Backyard Games: Simon Says

A Classic Backyard Game That Builds Listening Skills

What we love about "Simon Says"
  • A classic backyard game
  • Kids and families can enjoy it
  • Requires no special gear
  • No one gets hurt
  • Rules are simple
  • It builds listening skills in a fun way
What’s not to love about a fun activity that encourages kids to listen and follow directions? I’m talking "Simon Says," the game we all played as kids—no equipment or protective gear needed! Here’s a quick refresher on how to play, plus a few fresh new ideas I’m throwing in. Number of players can range from three to more than 12,215.(That’s the number to top if you’re vying to break the current Guinness World Record for the "Largest Game of Simon Says.")*
In your yard, have one player assume the Simon role, with this slight twist: have each leader use their own first name, as in, "Grace says, clap your hands three times." Instruct the other kids to line up in a row or rows, facing the leader. Before the game begins, players should spread out so they’re more than arms’ length from one another and also adequately spaced so they won’t bump into players in front of or behind them.  Another fun addition is adding a theme to each round played. Encourage the players to come up with ideas, like, animal sounds and actions.
All lined up and ready to play? Grace calls out instructions, such as, "Touch your toes." Players follow Grace’s directives only if she prefaces her commands with "Grace says." Players are eliminated, or, "called out" for either following an order not prefaced with, "Grace says...," or failing to follow an instruction which includes the, "Grace says," phrase. The winner of the game is the last player correctly responding (or not responding) to all commands.
Please note that the point of the game is about listening.  It’s not about judging how well an action is executed by a player, but whether the attempt is made. For example, "Grace says, snap your fingers," (or "whistle")—two skills not easily mastered by all kids, but when players do their best to go through the motions, it counts.
Not only is this a game that promotes listening, it also helps young players develop the ability to discern whether or not a command is valid.  And it’s not limited to just kids. Get the whole family outside for a game where, "Mom says…," and kids listen!
*On June 14, 2007, 12,215 participants played "Simon Says" at the Utah Summer Games Opening Ceremony in Cedar City, Utah.