The teacher at our local kindergarten sometimes turns into a zombie. At first, I was a little wary of her transforming into the undead on occasion. But after she reverted to her normal self and explained what the zombie game was all about, I thought it was too brilliant not to share.
Not only did she explain how the zombie game evolved, but no less than a dozen learning outcomes from it. Yes, learning outcomes from turning into a zombie. As I said: brilliant.
As parents, we are always trying to find ways to amuse our tiny humans. If your children are anything like mine, they have tons and tons of toys, books and games that just sit around gathering dust. More often than I would care to admit, a screen is placed in front of them.
This doesn’t sit well with how I would like to be as a parent. I don’t want to have lots of stuff, especially if it is not getting used. I don’t want my kids to be as addicted to a screen as I am to my phone. I want them to run around, be active, and if they are bored, to use their creativity and imagination to make up a game to play.
The zombie game is a no cost, active, screen-free game that not only kids love, but also actually helps their mental and physical development in a myriad of ways.
Here is how it goes down at the local kindy, but any variant in your household will make for a memorable game.
The kids request the teacher to play ‘Zombies’. Usually a start time is negotiated and the kids understand they will have to wait until after morning tea, for example. At the start of the game, the teacher drinks ‘Zombie juice’ (a cup of water) and when it is finished she is transformed into the undead. The teacher-zombie starts growling and crashing all over the play area and the children run squealing into hiding places.
If the zombie catches anyone, the child is grabbed and tumbled onto the big play mat. The zombie searches for its next victim and the last (gently) roughed up child runs off giggling, but slowly, as he usually wants the zombie to catch him. This goes on for a while until the Zombie Juice wears off. Then suddenly the kids turn into zombies and chase after the teacher and a bit of rough and tumble play occurs. If any of the kids look too scared the zombie doesn’t go near to them during the game.
How the Zombie Game Helps Kids
Other than the zero cost and no screens, there are many other benefits from playing a zombie game. Here are just some ways it helps kids:
- Patience – kids have to wait until it is time for the zombie game to start
- Imaginative Play – with no toys
- Exercise – running around
- Decision making – finding new and inventive places to hide
- Becoming comfortable in their bodies – through rough and tumble play
- Community – feel like part of a group as both ‘victims’ and ‘zombies’
- Predictability – understand the start, middle and end of a game
- Rules – learn the rules of a game
- Risk taking – being daring in an appropriate and safe environment
- Understanding status – gaining insight as to who is the zombie (and everything that entails) at different points in the game
- Role playing – using make believe to role play
- Confidence – through approaching the ‘scary’ zombie
- Courage – for the kids who don’t want to play, some courage is gained from watching the game
- And last, but definitely not least – FUN! Fun is the most important part of how young children learn.
Sometimes I do succeed in avoiding a screen solution. The zombie game has inspired me. We play hide and seek a lot. We think up different types of races we can compete in (hopping, crawling etc.). As it is winter here, making huts out of cushions, blankets and old towels in the lounge is a favorite game on these long, rainy days. Sometimes we grab one of the old towels off the hut, the kids lie down on it and I drag them up and down the hallway. We bury each other in a pile of soft toys. And sometimes, when the kids are least expecting it, I turn into a zombie.
I would love to hear about your no cost, screen-free games. Comment below.