Have players stand, randomly in the playing area. Then tell them to relax every muscle in their body as much as they can. Next, have them trudge around the room while chanting the word "gumby" over and over again in a low voice. (If everyone in the room does not feel silly at this point, you are not doing it right!) Once this silliness is achieved for 10 to 15 seconds, the leader, speaking in a bold, strong voice, slowly counts to three. For each number, everyone in the room needs to strike a different pose. The rules for the poses are that they need to be BOLD, strong and stiff, and they need to shift quickly into a completely different pose for the next number. Once the counting is done, the group goes right back to their relaxed "gumby" stance and chant, until the leader counts again. This shouldn't last for more than four rounds, also the leader can mix up the number being counted (anywhere from 1 to 4) to add a sense of unpredictability to the activity!
In The Classroom:
This game is the ultimate warm-up. It warms up the players physically, mentally and emotionally.
It also brings everyone into the same frame of mind. Players may walk into the room frustrated or happy or distracted, but after a warm-up like this one they will all be present and on the same page.
Pull out this game before introducing a silly or physical activity that requires a risk on the player's part. After doing a silly thing like this, everything else seems tame...
It is also great for quickly interjecting energy or shaking up the mindset of a group that is starting to fade.
Another benefit to this activity is that it is a shared experience. When kids do silly things and laugh together it breaks down their walls, they open up and they start to become one unit; more willing to take risks, less likely to bring people down.
This game works well with groups at any level from pre-k to adult. First graders who have been sitting for too long, middle school kids who are in that hyper self conscious mode, high school kids or adults who are too much in their own bubble this game makes them all laugh and enjoy each other.
In the Moment:
Changing the energy in the classroom requires energy from you. Pour it on! This is very exciting!!!
Make sure that everyone is playing in the beginning. Model the opening relaxation. All heads should be down, backs curved forward, shoulders and arms hanging downward in front of the body. If you want you can call out each body part-- "relax your head...now your neck and shoulders..."
Don't skip a beat with kids on crutches or in wheel chairs or any other physical limitation. "OF COURSE you can do this--just do it YOUR way! You have muscles, relax them!"
The first time I tried this with adults a player threw out her back! Young kids are pretty limber, but as they get older, a gentile warning about knowing your limits physically is always helpful!
I first was introduced to this game by my middle school drama teacher, Mrs. Cornelia Belliveau. I don't know where she learned it, she may have invented it, and I have never seen it published or described since. I do remember it quite clearly, however, even after all these years.
The name does, in fact, refer to the old Saturday morning cartoon character, he was made out of clay and had a horse friend... and had no bones, so was very bendable and flexible!