‘The Levels Game’ is a simple, fun activity where you ask kids to jump and touch your hands, which are placed at varying “levels” of difficulty. It’s one of the activities for kids that’s especially useful when you have 10 minutes to kill when your kids are wound up and don’t have space to run around. Basically, it gameifies jumping.
I came up with this game one afternoon while entertaining my very rambunctious 10- and 5-year-old cousins. They, and every other child I’ve ever played it with, request it frequently. The best part is that you, game master, stand still, releasing little energy, while the player(s) run and jump and tire themselves out. Self-serving? A bit. Fun? You betcha.
Prep time: 0 minutes
Entertainment time: 10-20 minutes
Energy expended by child: A lot
What you’ll need:
- Some space for kids to jump.
- A box to stand on if you’re short, or if the kid(s) involved are good jumpers/or on the ganglier side.
How to Play:
Have your players stand in front of you, giving yourself three feet of space between you and them. The game begins with a noise, the hydraulics of the machine’s engine that is, in fact, your mouth making a mechanical hum. The noise revs up as you lower your arms, palm-side down, to level one, the first height the players must jump and touch. This level is easy. It is not high. It’s a warm-up. After the player(s) successfully tap your hand, rev up the engine again and raise your arm(s) to “level 2”, which should be a few inches higher than the previous level. Then, ask the players to try and tap that.
The goal is to see how far the kid(s) can make it. If they miss, they have three chances to touch your hand. If not, the elevator resets and the game begins again.
How high you raise your hand(s) is dependent on the age or height of the kid or kids involved. So make sure to bring that into consideration. If you don’t, those involved will get frustrated.
Your enthusiasm is also key. Make hydraulic sounds as you raise your hand to the next “level”; before each attempt take a moment and make sure participants are pumped to try the jump.
This game is deceptively simple but kids, being the competitive, bouncy creatures they are, enjoy the sheer challenge of it. They like to beat their previous level, they like to run and jump as though trying to touch a basketball rim. Match their enthusiasm, and it’s a game to always keep in your back pocket.