A New Twist on ‘Bored’ Games and Activities

The combination of tight budgets and bored kids keeps our job an interesting one. How many rounds of Sorry can one play without getting bored of this classic board game?  Who wants to sit through turn after turn of unplayable cards, burning up half the deck before the first ONE or TWO shows up?  I fixed that, and as a bonus, added the element of strategy!  Below are several twists to games and activities commonly found in an after school age program.  Try one out, you never knew those old ‘bored’ games were so much fun!


Sorry Game

Deal out  5 cards to each player.  On your turn, use the cards in your hand to play.  If you play a TWO, play another card.  At the end of your turn draw as many cards as you played to return your hand total to 5.  No playable cards? Discard one or more cards and draw that many cards, without playing a card that round. Good strategy move: TWO/FOUR, then EIGHT combo to go from START to HOME in 2 moves.

Speed Play:  On each turn, play two cards (playing a TWO & another card counts as one play) making the TWO FOUR EIGHT combo even more powerful!


Passerby Scrabble

If you have the table space available, set up a Scrabble board and have all the tiles in a container.  Using either a theme or free style, start the board off with a longer word and allow anyone to add a word as they pass by.


Charade Ideas

Use Pictionary Cards for Charades.


Candy Land

Deal out  5 cards to each player. On your turn, choose one of the cards in your hand to play.   At the end of your turn draw a card to return your hand total to 5.


Quick Play

Shuffle and deal out all properties. Players don’t have to pay for properties, but may start collecting and trading on their turn. On turn, player may make one transaction (trade, buy, sell) and then roll dice. This keeps the pace of the game moving!

 Railway Service

If you own more than one railway, and you land on one of your own railways, on your next move instead of rolling the dice, you may “take a train” to another of your railroads. If another player lands on one of your railways, they may travel to another of your railroads in the same way by paying a $100 “ticket fare” in addition to the regular rent.


Did you know?  Jenga teaches structural engineering!



Change up the arrangement of the blocks.

Classic 3 across

Line up 5 together on their side

Arrange layers on the diagonal or zig-zag pattern

Arrange layers in a spiral pattern

Mix up the rows (3 then 5 then 3 then 5, etc is a favorite)


Reverse Jenga


In this version of Jenga you stack the blocks in a log-home pattern (2 per level with the center space open), the aim is to take the blocks from the top and insert them back into the tower again somewhere lower. Once you finish re-assembling the tower you start a regular game of Jenga removing blocks and restacking.


Challenge Jenga

In this version of Jenga you stack the blocks any way you choose.  Only one player removes as many blocks as they can and places the blocks on a container until the tower falls.  Count the blocks in the container.  Reset the tower and have the next player have their turn.


Vertical Jenga


Start stacking the blocks vertically (tall), you’ll get pattern of 3 blocks across and 5 blocks deep, alternate with a deck of 3 more Jengas, then start vertically again but with the pattern rotated 90 degrees.


Connect Four

Play Til the End

Keep playing after the 1st “Connect Four” is made until all checkers are played.  Count total number of “Connect Fours” Special rule: You can play with the special rule that your “Connect Four’s” may only each have one marker in common with any other given one. You can’t call a line of Five two “Connect Four’s”, but you can call a line of Seven, or two “Connect Four’s” that intersect at one point, two “Connect Four’s”.


DON’T Connect Four!

Play like usual, instead, the first one to Connect Four LOSES!!! This adds strategy. If you experience too many ties while playing this version (if the grid fills up before anyone wins, just like in the original game), try playing “DON’T Connect THREE.”


Battle in the Darkness

Tape pieces of opaque paper (I suggest construction paper) on both of the top sides of the structure. No peeking through the top! It plays like a normal game, but when someone thinks thinks that they have won, flip up the paper. If they’re right, they win. If they’re wrong, they lose. This adds a memory element to the play.



One player tries to stop the other from getting a “Connect Four”. If the player who tries to get the “Connect Four” gets one, they win. If they don’t before the grid fills up, they lose. Simple as that.



Paint, color, add stickers, or do something else to make the markers (the red ones are easier to color). Then, play is as normal, except that it’s Connect Three! Four is too hard when there are several players trying to stop you!

Phase Ten

Faster Play

Play each round with everyone playing the same phase. At the end of the round, those that finish the phase receive a point, those that don’t finished receive no point that round.  Next round, everyone plays the next phase, regardless of finishing previous round or not.


Phase Ideas

  1. 2 sets of 3

  2. 1 set of 3 + 1 run of 4

  3. 1 set of 4 + 1 run of 4

  4. 1 run of 7

  5. 1 run of 8

  6. 1 run of 9

  7. 2 sets of 4 – OR 3 sets of 3 – OR 5 sets of 2

  8. 7 cards of one color (skip can be used as a blue card when collecting blues)

  9. 1 set of 5 + 1 set of 2

  10. 1 set of 5 + 1 set of 3

  11. 4 sets of 2

  12. 1 set of 4 + 1 run of 5

  13. 1 set of 5 + 1 run of 5

  14. 1 run of 4 + 4 cards of one color

  15. 1 run of 5 + 4 cards of one color

  16. 1 run of 10

  17. 1 set of 4 + 1 set of 5

  18. 9 cards of one color

  19. 1 set of 6 + 1 set of 2

  20. 1 set of 6 + 1 set of 3

  21. 3 sets of 3

  22. 4 sets of 2 with no wilds

  23. 1 run of 5 + 1 set of 5

  24. 8 of one color with no wilds

  25. 1 set of 7 + 1 set of 2

  26. 2 runs of 4 with no wilds

  27. 3 sets of 3 using 3 colors – wilds same color (you pick three colors and only these colors can be used in the sets, including any wild cards)

  28. 5 sets of 2 in same color – wild card color must match number color

  29. run of 9 in 2 alternating colors – wild card color must match color sequence.


Rainbow Fish

This variation using Uno cards for the classic game of “Go Fish.”  Play like Go Fish, but sets of 4 cards may be any color.

Three Piles

When starting the game, create three discard piles instead of one.  Each discard pile acts independently of the others, but no pile can be played on twice in a row. For example, if a Draw 2 card is played on Pile A, the next player may play another Draw 2 card, but must be able to do so on Pile B or C to stack the effect.

Strategy Uno

Standard UNO rules, only the cards are dealt face up and kept visible. There’s considerable strategy involved when you know who holds the Reverse and Draw 4 cards. Try combining Strategy & Three Piles for even more craziness!

Crazy Draw Two

In this version, there is one discard pile and play is like regular Uno until a Draw Two is played. When a Draw Two is played, each subsequent player must play a Draw Two on the pile. When a player is not able to play a Draw Two, count up the number of Draw Two cards (let’s say 4 cards were played) and multiply by two (in this case, 8) and draw that many cards (yikes!)


Wacky Discard Piles

The 4 discard piles that are in front of  you can be played using any of the following rules:

• One pile designated for a particular number (let’s say 7) and only that card can be placed on that pile. In addition, when discarding, if you have more than one of that number (let’s say you have three 7’s) you can discard all of those cards in your hand and then draw that many cards at the end of your turn.

• One pile designated for a particular color (let’s say blue) and only that color can be placed in that pile. Like as above, you may discard as many of that color as you choose into the pile and draw that many cards at the end of your turn. Cards must still be played as the top most card first.

• One pile can be designated a crazy pile.  Cards in this pile can be played ‘out of order’, meaning that any card in that pile can be played, not just the top most card.

Alternate Build Piles

• Instead of having 4 build piles that build up from 1 to 12, have two of the piles build down from 12 to 1. Creating 4 half index cards with 2 arrows pointing up and 2 arrows pointing down and placing them under the build piles may help with directions.

• Build piles can also be started by placing 4  random cards at the beginning of the game and when the pile reaches 12, the played that played the 12 may either place a stock pile cards, a card from their hand, or a discard pile card to start the next build pile.

Slap Jack

Pick a card to Slap

At the beginning of  each round a player chooses what number is the “slap” card. Instead of  slapping Jacks, you slap that number instead.

Pairs and Slamwiches and Slapping In

If, during laying cards, two of the same card are played one after another (let’s say two 6’s) anyone can slap the pile and say “Pairs!” The same thing happens with a Slamwich, which is two of the same numbers with a different number in the middle of them (let’s say 6-2-6), slap and call “Slamwich!” If a player wants to join in or has run out of cards, they may sit and try to slap in on a Jack (or designated number), a Pair or a Slamwich.

DYI Tinker Toys


Paper Towel/TP tubes make great building materials! By punching several holes using a hole punch near the ends of the tubes, kids can use plastic straws to connect them and build fabulous structures.


Lego Challenges


The link above includes 51 different challenges for Lego building.  Add a sign to the Lego area and have completed challenges on display.


Multi Ways to play

There are more ways to play mancala then stars in the sky it seems.  I’ve included a link to Mancala World  so that you may explore the many versions available.

Epic Mancala

Epic Mancala

Here’s a version I created using two mancala boards. I chose to paint them with acrylic paints and seal them so that is twas easier to figure out which direction you go.  It is a 2 player game, one purple and the other orange. Each pit gets 4 seeds/flat marbles.  One player starts by picking up a pile from one pit and ‘seeding’ the other pits like in regular mancala.  Either row can be chosen from.  When you run out of seeds, your turn ends…unless you end in one of your end catches, then you can play again. When you reach the end where your arrow goes off the board, the next space is directly across where the other arrow  shows to go in.  I suggest finding the mini flat marbles found in the decorator’s area at craft stores, as they help alleviate the overspill that typically happens.


One thought on “A New Twist on ‘Bored’ Games and Activities

  1. Pingback: Club Ideas | The Creative Wizard Extraordinaire

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