Games for Kids: How to Play Captain’s Orders

Captain’s Orders is a great group game for kids as it get’s children moving and thinking…fast!

How to Play Captain's Orders

The faster the game commands are called, the faster (and funnier!) the actions become!

The game can be easily adapted by reducing or increasing the number and complexity of the commands, which makes a great game to play with children of all ages (and even adults) – in fact, I remember playing it at youth group many, many years ago!

Number of players: 5+

Recommended Age: 4+ years (it is easy to adapt this game according to the age and abilities of the players)

Equipment needed: None

To play:

1. Select one player to be the captain. The captain stands at the front of the designated play space. Alternatively, with younger children an adult should play the role of captain.
2. All other players line up single file, facing the captain.
3. Introduce the various commands and actions to be used in the game.
4. When ready for play to commence, the captain calls out a command. The players do the action associated with the command.
5. Play continues with the captain calling and the ‘crew’ responding. The faster the actions are called and performed, the trickier (and funnier) the game becomes.

Basic commands:

  • To the island: run to the left boundary (can also be a command of ‘port’)
  • Scrub the deck: crouch down and make a scrubbing motion with hands
  • Hit the deck: lay on your stomach
  • Clear the deck: everyone must have their feet off the floor
  • Up periscope!: lie on back with one leg raised straight in the air. Twist the raised foot as if a scanning periscope
  • Captain’s coming: stand to attention and salute
  • Climb the rigging: pretend to climb a rope

Partner commands:

  • Abandon ship!: players must pair up, sit face to face and pretend to row a lifeboat
  • Love boat: players pair up and dance together
  • Crow’s nest: players pair up and the lightest player rides on their partner’s back (piggy back)

Tips and hints for playing Captain’s Orders:

  • Keep the game fun and flexible to keep the kids moving, especially for young children.
  • If you wish to add a competitive element to the game, players that perform the wrong action are out and the last player standing becomes the new captain. Be mindful that this version will mean that the eliminated players will not be actively involved in the game, which I personally think is a shame. Alternatively, those players who are eliminated could just stand out for a count of ten star jumps before re-joining the game.

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45 Fabulous Birthday Party Games for Kids


  1. I used to play this as a warm up for my year 12 drama kids. They took it SO SERIOUSLY. I mean this game could end punches.

  2. Margaret Elvis says:

    Can be loads of fun. I am sure when I played it years ago (and perhaps my children after me) it was called “Simon Says”. Same principle though although I don’t think we stood in line but rather spread out. Not that it matters really.

  3. Thank you for this post! As a relief teacher I am always looking for fun, new games to fill in spare time and this is one I haven’t heard of. Can’t wait to give it a go!

  4. “Man over board” partners -one on hands and knees and the other with one foot on their back with their hand over eye looking

    “Four men eating” – four people in a group sitting on the floor pretending to eat

    “Beached whale” – flop on the floor and make whale sounds

  5. This is a fantastic game for kids from 6 – 16. You can run them ragged and they will have a ball (as lomng as you are serious about it and have lots of fun commands at the ready)…there is no limit to the commands you can use. “Cook’s Coming!” and the kids make a vomiting sound. “Starboard!” and make them run to the right then left with “port”…

  6. In Girl Scouts we call it Ship to Shore, because (when you’re not doing silly commands!) you’re either running one way (ship) or the other (shore).

    It’s great because it can be an endless time-filler or played competitively, depending on the needs of the group. I’ve seen all kinds of crazy individual commands, but useful numbered commands are:

    Man overboard: One person on hands and knees, partner has one foot resting on their back, searching.

    Crows’ nest: three people back to back linking arms

    Captain’s table: four people face inward and pretend to eat

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