Ships Game

I created this version of “Ships” by altering another version I was taught years ago (learned from a friend while I was teaching at SCICON Outdoor School…) I have no idea who the original creator of this game was, or where the activity came from. Many of the activities I learned at SCICON I Iearned through word-of-mouth.

The original game was on the subject of geology…and luckily, this is a game that can very easily be adapted to whatever topic you need! I used this game in a science camp program with mixed ages of kids…It seemed to be particularly fun to the “middlers”…kids from like 1st / 2nd grade through 4th / 5th …(before the attitudes “I’m too cool play this dumb game” becomes an issue…And old enough to understand all the concepts.) But it really can be played with all ages, if done enthusiastically!


Leader will shout out commands (really ham it up!), with a certain action assigned to each command–some commands will require the children stopping where there are to perform them, others, running to a “base” to do the action…(kids can run to any base during a “base command”…just so long as they are touching a base).
“Bases” set up to form boundary of playing area…can use anything for base…something a number of children can crowd around easily (baseball base sized piece of cardboard will work nicely…I’ve also used 4 pillars of the structure we were playing under.)


4 bases needed for this version of “Ships”
No one is ever “out”…this is a noncompetitive game
Play ends when children/leader tire of the game…


“Comet”–run around w/in boundaries, being careful not to touch any other comets!

“Planet”–stop where you are and begin orbiting (travel in a circle around) the sun (leader), while at the same time rotating (don’t get dizzy!)

“Nebula”–stop where you are and float around SUPER SLOW-MOTION

“Constellation”–Quick! Get together with at least 2 other people and create your own constellation with your bodies (holding hands/legs to form lines connecting stars)

“Galaxy”–get together w/ at least 2 other people and make your bodies into the shape of a galaxy (eliptical or spiral)


“Star”–run to a base and start singing “twinkle twinkle little star” Try to sing all together with your group (“twinkle” your hands)

“Meteor”–run to a base and point up into the sky and say loudly “Hey look!! A shooting star!!”

“Black hole”–run to a base and fold your body up into a tight ball

“Supernova”–run to a base and jump in the air, arms and legs out (cheerleader style) and shout “BOOM!!”


“CAPTAIN ON DECK!!”– (called very loudly & authoritatively!)–everyone must stop where they are & salute!

“At Ease”–game continues

FINAL NOTE: I suggest going through the commands in groups (i.e., regular commands, then base commands, then other commands…) and have children practice a few times before starting the game…But not too much practice, since if they haven’t gotten it by the time you start playing, they will after a few rounds. During the instructions is also a great time to discuss why the commands are what they are…i.e., why do we fold our bodies up tight for the “black hole” command? etc. etc…

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