Sailing To A New Island

Let's go to an island together to start over, but to get there, they must choose to throw non-essentials overboard.

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Everything you need to play this game

  • Envelope with wants and needs cards for each group
  • Copies of Wants and Needs cards ( Compasito, 2009, p. 152- 156)
  • A big box or something that can act as an imaginary boat.
  • Glue or sticky tape and sheets of paper

A step-by-step guide to play the game


Tell or play the storyline to the players: "You want to escape everyday reality and decide to move to an island to start over. You convince the players to come with you".


Divide the children into small groups and give each group an envelope with all the wants and needs cards (see materials) in it, and explain that these are the things they pack to take with them for life on the new island. Ask each group to open the envelope, spread out all their cards and examine them.


Explain that the boat is now leaving and continue the storyline:

"It is a pleasant voyage. The sun is shining and the sea is peaceful. However, a big storm suddenly brews up, and the ship rocks. It is even about to sink! You have to throw three of your cards overboard to keep the boat afloat." Ask each group to decide what to give up. Explain that they cannot get these things back later. Collect the cards that have been "thrown overboard" and put them together in one pile.


Return to the story: "Finally the storm is over. Everyone is very relieved.... However, we see that a hurricane is heading straight towards the ship. If you want to survive the hurricane, you have to throw three more cards overboard! Remember: don't throw away what you might need to survive in your new country." As before, collect these cards and keep them in a separate pile.


Return to the story: that was close! But we are almost to the new continent. Everyone is very excited. But just as we see land on the horizon, a giant whale collides with the boat and makes a hole in the side. You have to make the ship even lighter! Discard three more cards. Collect these cards and put them in a pile.


Announce that they have finally reached the new continent safely and are ready to build a new community. Ask each group to stick their remaining cards on a piece of paper so that everyone can remember what they are taking with them to the new island.

  • Do you have everything you need to survive?
  • To grow and develop well?

Ask each group to hang their sheet at the front of the room and explain what they are bringing with them to the new land. After each description, ask the whole group:

  • Are they missing anything they will need to survive? To grow and develop?

Gather all players in a circle and start the debriefing/discussion of the activity (see additional game information).

Extra game information

  • How did you decide what you could discard? What was essential?
  • What were some of the things you threw away?
  • Were there disagreements as a group about what to keep and what to throw overboard? How did you resolve those disagreements?
  • Did it get harder to decide which items to get rid of the more you had to carry? Why?
  • What can we say about the items that remained on your paper versus the items you removed?
  • Discuss the difference between 'needs' (the things that all children absolutely must have or be able to do to live a happy and healthy life) and 'wants' (the things that are nice to have but not necessary for a full life).
  • Do all people have the same needs? Who might have different needs?
  • What do you think of your final choices? Will you be able to survive on the new island? Will you be able to grow and develop well?
  • If you had to do this activity a second time, would you throw away other things?
  • Which things did you want to have, but decided they were not essential?
  • Which cards represent things we might want to have, but don't need to have to survive?
  • Which cards represent things we must have to survive?
  • Which cards represent things we need to grow and develop well?
  • What would happen in this new land if you didn't have _____?

Tips for the facilitator
  • It is very important that players do not infer from this activity that some children's rights are less important than others and can be scrapped. Emphasise the interdependence of rights in the follow-up discussion.
  • Some items are deliberately ambiguous to trigger a debate about what is an essential item (for example, a mobile phone may be considered a luxury by some and a necessity for communication by others).
  • Young children may struggle to distinguish between what they want and what they need. Help them by emphasising what they need to survive in a new country.
  • Emphasise that children's/human rights are based on children's/human needs: the things that every human being needs to survive, grow and develop well and live a life with dignity.
  • Emphasise that everyone needs all their human rights! Some are necessary to stay alive, such as food, medical care, clean water and shelter. But others are essential for people to live and develop well. Just staying alive is not enough for anyone.


Give some blank cards and allow the children to add some extra things they think they need or would like to have.

Specific learning objectives

Differentiating the difference between needs and wants.  

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