9 Classic Games That Secretly Teach Life Skills

When picking up your child from school, do you ever wonder what they learned that day? You might ask your child this very same question and get an answer such as “I was a goose”! What does that even mean? My child played Duck, Duck Goose? How does that teach them anything? Actually, these school games secretly teach your child life skills, all while they are having fun.

1.       Duck, Duck, Goose

Duck Duck, Goose is by far one of the most popular school games of all time. It is a game that is both simple and fun to play. Players sit in a circle, and one child walks around saying “duck” each time they touch a child’s head. When the child walking around is ready, they pick a “goose” that then gets up and chases the original child back to their seat. If they reach the end without getting tagged, they get to remain seated and the “goose” gets to take a turn walking around the circle to find a new “goose.”  If the duck gets tagged before making it back to their seat they must keep trying new geese until they make it to their seat without being tagged.

Now where is the learning in this game, you ask? Duck, Duck Goose teaches decision making and demonstrates the consequences and benefits of your choices. For example, kids might learn to pick a “goose” that is not paying attention, so they have a better chance of winning that round. It also teaches children to plan ahead and gives immediate feedback decisions they have made.

2.       Hopscotch

Another classic game that teaches children how to plan is hopscotch. Most children plan which route they will navigate the hopscotch course before beginning, so they have a better chance of making it through the end of the course. Kids draw the hopscotch shape on the cement with chalk, and then throw a rock on the course. Whichever square the rock lands on must be avoided when going through the course. The children hop on one foot when playing as well, which makes this game great for balance and for coordination.

3.       Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs is a game that teaches patience, and helps kids learn to deal with disappointment. The way this game works is by setting up chairs in a circle. If you have ten kids participating, set up nine chairs. Then, start the music. The kids walk around the circle, and when the music stops they must find a seat. In the first round of this example, each child would have a seat except for one. Kids who don’t get a chair are out of the game. Each round you remove an additional chair. This game also helps kids learn how to resolve arguments, because chances are there will be arguments over who sat down first. Be sure to have an adult present to help mediate any heated debates and another adult whose focus is keeping the children who are out of the game entertained.

4.       Simon Says

Simon says is a classic game that teaches children to follow directions. One child stands in front of their peers and is named “Simon”. Simon gives his/her peers directions, and they must follow. However, if they follow directions without hearing “Simon says” before the direction, they are out.  An example would be “Simon says, touch your toes”. If the Simon player said, “touch your toes” instead, the students who did this would be out, because “Simon says” was not part of those instructions. This game also introduces leadership to those students that play “Simon”.

5.       Hide and Seek

Did you know that hide and seek is a great game for teaching problem solving? The goal of the game is to stay hidden for as long as possible, so students naturally weigh potential hiding spots in order to be more likely to win. With frequent playing, students will learn which hiding spots are more often used and become more strategic with this game.

6.       Red Light, Green Light

Red Light, Green Light is a fun competitive game that teaches patience. The goal is to touch the leader of the game first, without being caught moving. The game starts with the leader’s back toward the participants, and this is known as “green light”. When the leader turns around facing the competitors, this is known as “red light”. If you get caught moving by the leader, you have to go back to start and begin again. To win, you must judge how fast to move and when you think the leader will turn around.

7.       Sleeping Lions

Sleeping Lions is a game where all participants pretend to be asleep. At the same time, without touching the participants, the leader tries to get them to open their eyes or react in some type of way. The last student to look like they’re still sleeping, wins! This teaches students how to work with distractions present.

8.       Row your boat

Preschool games can be exciting and teach physical self-awareness at the same time. Row your boat is an example of this. To play this game, pair up children facing one another holding hands. Both children should have their knees bent up in front of them. Instruct your students to rock back and forth in time to the song “row, row, row your boat”. As partners, they’ll need to work together to do this in sync. It helps to play the song on CD in the background, and this way, you can pause the CD at any time to add a fun “freeze” element to the game.

9.       Parachute Games

Parachute Games are meant to build teamwork skills. Kids stand in a circle holding a large sheet, or a parachute (if you have one) and work together keep an object like a ball on the parachute. If kids don’t work together the ball will fall off the parachute. You can throw in extra balls or objects for an added challenge. When you’re looking for a game that will excite your kids and their friends, try this one!

Vanessa Van Cleave