You are currently viewing Activities that Challenge and Stimulate

When school holiday boredom sets in, it’s time to up the ante and introduce some different games and activities. Here are great ideas for activities that challenge and stimulate children.

Are the children getting tired of the same activities and games focused on learning. Then, it’s time to up the ante and plan some different. Children love competing and achieving, so any activities that challenge them will fire their enthusiasm and have them shouting: “Challenge accepted”.  We tell you how to prep and play some activities that challenge.

Find more ideas for fired-up fun games and games focused on learning.

Activities that challenge cognitive skills

Home-made bingo

Prep: Make your own bingo boards by printing out a grid with colours, pictures, numbers or letters in the blocks. Jumble them up so each card is different. These can be simpler for younger children, using just colours, while older children can have pictures of animals, continents or other relevant items. Print out another set of the pictures or colours, cut these out and place them in a bag.
Play: Someone pulls cards from the bag, calling them out to the other players. Any player who has a corresponding block puts a token on that block. The first person to get a straight line of tokens calls out “bingo” and wins the game.

Alphabet pictures

Prep: Print and cut out the letters of the alphabet. Find pictures in magazines that correspond with these letters and cut these out as well. Tie up a piece of string and peg the letters along the string in alphabetical order.
Play: Children match up the letters to the pictures. So if they have a picture of a tree, they need to peg it with the letter T. The pictures can be more advanced for older children.

Who am I?

Prep: Print and cut out a selection of animal names, places or people. Try to theme these to make it a bit easier, like zoo animals, mountain ranges or famous authors. You’ll also need a few safety pins.
Play: Pin a name on the back of each person’s shirt. Everyone else can see each person’s name, but they aren’t allowed to tell that person what name they have. Children have to figure out who they are by asking questions.

Cup of fortune

Prep: Write down a selection of quick activities, such as “run around the tree” or “find a yellow flower”. Depending on your child’s age, you could write down questions such as “who is the president of South Africa?” Cut these out. Then gather nine plastic cups and place them in a pyramid shape on the ground. Place a few pieces of paper in each cup.
Play: Children stand a short distance away from the cups and throw a ball into one of them. They must then take out a piece of paper and do what it says or answer the question. Add an element of surprise by writing out a few lucky prizes, such as “Choose a treat” or “Sit one out”.

Mystery bag

Prep: Find a cloth bag that children can’t see inside. Place a variety of small objects in the bag. Look for items that have different textures, like squishy balls, a wooden block covered in sandpaper, or a piece of silk ribbon.
Play: Children feel inside the bag and try to guess what the objects are. Younger children can simply enjoy feeling the different textures, but older children should try to name the items. If you have a group of children, you can give each child one minute to feel inside the bag, and then they can write down as many objects as they can recall feeling in the bag.

Activities that challenge communication and literacy skills


Prep: Select a few words at random, such as “dog”, “ladybird” and “hop”. For older children use a dictionary to find more challenging options, or ask children for words they learnt at school. You can also use story blocks. These are wooden squares, like dice, with words written on them. Write nouns, like places or animals, on each side of one block, and on the other write actions or emotions.
Play: Ask children to tell a story using the words that have been selected. To play with the story blocks, roll the blocks and tell a story using the words that appear on the top.

Activities that challenge problem-solving skills

Marble run

Prep: Gather an assortment of tubes and pipes, and find some marbles. You will also need some masking tape or duct tape.
Play: Give your child the equipment, and find a spare wall in the house. They can then design a marble run, taping the tubes and pipes onto the wall, so that the marbles will run down to the bottom. If there are any flaws in their design, they should find a way to fix them. If a few children are playing, split them into teams and see who can build the longest, or quickest, marble run with the same number of parts.

Bean bag maths

Prep: Get a large piece of cardboard and cut holes of varying sizes in it. Assign numbers to each hole, with the biggest hole having the lowest number and the smallest having the highest number. Use numbers that are age-appropriate.
Play: Children take turns throwing bean bags or balls through the holes. Each time they get one through they add that hole’s number to their score. Make it harder by adding symbols like +, -, or x in front of the numbers.

Activities that challenge physical skills

Hoop toss

Prep: Cut the centre out of a few paper plates and stick a long cardboard tube upright on another paper plate. If you have a group of children playing, make a few more uprights and colour the hoops in different colours.
Play: Children take turns throwing the hoops over the tube. Try playing in teams if there are lots of children, where each team gets a different colour. You can also do time trials, giving the players a minute to get as many as possible. They will need to use teamwork so that they have a steady stream of hoops to throw.

Rainy day games guaranteed to use up energy.

Other ideas for activities that challenge physical skills

  • Indoor hopscotch – use masking tape to outline the blocks.
  • Indoor maze – use masking tape to mark a maze on the floor, then kick a ball through the maze.
  • Play musical chairs or musical statues.
  • Have pillow case races down the passage.
  • Stepping stones – children try getting from one side of the room to the other without touching the floor.

Tamlyn Vincent