People games are games that don’t require any toys. All you need is yourself, your child and, at times, a small prop. You essentially become ‘the toy’!


Why play People Games?

Attention – Children learn to focus on the person they’re playing with, not only their facial expressions, movements and body, but also the sounds and words they are using. It is more difficult for a child to switch their focus back and forth between a toy and another person. Interestingly, the same goes for adults! Research studies have found that adults are more responsive to their children’s subtle ways of communicating during People Games.

Language – Because the games are short and played many times over and over again, they provide the perfect opportunity for children to learn the words associated with each game. The repeated, and therefore predictable, actions and sequences also allow your child to more easily know when and how to participate, both verbally and non-verbally.


Ideas for People Games

  • Pick a hand – Hold out two fists and ask your child to “pick one”. Before you open the chosen hand, say “It’s a …….” then choose something to surprise them with such as a hug, tickle or something fun. For example, you could say, “It’s a ….hug!” then pull your child towards you and give them a big hug. Other ideas include: tickle, kiss, hair mess-up, lift up in the air, spin, eskimo kiss, massage, high-five, fist bump, butterfly kiss, blow kiss, upside-down flip, bumpy ride on your lap.
  • Peek-a-boo or hiding games – Use your hands or a blanket to cover your child’s face. Build up the anticipation by prolonging “peek-a……..” each time you play. Say “boo!” as you or your child pull the blanket off their face. Take turns ‘hiding’.
  • Copy-cat – This can be done with two people or more. Everyone takes turns doing something funny with their bodies, e.g. make a silly face, do ten star jumps, make a funny sound, walk around like a gorilla, do a summersault. Then they ask the other person or rest of the group, “Can you do that?” and everyone tries their best to copy.
  • Swinging/rocking games – Two adults make a seat with their arms and swing your child from side-to-side or up and down, or simply grab your child’s arms and legs or torso and swing away. Also try using a large cardboard box or laundry basket and pretend it’s a boat/plane/train.
  • Chasing games – Start by running after your child, “I’m going to get you!”. When you catch them, swoop them up and say “I got you!”. After they understand the game, encourage them to chase you.
  • Racing games – Start at either end of a corridor. Say “ready, steady….” then on “GO!” both run to the other end of the corridor.



  • Start and end the game the same way every time. Do the same actions and say the exact same words each time. The more predictable the game is, the more your child is able to participate. Once your child is able to start doing the same actions and say the same words with you, WAIT and let them say and do it first before you follow their ‘request’ with the anticipated action!
  • Don’t worry about repeating yourself and sounding like a broken record! Your child will not get bored – they might even prefer it! Once your child is participating well verbally and non-verbally, then go ahead and change it up and/or add in some new words and actions.
  • Try People Games with several people!