Social Distance Games: Fun Ways to Safely Play from 6 Feet Apart

It’s no secret that playing games with children helps them learn in fun and engaging ways. From moving around to develop fine motor skills, to practical accomplishments such as counting or vocabulary words, games provide children an outlet to explore imaginations and expand their knowledge base while learning vital social-emotional skills and abilities such as taking turns, sharing space and controlling their voices and bodies.

“Now and for the foreseeable future, maintaining social distance is going to be the safest way for us to interact with our community,” shared Meghan Schafer, Southeast Region Playspace Program Director. “At Horizons, we know that play is a vital part of life – it’s important for everyone, but especially for children whose play helps them connect with the world, form relationships, solve problems, and so much more.”

Horizons’ Playspace team put together a collection of games children can play from six feet apart, enjoying fresh air in the yard or local park while still having fun. Especially as quarantine measures ease, these games allow for interaction with friends while still maintaining a safe social distance.

Horizons staff isn’t keeping these games a secret. Every week, Playspace staff is sharing games as a great way for children to get out energy, release stress and connect with others. Instructions always indicate that the players should maintain 6 feet of social distance and include fun, educational twists on popular yard games while keeping the entry point for play accessible to a child’s voice, movements and imagination.

An example of this is the reimagined version of ‘Red Light, Green Light’ called ‘Lion’s Den’ where children pretend to be mice sneaking up on a sleeping lion across the field. Another example, ‘Follow the Mystery Leader’ allows children to get creative coming up with fun clap sequences or silly poses to get other players to emulate them while sitting in a socially distanced circle. Playspace Activity Leaders (PALs) have been active in suggesting games they like to play that can be done from a safe distance, such as ‘Simon Says’, ‘Mother May I?’ and ‘Hopscotch’ in Horizons’ PAL Facebook group.

“We’ve received so much great feedback from our PAL volunteers on our social distance games,” Meghan enthused.  “They’re excited to have a toolbox of games and activities to play with kids once in-person shelter volunteering is resumedSome PALs are even using these games with their own kids, grandkids and the children in their life to bring play safely back into their daily life.

When asked what makes social distance games an important part of Horizons’ Playspace, Meghan was mindful to note how play has been affected by the pandemic and how it can help us heal through the trauma of current events.  

“Play helps us get through feelings of isolation, of not feeling in control in the world, she affirmed. “We wanted to give kids and families ways to play safely in the new normalso they can continue to develop key problem-solving skills, build friendships, use their creativity, and experience the joy and laughter that comes from playing a fun game. 

We recognize that these times are challenging for children who don’t necessarily understand why their environments and routines have changedThey’re also challenging for parents and caregivers who may be leading more of the playtime than usual these days. These games are working at Horizons and will hopefully serve as some inspiration for fun at your home too! 

This piece was written by Andrea Drag, a regular contributor to Horizons’ Blog.