1. The Cheer-up Game
What it teaches: Empathy. Until children know how it feels to have their feelings hurt, they won’t understand why it ’s important to treat others with respect and kindness. How to play: On large squares of card, draw a series of faces with different unhappy expressions – sad, angry, scared, sick (at least one for every child in the game). Put the cards in a basket and ask the kids to take turns choosing a face then acting out the feeling shown. For example, the child who draws the sad face card, might pretend to cry. It’s
the job of the other players to help him feel better. First, they should ask questions: “Why are you sad?” “How can I help?” After he gives an explanation – “My friend was mean to me” – the other kids roleplay solutions. They may give him hugs, tell him they are sorry, or offer to fix him a snack.
2. The Hot or Cold Game
What it teaches: This game puts the emphasis on encouraging others rather than competing against them, so kids learn to cooperate and help each other out.
How to play: Choose one child to be the ‘Finder.’ Send him out of the room while the rest of the players hide an object, like a red ball, somewhere in the room. Ask the Finder to come back and look for the ball, while the other players shout out hints: “You’re getting hotter,” or “You’re getting colder.” Play until the object is found, then give everyone a turn as Finder.
3. The Truth Game
What it teaches: Honesty. When you give kids the go-ahead to talk about their feelings, positive or negative, you help them feel
secure about telling the truth.
How to play: Gather the family in a favourite spot and give every player a chance to finish the sentence: “I was scared when…” Mum and Dad can get the ball rolling by telling their own stories: “I was scared when Josh hid at the grocery store and I couldn’t find him.” After everyone has had a turn, repeat the game using other emotions like ‘happy’ or ‘surprised.’
4. Balloon Bash
What it teaches: Teamwork beats arguing. Children see the value of working together toward a common goal.
How to play: Give each child two balloons. When you say go, they must team up to keep the balloons in the air for a set time (start with 30 seconds). You can also ask them to try bopping the balloons with just one part of their body, such as their nose or little finger.
5. Mother, May I?
What it teaches: This game reinforces courtesy, which is a big part of respect.
How to play: Line up the players facing you, about 10 feet away. Give commands to one child at a time: “Sarah, take one hop forward.” If Sarah responds, “Mother, may I?” you can tell her either “Yes, you may,” or “No, you may not.” If your reply is yes, make sure Sarah says thank you before she moves. Anyone who forgets her manners or makes a move without permission gets sent back to the starting line. Keep playing until one child reaches ‘Mother.’ Give each child a chance to be Mother.