If your kids’ playdates have gone virtual, you know all too well how quickly those convos turn into taking turns waving hi and asking, “So, what are you up to?” But that doesn’t mean you can’t up the ante and bring back the ‘play’ in ‘playdate.’ These games and scavenger hunts are designed to entertain kids of all ages and are easily adapted for Zoom.
1. Rock, Paper, Scissors
For this particular age group, simplicity is key. This game provides a nice—and silly—way to structure their interactions with friends. A quick refresher on the rules, as they apply to Zoom: One person is designated to be the person calling out, “Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!” Then, the two friends who are facing off reveal their choice. Paper beats rock, rock crushes scissors and scissors cut up paper. That’s it. The beauty of this one is that kids can play as long as they want, and you can track the winner of each round via the “chat” feature on the side, then tally up to see who won the most at the end.
2. Freeze Dance
OK, a parent has to be on hand to play DJ, but you’re likely keeping a close eye to supervise this age group anyway, right? This game requires little ones to get out of their seat and dance like crazy to a playlist of their favorite tunes. (Think: “Let it Go” from Frozen or anything by the Wiggles.) When the music stops, everyone playing has to freeze. If any movement is visible on screen, they’re out! (Again, it’s probably best to have an impartial party—like the parent playing DJ—on hand to make the final call.)
3. A Color-Focused Scavenger Hunt
Trust us, a Zoom scavenger hunt will turn out to be one of the most delightful virtual games you decide to play. Here’s how it works: One person (say, a parent on the call) rattles off various color-based items—one at a time—in the house that each kid has to find. So, it’s “something red” or “something purple” and everyone has to present the item on-screen. But here’s the kicker, you set a timer for their search. (Depending on the age of the group playing, the amount of time you give might vary.) For every item retrieved that fits the prompt before the timer runs out, that’s a point! The kid with the most points at the end wins.
4. Show and Tell
Invite your child’s friends to a round of “Show and Tell,” where everyone will have a chance to present their favorite toy, object—or even their pet. Then, help them “prepare” by talking through what they love most about what they’ll be showing their friends. It’s also a good idea to set a time limit, depending on the size of the group, to be sure that everyone gets a chance.
For Elementary-Aged Kids
1. 20 Questions
One person is “it,” which means it’s their turn to think of something and field yes or no questions about it from their friends. You can set a theme if you think that helps—say, TV shows the kids watch or animals. Designate a member of the group to count the number of questions that get asked and keep track as everyone attempts to guess. The game is fun but also full of learning opportunities, including the idea that asking questions is the best way to narrow things down and better understand a concept.
ICYMI, Zoom actually has a Whiteboard feature. (When you screen share, you’ll see the option pop up to use it.) Once set up, you can use the annotation tools on the toolbar to draw pictures with your mouse. Digital Pictionary is born. Better yet, if you need help brainstorming topics to draw, visit Pictionary Generator, a site that services up random concepts for players to draw. The only caveat: Players will have to take turns sharing their screen based on whose turn it is to draw, so it’s probably best to distribute directions on how to do that part in advance.
It’s the game where you have to get your team to guess the word by saying, well, everything but the word. The good news: There’s an online version. Divide the players into two separate teams, then select a clue-giver per round. This person has to help their team guess the words before the timer runs out. Pro tip: You might need to mute the mics of the team not playing that round.
4. A Reading Scavenger Hunt
Think of it as a mini book club: Print out a reading-based scavenger hunt map, then share it with your child’s friends on the Zoom call. Prompts include things like: “a non-fiction book” or “a book that’s been turned into a movie.” Each kid has to find a title that fits the bill, then present it to their friends on the call. (You can set a timer for their search.) Oh! And save the best category for last: “a recommendation from a friend.” This is the perfect opportunity for kids to call out a title they want to read next based on the books presented on this very Zoom session.
This is a crowd-pleaser. Divide Zoom participants into two teams and use an idea generator (like this one) to choose the concepts each group will act out. The person who’s acting out the idea can use Zoom’s “spotlight” feature, so that they’re front-and-center as their peers yell out guesses. (Don’t forget to set a timer!)
For Middle Schoolers
Yep, there’s a virtual edition. The rules: You’ve got one letter and five categories (say, “girl’s name” or “book title”). When the timer—set for 60 seconds—starts, you’ve got to come up with all the words that fit the concept and start with that exact letter. Each player gets a point for every word…as long as it doesn’t match another player’s word. Then, it gets cancelled out.
First things first, everyone needs to log into Zoom. But you’ll also need to set up a room. This allows you to curate a list of karaoke tunes (simply search a song on YouTube and add the word “karaoke” to find the wordless version) that you can cycle through all together. (More detailed directions on how to do this are available here.) Let the singing begin!
Yep, there’s an app for that. Online Chess is an option or you could set up a Chess board and point the Zoom camera at it. The player with the board makes the moves for both players.
4. Heads Up
Another game that’s incredibly easy to play virtually is Heads Up. Each player downloads the app to their phone, then one player is assigned to be the person holding the screen to their head per turn. From there, everyone on the call has to describe the word on the screen to the person holding the screen to their head. (Split everyone into teams for a friendly competition.) The team with the most correct guesses wins.