbly.  It is changing so fast that it’s disruptive to everything.  Kids feel it.  They know there’s trouble.  They hear us talk.  They see glimpses on the news.  They know something’s up.  Nothing enrages me more than a kid having their childhood stolen from them.  Kids shouldn’t have to worry about bullying, the economy, their parents splitting up, war, sickness, and on and on and on and on and on.  But they do.  Playing a simple game usually/always gets their mind off of their fears for a few minutes.  Why should we play games with kids?  I just gave it to you.

Competition is a fact, Jack.  Life is competitive.  You better learn how to win, and you better learn how to lose.  Both will happen to everyone.  Often.  The world is not a cushy place.  Everything, not just sports, has an element of competition: job hunting, dating, working, driving (sometimes), getting into the shortest checkout lane, school, etc.  Is it crazy?  Yes.  Is it out-of-control?  Yes.  Is it just plain wrong?  Probably.  But you don’t deal with the world you want.  You deal with the world you have.  Competition is woven into the fabric of life.  Games–done right–create an out-of-harm’s-way place to learn that.

Make games a little competitive and a lot of fun.  If you make them a lot competitive and a little fun, you destroy the benefit.

COMPETITION –> SMALL

FUN –> BIG

When you keep winning and losing in perspective, games offer a valuable lesson.  They allow kids to push themselves in a safe environment.  Life requires that they learn how to win and do it with grace.  Life requires that they learn how to lose and do it with dignity.  Games help train a child for living.  Every one of them will win sometimes; every one of them will lose sometimes.  Competition is not evil.  Even Paul, the apostle, used a little competition to motivate Christians.  “I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago.  In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving” (2 Corinthians 9:2 NLT).  Paul was motivating the Macedonians to be givers based on what the Corinthians had done.  He used one group to motivate the other.  They did it; and you know you can do it, too.  Good competition does that.  It motivates one group based on what another group has done…or is doing.  The Corinthian team did it!  Let’s see what the Macedonian team can do!

In no particular order, here are some tips for making games fun while keeping the competition in perspective:

1.  Divide the room into two sides.  Give each side a team name.  Dividing the room with a center aisle or rope down the middle is helpful/important/critical.  It just works much better that way.

2.  Don’t play games that take any real athletic ability.  That way if/when you lose, nobody cares.  Really, does anyone think it’s a big deal when you are last to shake a cotton ball off your nose that is stuck there with Vaseline?

3.  Make the game urgent.  Time it.  Make it frantic.  Use a stopwatch, a clock, hourglass, something.

4.  Explain it carefully.  Nobody gets excited about a game they don’t understand.  Explain the rules.  Make it clear.

5.  Choose kids wisely.  If a small kid can play it, pick him.  If a shy kid never raises her hand, ask her if she wants to play.  Don’t choose the same kids over and over.

6.  Give points to the winning team.  Points are free, so you can give away lots of them.  “This next game is worthy 25,000 points!”

7.  Crank the music.  Play something fast.  Use upbeat Christian music or one of the Kidz Blitz’ parodies of classic rock.

8.  Start the music first.  Start the music BEFORE you start the game.  Let the music draw you into the game.  Hearing the music gets your heart pumping so you’re ready to start.

9.  Don’t make winning any bigger than it already is.  It’s already a big deal, so you can tamp it down a little by saying, “By a little bit I guess this one goes to the blue team!”  That’s better than “Wow! It looks like the blue team has smashed the green team again!!!”

10.  Announce by name the kids who are playing.  Make a bigger deal out of playing than winning.  “This is Karen.  Karen is ten years old and has a dog named ‘Mia.” Let’s give it up for Karen!”

7 Reasons Why Games Are the Best Teaching Tool

Boys and girls runningThere are lots of effective teaching tools you can use to reach kids, and there are good reasons to use all of them at one time or another.  However, one stands out above the rest:  GAMES.

 

  1. Engage kids.  Games turn spectators into participants.  When a kid is playing a game, they are completely engaged in what they are doing.  There is no VG (video glaze) effect where the kid zones out.  Kids become active instead of passive.  Games engage kids like nothing else.
  2. Illustrate Bible principles.  Example:  If you are playing a game where kids jump rope while wearing flippers, kids are likely to fall down.  That’s good.  It allows you to illustrate the point that we often fall down (make mistakes or have troubles) in life, but the key is to trust God to help us get back up and keep going.  This game, for instance, is a lot like life.  When you fall down you get back up and deep going.  The game focuses on one of life’s most important principles while creating a memory that kids will understand.  We say it like this… “Tell me and I will forget.  Show me and I might remember.  Involve me and I will understand.”
  3. Teach them how to win…and how to lose.  In the real world, sometimes you win; sometimes you lose.  If you want to prepare kids for life on this planet as we know it, then you have to let them experience winning and losing.  They need to learn to be gracious in victory and how to keep from being devastated when they lose.  That is a critical life lesson.
  4. Promote teamwork.  This one is the most obvious, but it is still true.  Games teach kids how to work together for a common purpose.
  5. Provide a natural way for kids to interact and connect with adult teachers.  The teacher explains the game to the kids.  The kids listen because they instinctively know they need to understand the game in order to play it.  This cultivates a rapport between the kids and the teacher.  That can become an effective step toward opening communication lines with the child.  The connection that happens during the explanation of the game is sometimes more meaningful than the game itself.
  6. Games reach boys like nothing else will.  Boys are wired for competition.  One of the reasons we are losing the boys in our culture is because we have traded the motivation that comes from competition in our educational systems.  The book “Boys Adrift,” by Dr. Leonard Sax talks about this destructive trend.  They boys who are not athletic enough to compete in sports still need an outlet for their competitive side.  Parents with boys will tell you that their boys turn everything into competition!  Example:  “Who can get into the car first?”
  7. Allow a kid to be a kid.  Our coarse world forces kids to grow up too quickly.  It is healthy for a kid to be able to have fun playing.  They need a few minutes to forget pressures from home and school.  Play is like oxygen in a kid’s world.  Scripture indicates that kids who die and go to heaven get to grow up there…playing.  Wow!  How cool to grow up in a place where you can play in the streets without getting into trouble…where a kid can be a kid!  Some of the adults probably go into shock when they first get to heaven and see what the kids are doing.

“The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls PLAYING in its streets.” (Zechariah 8:5, NKJV)