Games that help children learn, even in COVID-19

[Scroll down for instructions to play games at home]

Maurice Mahoney, aged 7, from Kilmarnock Primary & Infant School in St. Bess explains it best, “I love playing games so that I can learn!”

Started by the Breds Foundation in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth, with support from UNICEF, EduSport is a games-based approach to learning being rolled out in Jamaican schools.

EduSport is getting a hard test with COVID-19. Like other teachers, its coaches have had to adapt, from sending instructional videos in WhatsApp to adjusting games to allow social distancing.

Physical education teachers across Jamaica are gradually being trained to deliver EduSport lessons. For now though, parents can try it out at home with their children, using the same kind of simple games that build important skills like numeracy, literacy and teamwork.

Abriel Smith, aged 10, a Grade 5 student of Leeds Primary School setting up an EduSport game with coach Oral Wright.
Breds FoundationAbriel Smith, aged 10, a Grade 5 student of Leeds Primary School setting up an EduSport game of Dog and Bone with coach Oral Wright.

Play is serious business

“Play is the work of children and it is what they do best,” reasons Melissa Taylor, who is studying for a degree in Early Childhood Development and is also a mother who enrolled her daughter Torian Thomas in Red Bank Primary, a school that implements EduSport. Since then, mom and dad Micoy Thomas, credit the school and EduSport for boosting Torian’s development.

“Before, she would only communicate with myself, her family and close family. EduSport has played a good role because she is now communicating with others and making friends,” says Melissa. “What some parents don’t know is that play helps children to express themselves.”

It’s also helping parents themselves, who have taken part in fitness challenges through EduSport WhatsApp groups.

EduSport coaches Osheim Spence, Roy Rowe, Hasani Wellington and Oral Wright.
Breds FoundationEduSport coaches Osheim Spence, Roy Rowe, Hasani Wellington and Oral Wright.

Easy for parents to learn

“Parents are enjoying it,” says Nesha Robinson, coach at Clapham Primary & Infant School.“They will ask me how to play a game at home and I will have no problem and explain. Children have always been telling the adults about the games, who are keen to learn more. When they see them playing, they’ll keep asking their children, ‘What’s the name of that game?’”

Ava Nichols, who manages the EduSport programme, explains that COVID-19 has forced Breds to step in and assist some families with care packages or mobile credit so they stay engaged in EduSport.

“There are some children who won’t have been engaged in any form of learning since schools closed and that is unfortunate,” says Ava. “It is very difficult once you have not been doing any education for an extended period and when you restart school, it’s almost like you’ve forgotten everything you learned before. To just be in a position to help them continue to learn, that makes our team feel good, or as good as we can right now.”

Games to try at home:

1. Treasure Hunt 💎

  • Instructions:
    • Each child needs to have an empty box or bag.
    • Bring the children to an open area where they will be safe to run around and pick things up.
    • In a certain amount of time (i.e. 10 minutes) the children must collect as many things from a list given to them.
    • The first person to reach back to the base with all the items wins, if no one collects all the items then the child with the most items wins.
    • The teacher, coach or parent can then give another treasure list for children to search for.
    • At the end children will display what they have collected.
    • An example of a treasure hunt list could be, a smooth stone, a piece of wood, something made of plastic, something green. Etc.
    • The more creative the better.
    • Another version of the game: Letters/Words can be written on pieces of papers and hidden for children to search for. Upon finding a paper with a letter, children may be asked to create a word that begins with that particular letter. If they find a piece of paper with a word written on it, they may be asked to create a sentence/short story that includes that particular word.
  • Learning outcomes:
    • Teaches to investigate and research; and observation of area.


2. Sharks are coming! 🦈

  • Instructions:
    • In an open space get the children walking about in a random manner.
    • The teacher, coach or parent begins the game by shouting, “The sharks are coming!”
    • The children will then reply, “How many?”
    • The coach or teacher replies with a number and the children must organise themselves into groups of that number.
    • The children who are not in a group of this number after all the groups are made are ‘Out’.
    • Call out groups of 1 to try and catch out the children.
    • The game finishes when there are two children left playing, but the game can be restarted long before this to keep the children engaged.
  • Learning outcomes:
    • Inclusion; counting; listening; peer-to-peer development; following instructions; integration; discipline and communication.


3. Clappidy Clap 👏🏿

  • Instructions:
    • Children make a circle around the teacher, coach or parent.
    • If the adult claps, all children should clap. If the adult does not clap, no student should clap.
    • If the student does the opposite of what the adult does they are out.
    • Adult can trick students by clapping in a rhythm and then pretending to clap but stopping short, or by going to clap but instead miss your hands by moving one up and one down.
  • Learning outcomes: develop students’ attention; demonstrate non-verbal communication; encourage honesty and increase alertness.


4. Mr. Heady 🗣️

  • Instructions:
    • Have children organise themselves in a straight line or circle, in an open space facing the teacher, coach or parent.
    • Adult will give verbal commands simultaneously with visual actions.
    • The actions may however differ from the verbal commands expressed.
    • The aim is to do what the adult says and not what he or she does.
    • “Have you seen (eye) or heard (ear) about Mr. Heady (head) who was needed (knee) in the army (arms) from the back (back) to the front (stomach) with a hip hip (hips) hurray (place hands in the air for hurray)
    • If any child does the opposite of the oral instructions given they are ‘Out’.
  • Learning outcomes:
    • Learn body parts; coordination; increase attention; increase listening skills


5. Snatch ⚽️

  • Instructions:
    • Divide children into pairs, have them stand facing each other around an open playing area.
    • A ball, cone, bottle etc. is placed on the ground between them.
    • For safety, players must extend their arms full length, touching each other over the object placed directly in the centre of them, on the ground.
    • The teacher, coach or parent then gives the following instruction “Touch your head, chest, knee etc.”
    • While the children are following those instructions the coach should shout “Snatch”.
    • At that point, the children will try and snatch the object placed on the ground, the player that has been successful wins that round.
    • The activity continues with the teacher, coach or parent repeating the procedure.
  • Learning outcomes: Listening; following instructions; gender integration; competitive activity; coordination; and speed.


6. 1, 2, 3 Red Light 🚦

  • Instructions:
    • In an open space children are placed in a straight line standing side-by-side.
    • One child, ‘the counter’, stands 5-10 metres in front of this line.
    • The counter with his or her back to the line will slowly say “One, two, three… red light!”
    • While the counter is saying this, the line of children will move towards him or her.
    • But when the counter reaches and says “Red light”, then the children moving must freeze. The counter will turn around and try to catch any children moving. Anyone caught moving by the counter is out.
    • The first child to reach the counter without being seen will be the winner, and gets the chance to be the counter.
  • Learning outcomes: Listening; following instructions; promotes honesty; control; and awareness.


7. Dog and Bone 🐶

  • Instructions:
    • In an open area divide students into two groups.
    • Give every child a number starting from 1.
    • Have the children line up in their group, shoulder-to-shoulder, in a random order facing each other about 10 metres apart.
    • In the middle between the groups there should be a small ball or trinket known as the bone.
    • The aim is to retrieve the bone and bring it back to your team to win a point.
    • When a number is called the two children with that number, from the two teams, must run to the bone and try and grab it and bring it back to their team.
    • When one child grabs it the other is now able to tag them to steal the point. If this happens then it is the tagging team which scores.
    • To make the game a better learning tool simple mathematics can be used during the calling of numbers e.g. 2  + 1 –  which would mean that it is the turn of player 3 to run.
    • The game continues until one team reaches a total score agreed at the start of the game e.g. 10.
  • Learning outcomes: Patience; problem-solving; paying attention; turn-taking.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with “required.”


  1. Great idea👍👍👍👍My lady is a teacher so she will incorporate these activities in my son home schooling during the pandemic 👍👏👏