Sunday, September 7, 2008

Tips for Great Game Times

Game times can be much more than play time. Thoughtfully planned and executed activities can build and foster sportsmanship and respect in a way that free time can rarely match. I've put together a list of things that I find helpful in making game times fun, purposeful, and memorable.

First of all, tailor the game to your event. If it is a "get to know you" type of event, you are going to want to provide activities that give opportunities to exchange personal information. If you are trying to build teamwork, pick team builder activities, and stay away from competitive games. If it is to expel energy before a quiet time, tag games are wonderful. You get the picture.

Be prepared. Have all your equipment and setup requirements in place BEFORE the kids get there. Running around at the last minute gathering supplies may take you away from greeting the kids as they arrive and setting the tone for the event. It may also invite chaos if kids arrive without immediate directions and are left in limbo for too long. Last minute frazzle happens to all of us, but it is something to strive to prevent.

Get their attention. Develop your own system for bringing the group together and getting them quiet. One thing that works for me in transitions is clapping a pattern. I start out clapping a loud pattern and kids, in turn, clap it back. I do a series of them and usually by the third set, I have all their attention. Its fun and effective, and beats yelling "Hey everybody!"

Give clear directions. Outline the game or activity clearly. State the rules, and expect them be followed. Ask for questions and do a quick demonstration if you think it would be beneficial.

Keep things on track. There will always be a few kids that press the limits, or don't follow the rules. My advice is to deal with inappropriate activity immediately. Ignoring it seldom stops it, and you will allow others to get distracted, too. For a large group game, a few reminders given at close proximity to the offender may be all you need to give. But don't be afraid to make a repeat offender sit out for a time, or to stop the game immediately if need be to review the guidelines or prevent injury. Remember, group games are for group fun and when one child is allowed to run amuck, the whole group suffers.

Play. One sure way to add fun and excitement to any activity is to participate yourself. Jump in, and invite other parents or adults to join in too! Kids love to see parents and leaders get involved. Some of my most memorable game times are the ones where our leaders or teachers played with us, not just watched from a bench. It also fosters respect, and models good sportsmanship. I could go on, but you get the picture. Play!

Stop the game while they are still having fun. The camp director where I had my first counseling position said this again and again and it has been great advice. If you stop the game while they are still having a fun, they will always want to play it again. Wait until they grow tired of it, and they won't want to do it again.

These are just a few tips. What advice do you have when it comes to games? Please share your ideas in the comments!

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