Using Games with Guided Discussion

Games are multi-functional tools that can be used in a variety of ways; as bonding exercises, to engender closeness and communication, to relieve tension, or to illustrate a teaching principle. Depending on your goal, you can use therapeutic play activities in one-on-one sessions with a single child or in guided activities with large or small groups.

You may wonder what relationship the games have with the categories listed. If you look over the games included in the “Overcoming Fear” category, for example, you will see that they are ordinary childhood games. So, how can such games be used to help children overcome fear? Apart from providing soothing activities that help children relieve stress, these games can be linked with guided discussion that can directly address the issue of fear.

What is the Purpose of Guided Discussion?
Through guided discussion you can introduce a theme, such as overcoming fear, during the play session while your child is in a relaxed and receptive mood. You can introduce edifying concepts by weaving them into the game through questions, comments and simple analogies. Guided discussions need not be elaborate or time consuming. If you make it fun, the child won’t even realize he is being taught. The only real caution in the use of guided discussion is to avoid turning the presentation of a theme into a dutiful lecture that the child must endure. Keep it upbeat, simple and positive.
If you approach guided discussion as a teaching tool, and observe the child during play, you will be rewarded with opportunities in which to present the themes you wish to cover. Peer interaction is often the time when issues troubling children surface. Use times of play not only as a time to let your child release pent up stress, but also as a time to observe his needs. It will help you as you plan future play sessions and target the themes you wish to present with guided discussion.
It is important to understand that each game, by itself, is just a simple game. There is no magic formula, such as “play this game and the child will no longer be fearful”. However, these games can prove to be a magical tool to help you meet the children’s needs – the “magic” being your own love, concern, reassurance and guidance. With a bit of forethought and planning, these games can be adapted to suit the particular needs of the children. The closeness that is engendered while playing together can bridge the gap of silence, and help you move into the child’s world, in order to help him.

Any game can be adapted to illustrate a theme with a little ingenuity. Be creative and look for opportunities to weave teaching into play.

Do I Always Need to Use Guided Discussion with Games?
Guided discussion is a tool. If you are building a house, when you want to pound a nail, you use a hammer, and when you want to cut a board you use a saw. Similarly, guided discussion is a tool you can use when you want to encourage a child to reflect on a concept or mindset that will help him develop positive emotional coping skills.
You do not need to use guided discussion each time the child plays the games, because the games themselves have valuable purposes and functions. Decide what you want to accomplish with a game, and then decide whether or not a guided discussion will help you meet your goal.
It may be helpful to make a plan to introduce the different categories of themes through guided discussion over the course of a year. This way, you can be sure to present the different emotional skills covered in each category on a regular basis. Do not be bound by this plan, however. Use guided discussions as a tool when you need them, and look for teaching moments as they present themselves.

Guided Discussion Dialogue Examples

During times of personal crisis, such as when facing a challenging medical condition, children need reassurance that love, hope and goodness still exist in the world. These uplifting themes can be woven into your game times. The following examples of dialogues may be used, but please don’t feel you must follow these particular presentations word-for-word. Talk from your heart. Feel free to improvise and create examples of your own to reinforce the positive. Adapt your dialogues according to the age of the children, but remember, even adults enjoy stories and anecdotes. Be led by the children’s need. Remind them that despite heartache and tears, the world is still a place full of wonder and joy. Fan the flame of hope in their young hearts, and the healing process will begin.

A. Dialogues for Overcoming Fear

We really exercised a lot of muscles in that game! Exercise is good for you, because each time you exercise a muscle it grows stronger. Maybe the first time you try to lift a weight, you can’t do it. Or maybe you run a race, and you are tired out after the first 25 meters. That’s because you start out with a weak muscle, and then you build it up through regular exercise. The more you train, the easier lifting, running and jumping become.

You know, there are many things in life just like that. Did you know that each time you face your fear, your bravery grows? Maybe the first time you face something that really frightening, it’s too much for you. Sometimes just the thought of doing something you are afraid of can start your knees knocking with fear! But bravery is like a muscle. If you exercise your bravery, and keep facing your fears, your fears will shrink and your courage will grow stronger.

Wow, you were all cheering so loudly during that game! I bet you chased away every bird within 5 kilometers! Well, they’ll come back, because birds know that even if something frightens them, it won’t last. They are very resilient. Did you ever notice how they bounce back, and if they are looking for seeds or bugs to eat in a garden, even if you scare them off they will wait a bit, get over it, and then fly back to enjoy another meal? Even if it snows in the winter, the birds will still sing. They naturally know that things will get better. There is a lot we can learn from the birds.


That was great, you kept going, even if you thought you couldn’t do it! Sometimes if you are afraid you can’t do something, you’ve got to do what the oyster does with the pearl. Did you know that when a little grain of sand gets into an oyster’s shell, it really bothers the oyster! But the oyster has a trick. It secretes a special smooth white liquid that coats the grain of sand to make it less irritable. It does that again and again, and the liquid hardens each time until the grain of sand is covered. It becomes nice, and smooth and round, covered by this shiny substance. That is how a pearl is formed!

So if something makes you afraid, or if there is something you can’t do, keep coating it again and again with courage. Keep going, keep trying, and you will end up with a pearl.

B. Dialogues for Self-control and Anger Management

You really have to keep a cool head to play this game. Otherwise, you’ll get all frazzled and then end up playing badly. I can tell you a trick. If you feel yourself getting angry, pretend you’re a whistling tea kettle. Did you ever see one of those? You put the kettle on the fire, and turn on the heat. The kettle gets hotter and hotter, until it’s at the boiling point. Then just when it’s at its hottest, instead of exploding and sending boiling water flying everywhere, it lets off steam by whistling! It sits on the fire singing away, whistling a happy tune.

So if you feel yourself getting hot tempered and angry, you might try it. Whistle! Let’s try it together! (You can get the class whistling, and even have a whistling competition) If you feel upset, you can whistle to calm yourself down. Tell yourself, “Be like the tea kettle, whistle a tune!” It can really help you control your feelings and keep a hot temper from spilling over onto others.

That was a fun game, it required a lot of fast action. If you want to play well you have to think on your feet. Just watch out that your feet don’t start running faster than your mind, or you’ll trip and fall, hurt yourself and really end up in a mess! Your feet can run fast, but your mind should run faster.

You know, anger can be like that too. When you get really angry, your mouth sometimes runs faster than your mind! We can hurt people if we say thoughtless things in anger. When we do, we end up saying things we regret later. So let’s not get tripped up with either our feet or our mouth running too fast.

After a good game, a rule of sportsmanship is to shake hands with the other players. The winners and the losers shake hands together as a sign of respect. They show respect for the other person, but they also show respect for themselves, by being a good sport.

Let me show you something. Hold out your hand like you are going to shake someone’s hand. Ok, now try this. Take your outstretched hand, and clench your fist like you are really angry. Make a tight fist, like you are seething mad! Can you shake hands with someone if your hand is clenched in a fist? No, it doesn’t work! You can’t be a good sport if you don’t learn to keep your temper under control.

So let go of the anger. Open up your fingers, and relax your fist. Good! Now everybody is ready to be a good sport and shake hands together! You may not win a game, but you can be a winner in life by being a good sport.

C. Dialogues for Hope for the Future

Boy, we really had to run to play that game! Running is good exercise. You can be like an Olympic runner if you run after your dreams. Find something wonderful you want to do in life, and run after that dream as hard and as fast as you can. Don’t run for the wrong reason though, like the thief running from the law! Some people even run because they’re so filled with fear they go through life running from things that aren’t even chasing them. Run as hard as you can, but don’t run away, run forward! Run towards your dream and you’ll win the race.

You all did great, whether you won or lost! You did your best. And for those who lost, remember this little thought: the finest perfume in the world is made from flowers that have been crushed. How do you think that applies to losing a game? What can you learn in life when you lose sometimes? You learn to not give up, to not lose hope. Hope is the perfume you wear that comes from the flowers of crushed dreams. So if your dreams get crushed, make perfume from the experience and keep going until you win.

Congratulations, you won! At one point it looked like you were losing, but you didn’t give up. It just goes to show there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Remember, never give up. Sometimes tunnels can seem pretty long and dark, but if you keep going you will eventually reach the light! If you live your life by that principle, the same way you played this game, you’ll do fine.

D. Dialogues for Bonding and Making New Friends

I really enjoyed this game. I hope you did too. It’s a great opportunity to make new friends and get closer to the ones you already have. Friendship really is one of the treasures of life. Don’t neglect collecting as many treasured friends as you can. You know, if you were to peek inside a treasure chest, you’d probably see a collection of many assorted kinds of jewels. They’re all different, but all valuable. You can have many different kinds of friends, too. If you reach out and make friends with someone you don’t have much in common with, you might just be surprised to find a real treasure, and get a jewel of a new friend.

It’s nice to have fun and laugh together when we play. Did you know a very famous writer, Victor Hugo, said, “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” When you make friends with others, and laugh with them, it turns winter into spring in your heart.

Playing this game is a great way to get to know each other better. It has been said that, ‘the person who sows seeds of friendship reaps an eternal harvest’. If you plant seeds of kindness, and open your life to others in friendship, you’ll gain much more than you give. I hope you all take the opportunity to make as many new friends as you can.

E. Dialogues for Perseverance

That wasn’t an easy game, but you did very well! Sometimes you have to try something challenging to find out what you can do. It might be a little rough at first while you learn, but if you stick with it, it brings out the best in you! I can think of something else that is like that. Can you guess? It’s something most of you probably see every day. Tea! You don’t know how good tea is until you put it in really hot water and keep it there for awhile. A real “hot”, challenging situation brings out the best in you!


Congratulations! You kept going and won! You know, that’s a great quality because you’re going to encounter a lot of obstacles in life, and believe it or not they’re good for us. Problems teach us not to quit. If you are on a path in life that doesn’t have any obstacles on it then it probably doesn’t lead anywhere worth going. So every time you encounter a problem or a difficulty in life, just tell yourself, “I am really going somewhere!” and don’t give up.


If you really want to win this game you can’t give up. It’s a challenge. It reminds me of rocks in a brook. Did you ever hear a brook “sing”? It makes that happy bubbling sound, and it’s so nice to sit beside it. Did you know that if you removed all the rocks from the brook, the singing would stop? The rocks are what make it sing. And if you took out all the difficulties in life, it would take out all the challenge. Challenges can really make us sing, just like the brook. So let’s see who is going to be singing the winner’s song!

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