When we think about activities to do at Forest School, often our mind goes immediately to the bushcraft classics; fire-lighting, den building, campfire cooking, green woodworking… But, the benefits of playing games are not to be underestimated. Games can serve as great ice breakers, they promote teamwork, cooperation, competition, coordination, challenge and can be a useful outlet for pent up energy. Plus they’re a whole lot of fun! I asked my colleagues for their favourite Forest School games and they kindly assisted in helping me compile this list of our most popular games to play during Forest School sessions. So if you’re looking for inspiration for what to do with a gaggle of eager children in the woods or in fact, on a campsite this summer, at the park, on the beach…etc, here are our tried and tested favourites!
Floor is Lava
This easy game is perfect for a group of children that have more energy than they know what to do with but don’t yet feel ready to join in with team games. How to play? The clue is in the name, simply shout ‘Floor is Lava in THREE, TWO, ONE’…at which point the floor becomes lava and they need to be off the ground – whether that’s up a tree, standing on a bench, perching precariously on a stump or balancing on a rock – they need to be not touching the ground to avoid being out. When you holler ‘FLOOR IS SAFE’ they can return to terra firmer and resume moving around the site until you shout again. Last one left standing, wins!
123, Where Are You
This is a perfect game for sessions with younger attendees, be that at a Toddler Group or Kindergarten. It’s a version of Hide & Seek that is slightly more team based and always receives a warm welcome. Count as normal whilst the kids hide and then when you’re ready, call out ‘1, 2, 3 …where are you?’ and the children need to call back from their hiding places ‘1, 2, 3…here I am!’ Simply follow the sound of their voices until you find them and then let the found children join the pack of seekers, continuing the call and response until everyone is found. But a warning, once this game is introduced – you may have to play it every time you see them!
This is a great introduction to team games. Find yourself a reasonably clear strip of land and position all those playing at one end except the nominated ‘crocodile’ who stands in the middle. The group then call out in unison ‘Crocodile, crocodile…can we cross your golden river’? and the crocodile responds ‘Only if you’re….wearing blue/a girl/have brown hair/have a name beginning with N…etc (they can choose whatever they like)’. If a child fits this description they can safely pass the river to the other side. The rest however then have to run across without being caught by the crocodile. If caught, they join the crocodile in the centre. This continues until only one person is left uncaught, they are declared the winner and can be the crocodile next (if playing again).
Capture The Flag
Another classic team game, well known worldwide is Capture the Flag. Divide your group into two teams (why not do it randomly to mix up any cliques and promote making new friends?), the site into two areas and give each a different coloured flag. They need to assign a Flag Guard to protect their flag from at least 5 paces away. The goal is to catch the flag of the other team. If someone from the other team comes into your territory, you can tag them and put them in your prison where they are guarded by a Prison Guard from at least 5 paces away. You can be freed if a teammate manages to tag you whilst in prison. If one team is particularly good and ends up jailing most of the opposition, a non biased adult can shout ‘jailbreak’ and all prisoners are free and everyone is immune from tagging for 5 seconds!
Once everyone’s feeling used to team games and if you’re feeling brave – what not embrace the mayhem that is Chaos Tag! In this game, everyone is a tagger and tries to tag as many other players as possible. Once tagged, you must stay frozen until the person who tagged you gets tagged and then you’re free. If you tag someone at the same time as they get you, play rock paper scissors to see who get tagged – the winner is free, the loser tagged. The last person remaining wins!
Kubb aka Viking Chess
Last but definitely not least, is the absolutely quintessential Forest School game that is Kubb, aka Viking Chess. This can be a two player or two team game and in a nutshell, involves a lot of throwing sticks at other sticks! The great thing about this game is that you could incorporate making the set into a prior session as part of a woodworking activity before you get around to playing the game itself. The rules of Kubb are easier explained in person than read but I don’t think I could do quite as good a job as the folks over at Big Game Hunters so pop here for instructions (and dimensions if you’re going to make your own set!) Why not have a tournament, adults vs children and see who wins?!
This is by no means a definitive list, there were many other nominations for games such as Camouflage, Eagle Eye, Stuck in the Mud, Hobbit, Sardines, Wildcraft…the list was endless! But hopefully it’ll give you some new ideas for games that you can play this summer. Let us know how you get on and if you’d like to share, we’d love to know what your favourite Forest School game is?
Author: Hannah Durdin, Forest School Leader & Content Officer
Date: Wednesday 2nd June 2021