Copycat games: Playing “Do This! Do That!”

Fun and learning go together!

Do not underestimate the physical, perceptual and cognitive value of copycat activities and games where children observe and copy body positions, actions or sounds. The children not only practice a wide variety of movements, they are also exploring many perceptual concepts such as speed, different levels in space and directional movement.

My all-time favourite copycat game to do with children is “Do This, Do That”. It is also known as “Simple Simon Says”. I love, love, love this activity and play it often with children of all ages!

The hidden value of copycat games

For children, playing copycat requires auditory and visual integration. The eyes and the ears need to communicate with the brain and body to execute the shown movements or sounds correctly. It develops both body awareness and spatial awareness, and supports focus, concentration and motor planning.

Children are natural mimics and will easily stay engaged playing these kinds of games. They immediately become silent so they can hear well. Their eyes are focused on you or on their partner so they can copy well. Their brains are processing what they hear and see and then the body produces the movements correctly. This is no small feat for children! The more they play imitation games, the better and sharper they become.

Partner copycat games

Another great copycat activity is what I call “Beanbag Copycat”. Group the children into pairs and have them stand opposite each other. Give each child a beanbag to put on their head.  One child shows a movement first and the other must copy that exact movement. The children play a few rounds of this all while trying not to drop the beanbags from their heads. After a short time the roles can be swapped. In addition to the benefits already mentioned, this activity supports good posture and both dynamic and static balance.

Introduce new concepts

Facilitating copycat games is a great time to be resourceful and expressive as a teacher. Add variables to achieve your learning objectives. Use your imagination to combine the development of the fundamental movement skills with other learning concepts:

Vary the complexity of the movement and the speed of the actions to suit the ability level of your children.

Practice physical skills such as crossing-the-midline activities: Touch the right elbow to the left knee.

Use hoops, scarves , balls or any object that can be manoeuvred to practice skills.

Add facial expressions for creative emphasis.

Introduce sounds with with varied volume for imaginative play.

Add vocabulary words to teach perceptual concepts such as Up. Down. Left. Right.

A time to observe

Copycat games allow you observe the creative ability of your children and also see who can follow and successfully do the movements shown. Having to think of ideas quickly and immediately plan the motor actions to perform them correctly is more challenging for some children than others. A different set of skills is needed for those who watch their partner and must immediately copy them.

I have had many pleasant surprises over the years with copycat games. Often the children you least expect to do well are the ones who actually excel with this type of activity. I encourage you to implement more copycat movement and to give these great games a try.

When you are short on planning time or just need to refresh the mood, focus and the dynamics of a class, copycat games are a great tool to have in your teaching kit. I guarantee that you will be surprised at the results, both from what you observe and most important, from the enjoyment level for all. 

P:S: Join me at MoovKids on facebook for more inspiration.