Whether you're trying to plan activities for your classroom students, party guests, or team building games, you will need a variety of ideas. This article will help you plan the best group activities for outdoor and indoor games.
How to Plan an Activity
Planning an activity for a large group is vastly different from planning an activity for a small, more intimate group of three or four. Larger groups require more maintenance and a different variety of games in order to keep each participant happy and engaged. However, planning activities for large groups, regardless of the kids' age or reason for the gathering, can be simple as long as the planner keeps these five things in mind:
- Know Your Audience
The most important thing to do is to know the audience. The group of kids will need different entertainment if they are five-years-old compared to a group of thirteen-year-olds. The age of the group should be one of the first things that the planner takes into account. If the group is younger, the games and activities should be tailored to a younger group. Younger groups should focus more on crafts and other easy yet engaging activities. Older groups may have more fun participating in games such as volleyball, nine square, or dodgeball. Additionally, some groups may prefer a trivia game to a sport—which is why it's important to know what your group prefers. If you try to plan a dance party for a shy group of ten-year-old boys, you might end up with a group with no one dancing.
When planning an activity, get to know those who will be attending. You should pay attention to what they like to do in their spare time and their personalities. The way that they interact with the people around them should tell you a lot about what type of games and activities they enjoy. If you personally know one of the kids (if the kid is your child), ask him or her about which activities the rest of the group might enjoy most. If you are planning birthday party games, you will need a way to emphasize the individual's birthday throughout the game. If you're planning playground games, you will need to ensure that every kid is included.
- Be Open to Input
Suppose you're planning multiple activities for a large group that meets fairly regularly. In that case, it will be helpful to put aside ten minutes in the beginning to plan out activities for the next few meetings. This helps the kids who are attending to feel more comfortable because they will know what the future meetings will hold. This is especially helpful for cub scout meetings, boy scout meetings, girl scout meetings, and youth groups.
When planning out of the meeting, be open to input. Although you're the parent in charge, the children will know the most about which activities they want to participate in. If you throw out an idea that no one likes, it's okay to take the idea off the planner entirely. Additionally, if one of the kids suggests an idea that isn't on the plan, and everyone seems to like it, make sure to add it. Planning fun activities requires the planner to be ready and willing to listen to the needs of the kids.
- Plan Activities
When planning an activity for a large group of people, it's easy for the group to become sidetracked and for smaller groups to form, making it difficult to bring everyone back together for a large group activity. To avoid this, the group leader should plan out the activity in advance and set up the game before the children arrive. Having the games already set up will show the kids that there is a plan for the day. Instead of breaking off into small groups, they will expect the group leader to pull everyone together and start the game.
Additionally, it's easy to become sidetracked during group activities. Because of this, it's vital to create an actual plan for the meeting. Your plan should set aside a certain amount of time for each activity (if you have planned more than one activity for the meeting). This plan should help you stay on track and help the kids learn everything they need. If you're planning activities for a one-time meeting, such as a birthday party, plan to be spontaneous since the kids are likely to find fun ways to entertain themselves.
- Have Options
While planning activities for a large group, it's always important to have options for the kids. If one plan doesn't go as planned or if the activity is a lot shorter than you anticipated, always have a backup activity that you can roll smoothly into. This ensures that you're using your time productively. Some good backup plans include get-to-know-you games, sports, and trivia rounds. When planning a group activity, you need to be prepared for a variety of things that could happen. For example, if you've planned an activity that needs more than ten people and only eight people arrive, you'll need to have a second option ready and available quickly.
The best way to have more options is to have a closet of random games (if the meeting happens in the same location every time). You could also bring along a fun group board game or other small game that you can adapt to the situation. Some fun backup games include:
- Musical Chairs
- Hot Potato
- Jump Rope
- Treasure Hunt
- Scavenger Hunt
- Hula Hoop
Simply make sure that you have plans for back games. The best backup games are easy to set up and don't need a lot of equipment or planning in advance.
- Be Spontaneous
The most important thing that a group activity planner should keep in mind is that you will need to be spontaneous. Many things can happen that could interfere with your activity, and things rarely go as planned. If something changes, roll with the punches and be prepared to quickly change the plan. If an activity flops, listen to the ideas of the other leaders who might be able to salvage the activity. Group leaders should be flexible and ready to move at all times.
Although it's important to plan out an activity, never be set in the plan. For example, if you planned for a game to last an hour and the kids finish playing after the first ten minutes, don't force the game to last longer. Forcing the game to last longer than it should will only bore the kids and make them uninterested in what's happening. Instead, be flexible and move on to your next activity and try not to appear flustered or confused. If you are nervous, frustrated, or embarrassed, the frustration could rub off on the kids and make them feel uncomfortable.
The Right Game for the Right Age
Not every game is right for all ages. For example, you wouldn't want to bring Cards Against Humanity to an eight-year-old girl's birthday party. Your games need to be age-appropriate. In this section, we will help you to brainstorm ideas for an age-specific group. Many categories can overlap, and some games can be applied to other ages. The group leader should pay attention to the children's physical and mental maturity to know which games are best suited for them.
Games for young children should be focused on learning. For example, a great game for this young age is a simple obstacle course where the kids can walk their way through. Another great idea is crafting. You can make animals out of clay or paint pictures with watercolors. This age group is easy to entertain and doesn't need much conversation to make the activity fun and engaging. Make sure that there are several adults present so that all children are kept safe.
Ages Four to Nine
In this age group, children are more open to fun activities that require physical and mental effort. However, the children will still need plenty of adult supervision to make sure that the kids are safe while playing. At this age, you can continue to play the same games in the previous category (such as crafts and painting) but also add more elements to the games. This age can also go for bike rides and easy hiking activities.
Ages Ten to Fourteen
For the age groups between ten and fourteen, games and activities can become more complex. For children between the ages of ten and fourteen, introduce games that have more rules and encourage more physical activity. For example, the game Nine Square is one of the best games for this age group. The game encourages children to play and have fun. You can also introduce baking and cooking activities or teach them other valuable skills. This age group will also enjoy themselves by playing sports such as volleyball, soccer, kickball, and dodgeball.
Ages Fifteen to Eighteen
The final group that you might be planning games for are kids from the age of fifteen to eighteen. This is the most mature group and can handle almost any type of activity. By this age, the kids are likely to enjoy things that push them out of their comfort zones and challenge their thinking. However, they can also enjoy feeling reminiscent by coloring, baking, and doing other child-like activities. There are few things that this age group won't enjoy doing as long as they are with their friends. If the participants don't know each other, play get-to-know-you games to make sure everyone has a friend.
10 Games for Large Groups of Any Age
Planning the right activity means that you will need a variety of ideas and options to find the best fit for your group. Here is a list of ten fun games for large groups of any age:
- Story-Telling Games
One of the most popular games for large groups is storytelling. There are a wide variety of storytelling games. Some examples are Mafia, Werewolf, and Assassin. All three games have a very similar premise and require that one person is the storyteller. The storyteller hands out roles to each person. Several people will be the mafia, one person will be the doctor, another will be the detectives, and everyone else will be regular citizens. No one other than the storyteller knows who has which role. Here is a quick synopsis of how to play from KQED:
"The Narrator keeps time rolling. The narrator does not officially participate in the game, but acts as a moderator. During the night, when all players have their eyes closed, the narrator awakens each role and asks them a question. For the mafia, the question is: Who do you want to kill? For the doctor: Who do you want to save? For the detective: Who do you want to know about? During the day, when everyone is awake, the narrator prompts players to nominate those they'd like to kill, a.k.a. those they think are in the mafia. The game repeats in phases from night to day, night to day, with one person murdered in each phase (unless saved at night by the doctor)."
The game continues until either the mafia is discovered or until there's no one left other than the mafia. The game is fun because each person has a role, even those playing as regular citizens. The group has to work together to discover who is who without revealing their roles. The game is perfect for large groups because you can expand the number of people who have certain roles.
- Cake Decorating Contest
A cake decorating contest is an easy way to get everyone involved in competitive and creative fun. To have a cake decorating contest, you will need several plain, one-layer cakes and different frosting colors and decorations. Cake contests are best as a themed activity since you can judge the cakes based on the themes. Separate the large group into even teams and assign each team to a cake. Try to have enough cakes so that you can assign no more than four people to each cake. Then, tell the groups to decorate the cakes based on a certain theme. For example, if it's Christmas time, tell them to decorate Christmas cakes. Or, if it's near Halloween, have the teams make Halloween cakes. Decorating the cakes can take anywhere between thirty minutes and an hour, so prepare to use this activity as your main activity for the day.
When everyone has finished decorating the cakes, have the participants walk around a vote for their favorite cake, the funniest cake, the more creative cake, the artsiest cake, and the most delicious looking cake. Try to ensure that each cake entered in the contest wins a category, so none of the groups feels left out.
- Candy Ball
A candy ball is a quick-fun activity that can be used as a backup plan for any age group. Older kids will find this activity just as entertaining as three-year-old children. To play the game, you will need a lot of candy and a lot of masking tape. Start with a small handful of candy and wrap it with tape (just enough to hold the candy together). Then add another layer of candy and wrap the tape around the second layer. Continue this until the entire ball is filled with candy. Making a candy tape ball should be a quick process. You can also include small toys or other items in the tape ball to make the game more interesting for those participating. Of course, you can make the items age-related. If you're playing with younger children, you could include legos or a small Play-Doh tub. If you're playing with other kids, you could include a tiny makeup set or a one-dollar bill.
When the ball is ready, have the kids sit in a circle. One person is chosen randomly to start with the tape ball, and the player directly next to them is given two dice. When the game starts, the person with the tape ball tries to unwrap the tape as quickly as possible, which is a lot harder than it looks. The person next to them tries to roll doubles on the dice as quickly as possible. The longer the person takes to roll the dice, the longer the first person has to unwrap their prizes. When the dice roller rolls doubles, the ball is passed on, and the next person gets their shot at unwrapping the tape ball. The game continues with one person unwrapping and the next rolling dice until the tape ball is entirely wrapped. To make the game more exciting for large groups, you can have two tape balls going around the circle.
- Holiday Themed Games
If you're meeting around a holiday, you should take advantage of the holiday spirit and host a holiday-themed game. Every year, there are a variety of holidays that can be celebrated, including Saint Patrick's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's Eve, and more. Depending on your cultural heritage, celebrate the holidays that you feel most comfortable celebrating. Here are some fun holiday-themed games and activities:
- Saint Patrick's Day. For Saint Patrick's Day, you can bring a cardboard box for each child, chocolate coins, green paint, glue, and popsicle sticks. Then, tell each kid to build a leprechaun trap. This is a fun, exciting craft for each child because they're trying to trap a leprechaun.
- Easter. For an Easter-themed activity, you can have an Easter Egg Hunt. Easter Egg Hunts are easy to plan and fun for people of all ages, even those older than 15. Make sure to hide the candy eggs in places where they won't get lost!
- Mother's Day. Every day, we should celebrate mothers; however, on the special day set aside for our mothers, hold an activity where the kids write thank-you cards to their mothers.
- Father's Day. A great idea for a Father's Day activity is to create a craft or item for the kids' fathers.
- Independence Day. Because not everyone feels comfortable celebrating Independence Day, make sure to be sensitive when planning activities around July 4th. You can launch themed water rockets or have sparklers for Independence Day.
- Halloween. For a fun Halloween game, you can hold a trunk-or-treat where all the kids' families come with candy and pumpkins in the backs of their cars. You can also make a small haunted house for the kids to walk through.
- Thanksgiving. For a Thanksgiving-theme, you can draw turkeys or learn to make Thanksgiving food.
- Hanukkah. If your group celebrates Hanukkah, you can make a menorah out of cardboard tubes, make dreidel dolls, or practice writing Hebrew letters.
- Christmas. For a fun Christmas activity, you can play White Elephant. For this game, each person brings an anonymous wrapped gift. One by one, the players can choose to unwrap a gift from the pile.
- New Year's Eve. A great New Year's Eve activity is to write letters to your future self about what you want to accomplish in the next year. This helps the kids set goals for themselves, even if the goals are simple: "Read four books."
Remember to be sensitive to the children's needs, beliefs, and religions participating in the activities. You never want to plan an activity that would make someone feel ostracized from the rest of the group. Instead, foster an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding. You can even let some of the kids plan Holiday activities and share their personal beliefs so the other kids can learn to respect the different ideas of the people around them. With all holiday-themed activities, make sure to have the parents' permission.
Sports will also be a go-to for easy activities for large groups. Some sports, such as capture the flag and soccer, require the group members to work as a team and get to know one another. Other sports, such as Nine Square, help the team members learn coordination and a healthy dose of competitiveness without being overly competitive. Including sports is an easy way to encourage the kids to love fitness without forcing them to run miles around a lap.
Depending on the average age of the group, you can adjust the sport to fit their needs. For example, kickball is a great sport to play with younger kids because the ball is larger and easier to hit, compared to baseball. When choosing sports for the kids to play, ask their opinions so you know which type of sports they are most interested in learning.
- Face Painting
Regardless of age, everyone loves face painting. Face painting is an easy activity for groups because you can pair everyone off in groups of two. Supply each pair with a small set of skin-friendly paint and let the pairs paint whatever the person wants. However, make sure that the paintings stay appropriate. In order to make sure that everyone is behaving, you will need several adult figures who can supervise the activity and help when someone needs help.
At the end of the activity, take a group picture where everyone shows off their unique face paint. You could also bring a polaroid camera and let the pairs take pictures together with their face paint. This idea is great for creative groups who love to have fun with each other. If you want to make the face paintings more interesting, you can get the kids' parents involved. Each kid should be paired with an adult (or one adult with two kids where one gets to paint either cheek). Give each painter a set of paint, but instead of painting with their hands, tell the kids to paint with their feet. This creates a hilarious activity where the kids and parents can have fun and laugh together.
A henna tattoo is a temporary skin staining using the plant Lawsonia inermis. The dye created from the plant stains the skin a reddish-brown and is used in something called "henna." The dye can create intricate patterns on the skin. If your group is interested in henna, you can buy a henna kit or hire a professional henna artist. This activity is fun because it creates tattoo-like staining on the skin that only lasts a week or two. Henna is a common activity for summertime because the staining fits perfectly with a summer tan.
Before using henna, make sure that the parents are aware of the activity. Although henna is harmless, some parents might prefer that their children stay away from using it on their skin. Additionally, make sure that the kids want to participate and aren't peer pressured into getting the henna tattoo. This activity should be done with the consent of the parents and children.
- Movie Night
You can never go wrong with a movie night. If you're looking for an activity that is easy to set up and needs little supervision for things to go as planned, a movie is a perfect option. All you need is a projector, access to plenty of popcorn, and move snacks to have a group movie night. If you're meeting during the summer, you can set up an outdoor movie on the grass with blankets and pillows under the stars. Having a movie night is the perfect group activity because there's not much that needs to be planned, and there's little that can go wrong.
Before starting a movie, bring several options and let the group pick the movie that appeals to them most. Depending on the group, you might want an action movie, a comedy, or a romance movie. Always listen to what the group wants to watch. Picking the movie will be the hardest part of the activity. Once the movie is up and running, you can sit back and watch as well without worrying about whether a kid is going to be injured, hurt, or offended.
For a group larger than 20 people, skits are a perfect way to keep everyone happy and entertained. A skit is essentially a small play that is mostly improvised by the people putting it on. You should have at least four people per group, but you can have up to 15 people in the same group. If it's near a holiday, you can plan the skits as holiday themed or simply let the group members come up with their own idea for the skit.
The hardest part of creating the skit will be coming up with the idea. If you notice that a group is having trouble thinking of something to do, make sure to help them brainstorm ideas. Remind the groups that skits are basically short stories or jokes that are told in a story format. Here's an example of a good skit from UltimateCampResource.com: "The scene is an art show where judges are inspecting several canvases that are on display. They comment on the brightness, color, technique, that is used on the different pictures. They select one for the prize and comment additionally on the genius, imagination, and the beauty of the picture. The artist is called up, and the winning picture is shown to him. The painter exclaims, 'Oh, my goodness, that got in by mistake. That's the canvas that I clean my brushes on.'"
A skit aims to make the audience laugh or teach the audience an important message. When all the kids know what they're doing for their skits, bring them on-stage one group at a time while everyone watches the skit. This part is the most fun because everyone is laughing along with the skits.
- Get-to-Know-You Games
If you're working with a new group where no one knows each other, start with get-to-know-you games. A get-to-know-you game is a fun game that focuses on learning each other's names, hobbies, and other basic information in order to encourage the group to make new friends and get to know one another. Some of the best games are get-to-know-you games.
One of the most popular games for large groups is Two Truths and a Lie. The game starts with handing each person a piece of paper and a pen. Although this isn't necessary, it helps the participants remember their three things so they can focus on the rest of the game rather than focusing on remembering their two truths and a lie. Starting with a random person, they read off two true things about themselves and one lie. The rest of the group tries to guess which one is the lie. There's no punishment for guessing wrong, but it helps everyone to introduce themselves to the group and gives everyone a way to remember that person. Everyone should get a chance to read their two truths and a lie. The game doesn't need any equipment. Minute to Win It games are a fun group game and can be used as an indoor recess, a birthday party game, or as a fun activity for a small group.