Building Resilience in Children Using Fun Games

By Sher Warkentin in Healthy Feeling

It’s impossible to know exactly what trials and challenges life will throw your way, but there are steps you can take to equip your kids with the skills they need to overcome those hurdles. Here are a few activities that not only help with building resilience in children, but they will provide your kids an afternoon of fun, too!

The Importance of Resilience

Facing adversity can create some difficult moments for kids, but if they’re prepared, they will come out on the other side much stronger. As a Girl Scout Leader and a mom, I’ve spent the last year working on leadership skills with the young girls in my troop, and many of the activities we’ve done involved building self-esteem, strengthening relationships, and being kind, all of which are important aspects of being resilient.

Whether your life is fairly easy or full of obstacles, there always comes a moment when your kids will have a difficult time for reasons out of your control, like moving, dealing with bullies, problems at school, or a death in the family. Playing games and doing activities that build resilience better prepares them for when those moments arise.

Build a Trust Walk

Building trust in others and developing a support system is an important step in overcoming adversity. As a troop, we set up a trust walk/obstacle course to teach the girls about being brave and earning trust. The kids were partnered up and led each other through a simple obstacle course while blindfolded. The blindfolded students are forced to rely on the advice and support of their partner to complete the course. Afterwards, we talked about how they felt while completing the course.

Practicing kindness is one step towards building resilience in children.

Form a Compliment Circle

It might not seem obvious, but practicing kindness is an important part of building resilience in children. This is a fun game that I recently played with our Girl Scout Troop; the only thing is you need at least six kids to play. Have the kids sit in a circle with their legs stretched out in front of them. Pick one child to go first. He or she will pick someone else in the circle to give a compliment to. Once you’ve received a compliment, you pull your legs in (crisscross applesauce style) so everyone knows you’ve received one already. Keep going around the circle until everyone has received praise.

The real trick to the game is getting kids to give compliments on something other than visual traits. Try to have them avoid things that have to do with looks so the compliments are more meaningful. This is harder for younger kids and takes some practice.

Play Musical Chairs

This is an oldie, but a goodie, because one of the hardest lessons to learn when you’re trying to build resiliency is that you don’t always win—and that’s OK.

Start the game by having the same number of chairs as players, so that everyone has a seat the first round. Then round by round, remove a chair each time so there’s always one child out when the music stops. Kids will experience emotions connected to being the odd one out and learn how to cope with those feelings. Talk about it at the end of the game, so kids get a chance to express what they’re internalizing.

Do a Hula-Hoop Challenge

Team work is an important part of developing problem-solving skills.

Another step towards building resiliency in children is by learning to face conflict and develop problem-solving skills. Everything from picture puzzles to video games can teach problem-solving and reasoning to kids on their own, but it’s also important to learn how to work with others to solve these problems as a team. This game gives kids a chance to work together as a group towards a common goal.

Have the kids form a circle while holding hands, but before the last pair connect, place a hula-hoop over one arm. Without letting each others hands go, the challenge is to get the hula-hoop to move across the circle. Kids will have to work together to move the hoop and support each other so they don’t fall over. At the end, talk about what made it difficult and the ideas they came up with to solve problems.

Life lessons, like resiliency, are hard concepts to verbalize. Games like these offer hands-on exercises that are easier for kids to engage in and absorb. What are some resilience activities you’ve tried with you kids? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter.

Image source: Sher Warkentin

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Why It’s Good

You never know what life will throw at you, but there are some ways you can help your kids be prepared for any curveballs that come their way. Playing games is an easy method for building resilience in children in a manner they can actually understand.