19 games for family bonding during COVID-19

Play together to create powerful memories and life skills

Rebecca Tortello, Education Specialist
Photograph of a boy wearing a Superman costume
Shayne Morris

07 April 2020

UNICEF Jamaica understands the power of play. We know how transformational it can be for families to create shared memories, facilitate learning and growth and develop life skills through play. 

We hope you can make time to enjoy these family-friendly game ideas. Take advantage of your free time and prevent boredom by playing together – to make powerful memories of how your family was able to bond through play, despite the challenging circumstances.

Freeze Frame 

Play music or sing a song while everyone dances. When you stop the music or song they must freeze. Those that move are out and become judges for the next rounds.

Hangman

One person has a word and draws a dash to represent each letter in the word that other players must guess. Players must call out letters either correctly and incorrectly until either the word is solved, or the hangman is drawn.

Words Within a Word

Call out a word and give oneminute to see how many words players or teams of players can make from that word. You can choose to give extra points for words that are two or three syllables long etc. All words can be explained and used in a sentence to help the children build vocabulary. 

Challenge Math

Call out mathematics problems and see who finishes fastest. Give points for first one to finish etc. The winner creates the next math problem to be solved. This works best if children are in close grade levels. It can also be done using math flash cards. 

Amazing Recall

The first player says, “My mother went to the store and bought an… apple.” The second player adds to this by saying, “My mother went to the store and bought an... apple and a banana.” Then the third player says, “My mother went to the store and bought an... apple, a banana and a carrot” and the game continues alphabetically. Each time a player makes a mistake in the recall they are out. 

Categories

One player picks a category (e.g. favourite food or favourite colour) and everyone takes turns naming something in that category until someone cannot name a new one and then that person is out.

Alphabet

Similar to I Spy, except this game runs in alphabetical order using what players can see around them. So, the first player to take a turn must find and say something beginning with A; the second player something beginning with B; and so on. You can go all the way to the end of the alphabet.

Once Upon a Time

You begin with that statement and each player adds a line to keep building the story, until you have made a unique family story!

Fortunately, Unfortunately

One player begins with an unfortunate statement combined with a related fortunate statement e.g. “Fortunately I like to eat vegetables. Unfortunately, I don’t like chocolate.” After you play a few rounds you can go around and ask each player to see how many things they can remember about other players. Who can remember the most wins!

Never Have I Ever... 

A player starts by saying, “Never have I ever... liked the colour red.” The next player guesses if the statement is true or false. Players can take turns making statements with the next player guessing. Statements can be serious or silly – the objective is for everyone to get to know each other better as family members e.g. for children to learn about their parents’ earlier lives and vice versa.

Rhyme with Me

First player picks a one-syllable word and everyone else takes a turn saying a rhyming word e.g. “Cat”. The next player could say “Sat”. Then the third player could say “Mat.” Players are out once they either repeat a word or cannot think of a word in five seconds.

Show Me a Motion

First person does a dance move and everyone follows. Group picks a person to go next, who  models another dance move and everyone follows, until everyone has taken a turn (or multiple turns).  

Counts of 8

In counts of 8 players make up a dance, going from one count of 8 to the next. So, the first player does a count of 8 and can include elements such as stomping and clapping. The second player then makes their addition to the dance until the entire family group repeats the sequence from beginning to end. Congratulations, your family can now name its own signature dance!

I Can Do This… You Can Do That

Players make up a movement – not a dance. This can be just a hand or foot movement sequence to which each player adds a movement – repeating the sequences as it develops. 

Name that Tune

Play a song or start to sing it and kids have to name it and dance along.

Simon Says

Call out a part of the body but touch a different part and see if kids follow by listening or watching.

Challenge

Who can do the most toe touches, jumping jacks, windmill toe touches etc. in 1-minute time limit.

What if…? 

Ask a question e.g. What would you do if you won the lottery?" or "If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Why?" Let every player take a turn both asking and answering a question. Agree on whose answer was the funniest, most creative, most thoughtful etc. and clap the winner of each category. 

Name Game

First pick a category e.g. animals, foods, names etc. For example, if the first person says Jemar the next player must pick a name that begins with the LAST LETTER of that name, which is “R”, such as Rochelle. You can set a time limit and anyone who either exceeds that or tries to reuse a name is out.