Are you in charge of games for your church’s VBS and stuck for ideas? Or maybe the games listed in the curriculum just don’t seem age appropriate or are just plain boring.

Well, I have a few really great suggestions for you. I have also provided links of items that we used and recommend.

Some of these are affiliate links, which means that, should you make a purchase, I may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

I do make it a priority to help you select what you might need to deliver a memorable experience that glorifies God in the mind of a child

Note that this post is not sanctioned or provided in connection with my church, and you take all responsibility for all facets of these suggestions, including safety, preparation, and implementation. Feel free to modify the games in any way you see fit and that better accommodates your group.

You can/should also check what items you have in your personal or church stock, in order to save money.

Why Our Games and Group is Different

Our church has a group for VBS for 5th graders that generally follows the curriculum of elementary and preschool, but they have a little more freedom to plan activities, as these are rising 6th graders.

We don’t want to treat them “like babies”, as the curriculum is geared towards younger kids.

Therefore, my husband has been implementing some really fun activities.

Now, these activities do NOT have to be used with older kids, you can tailor them to the younger kids, though some may require a bit more skill or need help from leaders.

We had a group of 35-40 kids each night, so we generally broke up into 3 teams of approximately 12-13 kids.

At times, there may be an odd number of kids in each group; PLEASE make sure that any kid who is the “odd man out” gets rotated in.

We don’t want any kids to get left out or feel unseen, as God sees us each individually and as important, and we want to reflect that each student is important as well.

Curriculum

The best games can be used to emphasize Biblical points and curriculum objectives.

This year, we did a structured curriculum called VBS Roar, and the activities can be tailored to go with the curriculum points or just standalone.

VBS Roar’s curriculum is African-themed, so we did a few that pointed towards that.

One game was a suggestion by a friend of mine that grew up in Africa, has family in Africa, and will be on the mission field there next year.  (Personal note, I’m glad they have a direction, but will miss them sorely.)

I will tell you how we used one game to emphasize how prayer, for even the “small things”, can be answered.

children playing

A Few Game Notes Before You Begin

Most of these games don’t have official titles, so I will try to describe them as best as possible.

Please also make sure that each activity is performed with safety of the children in mind; you are responsible for ensuring their safety during and after the games.

In general, we gave candy as prizes to the winning teams. You can give small, inexpensive, age-appropriate toys (think, fidget spinners would have been great a few years ago, a toy bucket they can choose from, stickers, etc.)

You should ensure that kids do not have allergies to these foods or anything else in the games. Older kids can generally tell you what they can’t eat, but check with parents for younger children.

Game 1: Lemonade Makers Relay Race

In this game, we have kids make lemonade “in their mouths.”

It is really a sour but fun game, and I really noticed that it helped kids to socialize a bit as they waited and talked about their experiences.

man with lemon in his mouth

For the game, you will need:

  • Lemons, one lemon slice per child (a quartered lemon is easiest), or straight lemon juice (maybe easier for younger kids)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Dixie cups or other small cup
  • Water

Cautions: Be sure that no kids have a sugar or lemon allergy.

When you cut the lemons, take out any large seeds that you can.

Preparation:

Due to the combination of fruit juice, sugar and water, it can potentially get messy so it may be best performed outside or somewhere easily mopped.

Prepare three cups for each kid: one cup that contains a lemon/lemon juice, one that contains 1/2 tsp of sugar, 1 Dixie cup of water.

Line the cups up on a table, front to back in the order above (lemon in front, sugar, then water in back.)

This way, kids can stand beside each other and do this.

Have leaders/adults at each line to monitor and make sure the kids are proceeding safely.

Line the kids up into the specified number of groups, as this is a relay race, so one kid will run up to the table, perform the activity, then will run back.

How the game works: What they are to do is run to the table, squeeze the lemon in their mouth so they get some lemon juice (and hold it), pour the sugar in their mouth, and then put the water in, all holding it in their mouth, and jump up and down three times.

Then they will run back to their group, and the next child will go. The first group to finish their cups is the winners.

Game 2: Basket & Ball Dump Relay

This game was suggested by my good friend who grew up in Africa. She said that women in Africa often carry large buckets of goods, laundry, or water on their heads.

I will show you what we used (most of which our church had in the resource room) but you can use any items you already have on hand or can find at the dollar store or Walmart, preferably soft (since they may fall out onto the kids) and not very heavy.

ball pit balls

For the game you will need:

  • Two large buckets/baskets per team. We used ones similar to these baskets, but you can use any laundry basket, trashcan, or buckets you have, as long as each is identical so that no team has an advantage.
  • One small/medium bucket (or beach sand pail) per team.
  • A set of plastic balls or other medium sized object of which a 2-3 will fit in the beach pail/bucket (we used these), separated by color if possible.

Cautions:  Make sure the plastic balls or objects used are soft and have no sharp edges, as they may fall out of the buckets and hit the kids. Make sure where the kids are walking are smooth paths without holes where they may trip.

Preparation: Put one large bucket per team approximately 30 ft (or however long you want it) from the starting line. Fill the other large bucket with the team’s colored balls, and put it at the starting line. Repeat for each team. Place one small bucket by each large bucket at the starting line.

How the game works: Tell the kids about how women in Africa carry heavy loads on their heads to transport items. They are going to see how difficult it is to get even small, light items to stay in the bucket for a short walk.

When you say go, the first child will put as many balls in the bucket as they think they can transport.

They will put the balls in the bucket, and then will put the bucket on their heads. They will hold the buckets on their heads while they walk to the larger buckets at the end.

They cannot hold the balls in the bucket with their hands while they walk.

They will walk as fast as they wish to the large buckets at the end of the line and bend down, all the while holding the small pails on their heads, and dump the balls into the larger bucket and then run back to their team.

If a ball fall out at any time, or if any of their team’s balls touch the ground at any time, their group will have to start over.

If that happens, a leader will take their collected balls at the end of the line and dump them back into the starting line bucket. (This sounds harsh, but it is actually quite exciting for them and produced a lot of laughs and funny “oh no!” type of reactions; no kids were picked on for being the one to let loose a ball, but make sure that doesn’t happen.)

The team to fill up their end of the line bucket and run back to their starting line is the winner. Give prizes as appropriate.

Game 3: Water Balloon Shootout

This one is really fun, but it may take a little bit of preparation.

Basically, in this game, you will have the kids shoot water balloons using a water ballon slingshot.

The further they shoot it, the more points they get, as well as if they hit specific targets you have laid out.

water balloons

For the game you will need:

  • Water balloons. I recommend these balloon sets; I have used them a few times, and there are a few tips I will describe in the Preparations section below. We used about 40 per team, and it took us about 45 minutes with 13 kids in each team.
  • Water balloon launchers/slingshots. You can find them cheaper here at Walmart, or for a bit more here on Amazon. (Get one per team).
  • Large bowl or storage container/bucket that holds water.
  • Hose or faucet to fill up the balloons
  • Targets. You have two types of options, depending on the game type you select, described below.
    • If you choose the ‘each team has their own targets’ game, you can use hula hoops, laundry baskets, cones, etc. Basically anything you have on hand that a water balloon could be aimed at, to keep costs down.
    • If you choose the ‘fort destroyer’ game, you will need each team to make a fort using whatever materials you choose, including those described above, or you can use cardboard, tape, and other materials that will be potentially destroyed by water balloons.

Cautions: Make sure no one has a rubber/latex allergy. Also, make sure that if they are to get wet, it is okay. It’s not likely, but is possible.

They should also be instructed how to use the slingshots — there should be directions that come with the sling shot, read them carefully; they will give you the best directions for optimal use.

Each team should have at least one adult to help them so they do not injure themselves – it is not a race, safety first!

Preparation: You will need somewhere to fill the water balloons. Preferably a screw-on faucet either at an industrial sink or from a hose connection.

Fill a large but shallow storage bin or large bowl full of about 2-3 inches of water first. We found that a bucket is too confining for the balloons when they fall off (if you use the type recommended).

A large bowl that was approximately 1.5-2 feet wide at the top worked the best, but we also used shallow storage bin (bottoms only).

Fill the balloons and let them gently drop into the water-filled container as they fill and get too heavy. A few will pop, that is to be expected. If some do not drop off, gently pull them off from their tops and guide them into the bowl.

Set the targets in position. We used a parking lot, so there were cones where each team of two people were to stand, no more than two feet apart.

Then, we had more cones approximately 20 feet away, and that was the first point target line. Another set another 20 feet away, and again 20 more feet away.

How the game works:Team Targets” style game: We assigned a point value to get to each set of cones, increasing as they got further (the lines from the parking lot also helped delineate the point values.)

We also added one hula hoop and one laundry basket per team, and they got extra points if they shot a balloon into either of those. They were a bit further away.

Have the 2 students stand behind their team’s line, no more than 3 feet apart, and designate a launcher. We had our kids rotate so they each got to do each job.

The secret, other than standing only a few feet apart, is to hold the sides of the balloon launcher at their shoulders and have the launcher get low.

As stated before, read the directions that came with the launcher, and you will probably want to try it out with kids of that age beforehand, to make sure they can understand the concept and that it works with their strength levels (for smaller kids.)

“Fort Destroyer” game: Have kids make a fort from whatever materials will be affected by water balloons.

Cardboard, paper, and tape work well. Tell them to make it as indestructible as possible. You decide the height requirements and level of materials.

Once the allotted time is up, each team gets to launch their water balloons at the other team’s fort. Appointed judges decide which fort is destroyed worse.

What was really great about this game, in our particular situation was: 

It had been raining off and on all week. And our games director told the kids to specifically pray for no rain for one of two nights. (He had a backup game in case it did rain.)

The night we wanted to do this game, it rained right before VBS started. We were nervous.

It was overcast pretty much the whole day, but, thanks to modern technology, we were able to watch the weather and though it looked gloomy and impending storms, we were able to get our game completed exactly at the right time when it wasn’t raining.

Praise God!

And we were sure to remind the kids about how we had prayed for no rain, and that God wants to hear our prayers in everything, even those things that seem small and insignificant.

That was a cool lesson. We were admittedly nervous about the weather, but still had faith while we were out there that it wouldn’t downpour on us and it didn’t! What a mighty, gracious, and fun-loving God we serve!

Game 4: (How to Organize a) Scavenger Hunt

Now, this one took quite a bit of preparation, but it was all fun.

For the game you will need:

  • Envelopes or brightly colored index cards (I recommend the index cards, will explain further below)
  • Plastic animals (to go with safari theme) or other small object that can be collected
  • Small locking boxes, (one per team). We used these, but you can find them cheaper at Michaels, Hobby Lobby, or AC Moore, most craft stores (and don’t forget to use a coupon!)
  • Small luggage locks with combinations (not keys), one for each box
  • A few location attendants, or team attendants to help teams get around
  • Bibles, one per location as needed per clue (explained below)

Cautions: Do not let kids run around church unsupervised.

They should stay with their groups & leaders at all times. This prevents anyone from getting lost/hurt, and also serves as damage-prevention.

Animals or collected objects should not be given to small children who may swallow them.

Preparation: This is where the majority of the work comes in. You will need to be familiar with your church/building, room numbers, and stairwells if using more than one floor.

We provided a map of the two floors for each team, so that they could find the stairwell or room they needed.

We had two teams use the east side of the building (our church has the North, South, East, West designations on signs), and two teams used the west side. This helped keep them away from each other as much as possible.

Making clues: We used envelopes to put the clues and maps in. We designated the team name on the front of each envelope, and also had a smallllll number in the corner to designate the clue number.

Now, I don’t know how, but one group saw the small number and thought that was their group number… Sooo, that messed up their group as well as the group for who’s clues they took.  Oy vey.

Therefore, I recommend using the brightly colored index cards, and give each time a color. (If you need an additional color, use the regular white cards.)

You can write them all out if you wish, but my recommendation is to type the clues out, (go ahead and put the group number and clue number on each clue), and print them out and put each clue on an index card via tape or glue. Having the team and clue number is very helpful – it will help you as you make up the index cards and also as you go around to place the clues in their locations.

With our clues, each team was going to a different location at the different levels of their game, but each location was visited by each team at some point. For instance, Team 1 might go to the West stairwell in their first clue, but Team 2’s clues would lead them there in their sixth clue.

This works well so that one team doesn’t follow another, and they each have their own experience, but by all means, use the clue for each team, just at a different level in their game. That will save you a lot of work.

Several of our clues included fairly easy puzzles they had to figure out. For instance, a clue might say, Go to Room S00 that ends with the number of Gospels. So they would go to room S004.

This is great because it also teaches children some Biblical principles also.

Another clue used Bible verses, so we placed Bibles in each room on a table, and it would say, Read 2 Chronicles 9:27, the 6th word is the location of your next clue. (So, in what I just looked up, the 6th word is common, and on their map (and part of our church) is called the Commons area.)

(Make sure you give the same version of the Bible that you make the clue (ie, use all NIV) and check each Bible to make sure the words line up. We found there was an ‘And’ inserted at the first of the verse in some Bibles but not in others, even in the same version, which would have thrown the clue off.)

We also placed an animal at each location, so they had to collect that and bring it back as proof that they went to that location. (We weren’t really sticklers on this, it was all for fun.)




Also, make an answer sheet for each attendant. The attendants can stand in the main areas or can travel with each team.

If a team gets lost or confused, the attendant should try to help them with the clues and maps, but sometimes attendants can get confused too (or their clue may have been inadvertently taken by another team), so you’re able to just tell them where to go without too much chaos.

One of our sections included a part where we put out 50 cups, and under one cup was the animal. They had to find it and replace the cups, then get their clue for the next location.

You can do anything outside the box like this. It’s all for fun!

How the game works: We told the teams that this was NOT a race. The final clue was back at our meeting spot, and they would all work on it at the same time.

This helped keep the kids from getting too hurried and helped to draw out the game a little. Though leaders did let them run… {Le sigh.}

Leaders did not have the answers, and were told not to figure the answers out, but to help the kids if they were very confused.

Then, they play the game. Once they get finished with the clues we gave them, they come back to the meeting place and waited on the other teams.

This is where the locked boxes and combination luggage locks came in.

Once every team had returned, the teams were each given a locked box with a final clue inside for an action they had to perform and told when to start.

Each number in the combination corresponded to a clue, so the top number might be, How many times did Peter deny Christ before the rooster crowed? So, they’d put in 3. There were also Bibles provided with a reference if they did not know it off the top of their head, and one clue was something most teams had to look up because it was somewhat obscure.

Obviously, the team that performed the final action first was the winner and got a prize.

Our prizes were typically candy, which is popular with kids, lol.

Okay, so I hope this list has helped you brainstorm some ideas for games for your VBS group! If you used one of these or found this helpful, please let me know in the comments! I would love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading, and take care!!

 

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