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Playground Games for Social Distancing

It’s September and so begins a new term and a new academic year, but teachers and children are returning to schools, which are probably very different for what we have previously been used to. Getting children to adhere to social distancing is not easy, especially if they haven’t had the opportunity to let off steam during the day.

Here is our list of games that can be played in the playground (or the school hall if the weather is bad) which allow children to be physical, have fun and adhere to social distancing at the same time.

1) Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt is a great way to get children moving around outside (or inside) without needing to get close to each other.

Make a list of items that the children need to find and let them go off searching. You could keep items in a theme, such as colours, or you could have a completely random list.

If you don’t want children picking things up off the ground, you could get them to take photographs of things that they find or write down where they spotted it.

2) Hide and Seek

Hide and seek is a well-known children’s game which can still be played with taking social distancing into consideration.

Get one child to count to ten while all the others find somewhere to hide. The child who counted then has to find all the other children. If you want to stop the children from getting too close to each other get the seeking child to announce the name of the child they can see when they find them.

3) Shadow Tag

This variation on the well-known game of tag is best played outside on a sunny day.

Instead of touching someone to tag them, like in regular tag, the child who is ‘it’ needs to touch a child’s shadow with their feet to tag them.

4) Hopscotch

Hopscotch is another well-known game that is easy to play without getting too close to other people.

In this game players throw a stone (or other object, such as a beanbag) onto the hopscotch course, they then hop and jump from 1 to 10, making sure that they don’t land in the square that the stone landed in, they turn around at 10 and come back, picking up the stone on their way.

If you don’t already have hopscotch in your playground you can use chalk to draw one out.

To avoid children handling the same stone, give every child their own stone or object.

5) Port and Starboard

This game can also be known as north, south, east and west and is a fun nautical themed game. In this game children need to follow commands from the teacher. Once the children get the last person to follow the instruction is out.

Our suggested commands are:

Port - Run to the left of the room/playground. Starboard - Run to the right of the room/playground. Bow - Run to the front of the room/playground. Stern - Run to the back of the room/playground. Captain's Coming - Stand completely still (at alert) and salute. Captains Wife - All shout "Twiit Woo". Scrub the decks - Get down on their knees and pretend to scrub the floor. Climb the rigging - Pretend to climb rigging. Bombs Away - Crouch down with your hands over your head Submarine - Lie on your back with one leg in the air Seagull Attack - Wave arms frantically in the air. Sharks - Get to side of hall/playground and off floor.

Other common commands which may not be suitable for social distancing include:

Man Overboard - Hold on to a partner. Man the lifeboats - Get into pairs on the floor pretending to row.

To make the game more educational Port, Starboard, Bow & Stern can be swapped with North, South, East & West. For older/more advanced children you can then start to include more complex directions, such as ‘North-East’ and ‘South-West’.

6) What’s the time Mr Wolf?

This is another classic children’s game which can be played with some minor alterations to make it suitable in a socially distanced setting.

One child is chosen to be Mr Wolf, who then stands at one end of the playing area.

The other players stand in a line (ensuring that they are 2m apart) at the other end.

‘Mr Wolf’ turns his back to start playing.

The players call out, "What's the time Mr Wolf?" and Mr Wolf turns and answers with a time (i.e. 3 o'clock).

The children take a number of steps forward, corresponding to the number in the time that Mr Wolf has declared.

He then turns his back again while the children advance again chanting "What's the time Mr Wolf?" To which Mr Wolf will continue to respond until the players come very close.

Once the line of players is close to Mr Wolf, he can respond to the chant with "It's dinner time!" at which point, he will chase the players back to the starting line with the aim to catch one of the them, who will then become Mr Wolf for the next round of the game.

In order to make them game suitable for social distancing instead of catching the children. Mr Wolf can simply race the others to the start line, if he crosses the line before the others then a new ‘Mr Wolf’ should be selected. If this is too challenging a separate line that ‘Mr Wolf’ needs to cross can be drawn on the floor.

7) Traffic Lights

In order to play this game, get all the children to stand around the playground or hall (2m apart). The teacher then calls out ‘green light’, ‘amber light’ or ‘red light’.

On the command of ‘green light’ the children have to run around the room, making sure they are careful to avoid colliding with the other children.

When the teacher shouts ‘amber light’ the children have to move around, but this time being slow.

When the children hear ‘red light’ then they have to stop moving. The last child to stop moving can then be out of the game.

If you want a more challenging variation then ‘amber light’ can mean all sorts of different movements, such, as hop, skip, crawl etc. You can even announce a different movement at the beginning of each round.

8) Skipping

Skipping is a great way for children to burn off some extra energy.

If you have enough ropes then you can allow each child to have their own and do individual skipping.

Assuming that there aren’t enough ropes for every child then you can get two adults (or two children) to hold the rope to carry out various skipping activities which children can take it in turns with.

The simplest is just to see how many times each child can jump over the rope before they miss a jump.

Another skipping game is Banana. This jump rope game doesn't actually involve jumping--but the children do have to pay attention to the timing of the swinging rope. You need a long skipping rope and two people to turn it. The remaining children form a single-file line so that the first person in line is facing the rope. The turners swing the rope forward toward the line, then away. As they do so, the first player must run under the rope and then back again without touching the rope or letting it touch him. This child can then join the back of the line and the next child can run under the rope.

A great skipping game for younger children or children who haven’t done skipping before is Snake. For this game, the rope stays on the ground. Have one person hold it at each end and wave it gently along the ground like a slithering snake, while the children take it in turns to attempt to jump over it.

9) Name Race

This game is a simple way to amuse children during social distancing and get them to think about how they spell their own name.

To play this game get all the children to stand in a line (2m apart) at one end of the playground or hall. The teacher stands at the other end. The teacher then calls out a letter at random. The children have to take one step forward for every time that letter is in their name. The object of the game is to be the first to reach the opposite side of the playground or hall.

You can use first names only or allow children to include middle and surnames too! For children with short names i.e. four or less letters, you may wish to let them include middle names when playing the first name only option.

10) Blink Murder

Also known as Wink Murder, this game is often a favourite with children.

Get the children to sit in a large circle (2m apart). Choose one child to be the detective. The detective should then leave the room/area of play. Next, point out a child to be the murderer. Once a murderer is selected the detective comes back into the area and stands in the centre of the circle. The murderer then needs to blink (or wink) at the other children in the circle in order to ‘kill’ them. Children can ‘die’ as loudly or as dramatically as they like. The detective has to guess who the murderer is within a set number of guesses (usually three). Once the murderer has been found (or not) then choose a new detective and murderer and repeat.

11) Musical bumps

This classic children’s party game is an easy game to play whilst maintaining social distancing.

All you need to do for this game is to put on some music and get the children to dance to it. Stop the music suddenly, when the music stops the children all need to sit down. The last child to sit down is then out.

12) Musical Statues

Musical statues, also known as Freeze Dance, is a variation on musical bumps.

In this game instead of sitting down when the music stops the children need to become completely still. The last child to stop moving, or if they wobble, then they are out.

13) Simon says

This is a great game for getting children to listen and follow instructions.

In order to play the teacher (or a selected child) becomes ‘Simon’. Simon then gives instructions (such as ‘put your hand in the air’) to everyone. The children only follow the instruction if it started with ‘Simon says’

For instance, if Simon says, “Simon says wave” then players must all wave. But, if Simon simply says, “jump,” without first saying “Simon says,” players must not jump. Those that do jump are out.

14) Rock, Paper, Scissors

Rock, Paper, Scissors is a game usually played between only two people. In order to play this game, the payers face each other and count ‘1, 2, 3, Go’ on Go each player chooses either rock, paper or scissors and shows the other player their choice.

A rock is shown by making a fist.

Paper is shown by a flat hand.

Scissors are shown by making a scissor shape with the pointy and middle fingers.

A child who decides to play rock will beat a child who has chosen scissors ("rock crushes scissors" or sometimes "blunts scissors"), but will lose to one who has played paper ("paper covers rock"); a play of paper will lose to a play of scissors ("scissors cuts paper"). If both children choose the same shape, the game is tied and is usually immediately replayed to break the tie.

This game could be made into a class tournament by pairing up the winners with other winners until there is only one child left.

15) Make your own

Children can be extremely creative, and they love being allowed to express this creativity. Explain to the children about the social distancing rules and get them to design their own games to play. Then you can choose children to explain their game to the class and get the children to have a go at playing each other’s games.

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