‘As Seen on TV’ Is a Fast-Paced Improv Game That Exhausts the Imagination

Why watch TV when you act it out instead?

by Brett Ortler
Originally Published: 
An illustration of a man standing in front of a TV so that another man sitting on a couch can not wa...

‘As Seen on TV’ is a fast-paced improv-style game in which kids act out imaginary television shows, commercials, news, or sports using little more than a few props, a ‘remote control,’ and some friendly encouragement. It’s a great way to pretend to, but not actually, watch TV. It also fosters creativity, exercises the imagination, and is guaranteed to keep kids laughing. Plus, the more into they get, the more energy they’ll burn off, making it one of the best activities for kids with energy to burn.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Entertainment Time: 10-20 minutesEnergy Expended by Child: Moderate to substantial, depending on how wound up they get

What You Need:

  • Props are helpful — a small pile of toys, hats, and costume accessories near the “presenter” can help them launch from role to role.

How to Play:

In this game, the ‘TV’ is the person tasked with acting out what’s on the ‘screen.’ Again, there’s no real television involved. Be sure to leave it turned off. You’ll want to serve as the fake TV first, however, to set the tone, get the kids laughing, and show them how it’s done.

Give one child the remote — it can be a real one or simply a stand-in that they create out of paper/cardboard — and ask them to pretend flip through the channels until they find something they want to watch. Once settling on their favorite cartoon, a cereal commercial, the baseball game, they announce it to the group and you begin to act it out.

So if it is a baseball game, you’ll be the pitcher, an umpire, the commentary crew, or all of the above. When necessary, use the props to heighten the façade. After 10-15 seconds, prompt them to change the channel and yell out a new show. When we’ve played, I’ve jumped from commenting on a Minnesota Twins game to a narrating a nature documentary to acting out a car commercial in less than two minutes. When in doubt, just recite actual commercials you’ve seen; because the process is rapid-fire, you’ll inevitably make mistakes, and they can get pretty funny.

After you show them the ropes, it’s the kids turn to improvise. To make things easier, start with one of their favorite cartoons or shows — that way they’re comfortable and familiar with the basic material. If you want to get them to burn off some extra energy (and laugh more), change the channel frequently; jumping from character to character gets them moving around quickly and can adds humor when they inevitably continue their PJ Masks voice even after we’d changed the channel to Frosty the Snowman.

If the kids are younger, the improvisational aspect can be harder to convey — make things as simple as you can. Our two-year-old’s “channels” basically consist of her imitating various farmyard animals, but she loves it, and it’s still hilarious for the family.

Wrap Up:

‘As Seen on TV’ is an energetic, fun way to bring out your kid’s inner thespian and boost their imagination. It’s also a pretty good stand-in for the small screen and funnier than most network comedies to boot.

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