Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tic-Tac-Toe/Simon Says Mashup Game

HEY EVERYONE. I need to share with you this thing that is super fun and so easy and you'll want to do it all the time.

So a few weeks ago I visited an afterschool club at one of our elementary schools. One week, I saw the K-1 kids; and the next week, I saw the second graders. Fresh from the Wisconsin Afterschool Association Conference, I felt ready to put some of the things I learned into practice while I geeked out about the library. So I used my The Book with No Pictures activity, read a few funny and interactive books, and made sure to include some silly songs and a game of Simon Says to promote self-regulation.

I noticed when I visited the K-1 kids that this particular afterschool group seemed mildly obsessed with Tic-Tac-Toe. They played each other, they played their teachers, they played in groups with rules I didn't exactly understand. So when I was planning the 2nd grade visit, I figured I might want to incorporate Tic-Tac-Toe in some way. I Googled around for a new version of it, or a new game they could play in that style, but nothing really stuck with me. A light bulb went off and I started Googling about kids using their full bodies to play tic-tac-toe. What if it was our self-regulation game? Then I found this.

I knew exercise would get their blood flowing but we had a small space inside a classroom to work with. SO, I went about creating a Tic-Tac-Toe/Simon Says Mashup! It was so much fun that I made it an addition to our Star Wars Party in May, using the moves described for Don't Drop Yoda at Lemon Squeezy.

Here's what you need:

-Large piece of paper or similar. I used a science fair stand-up board which works great-- It stands up on its own and is reusable. Draw a Tic-Tac-Toe box on it, and number the boxes 1-9.
-Post-It notes. 27 in total. Write Simon Says directives ("stand on one leg", "dance like a robot") on THE BACK of nine of them. Make one of them super "difficult"/ "embarrassing" (Brooke suggested "sing Twinkle Little Star"!) to make the center box. Draw X's on the front of nine others, and O's on the remaining 9. Place the directive Post-It notes on the board, one in each box, to start.

Here's how you play:
-This will end up as total chaos if you don't give them the directions and also the directions of normal tic-tac-toe first. To ensure most kids know it or can pick it up easily, I suggest this game for grades 2+.
-Have each kid choose if they want to be X or O. It doesn't matter how many people are on each team as long as there's at least one person on each. Have them split up.
-Decide which team goes first. I usually have them guess what number I'm thinking of.
-Ask the first team which number box they want to put their X or O. You can take turns, but it's served me well so far just to use the box that the majority of the team shouts out.
-Take off the Post-It note and read the directive. The entire team has to do it in order to claim the space for their team. I'm not a complete meanie with this and will give them the space if a large portion of them are into it so there's no fights; BUT I do ham it up and comment on a team's moves, or pretend to conduct them in Twinkle Little Star, or whatever. It will get noisy. But it's fun.

-If the team is successful, replace the directive Post-It with that team's X or O. Now it's the next team's turn.
-Repeat until one team wins or there's a tie!

If they want to play again, have them close their eyes while you put the directives back in different places than you did before, or come prepared with some new ones.
Hint: they will probably want to play again!

This could not only be used in outreach and programming, but also the library table during family nights, maybe! A parents vs. kids version of this would be hysterical.

What's your most recent go-to activity?


  1. I just love you so much for this. I can't even...describe...

    1. Thanks! I actually thought you specifically would like it (and in a larger sense other small or rural libraries) so I wanted to make sure to blog about it. A month after the fact, sure, but at least it got up here!

  2. Always great to find new active games to use at my after school programs! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. OMG, thank you so much! I'm taking a Tall Tales program around to different branches this summer, and I needed a game idea to include. This will totally fit the bill!

  4. Hi! JGrant from a small, rural library in WI. Just wanted to say that I used your Tic-Tac-Toe idea yesterday for a music-themed program at the local school and the kids went absolutely crazy with the awesomeness! I had all the "Simon Says" tasks be music-related, like, "play air guitar to this song" or "show us your best ballet moves to this other song," and they loved it. Thanks for the idea; you've made me very popular with that group of kids :)

    1. Hi Grant! Thanks so much for your feedback. This sounds like so much fun! If you'd be interested, I'd love for you to write a guest post about how you changed this up to work with music and stuff. If you want, email me at and I'll get you started!