Group Games With Inner City Kids

Group Games With Inner City Kids

I used to volunteer in an inner-city church. It had way too many kids, and not enough volunteers. It was hard, and challenging, but it was great. I really enjoyed doing it and learned a lot. I have moved out of the area, but I still look at that time as a growing experience. When I volunteered, I did group games, which can be harder than it sounds. Recently the church asked me to write down some of the games I used, and some things I learned to help other people that were taking over the job. I decided to post the document that I made, in the hopes it will help someone else.

Outdoor Games

Boom Boom Boom

The runners(X) get in 1 line with a wall(|) or a gate a few meters behind them. The person that is It(O), usually an adult, stands in front of the kids so you can see all the kids in the line.

        X         |
        X         |
O       X         |
        X         |
        X         |
        X         |

The runners group together and come up with a job that they can act out. They get back in the line and you do this back and forth.

runners: Boom, Boom, Boom
it: What is your destination?
runners: Train Station
it: What is your occupation?

For the boom, boom, boom, I usually mess with the kids if they are not loud enough and tell them to do it again with more power. I do the boom, boom, boom loudly while doing a sumo wrestler stomp to show them how to do it.
When the It person says “What is your occupation?” the runners act out the job. The It person shouts out any guesses for the job. When they get it right, the runners run to the wall behind them. The It person runs after them and tags as many as possible before they get to the wall. The people that the It person tags become It as well. You go through the whole thing again until there is no more runners and everyone is it. The last on tagged is the new It.

What time is it Mr. Crocodile

This is really just the classic game “What time is it Mr. Fox”, but I enjoy the little kids trying to say Crocodile. The big changes I made to this is that the kids hop instead of take steps, because it is easier to spot cheaters. The Layout of the game is the same. The Crocodile is the It person and has their back to the kids, with the kids in a line all they way against the wall.

O             X|

The kids yell out “What time is Mr Crocodile?” The crocodile with his back turned yells 4 o’clock (or some other number) and holds up 4 fingers on his hand. The kids Take 4 hops toward the crocodile. If a kids get close enough to touch the crocodile, they become the crocodile. However, if the kids are close, the crocodile can respond with “Time to eat you” instead of a number. The Crocodile runs after the kids and tries to tag the kids  before they get to the gate. The kids that get tagged become crocodiles with the main crocodile. They stand in the crocodile line, and yell the numbers together, and do the tagging when the “time to eat you is said”.

Sharks, Minnows, and Anemones

I always make the kids say the word “Anemones” before I start the game, because I think it is funny. Mark off a box in the area with tape, or cones. Have the kids at one endzone behind the line of the box. Have 1 or 2 sharks in the box. Have the kids run from one side to the other. If they are tagged by the sharks, they have to stay where they were tagged and they become Anemones. They can not move their feet, but if they tag someone, they become an Anemone too. Each round have the minnows run from one side to the other until there is one left, and they are the new shark. To make the game more fun, I yell this before every round.

Me: Minnows are you ready?!
Anemones: Yes!
Me: Anemones are you ready?!
Anemones: Yes!
Me: Sharks are you ready?!
Sharks: Yes!
Me: Go, Go, Go, Go, Go!

If any of the groups give me a wimpy reply, I yell something like “Come on, I know the Anemones can give a better reply than that. Show me the strength of the mighty Anemone. Anemones are you ready?!” and make them say yes with more power.

Indoor games

Doggie Doggie Where’s Your Bone

Have the kids sit in a circle. Choose a kid to be the Dog and have them sit in the center of the circle with their hands on their eyes so they do not peak. Have all the kids in the circle close their eyes and put their hands behind their backs. I walk around the circle with with some item(crayon, ball, pen) as the bone. Put the bone in someone’s hand, but keep on walking around the circle so if someone is peaking, it is hard to tell which kid you gave it to. Then sit back down in the circle and say “All the doggies wake up”. Everyone can open their eyes, but remind the kids to keep their hands behind their back so the doggie does not who has the bone.  Have kids join in the song:

Doggy, Doggy, where’s your bone?
Somebody took it from your home.
Who took it. Maybe you… (point at a random kid)
Maybe the monkeys from the zoo.
Doggy, Doggy, where’s your bone?

The kid gets about 3 guesses to guess who took the bone. The number of guesses can be changed based on the number of kids playing. I have them look around for someone that looks shifty, or like they are really hungry for the bone. Whether they get it right or not, I have the kid I gave the bone to, show that they have the bone, then they become the new doggie, and the game restarts. This seems like a boring game, but the kids really enjoy being picked to get the bone. They freak out about it, and really want to be picked. So make sure to pick everyone in the game. Also, to stop cheating, I say if you blurt out who has the bone, I will not pick you to get the bone.

4 Corners

I never had a ton of luck with this game, but it is doable. Designate each corner of a room with the numbers 1-4. Hum part of the song, and as you hum, have the kids run between the corners. As the kids run, suddenly yell stop, and the kids have to stop on one of the corners. Have the It person with their eyes closed yell out a number 1-4. All the kids in that number corner have to sit down. Repeat the game until there is only 1 or 2 people left standing, and then they become It.


Self explanatory, but be careful since the stick is a weapon, can get out of hand quickly.

Tips for Games

Types of games

Most of my games have one thing in common. They are change of role games, not elimination games. Something happens to change your role of the game, but you are never out of the game. I had a hard time getting the kids to have the patience to wait until the game is over when they could come back. It works better if they are still in the game, but they changed roles. Kids will still be upset when they get tagged. So I do something to the effect of “come on you get to be an awesome tagger, give me a high five, give me a super high five!” For the super high five I will raise my hand above my head so they have to jump up to get it. The super high five also works well as a time killer for any game where you have to wait for someone to make a decision(eg. boom, boom, boom).

So any game that is a change of role game, not elimination is a good candidate. However, I would not suggest “Red Rover”. The kids want to play it and it is a change of role game, but I have never played that game in my life without someone getting hurt.

How to get kids to play the game

To get the younger kids to play, I would say “You want to play an awesome game, I heard a yes, because I know you want to play this amazing game”. Then I would just act like they said yes whether they did or not.

For the older kids, I would do reverse psychology. I would ask: “You want to play this awesome game”. The kids would give the look like I am stupid. So I would say, “oh yeah, you are right, you are way to slow for this game. This is for fast people, and I just do not know if you have the speed to really do this, you should go and play a much slower game.” There is obviously discernment in which kids to say this to, but it really works on the right ones. They are crazy into playing after that is said.

How to keep the kids interested in the game

I did this by being loud and silly. Basically providing entertainment the entire time. I know that it is not the only way to do it, but it is how I did it.


The kids will cheat, and even if you see them do it, they will not own up to it. If a kid was tagged, but would not admit it, I would usually go positive “Come on I am sure you can tag a ton of people and be a great It person.” You can use reverse psychology here similar to calling them slow, but I have never tried it. Sometimes I would have to use a stern voice though, or threaten them that they have to leave the game.

Extra Help

Most of the games can be done with 1 person, but when teaching the game it is better to have 2 or more. 1 person demonstrating It, and one person with the kids demonstrating how to do the other role while playing on their side. Sometimes if the person that is It needs some help, I will automatically put a volunteer with them to help them.

How to choose the first It person

After the kids learn the games, you can let a kid be It first. To make this fair, I play a mini-game with them. I say:

“Raise your hand if you want to be It,
now put you hands down,
now touch you hands on your head,
on your nose,
on your knees”
(Then I yell really fast)“First one to raise their hand!”

I then pick the one that raised their hand first. Every time I do it, I change up the actions in the middle. Sometimes making them really silly, like spinning, or acting like a chicken.

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