Top 10 Low Prep Games

Nick Mance
July 5th, 2019

At times, games and activities fall by the wayside during a youth group night. We get swamped during the week, we spend much of our time planning the lesson, we focus on counseling students or we have just gotten back from a retreat, and games are the last things on your mind as you prepare for the evening.

Here’s the truth. We can only default to Dodgeball so many times. Sharks and minnows will become old soon. Students will no longer want to participate in Ultimate. And let’s be honest: Floor hockey has left too many dents in the wall to be a valid option.

And therein lies the problem: What do we do when we need a game…NOW? Living in the Midwest, where you can only be outside for a few months of the year, we have learned to have group games that are applicable to both inside and outside environments and can be done with any size youth program. These games require little or no prep and can be an easy go-to for anyone crunched on time, or just looking for a little change in their “game” game.

1. Pull Up

Requirements: A sound system and music.

Rules of play: Have your group sit on the floor in a circle facing inward. Then choose an odd number of boys and girls to be in the middle. When the music starts the students in the middle must go to a member of the opposite gender, extend a hand and “pull them up.” They then sit in the open spot and that new student in the middle continues by pulling up a member of the opposite gender. This continues until the music stops and the gender with the most people in the middle loses. Play for as long or short as you would like.

2. Drip, Drip, Drop

(May get carpets a little wet, so be on good terms with your janitor)

Requirements: Paper cups and water…maybe some towels.

Rules: Players sit in a circle facing each other much like Duck, Duck, Goose. Pick a player to be it. They stand outside of the circle and are given a cup with a small hole in the bottom. Have them place their finger over the hole. When they start they go around the circle saying “drip” and dripping a small amount of water on the students’ heads. When they yell “drop” they turn the cup upside down on the person and have to run around the circle while being chased by the person they dropped on. If they make it to said person’s spot they are safe. If they are tagged they are it again. Feel free to use as little or as much water as you want!

3. Egg, Chicken, Dinosaur

Requirements: An emcee.

Rules: This is a great alternative to Rock, Paper, Scissors and is really easy to pull off. Explain how to play Rock, Paper, Scissors to the group. Then explain that in this game you can only play with people who are the same as you (i.e. an egg, chicken or dinosaur. Eggs can only play eggs, chickens can only play against chickens and dinosaurs against a dinosaur). The kicker is they must walk or waddle in a manner that is befitting of an egg, chicken or dinosaur. Participants all start as eggs. They must find another egg and play a best 2 out of 3 round of rock, paper, scissors, and if they win they become a chicken. When a chicken wins they become a dinosaur. If they lose a round, they go back one level.

4. Lightsaber Duels

Requirements: A sound system, music (epic music or Star Wars music is great here) and emcee.

Rules: Participants must all place one hand behind their back. They will then join in a battle with another person by locking their one hand with the other person’s hand. They will then extend their pointer finger as their lightsaber. When the music starts they attempt to touch their “lightsaber” to the other person. They can “zap” them anywhere. If they are zapped they are out. The winner keeps advancing until only one remains. **Note: this can go on for a while depending on your students. Some battle for long periods others for a matter of seconds.**

5. Bucketball

Requirements: Buckets, cones, pinnies/colored shirts and balls.

Rules: Prior to dividing students, place bucket in the middle of a ring of cones (We usually make it about three feet in each direction from bucket to cone). Divide your students into groups (we usually just do two but having more groups makes it interesting) and assign each group colored pinnies. The game is played in the same manner as ultimate Frisbee where the students must pass the ball down the field and are only allowed three steps with the ball. We have a rule where if playing co-ed, ladies must have two touches on the ball before a point can be scored. Points are scored by players throwing the ball (after three or more passes) to their goalkeeper. The goalkeeper will hold the bucket within the ring of cones and attempt to catch a ball in the bucket. Only balls that stay in the bucket count. The goalkeeper may not go outside of the cone ring and the defense and offense may not go inside the cone ring. Feel free to add as many balls to the game as you would like.

6. Hot Seat

Requirements: One chair, people, emcee (can also be played in small groups)

Rules: Chose a person to come up and sit in the “hot seat” for 30-60 seconds. During that time the audience can ask questions of the person and they will need to answer. This can be as surface, deep or bizarre as your group would like. However, make sure you have a good emcee to filter some of the more awkward questions because we all know that will happen. At the end, give the person in the chair a candy bar for being a good sport.

7. Seated Basketball/Soccer

Requirements: Chairs, pinnies/colored shirts, balls and extra leaders/students to collect stray balls

Rules: Explain that the game you are playing will be played like soccer or basketball in that the goals are the same: Obtain points how you would normally (kicking a goal, making a basket). Divide your students into two teams and give them their pinnies/colored shirts. If you are playing soccer have the students remove their shoes to prevent potential injuries from kicking one another. Have your students then grab a chair and give them 15-30 seconds to place their chair. Explain that this is the only place they may sit for the first half/quarter. Once they sit they may not move from that spot. When everyone has sat down, introduce the balls for the game and explain that students must remain seated all the time, and failure to do so will put them in a penalty box. Explain that if no one can reach a ball it will be placed back into play by a leader. Assign times for your halves/quarters and then when a new one begins, allow students to find a new spot to sit.

8. Cat and Mouse Tag

Requirements: A large room

Rules: Have students pair up and link arms at the elbows. I would recommend not allowing them to hold hands or wrists as it can lead to injuries. Ask for two volunteers (or four depending on your group size) and explain that one will be the cat and one will be the mouse. The cat will be it and will need to chase the mouse. At any point during the chase the mouse can link up via their arm with a group and the person who is now on the outside is the new mouse. If the mouse is tagged then the roles are flipped and they are now the cat, and the cat is the mouse. There is no winner to this game, it is more just an active game to engage students with.

9. Octoball/Gagaball

Requirements: 8 rectangular tables and a ball that bounces (we have used an indoor/outdoor volleyball and it worked very well)

Rules: Set up the tables in an octagon shape by placing them on their sides and extending the legs to help keep them upright. You can interconnect the tables however you would like depending on the size you would like your court to be. Students then can enter the octagon (make sure to keep the number of students proportional to the size of the octagon) and begin play. A player serves by allowing the ball to bounce three times while everyone chants “ga-ga-ball” in time to the bounces. The ball is then live and players may go for it. Players may hit the ball with their hands in an attempt to eliminate other players by having the ball hit them below their knees. Doing so eliminates the player who was hit. If someone hits the ball out of the court they are out. If they hit the ball in the air and it is caught the player who hit it is out. If it is caught out of play that player is now in. There is no double-hitting allowed and a player can only hit the ball again if it hits someone else or a wall. When two people are remaining they are allowed to have double hits on the ball. Various other rules can include: No ball carrying, no punching the ball, no shielding of one’s self, no teams, etc. The last person standing wins the game.

10. Death Sticks

Requirements: Pool noodles cut in half, music and chairs

Rules: Place an odd number of pool noodles on an equal number of chairs in the middle of a large circle of chairs. Have each student pick a chair and remove any chairs that do not have a student. Then chose an odd number of students to stand in the middle that is equal to the number of chairs with noodles. Explain that this is a guy versus girl game (or however you would like it to be) where when the music starts the guys must take the noodle and bop a lady on her legs, and ladies must do the same to guys. Once someone is bopped the person with the noodle must return the noodle to the chair they took it from (no throwing- it must be placed) while being chased by the person they bopped. If the person who was bopped manages to retrieve the noodle when it placed down and bop the person who bopped them before they sit down in the vacant chair that person returns to the middle. If they cannot, they are now in the middle and can bop someone. The winning team is the team with the least of their gender in the middle. And remember that a “bop” is a soft hit and not smacking someone in the head with the noodle.

Bonus Game: Mingle Mingle

Requirements: Pre-scripted “get to know you” style questions and an emcee

Rules: This is a “get to know you” game. Explain that on “go” students are to walk around the room mumbling, “mingle, mingle” until you yell out a number. Once you yell a number, students must get into a group and share “their name, their grade/school and a ‘get to know you’ question.” Give them 30-60 seconds and then repeat the game.

These are some of the best go to games out there, and I hope that these can be used to help you in reaching and serving students!  

A few things to help make any game time even better

  • Music (keep it fun and upbeat)
  • Prizes (candy bars or cheap gift cards are great, but leftover holiday candy works if you are in a pinch)
  • Have a good emcee ( someone who knows your audience and can keep the energy and fun levels high)
  • Relational leaders (games are great but having an environment where students feel loved, welcomed and valued will make these games a true success)

Have a blast with these and feel free to share your own favorite no prep game in the comments!

This post was previously published by nickmance.blogspot.com.

Nick Mance

Mance is a student pastor in Hershey, PA and is married to his wife Elise. Nick has served in a variety of ministry capacities for over ten years and is a writer, blogger, speaker, and communicator specializing in student and family ministry.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.