This summer, I really tried to come up with activities that could work with big groups at a low cost. I’ve always loved Life-Sized games because they’re generally cheap and once they’re set up, you can run it almost as a passive program. In looking through examples that others tried and blogged about, I didn’t see much that could allow lots of kids to play at once. So I whipped this up.
Life-Sized Plants vs. Zombies
Plants vs. Zombies is a pretty difficult came to re-create in real life. There are lots of different plants that you can use to attack zombies and they all work in different ways. Plus, they can be placed all over the play area and that gets sticky. Another problem is that in the game, zombies are pretty boring because they really just walk into plant territory, delivering hits to plants until they die/disappear.
So, in thinking up this game, I really built off the core concept of the game. There are two sides, plants and zombies, and the plants attack the zombies with a combination of offensive and defensive characters. I ran with that and created a game where the zombies fight back in the same way that the plants do. To attack the other side, kids tossed paper balls at each other. (Don’t worry. There’s no way this can hurt when you put at least four or five feet of space between the sides.) They did this in rounds of three minutes and the side with the most balls on their side at the end of the game lost. This makes it a lot like a game kids play in PE called Garbage or Yard Wars or…Google it. It has lots of names.
So here’s the layout of the room.
Step one: Set up the playing area.
You need three rows on each side. The back row is for your catapults, the middle is for offense, and the front is for defense. I used painter’s tape to make my rows.
I made some catapults by taping ladles to yard sticks. Jealous?
The offensive line did nothing but throw and kick balls to the other side.
The defense blocked incoming balls with their shields, which were made from cake rounds and duct tape. They could also help kick balls across.
Step Two: Manage the daylights out of big groups.
I played this game with three groups; two had 40 kids, and one had 12. 40 kids with summer camp instructors was bonkers. 40 kids with parents was just fine and really fun. 12 kids with parents was also perfect. So really, the key to having kids play well is having witnesses who care, but here are some rules that really help.
One: Make it known from the beginning that they cannot just hang on to the balls the whole game and toss them over at the last second. This does not make for fun gameplay.
Two: Also make it known that when you countdown and it’s time to stop, they need to sit down with their hands in their laps. If you don’t have parents there, you may need to say that if you catch them cheating–sitting on the balls or kicking them over when your back is turned–they’ll have to sit out the next game.
Three: Everyone needs to stay in their row. The catapults can move only to reach the balls, but then they need to back up so they can lob them over. This is to keep them from accidentally whacking anyone with the stick.
Step three: Find a referee to help you count and collect the balls at the end of the game. You may also want to kick balls back into the gameplay area if and when they’re tossed out.
Other than that, let them go wild. My summer camp kids got pretty loud, but the groups with parents kept a respectful volume. There’s really no way they can destroy something with a paper ball, either, so you don’t have to worry about damaging the room.
This is fun, easy, and the kids LOVE it. It’s a far cry from the actual game, but when it’s explained, the kids do get it.