Posted by Damon O'Hanlon
Challenge level: Moderately challenging. Can be made more challenging by doing more rounds and picking difficult animal impressions
Group size: Any size (For large groups, set up more lines of fewer kids in each line. That way they won't wait as long between turns)
Suggested variations: Relay race, free imagination
Animal World is one of my favorite warm-ups that I use in my karate class. During Animal World, kids do their best impressions of how different animals move. For younger kids who really get into make-believe, Animal World can also be a fun game for the end of class.
Start by splitting your class up into separate lines. Lines of about 3 to 5 kids are best. Next, have all the lines take a seat on one side of the classroom (or blacktop, or other activity area). As the kids play Animal World, they should all move in the same direction towards the opposite side of the classroom while staying relatively in front of their own lines.
Pick an animal with which to start. After you pick your animal and describe how the kids should do their impression, the first child in each line will start moving like that animal, making their way across the classroom. The next child in line waits until the child ahead of them gets halfway across the room. At that point the waiting child can also start.
When children reach the far end of the classroom, they stand up and run around the edges of the class back to their original line, having a seat at the back of their line.
So that's how the activity works, but which animals to do? Of course, you can take suggestions from the kids in your class and improvise your own animal impressions, but feel free to borrow some of my favorites. Below I’ve included a few, with handy videos of myself demonstrating.
I like to start with the crab walk because it's pretty intuitive and many of the kids in my class are also familiar with Crap Tag. In the crab walking position, kids are down on all fours, with their belly facing up. As they move their backs or bottoms should not touch the ground. Also, make sure you emphasize that kids should walk forward, in the direction that they can see!
Take your hand and poke the side of your own body. Feel the squishy part in between your ribs and your hips? That space allows you to twist at the waist when you walk, and many primates actually don't have it. Chimpanzees, for instance, have a rib cage that reaches almost all the way to their hips, so they can't really twist at the waist.
For our exaggerated chimpanzee impression, students should bend forward, turning their whole body from one side to another as they swing one leg forward at a time. With each half-turn, they should also touch their knuckles lightly to the ground.
Ever see a rabbit in a full sprint? They are crazy fast, probably because they push off with two legs at the time.
For a rabbit impression, students put both of their hands in front of them on the ground. Then they bring both feet up, placing their feet just outside their hands. And then repeat continuing forward.
Alright, you’ve done a couple impressions now and you're ready for a hard one. The alligator walk takes more strength and coordination.
Imagine doing a push-up with one side of your body stretched out long, and the other side of your body scrunched together. On the side with the leg and the arm close together, make sure the knee is outside the elbow, or your alligator will look especially awkward.
Safety: Animal World is an extremely safe activity, even for a large number of kids. Just make sure the children move across the class in straight lines without bumping, rolling or monkeying into one another.
Great things about this activity: Because of the way kids wait in line, you can use this activity with a lot of kids even in a rather small area. By changing the number and type of animal impressions you do, this activity can be short and sweet or pretty tiring. Also, as I said before, Animal World can be a fun end of class game for kids who still find make-believe thoroughly engaging. Best of all, because of the different animals you can pick, each time you play Animal World is a little bit different from the last.
Relay race variation: In the relay variation, lines compete to see who can finish first. Instead of having the next kid in line start when the kid ahead of them is hafway done, kids wait in line until the kid ahead of them runs back and gives them a high-five. Keep in mind that kids in a hurry tend to get a little sloppy, so emphasize that the techniques on their impressions should still be good. Adding a competitive aspect can also make Animal World more compelling for older kids who might not be so engaged with make-believe anymore.
Free imagination: Pick a random animal or take suggestions from the kids. Then, instead of demonstrating how to do that animal, let the kids use their own imaginations. Try to use animals everyone will know by name (sorry axolotl fans). You might be surprised at the children's creativity! Try to remember any awesome impressions and reuse them in later games of Animal World.
Still need more animals to do impressions of? Of course you do! You can never have too many animals for Animal World. Here is a video of a few more of my favorites:
Do you have other animal suggestions? I'm always on the hunt for more, so please share them with us in the comments.