10 Fun and Constructive Games to Use in School Counseling

'Are we playing a game today?' If I had a nickel for every time I've been asked that, I wouldn't have to work anymore!

While there are a whole bunch of interesting activities to use in small group and individual counseling, I find that games have a special way of drawing students in and yet providing opportunities to unlearn negative thoughts and behaviors and to learn and reinforce positive ones.

Interestingly, you don't need to be super creative to incorporate games into your sessions. As a matter of fact, everyday objects and easily available materials around you are enough to conceptualize and facilitate counseling games, no matter what the topic or area of need.

Here are my Top 10 Favorite Games to Use in School Counseling:

Scavenger Hunts

I have to admit, I love scavenger hunts as much as my kiddos in counseling do. I have especially used them at the start of the year with my new students group where tasks would include getting a signature from the principal on a sheet of paper, or going to the music room to find a particular instrument, or to the staff lounge to find a particular teacher.

scavenger hunt

I tend to also host scavenger hunts for kids I'm seeing in a mindfulness group. Some of the prompts I'd include would be to find something that is smooth in the playground or to find an article with a bumpy texture or to find something that tastes sweet or smells good.

More recently, around Thanksgiving, I conducted a gratitude scavenger hunt, and students had to find something that made them smile, something that reminded them of a good time they've had this year, something that they enjoy in nature, etc. I cannot begin to tell you what a hit these scavenger hunts are!

Bingo

I don't quite believe in having to reinvent the wheel unless absolutely required, which is why, Bingo is one of my favorite games to play especially at the start of the year or when I'm beginning to see students in small groups. For example, my Get to Know You Bingo FREEBIE is interactive and facilitates conversation among students where they can compare their similarities and differences. Students find a classmate/group member who identifies with one of the bingo squares (example: "I have a brother") and asks them to initial that square. The first student who gets 4 in a row signed off by classmates wins.

Game Shows

With my upper elementary students, game shows have quite the fan following. At the start of the school year, in my Tier 1 lessons, my interactive jeopardy inspired Meet the Counselor Game Show helps students understand the role of the school counselor and empowers them to seek out the school counselor when needed. You could create your own using Boom Cards or PowerPoint.

Escape Room

A trusty game for my upper elementary students has always been anything that involves missions and escape rooms. Sure, they do take a little more time and effort to plan and organize but once you have created them, you could use them multiple times and can tweak them according to the needs of your students. I prefer to use a game like this during a whole class lesson or in small groups where students can team up with others.

This Growth Mindset Mission is extremely interactive and fun and helps students acquire a growth mindset, determine the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset, and learn the power of 'yet' through a series of activities. Students divide into groups and must work as a team as they move around the room to solve all 5 missions. The missions to complete include a sorting activity, a sentence scramble, a round of acting, a drawing activity, and one that includes writing examples. Children feel accomplished and learn so much through a fun game like this.

UNO

Like I said, I love using resources I already have lying around, and UNO cards are among my favorites when it comes to playing games with my self-regulation small group. While you could use the generic UNO pack as is, you could also print your own using cardstock. The question/task on each card could align with the specific colors of the Zones of Regulation and with the relevant physical feelings, thoughts/emotions, triggers, behaviors, and coping strategies. For example, a blue card could read, 'list two things that make you feel sad' or 'list two coping strategies you would use when you are feeling tired'. You could use a Wild card differently and leave it up to the student to act out a self-regulating strategy of their choice, for example.

uno cards

Simon Says

Are you meeting a bunch of kiddos who have ants in their pants and cannot sit still? A simple game such as Simon Says is effective when working with a self-control small group. The rules are the same. Students are expected to be attentive and to be in control of their bodily movements based on the specific instructions given. In my Tier 1 lessons, I like using Simon Says as a brain break activity especially when kids have been sitting for a long time or when I sense they are getting tired/bored.

Roll and Share

Have you ever met a kid who didn't like dice games? I haven't, and that's why I enjoy 'Roll and Share' games. With my anger management small group, I use this Anger Management Roll and Share Game where scenarios/questions are already printed out and have the corresponding dice face next to them. Students roll the dice and then have to answer the question/share a relevant detail that corresponds with the number they've just rolled. A game like this could be used for any topic under the sun and is super low-prep. This game is also effective in teaching students to wait for their turn, therefore, I like using roll and share games in my self-control group too.

Memorize and Match

Sorting and matching games are a favorite among kids of all ages. Add the challenge of memorizing to it and you have a bunch of extremely enthusiastic and often competitive kiddos! My Self Regulation Matching Game teaches students how to identify their emotions. Students learn which feelings and actions are associated with each color 'temperature'. This resource can be used with a small group or in an individual session.

Scoot

Scoot is one game that I enjoy using in my Tier 1 and Tier 2 lessons. The premise is simple. All you need to do is place a question card on each desk in your classroom. To play, students move around the room, from desk to desk, answering questions or 'solving the problem'. My Scoot Game Bundle covers 10 different topics that range from Self-Regulation, Loyalty, Growth Mindset, Empathy and Self-Control to Expected and Unexpected Behaviors, Tattling Vs Reporting, Size of the Problem, Worry and Anxiety, and Social Skills. I have found that Scoot works very well when you are aiming to teach different aspects of the same topic and when you have kids who prefer movement based learning.

Board Games

Of course I saved the best for the last! Who doesn’t love board games, right? While you could always repurpose existing OG board games like Chutes and Ladders, I prefer board games that are more specific to the areas of counseling needs. Board games offer a fun and interactive way to get a better understanding of where your student is at and what their problem areas still might be. You can then use this information to help plan your future sessions.

If you’re up to a challenge, you can even create your own board games. However, if you’re looking for a ready to use resource, this Counseling Board Game Bundle includes fun, easy to use, school counseling board games that cover a variety of character education topics. With 11 ready-to-play games, you will have something available to fit the most common school counseling social emotional learning topics that can be used with a school counseling small group, individual, or the entire class! Also, I love using seasonal special board games with my kiddos!

What are some games you play with your students? Have you repurposed existing games? What worked well and what didn’t? I would love to know in the comments! 

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