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Follow the Leader Game: Rules, Examples and Benefits for Kids

The Follow the Leader Game is one of those traditional games that gets played by generation after generation.

It’s popular with toddlers, preschoolers and even primary/elementary school kids.

It is such a simple game, but, like many other basic early childhood games, it is packed with learning opportunities. 

How Do You Play the Follow the Leader Game?

The rules of Follow the Leader are basic:

  • One child is chosen to be the leader.
  • The rest of the children line up behind the leader.
  • They must copy all the actions and movements of the leader (run when the leader runs, do jumping jacks, turn around and take 3 steps forward, etc.) 
  • Anyone who does not successfully copy a movement is out.
  • The last child still following at the end is the leader in the next round.
Kids in line, smiling

This game can be played with as little as one leader and two followers (3 children) but is lots more fun with a bigger group of children.

How Do You Play Follow the Leader with Toddlers?

Small children are still developing their observational skills, motor skills and their ability to follow instructions.

You can still play this game with toddlers, but tweak some of the rules to make it age-appropriate:

  • An adult can be the leader as young kids may struggle to think of actions.
  • Use simple actions that are easy to follow.
  • Allow toddlers to continue playing even if they get the actions wrong as they are not mature enough to understand being “out”.
Young boy putting his hands behind his head
  • Play Follow the Leader by the Wiggles. This fun song will get them used to watching and following actions.
  • Chant the line from the Peter Pan song “We’re following the leader, the leader, the leader; We’re following the leader, wherever he may go” to keep the kids’ attention. 

Benefits of Follow the Leader Game

So, what does Follow the Leader teach kids?

Here are just a few of the benefits of playing this simple game:

  • First and foremost, it teaches children to follow directions – in this case, visual directions.
  • Children have to pay attention to what is happening in front of them, or risk being “out”. This builds their concentration span.
  • Copying the various movements develops gross motor skills as kids are using the large muscles of their bodies. They develop speed, balance, agility, directionality and other skills.
  • Follow the Leader is an active game that gets the blood pumping. Exercise/movement is healthy for children’s bodies and minds.
Children jumping up in a park
  • By playing the “leader” kids learn to think creatively as they have to perform a series of actions for their followers.

Follow the Leader Game Examples

Here are some examples of actions that the leader can perform:

  • Running
  • Skipping
  • Galloping
  • Hopping 
  • Jumping
  • Balancing on one leg
  • Clapping
  • Turning
  • Rolling arms
  • Doing helicopter spins
  • Climbing stairs
  • Stamping feet
  • Clicking fingers
  • Going around a tree
  • Doing a handstand
Boy doing a handstand in the park
  • Crawling
  • Slithering like a snake
  • Moving like various animals
  • Moving backwards
  • Walking up tall
  • Bending down low
  • Flying like a plane
  • Flapping arms like a bird
  • Doing the penguin walk

These are just a few Follow the Leader game ideas but you can improvise and make up any actions on the spot.

Games Like Follow the Leader 

There are a few other “follow games” you may also want to try out that are similar to Follow the Leader.

They also teach listening skills and the ability to follow directions.

Simon Says

Simon Says is a classic children’s game that is all about listening carefully and only following the commands that begin with the words “Simon Says”.

The rules of Simon Says are simple:

  • One child gives commands like “Simon says touch your toes” or “rub your ears”.
  • The group must follow the commands, but only if they begin with the words “Simon says”.
  • If a command like “touch your toes” is given, anyone who performs the action is “out”.

Here is a great list of Simon Says commands.

Do This, Do That

Do This, Do That is played in very much the same way as Simon says, except for one difference:

  • When a command begins with the words “do this”, everyone must follow it.
  • When a command begins with the words ‘do that”, no one must follow it.
  • If you follow the command, you are out.

Copycat

Copycat is a fun variation of Follow the Leader but requires that children guess who the leader is.

This is how you play:

  • Children sit in a circle and one child is sent out of the room. That child will have to guess who the leader is.
  • Choose one child in the circle to be the leader and call the “guesser” back inside.
  • The leader then performs actions that the whole group copies, while the guesser tries to figure out who is leading all the actions.
  • If the guesser gets it right, the leader then becomes the guesser in the next round and a new leader is chosen.

Follow the Leader as a Carpet Game

If you want to use Follow the Leader as a transition game or while waiting in line, instead of playing it outdoors and getting kids to walk after the leader, make it a carpet game.

Kids can sit in a circle – or stand in a line – and all the leader’s movements must be done on the spot.

I hope you’ll enjoy playing these Follow the Leader games for young kids. 

Kids lining up in school, smiling. Text reads "How to play follow the leader + the amazing benefits for kids".

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