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20 Awesome Back to School Games

If you’re looking for some activities to get your kids excited about the school year, or are a teacher prepping for the first week of school, we’ve got you covered with these 20 awesome back to school games!

They’re perfect for team building activities (even for adults), classroom parties or even a church group getting kids excited to head back to school. Some of the minute to win it games are even perfect for teens.

Watch the video below for inspiration, and then keep reading for detailed supply lists and instructions.

Minute to Win It Back to School Games

Make your Life Easier with a Free Back to School Games Printable

This free printable booklet includes these games, plus a printable back to school word scramble worksheet!

You really can’t beat a good Minute to Win It game when you’re trying to bring a group of classmates together. These are our favorite Minute to Win It Games!

Boy on blue background holding stopwatch

How to Play Minute to Win It Games with Various Group Sizes

Depending on how many people will be playing, there are several ways to play Minute to Win It Games – which is our favorite part about these types of games. You can play with just two people or with dozens of people. You can keep score individually or as teams – or you don’t have to keep score at all. Here are the different ways to play.

MAN VS CLOCK

If you only have a few players, this is most likely the style you’ll want to play. In this version, one player will be competing individually in an attempt to complete a challenge within one minute. If they do it, they win a point (more on scoring later). If they don’t, then they get no points.

Players can take turns competing each challenge, or you can have multiple challenges taking place at the same time – with players rotating to a different challenge each round.

If you have enough supplies, you can also have several people doing the same challenge at the same time. This version works really well with classroom parties. You can have supplies for 5 kids to compete at the same time for every game, and have kids rotate from game to game in stations.

FOR TEAMS

When you have a larger group, you may want to divide the group into teams. You can have as many teams as you want. For each game, you can have the team choose one player to compete head-to-head with the other team representatives.

For example, one person from each team will be given the game supplies, and they all compete at the same time. The first person to finish the challenge wins for their team.

The team that wins the most challenges wins the entire game night. This is a great way to get everyone involved when you have a larger group and encourages a lot of cheering.

HYBRID OPTION

Our favorite way to play Minute to Win It games is to do a hybrid of the individual and team options. This allows you to play a variety of games, have people compete in pairs and groups and also individually. It also gives everyone a chance to play most (or all) of the games.

For individual games, everyone who completes the challenge in one minute gets a point. For team efforts, anyone on the winning team gets one point. Each individual
tallies their own points throughout the party. The individual with the most points at the end of the party wins.

How to Keep Score in Minute to Win It Games

While you probably don’t want to keep score in younger grades, as you start getting into middle school and high school kids, you might find that keeping score keeps them engaged longer. Here’s how to keep score based on which method you’re playing.

INDIVIDUAL

If people are competing individually, then they receive a point every time they win a game and/or every time they complete a challenge within 60 seconds or less.

TEAMS

If people are competing in teams or groups, you can either award 1 point for the winning team and no points for the losing team, or you can award 5 points to the winning team, 3 points for second place and 1 point for third place. At the end of the night, the team with the most points wins.


HYBRID OPTION

If you are playing a hybrid option, where people will compete individually for some games and in a pair or teams in other games, then you’ll use the scoring for individual play.

For example, in a team event, each person on the winning team will receive 1 point. For individual events, each winner will receive 1 point. At the end of the game, the individual with the most points wins.

STACK THE CANS

Blue soda can and white paper plates on pink background

You will need:

  • At least 15 empty soda cans
  • At least 15 paper plates

How to play:

The goal is to stack as many soda cans and paper plates as possible in 60 seconds. The order should be soda can, paper plate, soda can, paper plate, etc. If the stack falls, the player needs to start over.

For Individuals:

Players can play one at a time to beat the clock. The players that complete the challenge within 60 seconds get a point. If you have enough supplies, players can compete head-tohead against each other. The first player to accomplish the task wins.

For Teams:

Teams can send a team representative to compete in this challenge. Or, teams can send three representatives to work together to complete the challenge.

Relay Option:

Divide players into teams. One at a time, each person will stack the cans, unstack them and tag the next player on their team. The team that has every player finish first wins.

Holiday Themes:

Use colored paper plates based on the holiday. Pink for Valentine’s Day, green for St. Patrick’s Day, etc.

STACK ATTACK

Red solo cups on yellow background

You will need:

  • At least 25 solo cups of one color
  • At least 1 solo cup of another color

How to Play:

  1. Stack all solo cups together with the different colored cup on the bottom of the stack.
  2. Set a timer for one minute.
  3. Players must take one cup from the top of the stack and put it on the bottom of the stack.
  4. Repeat this process as quickly as possible until the different colored cup is on the bottom again.
  5. If you do it in 60 seconds or less, you win.

For Individuals:

Individuals can play one at a time to beat the clock. Or they can play in a head-to-head competition. The first person to beat the challenge wins.

For Teams:

Teams can send a team representative to complete this challenge. Each team representative can compete individually or in a head-to-head competition with other team representatives.

Relay Option:

Divide players into two teams. Teams stand in line with the first person holding the stack of cups. Each person must complete the cup stacking challenge and then pass the stack to the person behind them. The first team to complete the challenge wins.

Holiday Themes:

Use different colored cups for each holiday. Pink and red for Valentine’s day, Gold and black for New Year’s Eve, green and gold for St. Patrick’s Day, etc.

ALPHABET RELAY

You will need:

  • 4 sets of alphabet letters, divided into two baskets (2 full sets per basket)
  • School-related words (like teach, learning, classroom, recess, etc.)

How to Play:

  1. Divide your players into two relay teams.
  2. Select one of your school-related words.
  3. One person from each team will run to the basket of alphabet letters and find the first letter of the word. As soon as they find it, they’ll lay it on the
    ground next to the basket and run back to tag the next
    person in line.
  4. The next person will find the next letter and so on until the entire word is spelled out.
  5. The first team to spell out the full word wins.

Variation:

For a faster version of this game with fewer supplies, use a dry erase board. Each team member will run to the board and write the next letter. The team that spells the full word correctly first wins.

Holiday Themes:

Use different themed words for each holiday. This could also be a great way to practice weekly spelling words.

DON’T MISS THE BUS!

School bus on chalkboard with apple tree

You will need:

  • Two backpacks and two sets of school supplies (notebooks, erasers, lunch boxes, etc.)
  • Two pairs of work gloves- one per team

How to play:

  1. Divide your players into two teams.
  2. Place the backpacks and school supplies in two piles (one set per pile).
  3. One by one, each player will put on the gloves and pack the backpack.
  4. Then they’ll dump everything out and pass the gloves to the next person in line.
  5. Everyone on the team must pack the backpack completely and empty it.
  6. The first team to finish wins (and doesn’t miss the bus!)

I AM LISTENING TEACHER, BUT I JUST CAN’T SMILE

Teacher with group of students in circle

You will need:

No supplies needed.

How to play:

One person is the teacher. All other players stand in a circle around the teacher. The teacher can approach anyone in the circle and ask, “Are you listening?” The person in the circle must respond, “I am listening, teacher, but I just can’t smile.”

The teacher can make faces, smile or laugh in an attempt to make the person smile. If the person smiles, they become the teacher. If they don’t smile, the teacher moves to another person in the circle.

AN APPLE FOR THE TEACHER

Red apple on stack of colorful books.

You will need:

Two red balloons, blown up.

How to play:

  1. Divide players into two teams. Each team should have half of their players standing at one end of the room and half standing at the other end. The red balloon is the “apple.”
  2. One-by-one, each player must get the “apple” from their end of the room to their teammate at the other end.
  3. The “apple” must remain in the air, but no hands are allowed.
  4. If the “apple” touches the ground, or a player uses their hands, they must go back to the beginning and start again.
  5. The team that has all of their team members go through the entire relay first, wins.

BACK TO SCHOOL CHARADES

How to Play

Divide your group into two teams. One person from each team acts out a phrase
without speaking, while the other members of the team try to guess the phrase. The objective is for your team to
guess the phrase as quickly as possible, typically within one minute.

Charades Phrases

  • Eating Lunch
  • Chalkboard
  • Principal
  • Art Class
  • Basketball Team
  • Math
  • Testing
  • Recess
  • Teacher
  • Reading a Book

BACK TO SCHOOL PICTIONARY

How to Play

Divide your group into two teams. One person from each team draws a phrase without speaking, while the other
members of the team try to guess what is being drawn. The objective is for your team to guess the phrase as quickly
as possible, typically within one minute.

Pictionary Clues

  • Math
  • Making New Friends
  • Recess
  • Principal
  • Graduation
  • Tennis team
  • Picture Day
  • Spelling Test
  • Gym
  • School Nurse

Trivia

If you have a classroom full of fifth graders, or students close in age, here are more than 280 trivia questions and answers to play trivia in class!

Shake it Off

Collect empty tissue boxes and string a belt through them (softball and baseball belts work perfectly!) Put an equal number of ping pong balls in each box, and have two kids jump for a minute to see who can get all of the balls out of their tissue box the fastest. It may not be specific to back-to-school, but kids LOVE this game! You can see us playing it in the video above. Shake it Off Minute to Win it Game by My Life and Kids

More Fun Back to School Games

Back to School I Spy Game

This free download is a great way to break the ice with students, but don’t stop there. Be sure to check out the other resources on this website to see more great ideas and free downloads for back-to-school games. Back to School I Spy Game by The Pleasantest Thing

Pass Pete

Again, this is for younger kids, but if your child knows Pete, they’re going to love this sweet game. It’s a great way for your students to get to know each other while playing a fun game related to Pete the Cat. Let’s Play Pass Pete by Kathy Griffin’s Teaching Strategies

Bears on the Bus

These games are geared at younger kids (think elementary school and preschool), but they’re super cute and very easy to create. While I’m featuring the Bears on the Bus game, this post has several more back-to-school games that could be perfect in your classroom. Bears on the Bus by The Printable Princess

All About Me Bags

You’ll have to purchase this from TPT, but the concept is a good one. Have your students create All About Me Bags and then share in front of the classroom, or with a new friend. All About Me Bags by Teachers Pay Teachers

Back to School Scattergories

This game works for kids of (most) ages. For younger kids that can’t write yet, team them up with an older student that can do the writing for them. Set a timer based on the ages of the kids you’re working with (older kids get less time.) Have them write a school-related word for each letter of the alphabet. When the timer’s up, see who wins. You can head on over to the link below to download your free worksheet. Back to School Scattergories by The Crafting Chicks.

Getting to know You

These free printables will help your students learn more about each other and about their teacher. Click the link below to grab them all for free! Back to School Freebies by Teachers Pay Teachers

Switch Sides If…

This fun game will keep your students moving while also helping them learn more about each other. You can make the game last as long as you want it to. And there are even suggested topics. Switch Sides If… by Mommies Hobbies

Back to School Centers

If you’re a teacher of little ones and looking for centers or stations to set up as the kids head back to school, look no further. There are even free printables to get you started. Back to School Centers by Miss Kindergarten

Sticky Note Posters

While this activity is geared towards teachers interacting with their students, parents could do something similar at home. Maybe you have a family meeting and use post-it notes to gather everyone’s input on how you can make it a great school year or ways to help ensure that you’ll never miss the bus. Be sure to click on the link below for more ideas you can ask in the classroom. Sticky Note Posters by Confessions of a Teaching Junkie

People Bingo

I think my kids have played a version of this game every single first day of school they’ve had so far. And they never seem to get tired of it. It’s a great way for them to meet the other students in their class. Click on the link below to grab it for free. People Bingo by Teachers Pay Teachers

Who Hid the Button?

This is another game for Pete the Cat lovers. SO cute! Who Hid the Button? by Kathy Griffin’s Teaching Strategies

Back-to-School Games to Get Kids Moving

When you head over to this post, just skip through all of the books she lists for sale at the beginning, and you’ll get to some great game ideas at the end. Most can be modified for kids of all ages. Games to Re-Energize Your Students by Top Notch Teaching

Save Fred

You’re just going to need to click on the link below to read the full post for this one, but this is a super cute game that will get kids interacting with each other. Save Fred by Ideas By Jivey

Bazinga

Bazinga looks like a great game to play with your classroom – even older kids. Be sure to click on the link below to learn ALL about how to play as well as ideas for other games in the classroom. Bazinga by Simplify With Me

Newspaper Dancing

Kids will LOVE this newspaper dancing game – whether they’re doing it at home, at church or in the classroom. Back to School Newspaper Dancing by Mrs. King Rocks

Classroom Icebreakers

As the author states, here are icebreakers that don’t “Suck” or require your students to take social risks in front of kids they don’t even know yet. See them all at the link below. Classroom Icebreakers by Cult of Pedagogy

Marshmallow Tower

These fun back-to-school games are the perfect activity to get your kids excited to be back in the classroom. Team Building Activities for Back to School by The Colorful Apple

Back to School Cootie Catchers

My kids would be BEYOND excited if their teacher had them make a cootie catcher on the first day of school to get to know the other kids in their class. SO FUN! Click the link below to download the templates for free. Free Back to School Cootie Catchers by The Teacher’s Notebook

If you're looking for some activities to get your kids excited about the school year, or are a teacher prepping for the first week of school, we've got you covered with these 20 awesome back to school games! They're perfect for team building activities (even for adults), classroom parties or even a church group getting kids excited to head back to school. Some of the minute to win it games are even perfect for teens. #backtoschool #teachers #students #kids #activities #teens #minutetowinit

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