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 puncher, which I still love and use! If you are also buying physical games then you know…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 “free counseling game ideas”, of course, to start. 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 was also a great activity during COVID times, as it allowed for social distancing because 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 or Jenga version, for slightly calmer in-off activity. Yes, while kids love the beach ball games, they can sometimes get a little wild with it if they get too excited.
Here are two of my “Beach Ball” Games below. Just Click on the Picture to Learn more about the Game or Activity.
Kids Love JENGA Games
Jenga is another game that is similar to my Beach Ball game with questions and prompts that help facilitate discussions related to their topic or theme. 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. Just click HERE or on the pic below if you’d like to use one Jenga for 8 different games to make your counseling life easier hopefully.
Social Skills Board Games
Kids also love board games, of course. Over the years I’ve made several board games to help teach kids Social Skills. This is what lunch bunch is typically about…teaching and practicing social skills. If you have younger students that are in your lunch bunch, they might particularly enjoy the Candy Land Social Skills Game. Here are just a few that are under $5!
Kids also love…BINGO Games!
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. Here’s my latest BINGO Games for teaching kids about Emotions and Emotional Regulation.
If Card Games and UNO sound like fun….
Hopefully you have a deck of Playing Cards or UNO because kids really like card games. While Candyland and other board games are typically good for younger students, Card games and UNO are good for older students, even Middle and High School age students. While, yes, regular old UNO can technically build kids Social Skills, there really isn’t any learning or discussion prompting involved that can help teach Social Skills in just playing regular UNO. By incorporating therapy themes into these games, students can work on turn taking, sportsmanship, and other social skills while engaging in discussions and learning about social skills or emotional regulation topics.
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. If you are a new counselor, you would probably be surprised that many children have minimal experience these days playing board games, such as Checkers, Guess Who, Battleship, or Monopoly. This is because kids mostly play games with technology these days, such as computer and video games. While fun, these games often do not provide kids with opportunities for social interaction, as many games are played in isolation at home instead of with parents or siblings, which board games can better provide. This means that skills such as turn taking, sharing, cooperation, and conversation do not occur when playing.
While regular board games can be good for lunch bunch, board games that are designed to teach specific social or emotional skills are probably more productive when trying to teach specific social skills during your lunch bunch. Here are a few therapy board games that I use regularly to teach social skills in my small group counseling sessions: