Several years ago my school district stopped giving me a spending stipend for job-related products. I used the money for counseling games and 50-paper hole punchers…And those games were kind of pricy! Like $30 for one board game!
But then one day, the funding went to nothing and it was time to spend my own money on new counseling games. Let’s face it, I was tired of the same old games, and so were my students. So I Googled ideas, of course. The first idea that I found was the “Beach Ball Game”, as I have named it. Over the years of counseling students, I have created many versions of this game from my original, “Anger At The Beach” since I first found the idea. From there, the ideas for small group counseling games that are fun, interactive, and engaging has evolved with my students and their needs.
Beach Ball Games
This “Beach Ball” game is always a hit. It’s also great for social distancing, as students can play outside or in your office. To play, the students just toss the ball to a peer and then the counselor (or school psych) reads the prompt or question. It’s that easy! And, it supports learning social skills, especially if the students are playing the “social skills” version. This is because students have to take turns, wait their turn, and engage with each other when answering questions.
Over the years, I’ve taken the same concept from and created a Rapport Building Beach Ball, a Social Skills Beach Ball, Self-Esteem Beach Ball, and “Appropriate vs. Inappropriate Behaviors” Beach Ball. Most of my Beach Ball games I have also added a “Card Game” version, for slightly calmer in-off activity.
Here are some of my “Beach Ball” Games below. Just Click on the Picture to Learn more about the Game or Activity.
Kids love Jenga! It’s another game that is similar to my Beach Ball game, but in a different format, to add novelty and fun. All you need is a Jenga game (or imitation) and then number it 1-30. I’ve made several themed versions for whatever topic you are counseling students for. The questions are designed to facilitate discussion and practice skills related to your topic.
BINGO Games are fun for kids as well. I have been able to make a few BINGO games for a few of my presentation type Power Point Presentation SEL lessons, however, because it is a good way to keep kids attention when attempting to provide them with information.
If I were a teacher, I would probably try to have all of my lessons incorporate BINGO, so that kids would have incentives to pay attention, haha.
Hopefully you aren’t a school psych or counselor just playing regular-old UNO with your students. I know that playing UNO can technically build kids Social Skills, and yes, I have played UNO with my students. But, there really isn’t any lessons or discussion prompting involved in UNO or other regular board games that you could technically play in a group counseling session. By playing card games with therapy themes, students can work on turn taking, sportsmanship, and other social skills while engaging in discussion and learning about a social-emotional topic.
Board Games for…Empathy, Manners, Social Skills, Anger Management, Respect, Behavior…The list goes on
Didn’t I just say to not play regular board games? Why yes, I did. Like card games, regular board games can help students work on general social skills and learn how to play the game. You would probably be surprised (if you are new to working with children) that many children have minimal experience these days playing board games, such as Checkers, Guess Who, Battleship, or Monopoly.
Parents just let their children play video games, which someone convinced them is both a great baby sitter and good for learning social skills. No comment. While regular board games can be good for lunch bunch, board games that are designed to teach actual social or emotional skills are probably best for the majority of your sessions. Here are a few therapy board games that I use regularly in my small group counseling sessions:
Laptop or iPad Games
Over the year of Distance Learning I created several laptop therapy games to use over Zoom because showing videos and trying to use counseling games from my office was often challenging and a little boring for my students. Laptop games are good for both Individual and Small group therapy because they have the feel of a “video game”, but are still focused on learning social-emotional skills. The laptop games have also come in handy now that we are back in-person because I use them regularly for classroom (SDC) social-emotional learning activities. Because they are on a Power Point slide, their teachers can put up the games on their Smartboard and I can easily use them for a fun activity.
Here are some of the different laptop games that are available in my TpT store:
There are also some pretty good games that you can play iPad. For more on those, please check #4 on my page about good games to play with students for working on building coping skills.