Every teacher needs a repertoire of games and activities that they know can be used at the drop of a hat to enliven a lesson. The 5 kids games I have listed here are classics from my classroom way before 2020 but can be easily adapted to new contexts such as hybrid, online or in the physically distanced classroom.

Getting children up and moving is really important so check out these ideas…

Bean Bag Toss

What I love about beanbags is that they are so versatile and easy to make with a few materials your students probably already have at home. All you need is an old sock and some rice or beans. Fill and sock and tie a firm knot and there you have it! Here’s how I used them with my Pre-Primary learners.

Show them a bean-bag (or other soft object that can be thrown and caught).  Show them how you throw and catch it.  Throw it in the air and say ‘throw!’ and ‘catch’ as it falls back into your hands.   Then look dramatically around the room as if looking for someone. Ask ‘Where’s, (Ana)?’.  Continue to look and repeat the question. When Ana or the others respond, emphasize in English “She’s here!”.  Very gently and slowly throw the bean-bag for that child to catch. 

Repeat ‘throw’ as you throw it and ‘catch’ as it lands in that child’s hands.  Encourage her to say hello back to you.  Make a point of looking into the child’s eyes and smiling as you do so.  Then that child gently throws it back to you.  You can continue like this with all the children. If you have more bean-bags or balls, put them in pairs to throw it back and forth, greeting each other with smiles and eye contact.  Encourage them to say ‘hello’ as they throw.

For the online or physically distanced classroom, make sure each child has their own and use them for balancing, throwing in the air and catching or balancing on different body parts. They make a great little resource to use to give kids at home in front of the screen a break to get up and move.

Magic Wand

Here is one of the games I use after reading the story Winnie The Witch by Valerie Thomas or (my current favorite) The Magic Hat by Mem Fox.  You can also use this at any moment in the lesson when you think the kids need a brain break with some physical movement. 

Everybody listen and look at me,
You are a rabbit,
When I count to 3…

I learned this chant originally from Carol Read many many years ago.  Then, I just added the wand and the magic word at the end!  I love it because the counting to three gives children some thinking time to process what is being asked of them.
This game works in all teaching modes.

Mystery Box

Move students to a place in the room where there is space for everyone to sit in a circle.  Bring out the Mystery Box that has a mirror lying flat on the bottom of the box.  Sing the “What’s in The Box?” song and have everyone slap their knees as they sing along.

(Sung to the tune of The Farmer In The Dell)

What’s in box?
Oh what’s in the box?
Oh What’s in the box?

Encourage the learners to guess what is in the box.  Open it, look inside and quickly look surprised. Tell them there is something very very special in the box.  Pass the box around the circle and let each child have a turn at opening the box and looking at their reflection in the mirror.  Encourage them to say who they see looking back at them.  Everyone is special!

You can use this box in so many different ways. It’s a classic for introducing new vocabulary and concepts too. Use it online and in the physical classroom.

Calm Bottles

Add an extra sensory factor when you are talking about the weather.  Add different objects to your sensory bottles so each one represents a different weather condition: yellow pompoms in blue water for sunny, blue water beads for rainy, small leaves for windy, etc.   Ask the class what the weather is like today and have the helper shake up the bottle that corresponds to their answer.

You could also make or have the children make their own to use as a timer for an activity during online classes. Shake it up and try to finish before the glitter in the bottle settles.

Ribbon Rings

The last day of a school week is always tough.  Everyone is tired and just that bit harder to engage in any cognately challenging work.  I would always save time at the end of a Friday lesson for Free Dancing!  The kids get to choose any song they want to listen to and we’d get out the Ribbon Rings and dance around like only young, uninhibited children can.  It’s the perfect way to end the week on a high note and have them coming back, eager for more English on Monday.

This is another great activity that, when each child has their own ribbon ring, can be done in any delivery mode.

If you would like to know more about these materials and how I make them, take a look at this blog post.

If you have the time, I’d love to know what your favorite games to use with Young Learners are. Tell me in the comments!


  • Claire Venables is a qualified English teacher who has been dedicated to ELT since 2001. After a decade in Spain, she moved to Brazil in 2011 where she has worked in the creation and implementation of bilingual programs in schools, the development of teacher development courses, as a national and international speaker, materials writer, active member of the National Association of Teachers of English (BRAZ-TESOL). Despite her wide-ranging experience, she is and always will be most passionate about teaching children.