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"Competitive games leave the majority of the players feeling left out or upset. When players are mismatched in skill, certain kids have the advantage, making it difficult to set up a fair game. Noncompetitive games create a sense of unity, cooperation and support. The games allow all kids to participate the entire time without branding some as winners and others as losers."
Shelley Frost, LiveStrong.com
Here are a dozen games that are appropriate for mindfulness classes or for any context where you're looking for noncompetitive activities for a group of children (school, summer camp, birthday party, and so on).
I've included brief descriptions; click on the links for complete instructions, as well as additional games and activities.
#1. "Say Something Nice," from Party Games Pond: This would fit in well with a lesson on compassion or mindful speech.
[#2. "Mountain Range," from Yogi Times: This is a group mindful walking activity that promotes problem-solving and cooperation.--I've removed the broken link; this activity is no longer available on their website.]
The next three activities, from Growing Kids, are fun ways to teach cooperation and body awareness.
#3. Copy Cats: Kids take turns being the leader; the rest of the kids imitate their movements.
#4. Freeze Up: Kids dance freely, then “freeze” as soon as the music stops playing.
#5. Modern Musical Chairs: In this non-competitive version of musical chairs, no one is “out.” As each chair is removed, the kids sit on each other’s laps, until everyone’s trying to pile onto the same chair. (I've seen another variation on this using hula hoops, with all the kids trying to squeeze into the hoop.)
# 6. Hand Breathing: At JoyfulMind, Shakti Burke explains how to help kids learn to meditate through moving the arms and hands up and down as the breath goes in and out at different tempos.
Healthy Kids Healthy Future features noncompetitive games that promote listening and movement, including:
#7. Simon Says: The focus is on listening carefully; no one is "out."
#8. Sleeping Animals: Children move like a particular animal, then pause.
#9. Follow the Leader: Similar to "Copy Cats." Each child takes a turn at the head of the line, then follows the next child's movements.
#10. Playing with Balloons, from KidsActivitiesBlog.com, helps active kids settle down by focusing all their attention on keeping a balloon floating in the air.
And last but not least, here are two activities at Mindful Teachers from the book Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children.
#11. Human Camera: This partner activity is a fun way for kids to focus on their surroundings.
#12. Marble Roll: This is a cooperative game where everyone 'wins' by doing his or her part.
If you and your students like these types of activities, be sure to check out all of the additional suggestions on the Mindfulness Resources page, especially the Activities for Exploring the Five Senses.
Best Practices in Teaching Yoga and Mindfulness to Young Children (interview)
Breathing Buddies and Vibratones: Mindfulness for Young Children (interview)
Go Go Yoga for Kids (recommended book)
How Music Helps Kids with Social and Emotional Learning