Educational Games

All the games listed on this page are repeated on the other pages but collected here for easy reference. All have been adapted or can be used as a teaching tool to demonstrate a principle or idea.

Chain Reaction

As the names suggests, this game is a good model for children to understand the 'runaway' exponential effect of chain reactions.

Children pair up with each other as in Elbow Tag, holding hands or linked arm in arm, and scatter around the playing field / area. One child is chosen to be IT (the chaser). When a pair is caught they split up and each of them then joins in as individuals to become a chaser. Once somebody become IT or a chaser you remain one for the remainder of the games. The game ends when there is no pairs left.

Those in pairs will find that by being arm in arm or holding hands they generally cannot run as fast and behave a bit like slower larger molecules. When chaser catches a pair this represents a small molecule striking a slower one causes it to split and in this case produce two more fast moving molecules. Although the game is slow to start with, because each time two more players become chasers very soon there are no more pairs left.

It's not a perfect model because this is not done randomly as it would happen in reality, but its a useful quick game to show the exponential effect that takes place in chain reactions.

This game could even be taken a step further if you wished to demonstrate the controlled chain reactions that go inside nuclear reactors, by introducing a new element 'the control rods'.

Give these players coloured bands to identify them from other players. "Control" players have to catch the fast moving individuals. Once caught an individual can no longer chase pairs but has to find another fast moving individual (who may or may not have been caught by a "control" player), join up with them and become a slower moving pair.  Hopefully if you play with large enough numbers, you'll reach a stage in the game where you reach a controlled balance of players breaking pairs apart and other recombining them. Similar to reactors you may find it useful to experiment using different numbers of "control" players so that you could keep the game going ad infinitum.

Communist Church

Credited to Jason Goss

Needs to be played at night, with ALL the lights off, so ideal for an all night activity game. Also a great set up for a discussion starter.

Set Up: Explain to the kids about communism, how Christians are not allowed to gather. If they are found gathering, they are put in prison.

Game Prep: In the building you are using for the game make sure all the doors to rooms are shut. Lock those rooms that youth are not allowed in, and leave the doors to rooms that they are allowed in shut but unlocked.

The Game: Take a flashlight (this represents the church) turn it on and hide it in a room in your building. The light should not be seen without REALLY looking for it. Players have to find the flashlight you've hidden. When they find they are not to touch the light, but have to hide in that room, so no one knows they are there. It depends on the size of your group, but once a group of about 10 find the church the game is over.

The Catch: Have a few other players or youth leaders (this works best), be the communists. Their job is to catch the kids and take them outside the building. The communists are only allowed in the hallways and cannot go inside rooms. If they tag or grab a youth, the youth must surrender and be escorted out. Once the youth are outside the building their job is to find a way back in. Which you have made difficult since you or another leader is constantly locking and unlocking doors, leaving 1 door unlocked at all times. 

[Ed note: - for security reasons (and keeping the peace with the local neighbourhood) this is probably best played in more rural locations or the rules adapted to suit the needs of a more urban or city premises.]


Game for three or more players. Many games call for deductive reasoning but Eleusis is exceptional because it gives players an opportunity to experience inductive reasoning. It stands by itself as a fun game to play, but you can also discuss afterwards the analogies with the ways in which scientific hypotheses arise and are tested.

I was introduced to this game by the UK Pupil Researcher Initiative who use it as a way to introduce pupils to experience inductive reasoning.

Dealer shuffles a pack of cards and deals the whole pack out to the players. The last card dealt is turned face up in the middle of the table; this forms the basis of the starter pile (it may be necessary to remove a few cards so that all players get equal numbers, however we have played it with uneven numbers and it works just as well).

The players pick up their cards and look at them, organising them into any order if they wish. The dealer invents a secret rule or law which determines which cards can be played on the starter pile and writes it down in secret on a piece of paper and hides it until the game is over.

Stage 1
Players taking turns, choose a card from their hand and place it face up on the middle pile, overlapping but not hiding the previous cards. If the card fits the secret rule the dealer says "right" and leaves the card there. If it breaks the rule, the dealer says "wrong" and the player takes the card back and places face up on the table to form a mistake pile (Each player creates their own mistake pile). Play continues by turns until players have used all the cards in their hands.

Stage 2
Players then use the cards from their mistake piles, which are lying face up and fanned out in front of them. They play in turn and can use any of the cards in their pile.

Game ends when a player has no cards left or when the dealer declares that it is impossible for anyone to play a card which conforms to the secret rule. A set of games is complete when each player has had the chance to be dealer once.

Best to keep the secret rule simple, eg 'alternate black and red cards' or 'if top card red play an even card'. Ace counts as 1 Jack as eleven and so on. At least 1/5 (one fifth) of the cards in the pack of 52 should be playable each turn, so avoid restrictive rules such as 'play a card with a value one unit above the value of the top card'. This limits players to one of four in the pack each turn. Dealer may wish to give a hint. 

Generic Puzzle

Sent in by Jessica Lake

The game/puzzle activity helps develop team working skills, brainstorming techniques while introducing or develop the concept of generic transfer of ideas.

"The kids we played with did the letters set in the same time as the numbers and were thrilled that the same strategy was effective in both."




This game could be played with any number of people, but for this example 21 are used.

Create a large circle using the hose/string or draw it using the chalk. Keep the pieces labelled with letters hidden from view, but place the pieces numbered 1-30 randomly around in circle. Divide the players up into small equal groups (suggest no more than 10 per group) e.g. if there are 21 people playing divide them into 3 groups of 7 each. Have everybody stand around the circle.


Each group needs to figure out a way to touch every single number from 1-30 (in order) in the quickest time possible BUT!

Each group will be penalised 1 point (or as you are timing it penalise teams by adding 5 seconds to their time) for breaking each of the following rules:

Send the groups to different places outside the room with the following questions.

Get them to brainstorm their ideas on how to do this.

Call each team over separately and time them, tell them the result and send them back out to figure out a way to do it even faster get them to come up with more ideas. Call them back in for a second attempt, time them and let them know whether they've improved. Now encourage them to try for a one final third time and send them out again. While they are brain storming outside the room, switch the numbers in the circle for the letters and call the teams back in. Expect a chorus of "uh-oh's", but tell them not to worry - there is a strategy!

Hostage Dodge Ball 

© Kit Logan, 2001

A simple dodge ball game designed to provoke discussion about being hostage.

1 player is the Captor and chooses 3 other players to become hostages. All other players get to throw the ball. The object of the game is to eliminate the Captor by hitting them with ball below the knee without hitting the hostages. Any hostage hit below the knee is out of the game and the Captor can choose any other person except those already out of the game to take their place.

Everybody has freedom of movement around the playing area, but hostages at all times must remain touching the Captor and go where the Captor goes. Players cannot move when they have the ball and can only throw it.

With large numbers have several people playing the Captor or play it full body ball style so that it is counted a hit if the ball touches any part of the body below the neck.

Jonah and the Whale

Sent in by Pamela Bennet

"I take the Anchor Boys within my church. There are only eight of them and it is very difficult to play the 'traditional' big wide games that they like, one of the games that we do play is called "Jonah and the Whale".  It is a version of the playground game 'Sharks and Divers' (British Bulldogs)"

Also a useful game for playing when teaching the Bible and the story of Jonah and the Whale. One of the children is picked to be the whale and he/she stands in the middle of the floor.  Two 'dens' are picked (opposite each other) and the rest of the children are split between them.  These children are the 'Jonahs'.    The 'Jonahs' run between the two 'dens' trying not to get caught, but if they are caught they become whales.  The game continues until all the Jonahs have been swallowed.

Memory Game

Children love playing this and often beat any adults when doing so. Typically it is played using special packs of matched pairs of cards which you can buy or if you have the time make up yourself. Or you can play this with a normal pack of play cards.

When playing with younger children is is better to play using a smaller number of cards and to use simpler images rather than complex ones.

Playing using a 52 playing card deck.
Because playing card decks don't have identical cards, for the game cards are matched according to the colour of the suits eg Hearts with Diamonds (red), Spades with Clubs (black), so that the five of hearts is matched to the five of diamonds.

Making your own cards:-
Making your own cards is simple as all the game needs is a number of pairs of cards which have matching images. To make it more interesting/difficult you can make the images slightly different to each other, so long as the two images are recognisably linked, eg same person, same number different font, etc...

What about geometric and/or mathematical set of memory game cards? Create pairs of cards using two different but similar shapes (eg one pair with two right angled triangles another pair with isosceles triangles, etc...) Or mathematical pairs using a sum on one card and the answer on another.

Mounting the pairs of pictures you have onto cards and/or laminating them will help preserve the cards for future use.

Playing the game...

Version 1:  Mix the cards up face down on the table so that back off all cards are visible. Each player then takes it in turn to turn over any two cards allowing other players to see the image on the other side. Cards are then turned face down again. If a player finds a pair they keep the pair of cards and are allowed another go. Player collecting the most pairs at the end of the game wins.

Version 2:  Mix the cards up face down on the table so that back off all cards are visible. First player turns over any two cards so that everybody can see them, but then only turns back over one card. Next player also turns over any two cards and again only turns one back over. Regardless of who's turn it is any two cards that are identical can be claimed by the player that places a hand on each card in the pair. Player collecting the most pairs at the end of the game wins.

HINT:-Try playing this for special occasions, I've seen it being used for a 60th birthday celebration where all the family members and guests were invited to send in advance copies of two photos of themselves (identical or different) which they didn't mind being cut up. The photos were mounted on card and then used as in memory game... 


aka Memory Game

Sent in by Tracey Salmon

"Get a tray and put about 20 objects on it. 2 people have to study what is on the tray for 1 minute. they cover the tray and try and guess all 20 objects in 3 minutes. the loser gets a cream pie shoved in their face!!"

Very good game for children of all ages for sharpening the memory! Use 20 different objects... and of course use of the cream pie is optional, but makes it more fun for teenagers and older children. Use whipped cream (or shaving foam) piled onto a paper plate.


Another version plays it so that after studying the items on it for a short while one item is removed from tray and the children have to work out what has been taken. Each round replace the item and remove another.

String Toss Game

Posted on the Christian Youthworkers egroup

Get a spool of string or yarn. Have each person answer a question of some sort when they have the string in their possession. They then hold on to string and throw the ball/spool to another so they can answer the question. You eventually create a web of some sort. In the end, describe how the web analogous to the group in that we all play a part in creating the web, and that if one person was gone it would look different. Likewise, it is important that we all take part to make the group what it is, unique and special.

Satan's Revenge

Submitted by Michelle Demarest, Inspiration Youth Traveling Theatre Troupe,

"...We talk about how this game relates to the real world after we play. This game is very addictive"

Useful game with a lot of potential for Christian teaching and how elements of the game relate to the real world. For example "forgiveness" the promise of life again 

Have enough blank cards for every player. On one write "Christian" on the other write "Satan". The rest are blank. Everyone draws a card and finds a room to hide in until they hear the leader yell "go".

Use a scarf or something to act as a ‘flag’ and put it in a neutral location such as a foyer. Satan needs to get the flag and hide it, but can only hide it so the flag remains in plain sight and visible. However the game works best if played in the dark so Satan can use that to their advantage.

The leader waits for about two minutes and yells GO! The object of the game is for Satan to kill everyone while everybody else has to find the flag before Satan kills them. All Satan has to do is squeeze their shoulder and say "you're dead". The player then counts to 10 and finds a creative way to die. Satan can move the flag anytime they wish but if they are carrying the flag they can not kill.

The Christian has the power to resurrect anyone. All they have to do is touch the dead person and say "you are forgiven". But the Christian can die too and then there is no hope. The winner is Satan if everyone is dead or whoever finds the flag.

It might help to make anybody playing it to do so in silence because otherwise players tend to share who Satan is and that ruins the suspense.

Terrorist Hunt

© Kit Logan, 2001

This game is designed to provoke discussion and help demonstrate the problem of hunting down terrorists.

The object of this game is to hunt down the terrorists with as few a number of civilian casualties as possible.

To be effective you need around 20 or more players (but could possibly be played with fewer although you will have to scale down the numbers mentioned). For attack if you have enough small soft foam balls (tennis ball size) you can either use these to throw or you can use straws and cotton buds (Q-tips) blow pipe fashion as described in Cotton Projectile Wars (CPW). Both methods are described but the safer method if you are worried is to use foam balls.

Spilt players up by using a normal pack of playing cards… for about 20 players take and shuffle 2 or 3 aces, 10 royal cards and make up the number of remaining cards needed so there is one card for each player from the numerics. Each player takes a card.

Royal cards (Jack, Queen, King) are Coalition
All numeric cards (two to ten) are ‘Civilians’
Aces are Terrorists – Players who become terrorists keep this secret and to survive the game need to remain undetected for as long as possible.

Mark out a large area big enough for everybody to sit in. Coalition sit anywhere around the area drawn out. Everybody else Civilians and Terrorists sit anywhere within the area. Players once seated cannot move from that position for the duration of the game.

Each player is given a paper cup and foam balls or Cotton-buds and straws depending on which method you are using. Everybody balances their cup on their head. Players are allowed to put cups back if they fall off accidentally but if it is knocked off after being hit by a foam ball or cotton tip projectile that player is out of the game and can either lie down or if it’s inconvenient just sit with their heads bowed to show they have become a casualty.

All players have the option at any point to  combat However if they do take part they then become faire game for others to attack should they so wish. If they are not actively attacking they have to sit with arms folded. 


Coalition have to find and destroy the terrorists and the terrorists to destroy as many of the Coalition as possible according the following rules:


Longer term games:


aka "Lemonade Stand"

Credited to Elzbth343

"Hi I have heard of and played a game called Lemonade stand and how you play is you first start off with $20.00 you use that money to buy products for the lemonade you make. Like on hot days you want to buy more products so when the month or game is over you want to end up with a good graph to show how you did."

A good game for groups and a possible fundraising activity. The principle is the same for any product that it is legal for your group or those taking part to make and sell. Products don't have to be edible, but consumable items probably work best as there is a constant demand for them. You need however to be aware of any local laws controlling what you are producing and selling.

Basic principle:- Give each group a set amount of starting out money. From this money they have to produce a product and sell it at a profit (ie the capital amount of money plus extra). With this money they can go on to make more of the product and continue to make a profit. Set a time limit on the length of time this game can be played or a set amount that has to be reached. Group with most profit at end or reaching winning target first wins and gets a prize (or perhaps a share of the profit).