Many of us have a set of a Jenga game and with a bit of creativity, you can turn this game into a very useful and fun social work tool.
(If you do not have a Jenga set, you may want to look for a good deal in a charity shop, Ebay or Amazon)
How to use Jenga as a social work tool?
The game rules are the same (if you have never played Jenga, you can watch how to play it in a video here), however, you can use one of the following variations:
1) ‘All About Me’ Jenga
Purpose: Icebreaker/getting to know the child
Print out various questions you want to find out about the child and glue them to the Jenga blocks or write the questions directly on the blocks with a marker pen. Each time the player removes a block, they need to answer the question.
You may choose to use questions which will help you learn about the child’s likes and dislikes (such as: What are your favourite hobbies? What do you enjoy about school? Is there anything you dislike?) or learn something more specific such as their wishes and feelings (eg. If you had three wishes, what they would be? What makes you angry?
2) ‘Feelings’ Jenga
Purpose: To ascertain a child’s feelings
a) Write a name of various feelings (such as happy, sad, mad) or draw a smiley face on each/several Jenga block(s). Alternatively, you can also buy stickers with ‘feelings faces’ and stick them on the blocks.
Each time the player removes a block, they need to state what makes them feel that way.
If the child does not want to share anything about them, you may ask them what they think make children usually feel that way.
b) Print out specific questions you want to find out about a child’s feelings and glue them to the Jenga blocks or write the questions directly on the blocks with a marker pen. Each time the player removes a block, they need to answer the question.
Example of questions: What makes you sad? Who can you talk to when you feel sad? Tell me one good thing which made you happy today.
3) ‘Question time’ Jenga
Purpose: To ask a child any question; the opportunity for a child to ask questions about an assigned topic such as parental substance misuse, a child’s foster placement etc.
Colour some of the Jenga blocks in three colours: red, yellow and blue. When it is removed from the tower, each colour has the following meaning:
- Red means a child can ask a question
- Yellow means that an adult can ask the child a question
- Blue means that all present say how they feel
This game is played by the child only (ie. adults do not remove any block) however people of your/the child’s choice, such as the child’s parents, carers or siblings are present. You can also choose a topic to which all question should be related.
For example, if the child’s placement in foster care has recently broken down, the child may take the opportunity to ask their social worker or new carers any questions in relation to that.
The advantage of this version is that the game is guided by the child.
4) Jenga used as a ‘child-parent/carer/sibling observation’ tool
Purpose: Assessing interaction and relationships among family members
Play Jenga with a child’s family, applying the standard rules, but use it as a tool to observe family dynamics/interactions.
You can also watch a video explaining some of the techniques above here: