Every art teacher should have a mental file of art games that can be played in the classroom. Games don’t have to be just time-fillers or fun transition activities; they can also serve an educational purpose.
As well as incentives or rewards, art games can serve as aids to classroom learning, testing and assessment tools, review activities, hands-on ways for students to apply knowledge, fun ways to introduce new concepts, lesson wrap-ups or simply as art-related amusement on the last day of school or other holidays.
Here are a list of ten tried-and-true art games to play in any art classroom, elementary to high school (and every grade between):
1.) The Creativity Design Game – This art game, originally inspired from the book “Design Synectics” by Nicholas Rourkes, takes problem-solving to a new level. Students are asked to take two very different objects and create a drawing, combining these separate objects into one completely new invention.
In my classroom, I call this the “Creativity Game” and I made this activity more game-like by typing out hundreds of random nouns on slips of paper, and placing them in a bag. Two students then blindly reach in the bag and pull out a ‘mystery word’. The students are given one to two minutes to come up with an idea, sketch it out and name it. As they work, I observe their drawings and ask the most creative thinkers to share their ideas with the class when time is up.
2.) The Artwork Memory / Matching Game – Artwork memory games – inspired by the child’s matching game “Concentration” – can be perfect free-time activities for elementary art students. The “Art Memo” game comes with 72 artwork images and can be purchased for around $20 here at Amazon. However, if you have a color printer you can easily make your own Art Memory game by photographing student artwork or finding art online, printing out 2 of each image, then laminating the cards (or glue onto note cards).
3.) Art Jeopardy! – A great way to review art terms, art history information, processes or artists before a test – or simply as lesson closure – a teacher can plan an Art Jeopardy game by coming up with five or more categories, and five questions to go in each category. Depending on the art teacher’s time, A Jeopardy board can be drawn onto the chalkboard, made in PowerPoint, or can be assembled with fabric and ‘pockets’ for questions on note cards.
4.) Art Room “Win, Lose or Draw” – A great classroom reward, last-day activity or holiday treat, your classes can play the classic art game “Win, Lose or Draw” (or “Pictionary”). Simply put students in two teams, give the player a word to draw and have them try to draw it in a given amount of time with their teammates guessing correctly.
5.) “Clay Wars” Game – When introducing students to ceramics — or as a way to practice recently learned skills — have students play a clay-based art game. All students will have an equal amount of clay, and compete to sculpt items, such as: the tallest structure without falling over, the most perfect sphere, the longest single rope coil, the best cube, the most realistic animal, the funniest face, etc. Students can be split into teams, or compete individually.
6.) Educational Art Novelties – When students have additional activity time in art class, they can play solo art games and puzzles by looking at hidden-picture art books (such as “Can You Find It Inside?” by the Metropolitan Museum of Art), using mosaic tiles to create pictures, working on art-based jigsaw puzzles, working on origami, and studying optical illusions. Students can easily create their own artwork novelties and games by designing tangrams (a Chinese puzzle, easily made with paper) or creating thaumatropes (a toy popular in the Victorian era).
7.) “Paint Wars” Game – Similar to “Clay Wars”, this paint-based art game is also a way to practice recently-learned processes and theory. Students can compete as teams or individuals, and will try to do the following: best match their skin tone using only primaries and neutrals, most closely match the color of a flower, paint the most realistic piece of food, the scariest monster, and other ideas.
8.) Art Book / Internet Scavenger Hunts– This fun art game is going to be more effective with older students, and requires either a large assortment of art books or the internet in your library or classroom. You can either compile a list of items that students will need to search for, perhaps with a worksheet to write them down on, or give one item at a time for students to search for as a timed competition. Your scavenger hunts can be customized to whatever your students have been learning about lately (find an Impressionist painting with a dog in it, find a sculpture made in France, etc.).
9.) Art Vocabulary Word Searches / Puzzles – Word searches, crosswords and other puzzles can be an effective and fun way to review art class vocabulary. Try making your own customized art puzzles here at Discovery Education Puzzlemaker.
10.) Online Art Games – There are thousands of online art games and activities that are safe for students to play in school (some more so than others, so be sure to check them out beforehand). These can be a great educational activity for students who finish their work early. Check out the Incredible Art Department’s list of Online Art Activities for Kids for a huge list of online art games and resources.
There is a place for games in the art classroom; despite their entertainment value, they can also serve an educational purpose. Try out some of these new games, or just add them to your mental file of ideas.
Discovery Education Puzzlemaker
Can You Find It Inside? book on Amazon
Art Memo game at Amazon
Wikipedia – Tangrams
Incredible Art Department – Online Art Activities for Kids
Wikipedia – Thaumatropes