Pirate Ship

Age Range: 5 - 11

Before you begin, the children should be taught the commands which the activity involves (see below).

Children start by forming a line (one behind the other) directly in front of the teacher. The teacher then shouts a command and the children have to perform the activity associated with that command.

Suggested by...


Run to a wall / line on the left side of the area.
Main Deck
Run back and form the original line in front of the teacher (children do not have to be in the same order).
Man the Lifeboats
Run to a wall / line on the right side of the area.
OR call out a number (e.g. 6) and the children have to get into groups of six and "row" their lifeboat.
OR find a partner, sit on the floor facing each other, holding hands and rocking backwards and forwards (as in "row, row, row your boat").
Scrub the Decks
Children crouch down and pretend to clean the floor with their hands.
Climb the Rigging
Children pretend to climb a rope ladder.
Captain's Coming
Children salute and shout out "Aye Aye Captain"
Admiral's Coming
Children stop and salute (like captain's coming) but must continue to stand to attention until the instruction 'Admiral's gone' - giving opportunities for catching children out!
Man over board
Three children pair up, 2 joining hands to make a ship and the 3rd in the middle with his hand above his eyes looking overboard for the fallen sailor. Anyone alone is out.
Robin Bearden
OR Children jump as if going over the side and then sink down holding nose with one hand and raising other hand in air as if going under water.
OR Children pretend to jump into the water, grab a partner and then swim back to the ship
OR children join into groups of three sitting on the floor one behind another making rowing actions. If done as a game the children not in a group are out of the game.
Linda Hope
OR children jump in the air and land as if jumping over the side of the ship.
Katharine Fawcett
OR piggy back a partner.
OR children have to find a partner and lift them up. Any children on their own are out.
Claire Holloway
OR children have to find a partner and hold on to them. If any child does not have a partner, they are out.
George Finnie
OR children pretend to fall over the side of the ship and swim for their lives!
Catherine Hyland
OR children shout "Splash!" and put their hands above their eyes to peer into the "sea".
Sonja Coulter
OR children on their backs waving legs and arms in air as they drown.
Lorraine Bastone
Walk the Plank
Children have to walk in a perfect straight line one foot exactly in front of the other with arms outstretched to the sides (children could also walk along benches).
Julie Ward
Boom Coming Over
Teacher makes action of boom moving across deck. Children must duck down to avoid.
Linda Hope
The children curl into a ball on the floor
Captain's Wife
Everyone curtseys (boys think this is hilarious!).
Peter Horne
Captain's daughter
Children pose like a model (one hand on hip. the other outstretched and slightly bent) and say "Oooooooooooh!" or make a wolf whistle (if your ears can stand it!)
Mark Stevens
OR Children wiggle hips and blow a kiss.
Claire Holloway
Children lie on floor with one leg raised like a periscope
Shark Attack
Crouch with bent arm forming fin of shark
OR Lie on back with arm in the air.
Fire the Cannon
Children run in to pairs and pretend to light the cannon, shout "boom!" and jump in the air.
Amanda Patterson
Hit the Deck
Children lie down on their stomachs as quickly as possible.
Crow's Nest
Children stand on one leg which becomes the mast, the other foot rests on that knee to become the crows nest and their torso is the pirate looking out to sea, hand above eyes!!!
OR Have students run to the Jump Ball or Face Off circle in the middle of the gym.. the last student into the circle is out.
Grant Wardle
OR Children peer into the distance and shout "land ahoy!"
Rats on board
Children sit on the floor, hugging their knees, whilst feet are raised off floor.
Linda Hope
Bombs overhead
The children crouch and cover their head for 'protection'. They are not able to get up until 'All clear' is called. Anyone who gets up or moves before the 'all clear' is out.
George Finnie
Crouch on floor with hands over head
Phil Thomas
Pair up facing each other, soles of feet touching and join hands then rock backwards and forwards in rowing motion
Run to left-hand side of hall
Run to right-hand side of hall
Run to front of hall
Run to back of hall
Sit with feet off floor, hugging knees
OR get back on to the ship (reform line)
Mary Ross
North / South / East / West
Children all run in appropriate direction
Helen Clare Groom
Last One in the Dinner Line
Children all line up in a very straight line
Compass Point
Children all gather in centre of the room
Three Men in a Lifeboat
Children get into groups of three.
Pieces of Eight
Run around and pretend to catch a parrot.
Peter Taylor
(Mere Oaks School, Wigan)
Flap arms and shout "pieces of eight".
Find a partner and sword fight.
Run around the room sword fighting everyone.
Stormy Weather
Rock from side to side.
Up on Deck!
Children have to jump on to benches. The last person left with their feet on the floor is out!  
"Land AHoi"
with a direction
The children walk in the direction called with hand's cupped just above their eyebrow's (looking for the land ahead).
Anne Grant
"Land AHoi"
with no direction
Here the children decide, which direction they want to take!
Bombs Overhead
Teacher calls out 'bombs overhead' and throws 3 soft sponge balls at the children. Children are required to dodge the 'bombs.' If the children unfortunately get hit by a ball they are out of the game.
Laura Burt
Peg Leg Jim
The children all have to walk with one leg straight and the other normally.
Coach Lucan

Robin Bearden has suggested that:

"If playing as a game, those children that get out have to march around the outside of the rest of the group singing 'Oh we oh, A pirate's life for me.'"

Mary Ross has also commented that:

"Great fun can also be had playing this in the swimming baths - you can't scrub the deck without getting your face in the water, and you can get from one end to the other faster if you swim, although man overboard and Sharks have to be omitted."

Thanks to numerous contributions from visitors, many of the commands have more than one possible action. In these cases, you might want to choose one of the actions and teach this to the children. You could also show them all the possible actions related to each command, and let them choose which one they prefer.

A comment from Rod Hogg:

"Just to add to the excellent 'Pirate Ship' in the PE section.
All can be played just as colleagues have suggested, but also include the rules for 'Simon Says', i.e. if Simon Says the action then it has to be done. If Simon does not say then the children have to ignore the command and follow the previous one. Very good for improving concentration skills. I also add a little extra to the concentration skills needed by pointing in the 'wrong' direction and watching the children who have the courage of their convictions rather than just following the majority of the class!"


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Excellent game, the children really enjoy it!



Speaking as a serving merchant seafarer (and I was a schoolteacher between 1988 and 2005), I have reservations about having school activities (or beavers, cubs, brownies etc.) that put across the message that pirates are fun jolly people. Pirates are, and always were, merciless killers who rob complete ships, and hold unarmed civilians as hostages (there are hundreds in Somalia right now). Would you have a Gestapo Fun Day?Maybe it's just me. I'll try and get out more.



I actually thought of that, so I am going to just use it as a ship and we are in the navy (my dad was during WWII so he would definitely frown on Gestapo Days lol ;) or we are sailing on a ship long ago to America. either way it is fun to use the terms and we will just eliminate things like "walk the plank" and the negative connotations used here.


Rebecca Lyon

This is a great game, my son plays this at school , they add one more command , Dead seagulls . Lay on the floor with your arms out stretched and one leg in the air. Fun Game !


Gina Dodd

This looks great, might have a go as we are doing our Sea project at the moment :)



Lighten up The pirates in story books and on tv and in this game have taken on a fictional role much like robbers in black and white stripes. Lets stop them playing cops and robbers too shall we? The world is getting overly PC. You cant open ur mouth withour someone taking offence.


Michelle Martin

We play this outside and call it ship, shark, shore. 3 parallel lines are the 3 places. students are eliminated if they are last to a place or leave where they are if you say the same place again.



I played this game with preschoolers, and I limited the commands to captain's coming, scrub the decks, climb the rigging, shark attack, and north, east, south, west. It's a fun way to teach names of directions. Young children love this group game as it doesn't involve winning and losing, better still, those who have not played before can easily pick up by copying what the others are doing. Definitely an awesome game for young and not so young.



Great ideas my students love this game I teach gymnastics and we use this a large group warm up before we start events or even after as a reward for good work. We also use signal the tower: children waive their arms in the air, abandon ship: sit and pretend to row a boat, inspection: students line up in small groups shoulder to shoulder (can have the whole class but then they get a little cramped), Whose the captain: they all shout "you are", Lady on the beach: they lay down on their side and pose(great to see boys do),



Loved this. Its pretty great!