Rock Paper Scissors is one of the most well-loved games by children around the world.
And did you know there are so many variations and games that are really similar to this classic game.
I have taught children between the ages of 3 to 5 over the last ten years, and I have tried multiple different variations of Rock Paper Scissors. These games teach team-building skills, problem solving, and are just generally good to help children develop positive relationships with others.
The 16 ultimate game like Rock Paper Scissors in this article are:
- Rock Paper Scissors – Team Game
- Rock Paper Scissors Train
- Rock Paper Scissors Chase
- Rock Paper Scissors Tag
- Rock Paper Scissors Spock
- Rock Paper Scissors Olympics
- Rock Paper Scissors Extreme
- Number Bonds
- Odds And Evens
- Thumb Wrestling
- Do What I Say, Not What I Do
- Mirror Image
- Clapping Games – e.g. A Sailor Went To Sea Sea Sea
- Copy Cat
- Copy Cat Freeze
Some are direct variants of the game – e.g. Team Rock Paper Scissors.
Some involve hand games, and similar skills to Rock Paper Scissors.
These games are perfect for children between the ages of about 3-7, and can be played either in an educational setting, at home, at a sports club, in a camp, or any other setting like that where you’re looking for fun and interactive games. So let’s dive in…
Variations Of Rock Paper Scissors
1. Rock Paper Scissors – Team Game
The clue is in the name here.
This is a rock paper scissors game played by probably up to about six players at once. Any more than this will mean it just won’t really work.
The six players stand in a circle facing each other.
They play Rock Paper Scissors – ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors…Shoot!’
They each show their particular hand action – e.g. ‘scissors.’
If all three possibilities are shown, then you just go again.
However, if just two are shown, then you will have some people that are the winners, and some that are the losers. For example, if some children show scissors, and the others show paper, then the paper has lost. Those children sit down.
Then you just go again with the children that are still standing.
In the end you will have a champion. Then play the game again.
2. Rock Paper Scissors Train
Lots of young children are obsessed with trains, and so if you can get them into any games and activities you are usually onto a winner.
To play this game, one child starts as the ‘train driver.’
The others (probably up to about ten), are waiting in a line at the station.
The driver goes around the ‘track’. It’s good if this is quite a small area to speed up the game. It could, for example, be a circle of cones that are about three yards in diameter.
Then the driver approaches the first person waiting in the station line. The driver stops next to them, and they play one round of rock, paper, scissors.
Whoever wins is the driver of the train, the other one becomes the ‘carriage’, and goes behind the ‘driver.’ Off they both go now, around the track once more, before the driver plays rock, paper, scissors with the next person in the line.
That person, in turn, becomes either the driver or another carriage.
In the end, everyone is driving around behind the final train driver.
3. Rock Paper Scissors Chase
Children are in pairs for this game.
They play one game of Rock Paper Scissors. Whoever loses is getting chased, and whoever wins is the chaser.
They chase each other around the space until the chaser manages to tag the other (just a gentle tap on the back is all that is required!)
Then wherever they end up, they play rock, paper, scissors once again.
4. Rock Paper Scissors Tag
This is a similar concept to Rock, Paper, Scissors Chase, but this is more of a team game. There are so many variations of tag (check out my guide to the ultimate 22 tag games here.)
Split the children into two teams. Probably anything up to thirty children for this is possible, with the max being about two teams of thirty.
You need one way of signifying which team is which – for example one team could all wear a colored band, shirt or bib.
The two teams stand about ten yards apart in a wide area. If you are outside, mark out a wide space that players must stay inside.
Each team will have a ‘leader’. The teams first go into a pack, and decide which of the three moves they will pick. The whole team needs to do the same move in this version of the game.
Then the two teams stand facing each other in lines.
They go, ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors – Shoot!’ And show their hand action.
The winning team instantly become the taggers, and the losers are getting chased.
Play tag for about a minute, with children that get tagged freezing on the spot.
Then get back into teams, and play the game again.
5. Rock Paper Scissors Spock
This is a brilliant idea from The World Rock Paper Scissors Association (yes, that really is a thing).
For older children of probably about 7 upwards, this is a harder version of the game called ‘Rock Paper Scissors Spock Lizard’.
In this ‘Spock’ is signified by a Vulcan split fingered salute, and ‘lizard’ by a kind of sock puppet hand.
Take a deep breath, because here are the rules…
Spock beats scissors and rock, but loses to paper and lizard.
Lizard beats Spock and paper, but loses to rock and scissors.
Rock beats scissors and lizard, but loses to paper and Spock.
Paper beats rock and Spock, but loses to scissors and lizard.
Scissors beats paper and lizard, but loses to rock and Spock.
Good luck getting your head around that one!
6. Rock Paper Scissors Olympics
This is a good game to play if you have a huge group of children.
They start in pairs. Each pair plays rock, paper, scissors against each other.
The loser will sit down, and the winner goes to find another partner.
Then round two begins, and the system continues.
In the end, you will have some kind of head-to-head contest.
If you have an odd number of children, you may need to do a kind of preliminary play-off between two selected children first.
7. Rock Paper Scissors Extreme!
This is a fantastic full-body version of rock paper scissors. You can see it in action in this youtube video:
However, here’s a quick rundown.
You basically use big actions for the rock, paper, scissors moves – big scissors, big paper etc.
A great physical game, that is a really fun icebreaker.
Now for a selection of games that are just like Rock, Paper, Scissors, in that they are usually games for pairs of children, and they involve hand movements.
There are also a range of tactics and strategies involved.
This is a simple counting game.
Two players stand facing each other.
They put one hand out. First decide which one of the pair will shout the number first.
Both players are going to then go, ‘1, 2, 3…’ and then the designated player will shout a number, for example, ‘6!’
Simultaneously, both players are going to show a number of fingers on their one hand. E.g. one might show two, the other shows 1.
If the total of the fingers adds up to six, then that person has won the round.
Take turns shouting the number in this game.
9. Number Bonds
This is an exciting number bonds game for early math.
Two players face each other, and they are working together. They are going to try to make a number bond of five between them, using their fingers.
They go, ‘1, 2, 3, shoot!’ and on the ‘shoot’ they show a quantity of fingers on one of their hands. If they combine to create five then they have done it! (e.g. one has two and the other has three).
Keep going, keeping your score of how many times you have created 5.
10. Odds And Evens
This is a more challenging game, probably for children from about seven upwards.
It is an excellent way of getting their heads around odd and even numbers.
First, one player will pick whether they are ‘odd’ or ‘even’. If they are ‘odd’ the other person is ‘even’, and vice versa.
They both then go, ‘1, 2, 3, shoot!’ And exactly at the moment they say shoot, they will put out either one finger or two. One finger is the index finger, and two is the index and middle finger.
If the combined total of the two players is odd, then the ‘odd’ person wins. If even, then of course the ‘even’ person wins.
Continue playing the game, potentially keeping a score.
11. Thumb Wrestling
The simple idea of this game, is that two players curl their fingers, and join their two hands together.
Then they try to pin their opponent’s thumb down for three seconds. A mini-version of wrestling.
Here are a selection of games that are similar to Rock, Paper, Scissors, in that they involve partners working together, and simple movements that the children use.
12. Copy What I Say, Not What I Do
In this game, one child is the leader and the other child is going to basically be doing what they say.
The idea is that the leader is going to tell the other child how to move, but try and trick them with an action at the same time.
So, for example, they might say ‘Pat your head’, whilst they pat their hips.
The child copying must try to pat their head (what they say), not pat their hips (what they do).
Other examples are ‘Do a thumbs up!’ (whilst doing a thumbs down), ‘Reach up high!’ (whilst reaching down low), and anything else like that.
13. Clapping Games – e.g. A Sailor Went To Sea Sea Sea
There are all sorts of clapping games that children enjoy and get a lot of benefits from. There has actually been research done into clapping games, which found positive cognitive benefits in playing them. (Source)
Here is a real classic – A Sailor Went To Sea Sea.
Two children face each other, and chant:
A sailor went to sea, sea, sea,
To see what he could see, see, see,
But all that he could see, see, see,
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea.
There are associated hand claps along to the words.
It’s probably best just to watch these, rather than describe them, and this short youtube video is a great example:
14. Mirror Image
Two children face each other in this game. This is a fantastic follow the leader game (check out the best 17 follow the leader games here).
One is going to be the ‘leader’ and the other is going to copy.
The leader quite simply does different movements, for example, they might put their right arm out to the side and wave.
The other child is going to try to copy exactly (like a mirror).
Other types of move could be:
-Doing different things with both arms, e.g. one is waving, one is going up and down
-Balancing on one leg
-Doing a dance
This game is good for eye contact, and also crossing the mid-line.
15. Copy Cats Pairs
This is another game where the children are in pairs. One is the leader again, the other will follow.
The leader is the ‘cat’ that the other child is going to try to follow.
The leader is just going to move in different ways.
Animals is a nice and easy way to start this game. For example, the leader might be moving like a monkey, and the other child tries to copy.
They might move like an elephant, with a long trunk, floppy ears, and be stamping around the room. Once again, the other child will copy.
You can do this one on the spot, but I’ve normally done it in the past where they move around the room.
Other themes that they enjoy is any of these:
-Superheroes. They could move like Superman, or Spiderman for example
-Vehicles. They could move like a train, a plane or a helicopter
Have a few goes and then swap roles.
16. Copy Cats Freeze
This is similar to the idea of copy cat, but with an added ‘freeze’ element.
So the leader moves in any kind of way, for example, like a train.
The other child tries to copy them.
However, at any given moment, the copy cat can now shout ‘Freeze!’ and then shout the name of something else related to the topic.
So, if it was animals, they might shout, ‘Freeze! Tiger!’
The other child has to freeze in their best tiger pose (baring their teeth and claws, for example).
Keep going a few times, and then swap places, so the other child becomes the Copy Cat.
Good luck trying out some of these spectacular games! Rock Paper Scissors, and all its variants, contains so many fantastic skills for children to learn.
Phase 1 is for life, not just for preschool! It could be argued that the skills being developed in Phase 1 of ‘Letters and Sounds’ actually begin pre-birth. How powerful is that?...
It’s easy to take for granted just how much we need fine motor skills day-to-day since many of our movements are so well-trained that we use them without even thinking! While we tend to think...