Games that need no props

Cat & Mouse

Number of participants: Eight or more
Length of time: Ten mi

What players will need: A big, open space that’s safe to run around in

Background: Cat and Mouse is a classic circle game.

Rules of the game:

To start, have all the players except for two form a circle and join hands. Of the two who are left, one is the cat and the other is the mouse. The mouse can go inside the circle, but the cat must keep his feet outside. He can, however, try to reach into the circle and tag the mouse.

The game starts with the mouse rushing out of the circle and trying to avoid the cat, whose main goal is to capture him. The mouse can cut across the circle in his quest for safety, but can’t stay in there for more than a few moments. The players in the circle can help the mouse by lifting their arms for him to enter and trying to block the cat from reaching in.

Once the cat catches the mouse (and he usually does), the mouse becomes the cat, the cat joins the circle, and the group picks a new mouse.

Midnight in the Graveyard

Number of participants: At least three people, but more kids playing make it more fun

Length of time: Varies based on the number of people, but schedule about ten minutes per round

What players will need: A safe play area with lots of hiding places. If it’s dark out, the game’s more fun

Rules of the game:

Start by choosing one person to be the ghost. Then pick a base. The group of kids – little detectives – stays on base, closes their eyes, and counts “one o’clock, two o’clock…midnight.” While they’re counting, the ghost goes into the graveyard (or the play area) and hides.

When the kids reach midnight, they search the graveyard for the ghost. When a detective spots the ghost, she calls out “Ghost in the graveyard,” causing all other detectives to stop hunting and run back to the base before they’re captured by the ghost.

Whoever is caught becomes the ghost and the game starts over. If no one’s caught, the ghost is doomed to roam the graveyard for another round until he can catch a little detective.

Other ways to play it:

In some games the ghost doesn’t stay at a spot until he’s sighted. He moves around and stalks his victims. When a detective is caught, she helps the ghost catch the others. The last one alive becomes the ghost next time. This variation is especially useful with older children who need the extra challenge.

Hospital Tag

Also called: Touch Tag, Sticky Apple

Number of participants: Five or more

Length of time: Five to 30 minutes

What players will need: A safe, open space for play


Hospital Tag is a variation of the classic TAG In this version, players get “wounded” when they are tagged and must cover their wounds while they run.

Rules of the game:

Start by selecting someone to be It. Give the players a few minutes to scatter before It starts to prowl.

When It tags a player, that person must cover the spot It touched with his hand and keep on running. If the same person gets “wounded” again, he can use his other hand to “stop the bleeding.” The third time he gets tagged, he becomes It, because he can no longer cover up his injuries.

Soon, players will learn that if they are tagged in an awkward spot, such as their ankle, they become easier to catch (it’s difficult to hobble around with a hand over your ankle). Before long, It will start diving for ankles and knees.

Hand on Hand

Number of participants: Four to ten

Length of time: 5 minutes

What players will need: Their arms and hands


This simple, cooperative game is tons of fun for little children as they try to stack their hands one on top of the other as fast as they can. The stack won’t work if the children don’t go in order, so they must wait for each other if they want to get it right.

Rules of the game:

Sit the children in a circle. One child starts by putting her right hand in the middle, palm down. The next player does the same and then the next and the next until everyone has their right hand in. Then the first player puts her left hand in and everyone does the same.

Now comes the fun. The hands on the bottom start moving to the top. As the pile gets higher and higher the hands move faster and faster. When the children have reached as high as they can, the round is over.

There are no winners and losers. The game is over when the children tire of playing.

Other ways to play it:

Try timing the children in each round. Then see if they can break their own record for speed.


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