Observation & Sense




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Some Scouters seem to have the idea that any game which contains a training content is necessarily less fun than a game which has very little training value. It is important to remember that Scouting is a Movement for training boys and not a Movement merely for entertaining them. It is clear from the Founder's writings and from all that he said to us that it was his intention that we should train Scouts and that the playing of games was one of our training methods. All this presupposes that any game we play should have a purpose and that the fun is there for good measure and is not the principal motive.

The importance of this particular section of the book lies in the fact that, unless we make a conscious effort to develop the natural senses of our Scouts, all other activities of Scouting become difficult and, on occasion, impossible.

In the wider sphere there is no question whatever that the man who has his senses acutely developed is in a position to benefit more from all that life has to offer and, through being able to benefit, is able to make a more important contribution. This is not the place to go into great detail, but it is as well to remind ourselves that such activities as Knotting, Mapping, First Aid, Pioneering, Estimation, Reporting, etc., are only carried out effectively if Scouts have been trained to be observant. To take one example; it is no uncommon thing to see Scouts struggling earnestly and manfully to tie a knot correctly, but without much hope because they do not really know at what they are aiming, and if only they had a mental picture of the finished knot they are seeking to produce they would be able to work much better towards an accurate completion.

All this amounts to saying that, whether indoors or outdoors, sense-training games should occur pretty frequently in our programmes because they do improve the quality of all our Scouting, and they do, above all, build up that alertness of mind which is the hallmark of the trained Scout. 

One other aspect of the matter needs mentioning. We have prided ourselves for over forty years on our willingness to render service to the public in a vast variety of ways, and yet it is manifestly impossible to render service unless we are trained, first of all, to carry it out and, secondly, to be sufficiently alert to observe the need for service.

Practically all the games that follow are what one might call basic, in that it should be possible with a little ingenuity and imagination to build an infinite variety of games that grow out of the root of the basic game. There is always a danger, in presenting sense-training games, of falling into the error of training the memory (which is a good thing in itself) and misleading ourselves and our Scouts to the idea that we are training them to use observation. Some years ago there was an unusual Scouter; unusual in that he was orderly above normal, and in his Troop Headquarters could be found carefully labelled boxes and drawers for almost every conceivable activity in which the Troop took part. Amongst these drawers was one which bore the caption "Kim's Game," and in it was the usual assortment of miscellaneous objects. In course of time his Troop, so he believed, became quite incredibly good at "Kim's Game" and it was rare for any boy to score less than twenty-one marks out of a possible twenty-four. What the Scouter failed to realise was that the contents of his carefully labelled drawer had become part of the tradition of the Troop. His Scouts would have scored just as many marks had he merely announced" Kim's Game "and not bothered to open the drawer. This, of course, is a classic example of the error. It was a splendid piece of memory training, but when these same Scouts were faced with a different assortment of articles the results left a great deal to be desired. All this adds up to saying that in any form of Kim's Game, dealing with any of the senses, there is a need to vary the situation and the articles.

Finally, sense-training must be progressive if it is to have any effect. We must begin with simple things and gradually, almost imperceptibly, lead our Scouts on to complicated and more difficult things.


26. Unknown Country

EACH Patrol is sent out on a different hike of about 3 to 5 miles and does a log similar to that for the First Class journey; but they must bear in mind that it is unknown country. This means that No NAMES of places, etc. can be used or Nat. Grid references; road signs, etc. are ignored. They are told their log should give enough information for others to be able to follow their route and know where they can camp. For the S.M.'s information only they hand in a tracing of journey on 1-inch or 2-1/2-inch map.

Later each Patrol attempts to follow the logs of the others; their log showing with what success. S.M. checks with his tracing.

Winning Patrol is that whose log was most easily followed and gave most information about the country.


27. Long Distance Kim's Game

For this game a number of articles should be arranged against a background 50 or 60 yards away - for example, a stuffed bird perched on a branch, a Cub cap hanging on a bush, an axe masked in a log, a coil of rope wound round a tree trunk. The degree of difficulty can be made progressively greater. In the early stages of the game the articles should be of contrasting colour to that of the background and should be red, blue and yellow, etc. As the Scouts become more efficient they can not only learn to pick out something from a familiar background but will be learning at the same time the use of camouflage. For the Sea Scout, a variety of the game consists in having the articles arranged on some stretch of beach or on the side of a river, the Scouts going past in their boat and spotting as they go.


28. Vertical Kim's Game

Select a suitable tree about 50 feet high with many stout branches. Suspend about two dozen articles ranging from a mallet to a fine pair of antlers; some should blend with the background, e.g. a Cub cap, and others should be more obvious. Scouts study the tree for six minutes either from the tree itself or from the ground. Allow four minutes for descending the tree and compiling the necessary list.


29. Kim on the Run

A number of fair-sized objects, the initial letters of which spell the name of a town, are collected by the S.M. and put into a box or a sack. He then tells the Scouts that he is going to wander about within a defined area of woodland, holding up these objects one by one, for (say) one minute each. The boys have to stalk him and remember the objects they see until the end of the game. Patrols are then given paper and pencil to write the objects down, then to take the initial letters of them, and so discover the town. The objects need not necessarily be held up in the correct order. Any boy seen by the S.M. during his wanderings has a point deducted, and is sent back to base to begin again.

Patrols receive three points for each object they get correct, plus a bonus of ten for solving the town.


30. Camouflage

There is nothing original about camouflage, but very few Scouts practise either the art of camouflage themselves or that of detecting the camouflage of others; observation comes into both these practices. While the rest of the Troop is occupied in the H.Q., take one Patrol out of doors and, while you stand on a base-line beyond the limits of which you must not move, place the individual Scouts in positions from which they can see you and in which they are at least partly visible to you, though protected by natural camouflage from being obvious.


No. 1 can be up a leafless tree which is silhouetted against a bright sky, with his arms and legs conforming to the natural curves of the branches;

No. 2 can be lying in a hedge, with his face clearly visible though in shadow, the light colour of his face being dark compared with an old sheet of newspaper which is lying a few yards farther down the hedge and which distracts the observer's eye;

No. 3 can be standing upright and almost fully visible in a sparse clump of bushes, bare

arms behind his back, knees covered by stocking-tops, face almost completely covered by scarf, with dappled sunlight and shadow falling on him through the bushes;

No. 4 can be lying in a pile of logs, his hair and eyes just visible beyond the end of one log, perhaps a shoe visible at the other end, and the back of his shirt just visible above one of the logs but conforming to the general colour and alignment;

No. 5 can be lying along the farther slope of the roof of a low building, with his head (and possibly hand) just visible round the side of a chimney-stack;

No. 6 can be lying in long grass or weeds, where it is fairly easy to choose a lighting and colour scheme in which he is visible but hard to spot.

When all are placed (and it isn't really difficult to choose a set of surroundings fairly similar to the ones suggested) tell them to "freeze" and to watch the base-line. The rest of the Troop are then led (with their arms linked and their eyes shut) to the base-line, where they are told they are being watched by six Scouts, all of whom are at least partly visible. The observers must remain within the limits of the base-line, and on opening their eyes they should individually and in silence try to see how many of the six they can spot. After a short interval, call out to each of the six in turn, telling him to move slightly, and note how many of the observers have spotted him. If they have been at all skillfully placed, it will take a very good Scout indeed to spot six out of six at the first attempt.


31. Pin Point

Select a panoramic photograph, or picture postcard, of country unfamiliar to the Scouts, say, of a view near your Camp. Provide them with the requisite map, including the scene. Indicate to them the exact position from which the photograph was taken. Ask them either to pin-point on the map two or three features on the photograph or to point out the exact place on the photograph of selected points on the map.

This requires a very close examination and reasoning if the scene is sufficiently rugged. It is valuable training in visualising the solid reality from two plane surfaces, a training in observation that is becoming more and more valuable in these days of diagrams, blueprints and the use of visual aids.


32. Kim's Rounders

Divide into two teams. Half policemen, half robbers. Twenty-four articles, large and small, are set out on the ground as for Kim's game. The policemen observe the articles for one or two minutes; they then sit some way away with their backs to the articles. One policeman and one robber come forward; the policeman stands with his back to the articles and the robber steals one of them. When the robber says "Go," he starts running around a circular course (as for "Rounders"). On the word "Go" also the policeman turns round and when he can name the correct object stolen he can intercept and "tag" the robber. Only completed "rounders" count. Each man has his turn and then the sides change over. It is surprising how, when large objects are stolen, the policemen often fail to see what is gone.

The side with the most "rounders" wins. Referee (S.M.) needed.


33. Players and Spectators

Patrols compete in pairs. One Patrol Leader is handed a postcard containing an "incident" which he must tackle with his Scouts, while the rival Patrol prowls round at a radius of 20 yards or so, trying by observation and deduction to discover the nature of the problem with which the first Patrol is faced. After ten minutes or so, the roles of "player" and "spectator" are reversed. Each Patrol Leader then writes down on a second postcard his own idea of the instructions issued to his rival. The cards are read out and the Scouter-observer sums up and awards points.

"Incidents" might be:

(1) "Out in the Sahara Desert with your Patrol, one member has been overcome by thirst and heat, and after a brief period of sun-madness, during which he wounds one member of the Patrol with a knife, he lapses into a coma. Rig up a shelter to protect him from the sun while a stretcher is improvised. Shade must be provided while the stretcher-party are on the move towards the distant oasis."

(2) "Exploring the Amazon, you have wandered into a great area of swamp-grass through which you must force your way. The swamp-grass grows to a height of eight or nine feet, and you at last decide to turn back. But you are lost! Your sense of direction has been hopelessly confused. You decide to stay where you are and send a signal of distress to the main party on the edge of the swamp. You do this by erecting a signalling mast above the swamp-grass and sending the S.O.S. by raising and lowering a flag.

(Materials provided: Scouts' staffs, sisal, flag, small galvanised iron block, pegs and mallet.)


34. The Blind Traveller

This game can best be played by pairs of Scouts, although single Scouts can also play it.

The two Scouts board a bus, and one of them then closes his eyes and keeps them closed.

The idea is that the "blind" Scout should be able to judge where the bus is at any time, and, if possible, give a running commentary on the progress of the bus, e.g. "We have just turned into Crescent Road. We have stopped opposite Maureen Avenue. We are slowing down to turn into Greenhill Road," and so on. His companion checks his remarks, and next time they can change round.

It goes without saying, of course, that Scouts would not travel for this purpose only, when buses are likely to be crowded, and that perhaps the best occasions will be when Scouts are travelling to or from school or work, or out of town for a hike.

The main value of the game is that it may enable a Scout to be of service to the community when travelling on a foggy day, or at night, because he will have acquired a good sense of locality and will be able to tell other passengers where they are. The game requires self-control against the temptation to open the eyes, it shows the value of eyesight-and it is good fun.


35. Trilby

The following instructions-but printed in reverse by means of a typewriter carbon, are given to every Patrol when they arrive for a Troop Meeting:


Information is required of the movements of a youth who travels about the town each night and acts in a most suspicious manner.

He usually wears a TRILBY HAT and waits until he knows that he is being followed.

Your Patrol is to trail him and keep him in sight, observing his actions that are of a suspicious nature.



If you lose him, retrace your steps until you see him again. He sometimes works with a confederate.

Make a report of the route he takes and his suspicious actions.



36. "Where would You Expect?"

Prepare a dozen to a score of specimens of common plants, taking care to pick them without their flowers, e.g. the rosettes of leaves of daisy, dandelion and foxglove; a sprig of groundsel; seedlings of beech, sycamore and oak; the dry erect stems of last year's thistles; portions of the shoots of bramble and rose. These should be readily recognised, but experience shows they are not! Use them as a spotting competition, or, better still, in Kim's Game form.

The requirement can be made: "Where would you expect to find this object?"


37. Morgan's Game

Patrols go to a hoarding or shop window and look for one minute. Best report of the advertisement or shop window wins.


38. "Have You Got the Body?"

A certain gang of four or five body-snatchers are known to be operating in a given area. They may have any disguise but must wear a "burr" (one of those plant seeds that stick to you), or a piece of cotton wool in the left ear, or one black and one brown shoe-lace. The Troop looks for them. They award a point to any Scout saying to them, "Have you got the body?" They will probably have a rendezvous near the churchyard at a given time.


39. Agitators

The police descriptions of three or four well-known agitators are distributed. They are known to be arriving at the local station between X and X +1/2 hours. Patrols will take up unobtrusive positions to watch exits and will follow the agitators till they reach their homes. Reports to be turned in to the local police station

Variation: Agitator carrying a well-marked suitcase will arrive by train-the suit-case to be followed and a report made of each place where it changes hands.


40. "A Dog's Life "or "Follow Your Nose"

Patrol A and Patrol B divide equally into "dogs" and "masters." The masters in Patrol A take charge of the dogs in Patrol B and vice versa. The dogs are then blindfolded and led round the town to various shops and places which have distinctive smells (shopkeepers previously asked to co-operate). E.g. a boot repairer, a grocer, a draper, a wine shop, a cycle shop, a telephone box and a public lavatory.

The dogs have to name the places they are taken to (2 points each), and on returning to H.Q. draw a sketch map of the itinerary (5 points).


41. The Buttonhole Game

All Scouts are instructed to make a list during the coming week of all buttonhole badges which the can see and identify. The list should be under various headings, e.g. (a) Scout badges, (b) other youth organisation badges, (c) adult organisation badges, e.g. Rotary, Toc H, etc., (d) Service badges, (e) advertising badges. Points are awarded according to the number listed, but the method of scoring ought to be varied in each locality by factors like population, etc., rare badges in the district being given higher scores. As a check and to encourage real observation, each Scout should be warned that when he brings in his list he will be required to draw as accurately as possible one badge in his list selected by his S.M.

The game could, in more populated areas, be played while engaged in some other occupation on a Saturday afternoon. Opportunity should also be taken to draw attention to the importance of Scouts wearing their own buttonhole badge.


42. Tinker, Tailor, etc.

A given section of road is selected on which there is a reasonable number of passers-by. Game should be played at night, and road should only be lit by ordinary street lamps, brightly lit shops being avoided. S.M. takes up his position at one end and as an interesting person passes him he gives an agreed signal. Patrols are instructed to observe these people and submit report which must include description and results of their deduction as to his or her occupation. Disposition of Patrol is left entirely to Patrol Leader Could be played in daylight, given suitable cover.


43. The Eccentric Windows

Arrange with a number of local shopkeepers to whom you will have explained the game and the training behind it (twelve to twenty-four if possible) to exhibit in their window one article which they normally would not sell, e.g. a packet of garden seeds shown in a tobacconist's window. Scouts are given locality in which to observe and a time limit, they then report back and submit a list of the shops concerned, together with the name of the articles seen. One mark awarded for each correct article and one mark deducted for each incorrect article. Very often a large article will escape the attention of even the most careful observer.

See Also:

Tracking Games

More Outdoor Games






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Last modified: October 15, 2016.