After the strangest couple of years in most kids’ lives, we are now getting ready to go back to school in person. This is daunting, scary, and overwhelming as a Social and Emotional Learning Specialist. 

When I first started to think of the first day back to school, I thought this is the year of healing. I need to think of games and activities that allow us to heal and discuss what happened during the Covid pandemic. But then I thought again …

What if the first day back is about silliness?

Being silly together! Putting lightness and fun where darkness may be? There is so much sadness and so much to discuss in this aftermath, and I do not want to take away the importance of healing and truly accepting that all children and adults have gone through a collective trauma, but when it comes to that first day back to school, I want to play games that allow us to just be goofballs! 

My game brain started to rev up for that first day back with the kids. These are the same kids I only got to teach through Zoom all of the 2020-2021 school year. These kids deserve an awesome first day and I want to give it to them!

I am excited to play games that inspire conversation that helps everyone feel safe and feel heard! The first game that came to mind is one of my favorites. It is called Riddikulus! I created this game the summer right after schools had shut down and kids were all out of sorts. I ran Zoom social groups all summer and really got to explore what children were seeking and needing. 

The game Riddikulus! was born and is inspired by Harry Potter.

I love Harry Potter and more importantly, the kids in my Zoom that summer REALLY loved Harry Potter so why not use the children’s interest when creating a therapeutic game? This game is where everyone says their biggest fear. This fear could be real or imaginary fear. I always like to give kids the option to be super real or even just use their imagination if they’d rather because even if it is an imaginary fear the child discusses, they are still able to practice talking about fear and using language around the deeper issues. After the child tells the class their biggest fear they then have to somehow make that fear silly and crazy and out of this world! In Harry Potter, there’s a moment in the book where the students are faced with their biggest fear popping out of a closet and they use a spell called “Riddikulus” to turn their fear into something totally hilarious. Read below exactly how to play Riddikulus!


  1. Each player takes a turn describing their fear or something they are worried about, scared of, or stressed about. These scenarios or ideas can be real or imaginary. The children are given that choice. 
  2. Each player then takes their fear and adds on to the idea to make that fear turn into something silly.
  3. For example, if a player has a fear of earthquakes, they may say “an earthquake starts to happen and all of the houses, people, trees, and everything in the world lifts off the ground for a moment and hovers above the ground magically until the earthquake is over.
  4. This game is about rewriting our narrative! 

I remember playing this with my summer students and one girl said she was afraid of clowns. She said to make her fear “Riddikulus” she was going to imagine her Dad was the one dressed as a clown the whole time and he takes off his red nose and face paint and they laugh and laugh. I thought that was a beautiful way of making her fear something she could grasp onto and make feel less scary.

Another child’s fear was snakes, he said he would make the snakes “Riddikulus!” by making it so when he went up to the snake, the snake turned into spaghetti he could eat! SO fun and so silly and so … ”Riddikulus!” I love how much joy this game brought the kids that summer and I can’t wait to play it when we go back to school!

The second game I thought of when brainstorming the first day back to school is now titled “Quarantine Pictures.”

This is very similar to an improv game that is often called “Family Vacation” where members of a group take a moment to freeze into any position and a narrator looks at the frozen group and describes a made-up picture they are looking at using the player’s frozen positions as inspiration.

I thought how fun it would be if teams got together and re-enacted various scenarios on what happened while they were quarantined. I had never played this exact game before. Then I thought it would be a fun way to get kids to collaborate. I even thought it would be super cool if there was a narrator that said what they saw in the frozen picture and totally made up a story from the visual. After the narrator made up a story of what they see in the frozen picture then the person who originally gave the idea of the scenario would describe what REALLY was happening in the picture.  See directions below!

Quarantine Pictures:

  1. About 2-10 players freeze in a pose that symbolizes what they did during quarantine. Players could act like they are cooking, act like they are reading, act like they are hiking….anything they’d like.
  2. A player is chosen to be the narrator who describes the frozen “quarantine picture” however they see it. For example, if the 3 players who are frozen look like they are reading, cooking, and maybe sleeping the narrator can say “ah yes, this day of quarantine my friend Mary here was reading Harry Potter for the 4th time, Lora was cooking a spaghetti and meatball creation because her family was getting really into watching old Italian mafia movies where they were constantly eating meatballs, and good old Sam was sleeping in because his Zoom class started at 8:30 and he just felt like rolling out of bed 5 minutes before it began.” 
  3. The narrator can take this a step further and make up a story that the players are frozen are all together in the same house in some kind of pod which allows the players to influence one another’s actions in the picture. For example, maybe Mary wasn’t reading Harry Potter but she was reciting a recipe to Lora and forgets a step in the recipe which turns the recipe into a disaster! Narrators can be as silly and creative as possible with their storytelling. 
  4. The frozen players can describe what they were ACTUALLY doing in the picture after the narrator makes up the imaginative story in their perspective. 

The games that I plan to play that first day back are for sure silly, and out there! I believe this is what we need right now more than ever. We need to think outside the box and stay silly…and most importantly we need to laugh! Laughter is truly the best medicine and after the school year these kiddos had last year…they need a STRONG dose of laughter. 

Grab our e-book full of games, 10 Minutes of Play For 10 Days, that bolster social-emotional learning in children (and adults, too)!