Great Group Games for Kids: 150 Meaningful Activities for Any Setting

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Great Group Games for Kids: 150 Meaningful Activities for Any Setting
Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor
Search Institute Press/Independent Publishers Group
223 pages.      

This collection of imaginative, easy-to-use games makes a convincing case for “play development” among groups of five or more children. These games help children learn “valuable skills and life lessons while having fun,” according to Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, whose experience in youth development programs led to co-founding the Y’s Center for Asset Development, which trains youth leaders.

Feedback from their first Great Group Games book for third-graders through adults prompted the authors to create another game collection for children from kindergarten through fifth grade. Their thoughtful introduction explains the book’s principles: “Play is the way in which children learn, and play provides the means through which we as adults can deepen our relationships with them.” They link each game to one or more of the eight categories in Search Institute’s Developmental Assets.

To encourage group leaders in schools, child care, churches, after-school programs, camps, recreation and other settings to “play with purpose,” Ragsdale and Saylor organize their book “by key elements of child and group development that lend themselves to a natural progression.” All nine sections include guidance in how to nurture each element as children come to know one another and themselves while playing together.

The progression begins with name games and mixers. Next, “Friendship Starters” offer 17 routes into conversation. Three types of “Relationship Builders” explore personality, diversity and group dynamics – including a messy “Balloon Cup Race” in which water must be poured from balloons into small cups. Team play occurs in creative games, relays and races, balloon games, big-space games such as “Tennis Baseball,” water games and marshmallow games. The marshmallow “Snow Fight” is an appealing alternative to snowballs.

Among games that explore values, “My Face Page” participants create their own paper version of an online profile, revealing cherished goals and more. Everyone examines others’ finished pages, adding supportive comments on sticky notes. Individual challenges feature games such as “Bottle Bowling” with empty two-liter bottles; team projects include building the highest free-standing tower of newspaper and masking tape in minutes.

The book ends with 10 “Games for Celebrating Life” and short singing and dancing “Games for Breaks.” A Game Index charts indoor/outdoor locations, risk and energy levels, and whether supplies are needed. Supplies are often simple – dice, pens and paper, players’ own shoes. Some games call for more elaborate setups.

Each game is clearly laid out, with time estimates, supply lists, preparation and descriptions of game action. “Going Deeper” discussion questions – such as, “What is the most important thing about yourself that you want others to know?” – are posed for every game; these thoughtful group explorations are one of the book’s greatest strengths, personalizing a game’s meaning for each participant. Any leader of children’s groups is sure to find fitting games and inspiration in this excellent guide. (800) 888 4741,