SPARKLERS / Ready for learning

Pirate Play

A fun, energising, memory-based game
Connections with the NZ Curriculum and Mental Health Education Guide (learn more)

Learning outcomes

Tamariki take part in a movement-based class activity, involving listening and reponding to prompts.

He aha ai? – Why we love it

Even a small amount of movement will increase the flow of blood (oxygen and glucose) to the brain, boosting alertness and focus.

Another focus of this game is to have the class connect as a team, because when we feel connected, it’s a great boost for our mental wellbeing. The potential for this will increase over time, as you progress the game.

Hei mahi - What to do

Create a clear space in your room, or head out to a soft grass area.

  • This is a drama-based game, so if you feel you can… be dramatic!
  • Adopt a pirate attitude and let tamariki know that they’re your band of pirates and the best band of pirates there ever was!
  • BUT there’s a few things that need workin’ on and they need to listen up.... when you make a call, they'd better be lookin' sharp an' doin' the right thing… Are you with me, me hearties?! ARRRRRRR!!"
  • Explain a couple of the easy ‘calls’ they may hear during the game (below), and demonstrate what to do when they hear them.
  • Then ask students to spread out and start moving around like pirates. Once they do, call one of the basic instructions. By starting easy, you’ll keep everyone involved and engaged.
  • Once they have the hang of a few commands, pause the game and explain/demonstrate a couple of the more challenging ones.

Commands to try

  • Shiver me timbers (in a parrot voice): Players repeat this out loud.
  • Land ahoy! Players hop on one foot, doing a salute with one hand.
  • Scrub the deck: players drop to all fours and mock-scrub the floor.
  • In the boats: Players sit down, knees bent and start rowing.
  • Walk the plank! Players put their arms out and walk 4 steps down an imaginary plank.
  • Treasure! Players start digging for treasure in the sand.


Once you've played lots and they have the hang of it, invite tamariki to make up new commands and actions for the class repertoire. And play the game a bit faster.

You could also introduce an elimination component, where players who do not follow the correct command, sit out and watch, and you play until just one person is left (your winner!)

Another options is to add some fun two-player options, like:

  1. Man overboard: Players must work in pairs, facing each other. Using two hands, player one holds one of player two’s arms. Player two then leans back as if he’s falling overboard, and they balance.
  2. Octopus: Again, working in pairs, player one gets down on all-fours, and player two does the same, over the top, to create an X-shape.

Sparklers at Home

If you think it may be useful for whānau to have some Pirate Play fun at home, simply copy and paste the following 'blurb' into an email or your home-learning programme as an introduction.

In the classroom we've been using a drama-based Pirate game as a team game to have some fun. The tamariki appear to really enjoy it and may also enjoy it at home too, with you and the whānau.

Sparklers at Home has the same activity we're using in the classroom Pirate Play, but adapted for use at home. It's guaranteed to have you all laughing - which is actually really good for wellbeing!

Looking after you

Foster the hauora of your kaiako and team

Learn more