Whether the power goes out, you’re out camping without digital toys, or you want to play in a way children/people often don’t anymore, below are some games to get you going!  Nearly all of these games require no props, or have ones that you likely have around.  Next time you’re around a few or a bunch of children, break out one of these games! :-)

Small Group Games

Large group games

 

Small Group Games

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Indian tug of war with rope and stumps

  • Warning, this game is incredibly addictive!!  You’ll need a couple of stumps or very small platforms.  They need to be big enough to stand on, but no room to shuffle one’s feet or maneuver.  The two platforms are between 20-30 feet apart.  The rope is twice as long as the distance between the platforms and very thick – like mooring line for a big ship.  Sometimes, a couple of knots are put in the rope.  Each opponent takes their place on their platform and has an equal amount of rope behind them.  The object of the game is to either get all of the rope, dislodge your opponent from his or her platform, or have your opponent drop the rope.  Fakes, quick pulls, and letting the rope slide free are just some of the strategies.  Stumps and a rope are set up next to the dining area.

Shoe golf

  • An area where children can safely walk around barefoot is very helpful.  Children essentially partly take off one shoe and then fling it with their foot.  This is done something like a bowling approach usually.  “Holes” are set up, which are objects that must be hit with the shoe.  A course is set up around camp or as you go.  Each “green” has a par and traps – e.g., can’t land on the road.  This is a great game for a few campers to play.  The counselor(s) and leaders play along as opposed to just being the judges.  If necessary, the children can keep two shoes on and just carry around another shoe that they fling with their foot (temporarily taking off the shoe that they walk around with).  To keep the game moving, more than one shoe-golfer can throw/kick at the same time. 

S.P.U.D.

  • All players form a circle and count off (they must remember their number). One player is chosen to be "it" and is given a playground ball. S/he throws the ball high up into the air and calls out another player's number. Everybody runs away except for the player with that number. S/he must run to the ball. When s/he gets the ball, s/he calls, "Spud!" very loudly. Everybody must freeze when they hear "Spud!" Then, the player with the ball can take four (S-P-U-D) big steps towards any player and throw the ball at him/her. If that player is hit by the ball, s/he becomes "it." If not, the player who called "Spud!" is "it."  Having a moderator making sure different numbers are picked and that the game progresses smoothly is very helpful.

Steal the Bacon

  • Two teams line up facing each other about 20 feet apart.  Players on each team have a number (e.g. 1-10) and the "bacon" lies in the middle of both teams.  The facilitator calls a number, and then that number from both teams races to grab the bacon and bring it back to their team for a point.  But the other person can tag the bacon-holder and then that team wins. Continue until every number has been called.

PDQ

  • Basically, you try and step on people’s feet in an organized fashion.  Amazingly, people don’t get hurt when they’ve got shoes on.  This game is best played with 6 – 20 people.  Everyone puts their hands in a “team circle,” which means all hands are stacked on top of each other in a column while the people stand in a wagon wheel formation.  Everyone numbers off and the last person says “PDQ!” and everyone jumps away from the circle.  The object of the game is to get other people out by stepping lightly on their feet.  The first PDQ person tries to get someone else’s feet.  Everyone must freeze after the jump and can’t move either foot, although they can move their body.  The number 1 person then jumps when they choose.  When that person jumps, everyone else may jump as well.  If the number 1 jumper fake moves and gets people to move, they are out.  This is an elimination game.  Next, the number 2 person jumps, etc.  The game is done when there is one person left.  Simple game.  Amazing addictive. 

Evolution

  • All players start as an egg. Each egg finds another egg, does "rochambeau" (rocks, paper, scissors), and the winner then becomes a chicken and the loser stays an egg.  Each player can only do rochambeau with someone on the same level – eggs with eggs.  After the next "rochambeau," the winner of the chickens becomes a dinosaur. The winner of the dinosaurs becomes a superhuman. Superhumans jump around the rest of the rochambeau-ers while others go back and forth along the "evolution line."  This is a quick game even with a lot of people.

Flood!

  • While hiking, when flood is called, everyone has to get two feet off the ground in 20 seconds.

Kick the can

  • This game has numerous sets of rules, but one version follows.  A can is placed in the middle of a clearing.  The area should provide for a number of places to hide in close proximity, and have set boundaries.  “It” closes his or her eyes and counts to something like 20 or 50, depending on the size of the area.  When “it” opens his or her eyes, “it” must go and hunt for the hiders.  When “it” sees someone, s/he can try and tag the person before that person has a chance to kick the can for safety.  If the can is successfully kicked, that person becomes “it.”  A variation is that the hider can go for the can without being seen, but the seeker will hang closer to the can with that addition.  Another addition can be that “it” “gets” a hider/runner by simply calling the person’s name when they see them.  This makes the game much more stealthy and harder to win.  Children also have to be good at other’s names, so it can serve as a name game.  Finally, sometimes the game is started by a player kicking the can and “it” having to go and retrieve it and place it back in it’s original spot, which allows people time to hide.  Also, sometimes a circle around the can is a safe area, and the can itself doesn’t have to be kicked.

Camouflage!

  • While hiking, camouflage is yelled and the leader covers their eyes.  Campers have 20 seconds to hide so that the group leader can’t easily see anyone from where they are standing.  The last person to be identified wins that round.

Scream for distance

  • Have everyone start on a line and run screaming at the top of their lungs.  The one who makes it farthest without taking another breath wins.  A judge is helpful.  Weird, strangely popular game, but evens teens will play it for 5 minutes.

Zorch

  • Version 1.  One person has a very powerful flashlight, and they are in a mostly open clearing.  That clearing may be surrounded by obstacles to make the game more doable.  The object is to sneak up on Zorch and touch him/her.  Zorch has his/her head down and is wearing a HUGE hat.  When Zorch hears something, s/he shines the light and calls out Zorch!  If Zorch sees you, s/he yells “Out!”  Either most people are out, or Zorch gets touched.  The person who manages to touch Zorch becomes the new Zorch. 
  • Version 2.  Tag at night without the running. Set up some safe boundaries. Send out half of the participants to hide within the boundary. The other participants go out 5 minutes later with flashlights to try & find the people who are hiding. The participants hiding try & make it back to the original starting location without being "tagged" by the searchers. The searchers "tag" by shining their flashlight on the hiding participants & saying "Zorch!” This goes on until all of the hiding people are "tagged" or back at the the starting location.  It works well if the flashlights are coned with paper so that they form a more focused beam.  Strong flashlights may need to be acquired if the campers don’t have appropriate ones.

Spot

  • You will need a wall and a soccer ball. Give each person in the group a number. The first person kicks the ball against the wall, it will bounce off and go somewhere. Number two has to chase down the ball, stop it dead then with one kick get the ball to hit the wall. The game continues in numerical order.  If a person misses then they get the letter S if they miss again they get P, then O, then T. When someone has all four letters, they are out. A variation is not to go in numerical order but have the person kicking call out a number as they kick the ball which would indicate who was responsible for chasing it down. 

Circle ball

  • Players are standing in a circle about two invisible people apart and one player is standing in he center of the circle. The player in the center throws the ball to one person in the circle. This person gets the ball and places the ball in the center. The goal now is to tag the person who threw the ball before they kick the ball from the center of the circle.

Circle Games

Elephant Ball

  • A group of 8 – 15 people gathers in a circle with feet touching, a little more than shoulder width apart.  Legs are to be kept straight, and people bend over at the waist.  Arms hang in the opening between your legs.  A soft medic ball is put into play.  Your goal is to put the ball through the legs of any other player.  If you succeed, that player has to put one of their arms behind their back.  Now, they only have one hand for defense/offence. 
  • Version 1: When a player is out, the circle shrinks.  If the ball goes out of bounds, someone gets it and puts it back into play by placing it in front of them and taking a shot.  In the end, there can be more than one winner, as the small circles can get a bit ridiculous.
  • Version 2: When both of a player’s hands are out, they stay sanding so their legs remain as a goal.  The people next to them are responsible for protecting their goal because if the ball goes through the open goal, the people next to it, each loose an arm.

Animal Club

  • Shhhhh!!  Don’t talk about it!  Once you’re in the club, you aren’t to speak of it to those who aren’t already in it.  Shhhhh!   This game is similar to St. Peter, St. Paul; it is a circle, hierarchy game that requires attention.  Basically, everyone is an animal and they make a motion and sound accordingly.  A Moose might have thumbs above the ears, fingers stretched upward, chin starting toward chest and rising upward, and saying simultaneously Mmmooooossse!  The game leader is “King Lizard.”  There is only one leader, but s/he plays a minor role in the game – it is mostly about your position in the hierarchy and trying to become the #1 position, “King Lizard.”  The leader starts the game off when it stops with a mistake and a reshuffle.  Details!  You’ll want at least 8 players, but fewer than 14.  Create a circle, and use some arbitrary method if people get caught up on where they are to start with (e.g., birthday).  King Lizard (KL) volunteers, or is selected if there is more than one candidate.  Starting with KL and going counter-clockwise, each person makes their motion and sound – this is just to introduce the chosen animal noises and sounds to the rest of the group.  The animal stays with the slot (position around the circle), and not with the person!  Once that is established, KL starts off with his/her motion (thumbs under chin and fingers uncurling with sound) and sound (psssss!).  After that KL quickly makes the motion and sound of any other animal in the circle, say the sheep in position 5.  The sheep must then make his own motion and sound, and then the motion and sound of anyone else.  It continues in this regard until there is a mistake – not fast enough to respond, wrong sound/motion, or whatever.  The person making the mistake goes to the last position in the circle (next to KL), and everyone moves up one.  Of course, if you get someone out behind your position, you won’t actually move.  Remember that the animal stays with the position (sheep always in position 5 in this example), so as people move around the circle, they adopt the animal of the position they are in.  This is what makes it hard and can provide endless laughter.

St. Peter, St. Paul, (St. John).

  • This game is a competitive, hierarchy game.  It’s extremely fun and addictive!  Introduce it at your own risk!  At least 6 players are needed, but a better number is 8-12.  Everyone sits in a circle where everyone can see each others’ hands.  It’s easy to play, but a bit difficult to describe in writing.  Everyone around the circle has a place in a hierarchy.  The hierarchy is:  St. Peter, St. Paul. St. John, and then 1 through however many players are left.  St. Peter is the highest ranking person and everyone wants that slot.  St. Peter is also the organizing factor in the game, which is a small role. 
  • A repetitive, rhythmic motion is done by everyone simultaneously.  A short phrase that changes slightly is said by one person at a time.  When someone messes up the phrase or rhythm, they have to go to the end of the hierarchy and everyone behind that person moves up one and gets a new number or name.  For example, if St. Paul messed up, s/he would be the last number (say 8) and everyone else would move up a number, and St. John would now be St. Paul, and number one would be St. John.  The pace is quick, and it gets faster to make the game more difficult. 
    • While sitting, the motions are:
    • Both hands slap legs
    • Clap both hands together
    • Snap right hand fingers
    • Snap left hand fingers
  •               The words are:
      • Half your designation (for example, to start, St. Peter = Saint or Number One = Number) is said as your hands slap your legs
    • The other half is said as your hands clap – Peter or One
      • The first part of the designation of the person you’re naming is said as the right hand snaps – number or St.
    • The second part is said as the left hand snaps – One or Paul, for example.
    • The words to start the game are (which everyone says together):
    • With arms outstretched and fingers wiggling, “ahhhhhhhhhhhhh”
    • “Are you” is said while both hands slap the legs
    • “Ready” is said with the clap
    • “Uh” is said with the right hand snap
    • “Huh” is said with the left hand snap
    • “If” is said while both hands slap the legs
    • “So” is said with the clap
    • “Let’s” is said with the right hand snap
    • “Go” is said with the left hand snap
    • With the next motion round, the game begins as noted.  It’s a fluid transition.
  • When a person is called, they say their own designation and then someone else’s in one fluid motion and phrase.  When the next person is called, they pick it up without a break.  To get tricky, some people will look intently at one person and call someone else’s designation.  

I Never / I Have

  • A group stands in a circle at least arms length apart.  Everyone stands on a flat object, or a bunch of twigs, or whatever.  The leader stands in the center and starts out by saying something s/he has never done.  If others in the circle have also never done it, they must move to a different spot not adjacent to them.  The one person left out now has to come up with something.  It can also be played as “I have” instead of “I never”.  A fun get to know you game that can last for a long time!  This can become camp inappropriate, and/or require a serious conversation if it gets out of hand, so keep it light, or have it facilitated by at least two adults.

Samurai

  • A small group stands in a circle.  One person is selected as the Samurai – usually the group leader first.  This person has a soft, foam sword or something similar.  The Samurai goes around the circle and s/he can “strike” (in front of, not on person) at the head or feet.  If the Samurai strikes at the head, the person must duck.  If at the feet, the person must jump.  A wave can be done by having the Samurai run around the circle striking at everyone’s feet.  The last person left is the winner and is then the Samurai.

Pass the Snort

  • This game can have a bit of a teambuilding element, or just be for fun.  You want to pass a snort (pig noise with good facial movement) around the circle.  One person starts it, and the next person continues.  One receives a snort by looking into the eyes of the person passing it, and passes it by looking into the eyes of the person receiving it.  You’ll want a stop watch for this game.  Figure a good goal as being around 1 second for every 5 people.  The group can come up with strategies for decreasing their time.  The game is better with 10+ people.

Finger Grab

  • The group stands in a circle with their elbows at their sides and their forearms out toward the person on either side of them in the circle.  To start with, have everyone put their right hand out with palm up and flat.  Have everyone put their left hand out with a single finger pointing down and touch the palm of the person next to them.  On the count of “Banana,” or another random word, have everyone try and not get their left finger caught, but also catch the finger with their right hand of the person next to them.  After a few rounds, switch the hands.

Screaming Toes

  • Stand in a circle, and everyone looks down at their toes.  On the count of “Banana,” or another random word, everyone looks up at someone else – in the eyes.  If you meet someone else’s gaze, then you both scream and sit down.  The last pair standing “wins.” 

Smog’s Jewels

  • Smog is a dragon.  Everyone wants his jewels.  A small group sits in a circle and one child (Smog) sits in the middle.  Smog is blindfolded.  The object is for one knight to sneak up and touch Smog.  If the knight succeeds, s/he gets the jewels and is now Smog.  If Smog points at the approaching knight, that person must go back and sit down (or is out if you want to play it that way).  If Smog points at “air” (someone isn’t approaching from that direction) three times, Smog is out and someone else is appointed.  A leader can help moderate the game by selecting knights so it doesn’t become a mob scene.  The game is hard to play on noiseless surfaces like gyms.  It’s more challenging and fun to play on grass or gravel.  Sometimes people get elaborate by making noise traps – piles or areas of leaves.

Sandman

  • This can also be played as killer, but the sandman version is less hostile.  Sit in a circle or around a table.  “Eyes closed.  Head’s down.  While the chooser goes around” is chanted in a call and response format.  Chooser chants and everyone repeats after the chooser.  When the chooser has touched someone, that person is the sandman.  The chooser then says, “Heads up.  Eyes open.  The sandman’s on the loose!”  The sandman makes people go to sleep by winking at someone.  When someone is winked at, that person must openly and grandly fall asleep after 10 or so seconds, so no one can make a quick and obvious connection.  If the sandman puts everyone to sleep, the sandman wins.  If someone thinks they know who the sandman is, they say, “I have an accusation to make!”  If someone will second the accusation, they both say the name out loud on the count of three.  If they don’t say the same name, both are asleep.  If they say the same name, but are wrong, they are asleep. 

Detective

  • Form a circle. The “detective” closes his or her eyes or leaves the area. The counselor chooses a “gang leader.”  The gang leader starts making a motion, which all the gang "members" (the rest of the circle) copy. The detective opens his eyes (or returns) and tries to guess who the gang leader is.  During this time, the gang leader tries to change the motion often and the members copy him/her (trying to confuse the detective).  The members need to be vigilant so that they all change ASAP, so that the detective can’t note who changed the action first.  The detective only has 3 guesses. Once the gang leader is guessed, s/he becomes the detective.  If the detective doesn’t get the gang leader, a new detective and gang leader are chosen by the counselor.

King Bunny

  • Players stand in a circle.  The object of the game is to be the last one  remaining.  One player begins by holding both hands above their head with two fingers up in the air next to their ears, signifying bunny ears.  Whoever has both  ears up is the current King Bunny (KB).  Out of respect, the people next to King Bunny put up one ear (closest to KB).  From there, KB can do one of two things: 
    • drop one ear, passing the KB status over to the person on the side of their remaining ear.  This affects TWO people on that side because now the next person over has to put up an ear out of respect as well.
    • point both ears across the circle somewhere, transferring the KB status to THREE new people.  That person puts both ears up, and the people next to the new KB become the new respectful attendants with their ears up in salute. 
    • Whenever someone makes an error or is too slow, they are out.  Play until there are 3 players left. 

The Night Watcher

  • One camper gets to be the night watcher and leaves the group for a little while. All the other campers now get assigned a number 1-12. When there are less then twelve campers some get two numbers. The night watcher now comes back blindfolded and stands in the middle of the circle. When the night watcher says “It’s one o’clock” the person who got assigned number 1 makes a sound. If the night watcher guesses right who made the sound then that person gets to be the night watcher. When he/she guesses wrong time continues (So, the night watcher says “It’s two o’clock”). This goes on until the night watcher guesses right or reaches twelve o’clock.

Fake ball

  • Players are standing in a circle with their hands on their backs. The player in the center is holding a ball and has two options; either throwing or fake throwing the ball. The player in the circle who the action is directed to is only allowed to reach when the ball is actually thrown. If a player tries to catch the ball when it’s a fake throw he/she gets to be it (the player in the middle).  Materials: 1 medic ball

Zip, Zap, Zoey

  • This is a circle game, best played with at least 6 players. One player is in the middle and has two options of commands to give: "Zip" or "Zoey". The middle player picks a person in the circle and gives them one of those two commands. If the middle person says "Zip", the chosen person in the circle must quickly duck to avoid getting zapped by the player on either side of them in the circle who must draw fake guns, aim them at the person on the other side of the ducker, and say "Zap!". If the original person in the circle does not duck fast enough, they get zapped by the two shooters on either side of them and are in the middle. Otherwise, the slower of the two shooters is in the middle. If the person in the middle chooses to give someone in the circle the "Zoey" command, that player must remain perfectly still and not react, or else they are in the middle.

This is My Elbow

  • Can be played with 4 people and up. One person is in the middle and chooses a person in the circle to interact with. The middle person then makes a statement to the person in the circle like "This is my elbow" while pointing to another body part such as their knee. The person in the circle then has 3 seconds to respond "This is my knee" while they point to their elbow. If they don't respond correctly, they are in the middle. Any appropriate body parts may be substituted in this way!

HACK (aka PELT)

  • This is a hacky sack game suitable for about 4-10 people. This game is best played with older campers and prefaced by a short talk about sportsmanship. After three changes of possessions, the hacky sack may be grabbed by any player. They now have the opportunity to tag as many people as possible (without moving and while maintaining a pivot foot) and throw at someone. If you throw it at someone and they catch it, the thrower gets a letter and now the catcher can throw it at anyone they choose. Those tagged or hit by the sack each get a letter; once H-A-C-K is spelled, you leave the circle and are now a "Vulture". Vultures can stay on the periphery of the circle, outside of arms reach from the players. After two changes of possession they may enter the circle and have the opportunity to grab the sack following the third change of possession. Vultures who are able to catch the hack in this way may enter the game again with the letters H-A-C. As soon as there are as many vultures as players, the vultures are out of the game. The last player left wins.

Bat/Moth

  • Runs like Marco-Polo, but in a circle. Group makes a circle and one Bat is chosen, along with one Moth. The Bat is blindfolded. Everyone else remains in a circle with the role of being a tree. The Bat's objective is to tag the moth within the circle by using "echolocation". The Bat calls out "Bat!" and the moth replies just as loudly "Moth!" while trying to stay out of the bat's reach. The role of the trees is to remain silent so that the Bat can hear the Moth, unless the blind Bat is about to run into a tree or out of the circle, at which point they may say "Tree!" loud enough to be heard, but only once (to prevent campers getting carried away and making the bat go deaf with repeated screams). Once the Moth has been tagged, a new set of Bat/Moth can be chosen. In larger groups, feel free to add more moths after a few moments, or even another bat or two.

Fox and Squirrel

  • Get a person caught holding fox and squirrel.  The 2 balls that look identical will be the foxes, and the 3rd ball, the squirrel.  The fox can only be passed around the circle by passing it to someone next to you.  Since squirrels can jump around, they can be passed to anyone.  Balls must be kept in motion, and the goal is to catch someone holding fox and squirrel at the same time.  Then start over.  2 identical balls, 1 different ball.

Ah, So, Ghee

  • Continue a pattern of signals randomly, within the circle and do not mess up.  Form a circle of participants.  The signals are said in order (AH, SO, GEE, AH, SO…)  while giving signal.  Ah: hand at forehead like a salute, with either hand pointing fingers to the person to your left or right.  SO: hand at chest, just like AH, with fingers pointing to left or right. GEE: put both hands together and pointing to anyone in the circle.  The process then starts over and continues to repeat.  When someone makes a mistake or hesitates, they leave the circle, become a heckler and try to trip up the people in the circle by calling out different signals.  The game is over when two people are left in the circle. 

Passive Games

The Talk Show

  • Group leader acts like a talk show host and asks lots of strange questions to the guest (camper).  After a minute or so, the guest changes.  The questions can be deep or favorite color.  What is the meaning of life? What is the best and worst thing that ever happened to you?  What would you like your tombstone to read?  What is the best thing at camp?  And besides activities?  What’s the best thing anyone could give you?  Who is your hero?  What’s the silliest thing you’ve ever seen?  The games Life Stories and Future Stories have a lot of great questions.  A mix of the silly and the serious is best.  Following up on answers is often better than the original question.  Choose more of a comedic talk show host than a serious one.  With the right host, this can provide a lot of entertainment during dead times and when traveling in a bus.  It works well even if everyone knows each other pretty well.  It takes a little to pull this off, but it has literally provided hours of excellent entertainment.

Truth, Truth, Lie

  • The group leader tells three short stories or events.  Two are true and one is false.  The campers are then polled as to which one they think is the lie.  These work really well if you tell odd things about yourself.  It can be played in a round as well, where each person has a chance to be the storyteller. 
    • 6 quiet things to do while waiting (counselor bag of tricks to keep in a backpack)
    • Journaling
    • Letter writing
    • Whip out a book and read some of it (counselor can also tell/read a story)
    • Knives and carving (safety first!)
    • Start or continue a craft
    • Check out some Playstation items like blacksmith games or scores of other things ask the MF&G first)

Aliens

  • This is a detective game with drama thrown in for good measure.  Amazingly, it is hugely popular!  A small group of townsfolk gather, because they know that there are aliens among them.  The aliens look just like townsfolk, so everyone’s a bit nervous – including the aliens.  Everyday, the townsfolk (and aliens hiding among them) vote to banish someone from the town.  The almost-banished person gets to make an impassioned speech pleading his or her case that s/he is not an alien.  If the townsfolk believe the person, they pick someone else to banish.  When the aliens have the same number of “people” as the townsfolk, they win.  When all the aliens are banished, the townsfolk win.  That’s the basic idea, but there’s more.  There is also a CIA agent in the crowd, and s/he knows who the aliens are.  This person can try and clue folks in to who the aliens are, but s/he doesn’t want to be too obvious or else the aliens will surely abduct the CIA agent, and then there will be no one to help.  At the end of every round, the aliens choose to abduct one person, who remains in the room, but is now mute.  If there aren’t enough people, the CIA agent role can be eliminated.
  • Logistics.  There is a moderator of the game who oversees everything.  This person passes out cards to everyone at the start.  The aces represent aliens and the joker represents the CIA agent.  Everyone else is a townsperson.  Everyone looks at their card and then the moderator gathers them back up.  No one can say who they are.  The moderator asks everyone to close their eyes and then asks the aliens to open their eyes, so they know who the other aliens are.  Then, the moderator asks the aliens to close their eyes and raise their hands.  The CIA agent is asked to open his or her eyes, so s/he knows who the aliens are, but they don’t know who the CIA agent is.  Then, everyone opens their eyes and the game begins.  The moderator tracks the time/day which starts at dawn and announces the hours as they pass.  When night falls, one person is banished (remains, but must be mute for the rest of the game) and everyone closes their eyes and the aliens abduct one additional person.  So, at the end of every round, two people are removed from the game.  When dawn comes and everyone opens their eyes, the moderator says who the abducted person is.  The passing of the hours is a casual thing, and it’s just to keep the game moving so people don’t waffle too long in trying to choose who is banished and how long the almost-banished person takes to plead his or her case.  With 9 people, two aliens is about right, and with 12 or more, three usually works out well. 

Kim's Game

  • This is a game used to train a fictional spy character.  So that the child’s power of observation and memory are improved, the trainer would place a tray of 12 items in front of the child for a minute or two.  Then the tray would be taken away and the child would have to describe the items in as much detail as possible.  The items should be diverse with some common ones and some unusual.  This can be played in a small group with each person taking a turn, although it works best if each person is given a unique tray of items. 

Count to 20 without anyone saying a number at the same time

  • This is a really hard game, and is almost impossible if more than a dozen people are playing it.  The object is simply to count to 20 as a group.  The catch is that only one person can speak at a time and no symbols or patterns can be developed.  The game starts and people start saying numbers.  If the group can get to 20 without anyone chiming in at the same time on any given number, success is achieved!  With larger groups, the number can be just 10 or 12.  This is a great game to play as you are walking or hiking.

Psychiatrist

  • One person goes out of the circle and the rest of the group decides on an emotion.  When that person comes back they have to ask questions in order to guess what the emotion is, which everyone acts out when asked a question.   Variation: Everyone assumes the personality of the person [to their right, to their left].

Ask the experts

  • A random selection of counselors (and/or campers) is brought before the rest of the group.  Usually about six or eight people is about right number to be selected.  Someone in the audience poses a question to the “distinguished panel of experts.”  The experts answer the question, but each person can only say one word in turn.  In other words, person A might say “The,” person B “sky,” person C “is,” D “blue,” E “because,” F “it,” A “is,” B “full,” . . . you get the idea.  After they are done, another question is taken.

Clay-tionary

  • This is just like Pictionary, but instead of drawing things out, things have to be modeled out with clay or play-dough.  If the Pictionary game is used, the cards have to be screened for things that actually work with this method.

Dead fish or sleeping lions

  • All but one player lies down and stays completely still.  The person who is it goes around and tries to make the others move or make them laugh or just get any kind of motion out of them, without touching them.  Once the still player has moved, that person joins the hunter or fisher and goes after more game or fish. 

What are you doing?

  • Players form a circle, one person starts a silly activity (e.g. hopping on one leg). One person standing next to the person doing the action then asks, "what are you doing?"   The person doing the action picks a new action, say they are singing the national anthem. The second person must start this action, and the third person continues by asking "what are you doing?" to the second person.  Thus, the person doing an activity answers with an activity they want the next person to do.  The answer to the question is not what the person is actually doing.  The game usually needs to be called after two or three rounds, but it is fun in combination with other games in a set.

Pass the parcel

  • This is similar to musical chairs.  A small group sits in a circle and a parcel is passed around.  The parcel has been wrapped several layers deep – say 20 for an hour long game.  Beneath each layer of wrapping is a note.  The note has some sort of activity like tell a joke, do a headstand, do pushups, solve a problem, or run around the building.  Music is played, and when it stops, the person must unwrap the next layer and do the activity.  In the end, the parcel contains some sort of prize that can be shared by everyone.

Duels

Hand-in-Hand Wrestling

  • This game is similar to the slap-balance duel.  Paired opponents stand with one foot in front of the other – toe to heel touching the other person’s front foot.  There is about 8 inches of space between the opponents toes on their front foot.  Thus, a straight line could be made through all four feet.  One person puts their hands out, bent at the elbow 90 degrees, one hand palm up, fingers in their resting position – a gentle “C.”  The other hand has the palm down and the fingers are pointing down.  The other person mirrors that, so that the hands lock together.  The fingers are nearly totally touching one another in an embrace.  The goal is to get the person off balance and have them move one of their feet.  Best two out of three. 

Sword fighting

  • Two people essentially sword fight with their fingers!  Each person stands ready as if they had just taken a step, and left one foot behind and one in front.  Both people relax their stance, bounce a little, and extend their hands (usually right).  They are facing one another and start like they are shaking hands.  Then, they both extend their index fingers, which are their swords.  Those fingers must remain straight.  The object of the game is to touch the other person anywhere on their body (except areas normally covered by bathing suits), which is a “kill.”  Both people can move their feet as much as they like – movement is fine.  The hands must stay locked though. 

Strategic Balance

  • This is a two player game, but a whole group can play it in pairs.  People pair up with their own feet together (side by side), facing their opponent (toes are pointed toward each other), and about 1-2 feet apart  from each other or toe-to-toe.  They put up their hands so that their palms face each other, their arms are even with their torso, and their palms are about level with their shoulders.  The object of the game is to knock the other person off balance.  This can only be done by hitting the other person’s hands with the palms open at all times.  Since each player’s feet are together and even, becoming off balance is very easy to do.  Strategies include the fake push, moving one’s hands away, letting your hands fall behind you, and, of course, the all out push.  Amazingly, it’s a very non-violent game and there is little pain involved.

Greek Wrestling

  • There is a circle, like a sumo wrestling that can easily be created with a rope.  The two contestants start in the middle of the ring.  You want to accomplish one of three things (a) have opponent touch ground with something other than their feet, (b) have opponent exit ring, or (c) have opponent lose proper form.  The hand holding needs to be with palms (like shaking hands, but vertical), and not with the fingers interlocked, as that can hurt.  The elbows are slightly bent, and the same distance needs to be maintained from elbow to body of both wrestlers.  The hands should stay within about a one-foot area the entire time.  They cannot exit the line of the body, be pulled in, or pushed out.  The form is critically important.  In extreme circumstances, it is possible to win on either or both point (a) or (b) but still lose the point, because the form (c) was not maintained.  Even though it is a struggle, there should be grace and beauty in the effort.  Sometimes, if opponents are too evenly matched, it will end in a draw. 

Candle Duel

  • In colonial-style-American-candle holders, tall, taper, candles are firmly stuck.  Although it can be played as a one-on-one duel, it is also fun with 5 to 5 million players – you just need enough equipment!  Each player grabs their ankle with one hand, and uses their index finger of their free hand to grab the loop in the candle holder.  With candles lit, the players hop around and try and blow out the other person’s candle, without having their own blown out.  Quick movement can extinguish your own candle!  Last player with a lit candle wins.

Sumo Wrestling

  • The circle is 4.55 meters in diameter, or 14.93 feet (nearly 5 yards).  Without sumo suits, camp mattresses that have a head hole cut out in the middle and well taped so it doesn’t fall apart work fairly well.  The simple rules are that no part of the body other than the feet can touch the ground inside the circle, and no part of the body may touch the ground outside the circle.  Keep arms inside the mattress to help avoid injury.  For vigorous play, use bike helmets.  Before the match, have each opponent stamp the ground one foot at a time, and then bow to the judge.  Upon the command begin, the wrestlers enter and begin.

Leg Wrestling

  • To play, both contestants lie down on their backs side by side in opposite directions, with their feet at their opponent's head. The players count off to 3, lifting their leg closest to the opponent each time. When they reach 3, they cross their legs and intertwine them, and begin to push against their opponent's leg, attempting to flip him or her over without moving the other parts of their body.

Chop Sticks

  • Objective: to remove other player from the game by removing their hands from play. Once one person has five fingers "in play" that hand is removed from play. you must remove both of opponent's hands from play in order to win.  
    Beginning: both people start with one finger from each hand "in play" by pointing them forward. 
    How to play: you take turns adding numbers to each other's hand. To add numbers you simply take whichever hand of yours you want to use and tap the opponent's hand you want to add numbers to. If player A had 1 finger "in play" on their left hand and tapped player B’s left hand which also had 1 finger "in play", then player B’s left hand would then have 2 fingers "in play" (the sum of our fingers).  Now it's player B’s turn.  They can use those 2 fingers on their left hand and tap player A’s left hand (which had 1 finger "in play"). Player A would then have 3 fingers "in play" on their left hand. On player A’s turn they would want to take their 3 fingers and tap player B’s hand that had 2 fingers.  This gives them a total of 5 fingers "in play" so their hand is out (goes behind their back).  You can use either hand to tap either of your opponent's hands (assuming you both have all hands in play)--- remember you're trying to add fingers to them to get 5.
  • Getting hands back in: during your turn if you have one hand that is "out of play" you can choose to not add to your opponent's hand, but instead bring your hand that is "out of play" back in by dividing the fingers you have "in play" and putting half on the newly resurrected hand.  To do this you must have an even number of fingers "in play" on the hand that's still playing.  E.g.: if player A’s left hand was out of play and their right hand that was in had 2 fingers "in play", then they could use their turn to split their fingers so they had 1 on their left hand and 1 on their right.  If player A had 4 fingers "in play" they could split so they had 2 fingers on each hand. --- again this can only be done with even numbers.

 

Large Group Games

Sing out

  • This can be played with 2-6 groups as a general rule.  Small groups form teams that try and come up with as many songs as possible with a certain word in them.  A moderator or host calls out a word and the teams have a couple minutes to brainstorm songs.  When time is called, the host cycles through the groups, who have to sing a song with the word in it (just part of the song).  Once a song has been sung, it can’t be used by other teams.  Thus, the group with the most songs, wins the round for a point.  A good strategy is for teams to sing the more common songs first as they are more likely to appear on other people’s lists as well. 

Prison dodge ball

  • This is played like the typical dodge ball game with a dividing line and several soft balls and two teams.  The difference is that people are not really eliminated from the game when they are hit.  They simply go behind a line behind the opposing team, and wait to be “rescued.”  The rescue is a ball thrown in the air into the prison area, which one of the prisoners must catch.  The ball can’t hit the ground.  When the ball is caught, it is dropped and the prisoner is freed to return to his/her own side and re-join the game.  Playing the game in this manner almost never results in a winner, but it keeps children occupied for a long time and no one is ever really bored.  The distance to the prison area is determined by the age and abilities of the players – it should be difficult, but still quite possible.  The more balls in play, the more intense the action.  If it’s about time to stop the game, the end can be arranged by having people actually get out (abolish the prison area) and taking away the dividing line so everyone and everywhere is fair game.
  • Medic ball is another fun dodge ball game, which involves one secret medic per side, and no safe zones.

Simon Says

  • If “Simon” precedes a command with the words “Simon says,” everyone does it.  Commands without the phrase should be ignored.  To get everyone out, Simon says jump up, and then informs the players that Simon didn’t say come down – groans. 

Tasmanian Hocker Ball

  • A large playground ball is used, or a sturdy beach ball.  This is something akin to soccer and rugby in a vague way.  It can be played safely when done properly.  Instead of kicking the ball, you run with it.  It can be passed with a throw only.  Instead of shooting for a goal, the ball has to be bounced over the goal.  Another player can knock the ball out of someone’s hand or try and pull that player to the ground.  Pull being key, not tackle.  Also, unnecessary roughness results in a point for the other team and that player taking a 5 minute time out on the side of the field.  Because people can get carried away, there should be one referee for every 7-10 players.  If a person is held for 3 or more seconds, they have to throw the ball away immediately.  If the ball goes out of bounds, the referee kicks the ball back into play with a lob.  The game moves very fast and everyone will be dead tired after 30 minutes of play.  The play, in general, does not stop for anything.  
  • Another version allows players to kick, carry, and throw the ball.  Before a goal can be scored, at least three players must touch the ball in succession, which means that if the opposing team gets the ball, the count starts over.  Players must give up the ball when tagged, instead of being pulled to the ground, and there is no taking the ball away forcefully or by surprise.  If a player stands still, s/he is safe for five seconds; a player may only be tagged while moving.  When a player decides to stand still, the ball must be passed.  These two versions can be blended and added to in order to make a game that fits the players.

Ay Captain!

  • One player is chosen as the captain. S/he calls out orders to the rest of the players who are the crew. If a player does not follow an order correctly, s/he is out. (This decision is made by the captain who is always right).  A practice session is helpful.  A grace of one or two mistakes is also helpful.
  • Orders and what they mean:
    •   To the ship:   run to the captain's right
    •   To the island:   run to the captain's left
          •   Hit the deck:   lay down on your stomach (or if players don't want to get dirty, they can crouch down)
          • Attention on deck: salute and yell, "Aye, aye captain!" -- players may not move now until the captain gives the order of, "At ease!" (i.e. even if the captain gives a different order such as "to the ship" the crew must continue to remain at attention until told "at ease")
    •   The love boat:   crew members grab a partner and dance. Anybody without a partner is out.
    •   Scrub the deck:   everyone on their knees scrubbing
    •   Captain's Quarters:  everyone ran towards the captain.
          • Up Periscope:   Every player falls on their back and sticks one leg in the air.  The last ones are eliminated.
    •   Sick turtle:   Everyone falls onto their backs and waves hands and feet in the air.
    •   Bow:    Run to the front
    •   Stern:    Run to the back

Cool Runnings

  • This game has been played wide and far, because it’s as much fun to watch as it is to play!  The game is your basic relay with two catches to make it more interesting.  First, the relay runners have to navigate an obstacle course, touch something or grab a token, and then make their way back.  That’s interesting enough, but in addition, each player has to try and keep a bucket full of ice inside his or her shirt!  The ice is kept in by tying rope around the runner’s waist, or a belt can be used if it is really wide and has lots of holes in it so it will fit everyone.  When the runner gets back to his team, s/he must transfer the ice to the next runner.  Any ice that hits the floor at this time can still be used.  Ice that falls out on the course can not be picked up.  There are two winners – one for the most ice left over and one for the fastest time.

Indian Kabaddi

  • Two teams line up facing each other.  They are about 40 feet apart.  The playing field is about 40 yards square.  In the middle is a dividing line.  The game is taken in turns with one player from a team being active at any given point in time.  In other words, only one person is “it” in the whole game, and the teams take turns with a person who is “it.”  The person a team chooses goes to the line and takes a big breath.  Then, while yelling “Kabaddi!” repeatedly the whole time non-stop, the player runs into the other team’s territory and tries to tag as many players as possible.  As soon as the tagger crosses the line, the other team members can move.  The other players can try and run away, but they don’t want to run too far away, because if the tagger stops saying “Kabaddi!,” the other team can tag the “tagger” and then take their own turn.  Each team goes back and forth with their turns until everyone on one team is eliminated.  Sometimes, teams will try and make the runners laugh to try and get them to mess up the continuous stream of Kabaddi yelling in one breath.

Tag Games

Elbow

  • Players spread around the field in pairs, with their arms hooked.  There is an "it" and another player without a partner, which is the one being chased.  The chased one can hook onto one of the pairs scattered on the field, in which case the second person in that pair becomes the new chased.  When a tagging occurs, the roles simply reverse.  No immediate tag-backs allowed.

Amoeba

  • Two people are it. They hold hands and chase people, the person they catch joins the chain by linking hands. When another person is caught they can stay together or spilt 2 and 2.  They must split even numbers and can link together at will.  This game is played until nobody is left.

Hospital

  • The basic rules are the same as tag. One person is "Mr. Yuck" and the others run. When you get tagged you may cover your "wound" with one of your hands. When you get tagged a second time, you may cover your "wound with your other hand. The third time you get tagged, you are out. 

Triangle

    • Version 1
    • To begin, make groups of four to five people. One person will be it and will stand off to the side. The others will join hands and form a circle around one of the remaining players. When play begins, the person who is it will try to tag the person in the middle of the circle. Those players who formed the circle will twist and turn to try to protect the person in the middle from being tagged. The circle must always remain intact. If the person in the middle gets tagged, the roles can be switched so everyone gets a chance to be it.
    • Version 2
    • Five players .  Three people form a triangle, another person is the chaser, and the last the chased.  The triangle tries to stay in between the chaser and the chased; the triangle is on the chased person’s side.
    • Version 3
    • Four players.  Three people form a triangle, another is the chaser.  One of the people in the triangle is being chased and the other two triangle members are trying to prevent them from being tagged.

Toilet

  • When someone is tagged, they must squat down to form the "toilet" and hold one hand out to the side, like the “handle.”  To get back into the game, someone must "flush" the frozen person and make a loud "Woooooosh" sound.

Team hide and seek

  • In a large area with lots of potential hiding places (but definite boundaries), one team is selected to hide and the other to seek.  Lining up by birthday or height and counting off 1, 2, 1, 2, etc. works well.  The hiders can hide almost anywhere, but they can’t hide inside a building and they must hide somewhere where they have clear sight of at least two other hiders.  After 5 minutes or so, the seekers are off.  The seekers don’t have to keep each other in view.  When a seeker finds a hider, that person becomes a seeker without being tagged.  The hiders in close proximity can choose to run and find a new place to hide, but if they are tagged, they become seekers as well.  Eventually, everyone is a seeker and the game is over.  A variation can be that hiders can run at any time, as long as they always have another hider in sight, which works when they make pacts to run together when the other is found. 

Fishy, Fishy or Pork Chop Hill

  • A small (50 yards by 40-50 yards) flat playing area is needed.  For Fishy, Fishy, a shark is chosen and everyone else is a fish.  On either end of the playing field, there is a line that marks a neutral area.  When the fish are behind those two lines, they are safe from the shark.  Otherwise, they are fair game.  When the shark calls out “Fishy, Fishy, come swim in my ocean!,” the fish have to run across and try not to get tagged.  All the fish must run and no fish can stay behind the safety line for more than 10 seconds after the shark calls the fish out.  When a fish is tagged, that fish becomes seaweed, which means that that person must cross their legs and not move from the spot where they were tagged.  Seaweed can tag fish, but they must do so from their stationary position.  For large groups, more than one shark can be selected, since they are the only ones who can move.  The last fish alive is the next shark.
  • Pork Chop Hill is roughly the same, but instead of tagging players, a “pork chop” is thrown at running players.  The pork chops are 3-5 socks that are tied together with cloth strips.  The number of taggers or “its” in the middle depends on the size of the group and how long the game should last.  Tagged players are simply out, which isn’t too bad since games are usually very quick.  A person may only be tagged from the waist down.  Even with 50 players and 3 taggers, the game only lasts about 7 minutes.  This really tires people out!

Table Games

Yes / No 

  • No one is allowed to say yes or no or any derivation of it.  For example, contractions like can't or won't and such.  Likewise, yup, nope, and anything else that directly confers the meaning of Yes or No is off limits.  Those who violate this rule (and there will be many) get a point.  It is possible to answer questions without saying any derivative of yes or no, but it takes some thought, and longer, more careful sentences.  Some sort of prize or consequence can be arranged, but it is also fun to play in its own right.  Also fun when played in conjunction with other games as people concentrate on other things and forget about this game.  Conspiring with others to come up and ask people a question can also throw them off guard. 

One Duck Jumped Into The Lake Splash

  • The idea is to go around the table with each person saying one word of the sentence.  On the second go around, the sentence would be Two Two Ducks Ducks Jumped Jumped Into Into The The Lake Lake Splash Splash.  Every person says only one word, so when Ducks Ducks is said, it is by two different people. 
  • Again, two people would say two and two would say duck, and two would say jumped, etc.  The idea is to see how high the table can get without messing up the sequence of the sentence.  If you can get past 7, you will have done something pretty impressive.  People try and give people clues and help the process along, so if you really want to try for a true high number, make sure the expectation is set that no help in any way can be given.

FREEZE!

  • A counselor calls out freeze a few times during the meal.  All the campers have to freeze and not move at all (counselors as well if you want to be sporting about it).  Opportune times for this might be while a camper is passing a heavy jug of something or while they are in some unique contorted position.  Use your imagination here.  If a camper moves, s/he gets a point.  The one with the most points at the end can have a small consequence, like helping to clear the table.  This is a good game to play in conjunction with other table games.

Wacky, genre storytelling in a round

  • There are many versions of storytelling in a round.  Some of those include time limited versions where people have a minute, a sentence, or even part of a storyline.  Another variation is to have three people come up with a word independently and then have folks use those words in the story line. 
  • A wacky, genre version of this game is to have each player pick a genre, and when their turn comes to tell part of the tale, they must add to the story, while keeping true to their genre.  Some genre examples include:  mystery, western, romance, science fiction, fairy tale, ancient times, crime drama, legal drama, medical drama, and comedy.  If the game is played with just adults, more risqué genres can be added.  It’s incredibly funny!

Nose Game

  • This is a classic camp table game, often used to determine who is going to help clear the table.  A counselor places their finger on the side of their nose and the last camper to do likewise has to help clear. 

Ghost

  • This is a verbal, strategic game.  Usually around a table, a small group tries to have others create whole, real words.  In turn, players say a letter.  Each player adds a letter to the word in the making.  The object is to not be the player who ends up making a real word.  Like horse, when a player creates a word, that player gets a letter of the word Ghost.  So, after a player’s third mistake, s/he would get an “O.”  The last player in the game wins.  If the word that forms is challenged by another player, it is looked up.  If the word is real, the challenger gets a point.  As each person adds letters to the word in the making, it must be possible to make a real word.  For example, if a player tries to add a “Z” to the almost word “XYL,” that player would get challenged and end up getting a letter of the word Ghost.  Also, any word counts, so if a person is trying to go for a word like underwear, the person who said the first r would lose, because under is a word.  This is a very heady, academic game, but with the right crowd, it can be fun.

Hang spoon on nose

  • Just a reminder.  True, it isn’t appropriate table manners, but they are children and they are at camp.  At some point, this is a place where the campers can have this experience.