This simple, no-prep game is a great way to get your kids’ wiggles out–and help them practice counting, critical thinking, and gross motor skills, too!The story behind this game is one many of you can probably identify with. It all started during a Sunday evening visit to my brother’s house. See, I’m the youngest of five kids. We’re spread out from coast to coast, but two of my siblings live close enough to me that we try to get our crazy crews together once a month or so for dinner. Between us, we have seven young kids–mostly boys–so sometimes things get a little crazy.
During one of these Sunday get-togethers, the grown ups were chatting in the kitchen–trying to finish our own meals after spending the official mealtime encouraging kids to eat something other than rolls. The kids has long since been excused to go play, and they were doing so happily for the most part. But, as often is the case, the longer we left them to their own devices, the more their play escalated into chaos. We left them alone as long as we dared, recognizing the value of free play (and enjoying the chance to have adult conversation), but the thuds and shrieks from the other room eventually stopped sounding like everyone was having fun.
At this point, my fabulous sister-in-law gathered up the kids and created this game with them to bring a little order back to the evening (and stop the kids from resorting to “creative” activities that would likely end with something or someone getting broken). Necessity is the mother of invention, right?
The game is kind of a mix between twenty questions and charades. I love that it’s a game that works for a wide range of ages and that can be adapted in so many different ways. Here’s how it works:
1-2-3 Animal Gross Motor Guessing Game
Nothing. Just a few people who are willing to get moving and get creative.
What we’re learning:
- critical thinking
- gross motor skills
How to play:
- One player picks an animal and thinks of three clues to give the other players.
- The player gives all three clues before anyone is allowed to guess.
- Once the players guess the animal, then the person who is “it” counts to some predetermined number and everyone has to act like that animal, then freeze when the person stops counting.
- Whoever guessed the animal correctly gets to pick the next animal. (Or you can just take turns to keep things even. That’s what we often do because I have a certain child who cares very deeply about everything being “fair.”
Despite the fact that they created this game on a whim, it’s had major staying power for our family. My boys ask to play it regularly. It’s become one of our go-to activities when we’re waiting somewhere in line, or even at restaurants while we wait for our food (although we try to limit acting out the animals when we’re in public).
It’s fun to watch them try to think of really creative, descriptive clues to help the other players guess the animals. Sometimes they’ll choose basic animals, like an elephant, whale, or tiger. But sometimes, they’ll pick more unusual things–often something we’ve been reading about lately (like a sloth or an armadillo).
Sometimes we end up in debates about the animals’ characteristics. “Wait, jaguars don’t have stripes? How about cheetahs?” These discussions are fabulous though, because it gets my kids thinking about the animals and how to categorize them.
Younger kids might need a little guidance, but it’s good for them to learn and be involved, too. Little Brother (3) likes to make up random animals that don’t exist. He’ll give clues like…”It has a blue tail, and it lives in the ocean, and it has pinchers.” His choices may be unorthodox, but he makes the game so much more entertaining.
Their favorite part, of course, is acting out the animals. Word of warning…sometimes our actions turn into wrestling matches and we have to give everyone a “bubble” to stand in so no one gets clobbered…like this…Does anyone else have boys that CAN NOT get within five feet of each other without wrestling? At least they’re getting exercise. Sigh.
And that’s it: a simple, no-prep game that gets kids moving, thinking, and learning all in five minutes or less! Next time you need a quick activity in a pinch, give it a try!
Do you have a favorite simple game to play with your kids? Please share in the comments!