Name It Ball – Bay Area Discovery Museum

Name It Ball

Add some improvisation to bouncing a ball back-and-forth! This game is like musical chairs, except you earn your seat not by sitting down before others, but by (creatively) thinking on your feet! This group activity encourages divergent thinking and improvisation.

Materials Required

  • A bouncy ball


  1. Grab a ball and stand in a circle.
  2. Have one player choose a category such as "Ice Cream Flavors.”
  3. The player holding the ball names something in that category, "vanilla” for example, then bounces the ball to another person in the circle.
  4. The next player must say another word in the same category, such as "chocolate chip." He or she then bounces the ball to another player.
  5. When a player cannot name something new in the category, he or she is out.
  6. The last player standing gets to choose the category for the next round!

Additional Tips

Try these add-on activities:

  • There are countless ways to adapt both the physical challenge of catching the ball and the brainstorming challenge of this game. Here are a few examples of how to adapt this activity:
    • Physical challenges:
      • Stand on one foot.
      • Use your “off” hand (if you are right-handed, use your left hand, and vice-versa).
    •  Categories:
      • Create signs with the categories written on them, but leave one letter blank.
        • C A _ S   (could be types of: CATS, CARS, CANS, etc.)
        • _ O O K S (could be types of: BOOKS, COOKS, LOOKS, etc.)
        • S H O _ S (could be types of: SHOES, SHOWS, SHOTS, etc.)
      • Whoever catches the ball can play charades with the rest of the group so that you have to guess the word that fits the category.

Links to Creativity

In a way, divergent thinking—coming up with many different ideas for a given task—is a practice in improvisation and breaking away from patterns in thinking. Children will not know when the ball is coming to them next, but when they do catch it, they will quickly add to the list of ideas that fit into a category. Not knowing what is next is improvisational, and generating an appropriate idea that someone has not given already is what creativity is all about. In fact, divergent thinking has been shown to predict creative potential, and is something that can be practiced and improved upon.

Supporting research includes:

Lewis, C., & Lovatt, P. J. (2013). Breaking away from set patterns of thinking: Improvisation and divergent thinking. Thinking Skills and Creativity9, 46-58.

Runco, M. A., & Acar, S. (2012). Divergent thinking as an indicator of creative potential. Creativity Research Journal24(1), 66-75.

Runco, M. A., & Jaeger, G. J. (2012). The standard definition of creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 24(1), 92-96.

Sawyer, R. K. (2008). Learning music from collaboration. International Journal of Educational Research, 47, 50-59.


This activity was contributed by KaBOOM! For more information and resources, see ©KaBOOM!

Name It Ball

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