15 Improv Games for Kids

Jennifer L. Betts
Cheerful boys and girls playing charades

You've probably seen the outrageous improv through Whose Line Is It Anyway? Bring that fun into your classroom or group through improv activities. Not only do they tickle your funny bone, but they encourage spontaneous thought, creativity, retention, hand-eye coordination and more. Explore some fun and original improv activities you can try.

Telling a Story

Take a modern twist on the old school fairy tale through a fun story telling improv activity. This activity can work for children of all ages and encourages abstract connections, memory and creative thinking. It works to get kids' brains running and can be a great warm-up in the morning.

Getting Started

This improv activity doesn't require any props, unless you want to have them. You will need six or more kids. Have kids arrange themselves into a loose circle.

  • Choose one kid at random to be the conductor of the story. They will tell the others when to switch.
  • One child will start a story with "Once upon a time…"
  • Once that child has completed a few sentences, your conductor will say switch.
  • Moving along the circle clockwise, the next person will start the story where the other left off.
  • Here's the twist: When the conductor says switch, they will throw in either a new character, action or scene that the child must work into their section.
  • Depending on the ages, you might just have them throw in one addition like a new character or you might have them throw in several.

Adding a Move

No props are necessary for this large motor skills improv activity. Not only will students be able to get up and get moving, but they will be working on memory, attention to detail and watching/listening for prompts. This is a great activity for younger kids working on following directions, especially body cues. While this activity is designed for kids ages 5-7, you can modify it by making the moves harder or more intricate.

Set Up

Line up six or more kids into a loose line hand to hand. They want to be able to see what the kid next to them is doing.

  • Either choose one person to start or start the activity by doing a body movement.
  • The kids should follow the body movement to the best of their ability.
  • The next person down the line will add a new body movement. For example, the first person might have clapped. The second person will clap then kick with their right foot.
  • Keep going down the line adding the movements until everyone has had a chance.
  • If by chance someone forgets the moves, start at the beginning.
  • For added fun, put the moves to music.

Word Game

Everyone remembers the old telephone game. Give it a fun twist with your 5-9-year-olds by making it into a fun and exciting improv activity. Not only will it help children to work on listening and following directions, but you might choose to throw in vocabulary you are working on as well.

elementary school girl whispering in her friends ear in class

How to Play

You can have students line up front to back for this or just have them at their desks. They need to be close enough that they will be able to whisper to their partner. Depending on your ages, there are a couple ways you can play this.

  • Secretly tell or have the first person in the row choose a letter. They will tell the next person in the row a word that begins with that letter. The next person will think of a new word with that letter and on down the line. At the end, the kid will yell their word and the letter.
  • You might also choose to use rhyming words or words with specific letter combinations. Whatever, you are working on at the time can become a fun word improv activity.

Copy Cat

Not only will kids be working on creative thinking but problem solving for this improv activity. Designed for older kids from 10 and up, this can work well as a morning activity or just to get them moving to beat the afternoon blahs.

Play

You are going to need kids for this one - at least eight. The more, the better, because it can get quite funny. You're going to need some space and a loose circle. The activity will move clockwise in the circle.

  • Choose one student to be your master of ceremonies and they will start the procession.
  • They need to choose a sentence starter like "The, she, it, etc." along with a movement.
  • The next person in the line will say another word, building on the previous one like "She walked" and do a body movement that complements the first one. For example, if the first person kicked their right foot, the second might kick their left, while the third does a body shimmy, etc.
  • The object is to try to create a story and build off the previous movement. Therefore, students have to work on complex thinking, moving and multi-tasking.

Follow the Leader

Listening and following directions are the name of the game in follow the leader. This game is similar to freeze tag with a twist and requires students to pay attention and watch for cues. This one can be fun for kids of all ages.

Rules

For this to be fun, you need at least 6 or more kids scattered throughout a room. The kids should be moving (i.e. running in place, jumping, etc.).

  • Subtly tap one kid on the shoulder, wink at them, etc.
  • That kid will stop.
  • Everyone else in the group needs to stop as well, but they also need to mimic the first person who was stopped's body positioning. This will require concentration and paying attention to see who the first one to stop was.

Rhyming Words and Gestures

Combining rhyming words and gestures, what could possibly go wrong? This activity works well for 5-7-year-olds working on rhyming but you can make the words more difficult for older students. Not only does this work on listening skills, but students need to think on the fly in this fast-paced improv.

Getting Ready

No prompts are needed but bodies are a must. Position six or more kids in a loose circle.

  • Either choose someone to start or you may start.
  • Call out a word like sit and perform the action of sitting.
  • The next person in the circle will choose a word that rhymes with sit and perform the action - like spit.
  • Keep going until you run out of action rhyming words. That person will choose a new word and the activity continues.

Slow Motion Movement

You've all seen a slow-motion fight scene on TV or in a movie. This improv activity plays on working with large motor skills by moving your body in slow motion. While this can work for smaller kids, kids over 10 will make the most of this activity.

Getting Set

While you don't need props, they can add to the fun. You are going to group kids in groups of four to six. Without talking beforehand, they need to gather in a rather close group.

  • Call out one student's name and they will start a slow-motion movement toward a group mate, like slowly touching their shoulder or pretend to slap their face.
  • The next person will react to the slow-motion touch and do something else to another group mate.
  • The point is to get everyone thinking about their movements and how to include the group to create a cohesive skit. This might be a comedy skit like the Three Stooges or possibly a Samurai fight scene.

Emotional Rollercoaster

Emotions are all a part of improv, especially if you can't use words. This activity is for all ages, and pushes kids to explore how different emotions might look. It's great for working on expression and understanding of emotions.

Multiracial group of children in preschool hallway

Prep

This is funner with a group but can work to if you are low on kids. Everyone should be standing in a loose group, not too close but not too far from each other.

  • Choose a conductor. This person will call out the emotions. For younger students, make them simple like happy or sad, but for older kids, you want to get more difficult like contemplation or pensive.
  • The others will try to act out the emotion that was called. The catch is for kids to pay attention to what others are doing so they can make sure they their portrayal is unique.

Create a Story

Foster creative thinking through an improv story. Using their imagination, kids should use a prop to create a story or skit. Kids of all ages can do this one, but younger kids might need a little bit more direction.

Preparation

You are going to need random props for this one. For example, a red shirt, headphones, bubble gum wrapper, etc. Group kids into four to six people and have one choose a random prop.

  • Using the prop, students will create a story.
  • They should be able to create a 1-5-minute story.
  • You can choose to give them 1-2 minutes to prep or just have them roll with it right away.

Alien Greetings

Little kids love gibberish so this can be really fun for them. It can be fun for Trekkies too, so you might modify this for 10 and older kids by making a more intricate language. This works on mimicking and listening skills.

Creating

For this activity, six or more kids are going to pretend they are aliens. As aliens, they have a new language. They will try to greet each other in the language and match the type of language the person that is greeting them is using. For example, one alien might use a series of zaps and zooms for their language. The person they greet will listen to their greeting and try to match it using zaps and zooms. Then they might greet another person using beeps. Not only is it fun, but they really have to listen and model others. Make sure that everyone has an opportunity to be a greeter and greetee.

Machine Building

Being aware of your environment and paying attention to details to push understanding and creation is the name of this activity. Best for older kids of 10 plus, you can make the groups smaller for younger kids.

What to Do

With a group of eight to 10, you're going to have students build an imaginary machine.

  • Choose one student to start the machine using either or both actions and noises.
  • The next student will build off the first students' repetitive actions, noises or both until the whole group is cohesively working to make a machine.
  • After all students have joined let them try again.

This works on group collaboration and can be great before a group project.

Call to Action

Creative thinking on the fly is what improv is all about. This is great for kids of all ages, but kids 10 older might get more out of the exercise. Additionally, this works well as a drama game to get energized and moving.

Task

You are going to need a hat and action prompts. For example, you might have throwing a ball or running up a hill.

  • Choose a student to pull an action out of a hat.
  • The kids need to perform the action that they hear in a unique way.
  • This means that the kids need to be aware of what others are doing and add their own unique twist.

For example, if the prompt was running up a hill, maybe some pretends they are running up with a bucket while another pretends to slip, etc. Everyone should be doing the same action, but also different actions based on what others are doing.

Scene Selection

Setting your scene in improv can be harder than you think. Especially when you don't have any props. Have kids 12 and older work together to use creative thinking to set a scene. This is a great warm up to get minds flowing in the morning.

How It's Done

You can either pull a scene out of a hat or allow the groups to create a scene. You will need groups of at least four kids.

  • Choose three people to act out the scene.
  • Choose one person to give it dialogue. This person will essentially be giving a play-by-play of what is happening in the scene.
  • Both the dialogue person and the actors will try to create a cohesive scene like buying a new car.

Create a ____

Little kids love anything that gets them up and moving. This improv activity will get them moving around in the morning and work on their listening skills. While this is hilarious to use with kids ages 5-7, it can be fun for the older ones as well.

The Action

For this activity, you're going to need a group of kids, the bigger, the better. You are going to call out something like banana, taco, swimmer, high diver, etc. Whatever, you call out, the kids are going to try to mold their body into that thing. They can even work together to try to create it, like if you were to call out a hotdog.

Everybody Smile

You've all seen those horrible family portraits; well you are going to work to get students to create them. Kids of all ages might enjoy this mobile activity that gets them warmed up and moving. It also works on problem solving and abstract thought.

Getting It Done

You're going to need a larger group of kids, from about six to 10 people. You will also need a hat with portrait suggestions, or you can think of them on the fly. Depending on your kids, these can be simple like family picnic portrait or more difficult like cheerleading tryouts portrait.

  • Call out a prompt.
  • As quickly as they can, students will try to get into a group to represent the photo.
  • When you say smile, they should all stop and look at the imaginary camera.

Improvise Your Education

Whether you are a math teacher or drama master, using improv with your students can be a great way to improve their memory, motor skills, and creative thought. Use these activities as a morning warm up or just to get them energized between subjects. The fun and laughter don't even feel like learning.

15 Improv Games for Kids