Pick up and Play: Great Group Activities for Kids

February 9, 2021 9:45:00 AM EST | USASF

While we’re all managing (as best we can) to stay healthy during a pandemic, we’re also looking forward to a time when we can safely get together for group activities.

Especially for parents stuck in quarantine with active, curious and rambunctious kids, keeping them occupied and interested without friends and playmates their own age can be frustrating and tiring.

We hear you, and completely understand.

The Benefits of Group Activities for Kids (Even During COVID)

As children are growing up, every experience is an opportunity for learning. It’s important to provide a variety of experiences.

Studies have shown that group activities allow kids to practice their social skills. Working together, they learn cooperation. They have the opportunity to encourage and support each other. They learn leadership and, in the right setting, they can observe others their own age.

While COVID has made it (significantly) more difficult to set up safe group activities, there are a few strategies you can use to ensure your children have the opportunity to interact in an environment that’s as safe as possible. Here are a few guidelines for your next get-together:

  • For now, limit who you invite to activities. Keep it to trusted friends and family, if at all possible.
  • Set ground rules for the group and make sure everyone follows the rules. You may need to explain the reasons behind the rules, but most children will understand and accept. Explain that rules help everyone have fun and stay healthy.
  • Choose activities that allow for social distancing. For example, charades (which we cover below) doesn’t require close interaction. Masks can be worn. Separating tables is another strategy. We’ve added a few tips like this to the list.
  • Not all group activities require in-person attendance. Teleconference apps and calls can be just as fun and allow kids the opportunity for social interaction while safely separated.

Ideas for Your Next Group Activity

Any good group activity will require a little planning and preparation.

Before jumping into an activity with kids, review the requirements and identify any potential problems. You may need to gather equipment or prepare the room or area early. Make sure to go over the plan with the other adults before you begin. More eyes monitoring the game will help prevent problems before they happen.

Let’s take a trip through a few ideas for your next group activity.

Team Sports

Older kids especially love team sports when they play with friends. These can also be a good introduction into more formal league sports.

  • Kickball: A good game of a kickball is always fun, and with a little adaptation, can be done with social distancing in mind. Rather than running the bases, let kids run separately (between a cone and home plate) and give points for the distance they run.
  • Soccer: Passing games and shooting at a goal provide the basics of soccer without the need for a full team. Let each kid hold the ball for only three seconds or less before passing. The defenders guard the passing lanes rather than the players. Kids can only shoot after four or more passes.

Learning Games

While you don’t want to turn a fun activity into a class, there are ways that you can bring a little learning to the group. With these games, you’ll need to consider age-appropriateness a little more than others on the list.

  • Trivia time: Split the group up into teams. Have a series of questions ready and give a question to one team. Let the team talk before they provide an answer. If they get it wrong, give the other team a chance. Go back and forth between the teams until you have a winner.
  • Puzzles: Puzzles are a great way to stretch the brain power and let kids work together quietly. Split the kids into small teams (family members when social distancing is a priority) and give each team a puzzle to do. You can also have the kids draw a picture together, and then cut it into pieces and give to another team to assemble.

Crafting and Creativity

Creativity games are a great way to introduce new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking to a group. With different perspectives and different backgrounds, a group of kids will bring many different elements to the activity.

  • Tower building: Split the kids into teams and then give them a bucket of items like plastic cups, books, string, cans and toys. Let the teams work together to build the tallest tower possible using the items and bucket.
  • Cookie and cake decorating: By placing kids at separate tables or either end of a long table, you can set up cookie and cake decorating stations for a group. With fun sprinkles, colorful frosting and little cookie-appropriate toys, you can stretch your imagination with tasty treats.

Keeping It Fun

Not everything has to be a lesson. Sometimes fun can be the only item on the agenda!

  • Freeze dance: Find some good music that everyone can dance to and let the games begin! Keeping space between kids will ensure safety without hurting the fun. A freeze dance is also an opportunity to hand out humorous awards for the best dance, funniest dance, biggest jump, whatever you can think of!
  • Hide and go seek: With a big enough area and plenty of space, you can have an epic game of hide and go seek for kids. Let the kids who are “it” point out the other gamers without chasing or tagging them.

Team Building Activities

The focus in your team building activities should be cooperation between the kids. This is a great opportunity to let kids learn and assert themselves in a group.

  • Trust walk: Have one player blindfolded and then let another child guide them to the finish line. For a socially distanced trust walk, let them use their voice rather than hands.
  • Three-legged race: A classic game that is still popular. Use a bandanna to tie two kids at the ankle, then let them race to the finish line. Let siblings work as teammates if there are health and safety concerns. Let the fun begin!

Problem Solving

Games that highlight problem solving are a great way to get everyone involved. Some kids will be more outgoing, and some will be more comfortable playing sports, but with problem solving, any child may be the one with the answer. These games may need a little more planning and preparation, but the results are so much fun that kids may not even know they’re learning.

  • Scavenger hunt: This is always a fun game, but if you have time you can turn the list into a series of clues for an epic experience. You can also hide a few “special” items in the list that only one or two children may know for an even more memorable moment.
  • Charades: With the right topics and an eye toward fun, charades is a popular choice as a group activities. Again, consider the age. Younger kids may love acting out animals, while older kids would enjoy movies.

Planning Your Next Group Activity

There is (understandably) a lot of trepidation with group activities right now and in the foreseeable future.

With planning and preparation, you can still host and enjoy group activities for kids. All of the activities here are appropriate and fun even when there is no need to social distance, but with preparation they can also be a great activity even when health and safety are a concern.

Don’t wait; start planning a fun event for your kids today!