I really love getting comments and questions from people who have read my blog – it is so much fun for me! Rachel wrote that she is looking for some new games and activities for party days, and I am happy to share a few ideas. Of course every community and every school is different, the amount of parent involvement and support, whether you can ask for donations of money or supplies, the history of what has been done in the past all make a big difference in what you do for holidays and parties.
One of my strong convictions is that parent education is an important requirement of a Kindergarten teacher. I think the best way to show parents how to work with and play with their children is to provide activities for them to do together at school. Every year I had 2-3 parent/child activity days – usually one was during an evening. Sometimes the theme for this special day was Halloween or Valentine’s Day. These took the place of a traditional party. Sometimes I used a theme like Transportation or Dinosaurs for the parent/child days, and did more traditional parties for holidays. Check out the my posts on parent/child days if you are interested.
For Thanksgiving and Christmas (Winter Holidays) my children usually performed for the parents, followed by refreshments. I think that standing up in front of an audience helps children build confidence, and when they see the adults laughing and enjoying their performance it builds self esteem too. These were not elaborate performances, but each child had a chance to stand up with a small group while the entire class sang or chanted, etc. Check out my Nov. and Dec. posts for details. I invited all families to attend these performances, the amount of attendance varied from year to year. Often parents would stop in for our little show and then need to get back to work. We usually played some whole group games after refreshments.
When we had traditional parties I usually asked a few parents to come in to help supervise activities. Usually I asked each volunteer to supervise a small group of children as they went from center to center. Keeping the children in groups made it easier for them to play games at the centers. When I stationed parents at the centers and allowed the children to move independently sometimes they didn’t have enough for a game, or too many wanted to come to the center at once. One of the centers was usually creating their snack. At the end of the centers we usually gathered for some whole group games.
So here are a few ideas of games my Kindergartners enjoyed, most of them can be changed slightly to fit any holiday or theme:
1. This was usually the favorite game – I cut out a simple shape from felt – or used an object that went with the theme. For Thanksgiving you might use a felt cutout of a piece of popcorn.
One child goes where (s)he cannot see the circle of children but can easily hear – not far away.
The class is seated crisscross in a circle. I give the felt popcorn to one child and (s)he puts it down in his/her lap. All children put their hands down into their lap to make it hard to figure out who has the popcorn.
Then the kids chant:
Turkey, turkey! Come and see!
Who has the popcorn? Is it me?
The child who was not able to see (the turkey) comes to stand in the center of the circle. (S)he says the name of the person (s)he thinks has the popcorn. We use HOT or COLD to tell the child how close the guess is to the person who has the popcorn. The child has 3 guesses, if they don’t get the right person we tell them. Whether or not they guess correctly, the child who was hiding the popcorn is the new turkey, (s)he goes where they cannot see, the child who was guessing gives the popcorn to another child and they all put their hands in their lap again and say the poem again.
Another Thanksgiving version could be
Pilgrim, Pilgrim! Come and see!
Who has the wishbone? Is it me?
For Valentine’s day we used Cupid and heart, for Christmas – Santa and present; for Halloween – Skeleton and bone.
2. Here is another simple game they loved. The traditional poem goes like this;
Down around the corner at the bakery shop, there were 10 little cookies with sugar on top. Along came Timmy, all alone; and he took the green one home.
Obviously there were 10 cookies cut from different colored paper on the floor. Instead of colored paper, you could label them with color words, sight words, numerals, shapes, etc.
For Thanksgiving you could say
Down around the corner at the bakery shop there were 10 turkey cookies with sugar on top….
Then you could cut turkey shaped paper cookies and label them with numerals, words, etc.
Here is another version for Thanksgiving:
Late in November; on Thanksgiving Day
There were 10 little turkeys, who tried to run away.
Along came ___________________, all alone
And (s)he took the _________________ one home.
3. Have all the children stand up in a circle. Give one child a hula hoop. Have him/her hold hands with the next child and try to pass the hula hoop to that person without letting go of their hand. Then that child holds onto the next child’s hand and passes it again. They need one hand free, the other hand is being held by the next child.
4. Musical candy
Traditional musical chairs is a more active game, but you could ask the children to sit in a circle. You turn on a song and give the children a lunch sized paper bag containing individually wrapped small candies (I often used individually wrapped life savers). When the music stops the person holding the bag gets to take out one candy. I like this because no one is eliminated, everyone keeps playing. Once in awhile I let a child have 2 turns to keep the interest of kids who already got their candy. Sometimes after they get their candy they lose interest in the game.
5. Fruit Basket
Each child needs a piece of fruit – either laminated pictures or plastic fruit. It works best when you have 4-5 of each fruit, bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, etc. They all sit in a circle and you call out the name of a fruit. Kids with that fruit stand up and run to the spot that was just emptied by another child. After trying this with all the fruits, try calling out 2 fruits at a time. If you want everyone to move at once, call out Fruit Basket TURN OVER!
6. Relay Game
Take 2 paper lunch bags (you could decorate them with a turkey or seasonal picture)
Write out simple instructions like Jump 3 times.
You can draw/write the instructions with picture cues – or have an adult close by to help each child read their strip. Make 2 identical sets of instructions, cut them into strips and put one set into each bag. Divide the class into 2 teams. I would do this right at the circle, – half the circle one team, half the circle the other team. The bags are in the center of the circle. The first children for each team get up and take a slip from the bag. Then they do that activity in front of their group. When they go back and sit down, the next child gets up and pulls out a strip of paper with an activity. The team that finishes first wins.
Here are some ideas for the instructions:
7. Roll a ball
Pick a category like candy bars, or cartoons. Call out the name of one thing in that category (i.e. Snickers) and roll the ball to a child. That child has to call out a different item from the category (i.e. M & Ms), then roll the ball to another child who has to come up with another candy or whatever the category is. You could use Thanksgiving Foods as the category. When a child can’t think of an item you can either allow them to have a ‘conference’ with the child next to him/her – or you can change the category.
8. Count Down
This is a math game from Everyday Math but my kids asked to play it often. Everyone stands up around the circle and you choose a number. (I always chose something smaller than 20 to make the game go faster.) The children count each saying the next number – the child who says the chosen number sits down, and no longer counts. Example; they start to count – each child saying the next number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and the child saying 7 sits down. The next child starts over with 1 again, continue until there is only one child left standing. If you are working on counting through teen numbers you might want to choose a larger number. After playing it once or twice try to get the kids to predict who will be left standing.
9. Copy and Add
This is an old game, you say “I’m going to Thanksgiving dinner and I’m going to eat ________. First child says the sentence and adds a food. The next child (either go around the circle or call on a child by pulling his/her name) says the sentence, the food the first child names, and then adds another food. Continue until the kids can’t remember, it’s fine to let them help each other.
Here is an adaptation: Instead of just saying the food, have the child touch something or do a motion. The kids have to repeat the motion as well as the words.
10. Build a Tower
Have each child choose a wooden block (different shapes make it more fun)
Start with one child placing his/her block in the middle of the circle. Go around the circle and the next child stacks his/her block on top. When the tower falls, move those blocks away but continue with the next child starting a new tower
I hope the description of these games make sense to you, if not – please ask!
Tomorrow I will share some individual or small group activities that we did at parties. Thanks for reading!