Sunday, January 10, 2016

No Winners or Losers: Noncompetitive Games for Kids

"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,

The following games would be 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.

Photo by Ariel Lustre on Unsplash

#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.

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.  (LiveStrong has a variation on this using hula hoops: "When only one hula hoop is left, the kids will have to stand very close to all fit inside 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.

and, last but not least:

#10. Playing with Balloons, from, helps active kids settle down by focusing all their attention on keeping a balloon floating in the air.

If you have a favorite noncompetitive game that isn’t listed here, please post a comment telling us about it or linking to the description.


related posts:

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)

Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children (recommended book)


  1. Don't underestimate child's play. It may look like leisure time, but when children are playing house, fighting imaginary dragons or organizing a game of hopscotch, they're actually developing crucial life skills and preparing their brains for the challenges of adulthood.

    1. Right...and not learning how to compete, and at times lose, totally prepares people for the "challenges of adulthood." Way to set them up for total disappointment when they finally learn that life is full of wins and losses.

    2. That's a good point that kids benefit from learning how to compete. However, there are so many other situations where they're in competition with each other (sports, grades, standardized tests, spelling bees, talent shows) that it's also beneficial for them to have some time for noncompetitive play so they can focus on other types of learning and recreation.

  2. We as educators and parents can help to foster a more solidarity-oriented and cooperative attitude in children - through the games we bring into classrooms or our homes. We are deeply social creatures ... the survival of the fittest doesn't mean dog eat dog -a misinterpretation of Darwin. Competition is not the panacea - as the neoliberal capitalist system and the mass media try so hard to convince us. Our survival oftimes depends on the sophistication of our socioemotional relationships.

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