Play in the classroom provides a number of opportunities for children to acquire positive social emotional skills. Building self-confidence, motivating peer relationships, and strengthening communication and cooperation abilities are all behaviors that can be introduced and developed through group play during early childhood education. By structuring a classroom’s environment to facilitate social interactions, children will learn how to form healthy, nurturing relationships. To encourage group play, here are five activities preschoolers will enjoy participating in.
Ways to Encourage Group Play
There are many different games to be played with the parachute. A couple of old-fashioned games include Popcorn and All Change.
“Popcorn” is played with a few lightweight balls (popcorn) and the parachute. Children stand around the parachute grasping a handle. Placing the balls in the center of the parachute, they are popped as children move their arms up and down to lift and lower the parachute. The balls will bounce all around making for a room full of giggles.
“All Change” is played with just the parachute. Children stand around the parachute grasping a handle like in Popcorn. This time, though, the teacher, parent, or adult yells out a characteristic. For example, months of the year are called out. Children then lift the parachute as high as they can, and whoever has a birthday that month, will run under the chute to a different open spot or switch with another child if there are multiple birthdays. They all need to change to their new position on the chute before it comes down! This process is repeated as different traits are called to include all children.
Duck, Duck, Goose
A classic children’s game where everyone sits in a circle and someone is chosen to be ‘it.’ The chosen one will go around the outside of the circle, tapping each child’s head while calling out duck each time. Finally, ‘it’ picks someone to be goose, and the goose must get up and go after the chosen one before the chosen one can sit in gooses spot. If the chosen one is tagged, he remains ‘it’; if the goose does not succeed in tagging ‘it,’ goose then becomes the chosen one, and the game goes on.
Similar to musical chairs, this musical game is played with hoops instead. Lay hoops on the ground or floor, one per child, and play the music. As the music continues, preschoolers walk around the hoops without touching them. When the music stops, each child has to get in the nearest hoop. Remove a hoop, and then, repeat the process. More than one child can get in a hoop, so as the number of hoops decrease, children help each other to fit inside the hoops. Continue playing until there is only one hoop left for everyone to try and fit into.
Sit in a circle with one child holding a ribbon wand, also known as a magic wand for this game. Whoever has the wand will say something, such as their name, and then wave the magic wand for everyone to repeat or echo what the wand holder has just said. The wand is then passed around the circle for everyone to get a turn. Encourage words or short sentences in silly voices to be echoed for additional fun.
For Hot Potato, everyone sits in a circle. One person has a bean bag which is the designated ‘hot potato.’ Once the music starts playing, the hot potato is passed around the circle. When the music stops, whoever is holding the bean bag yells, ‘hot potato!’
All of these games and activities facilitate practice in taking turns, sharing, and cooperation all while friendships begin to develop. Promoting teamwork and building problem solving skills is the focus of group play in early childhood classrooms.
What are some of your favorite group play games? Share with us in the comments below or on the Really Good Teachers Forums!