Predator vs. Prey: The Food Chain Game

Animals and food chains are popular topics for children to learn during science class. There are many books and crafts available about food chains that make children excited about what they're learning. This post is about The Food Chain Game which children can play outdoors during science, STEM, and even recess. Keep reading to learn more!

Learn about carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, predators, prey, and decomposers while playing this food chain game during your science/STEM classes.

Disclosure: Affiliate links to Amazon are included in this post.

Essential Concepts and Vocabulary

Even though it is possible to play The Food Chain Game without any prior knowledge, children will gain more from the experience if they understand the following concepts and vocabulary words:
  • predator, prey
  • food, energy, calories
  • food chain, food web
  • herbivore, carnivore, omnivore
  • scavenger, decomposer
  • producer, consumer
  • ecosystem

For the purposes of this game, we'll be using herbivoresomnivores, and carnivores to keep things simple. Feel free to modify the game to meet the needs of the curriculum you use.

Cartoon depicting the flow of energy in an animal food chain

Materials Needed

Very few materials are needed to play The Food Chain Game and can be purchased inexpensively online or in a dollar store.

Getting Ready to Play

Before playing The Food Chain Game with your students, there is some prep work you will need to do ahead of time.
  1. Find a large grassy area for your children to run and play. Scatter the popcorn all over it. (You can save some of the popcorn for a fun snack when you're done playing!)
  2. Draw a line across each bag and label them as shown below. 1/3 of your bags will be labeled herbivore. 1/3 of your bags will be labeled carnivore, and 1/3 of your bags will be labeled omnivore
  3. Give your children a labeled bag. This bag will let them know if they are a carnivore, an herbivore, or an herbivore.

The bags of popcorn labeled omnivore, carnivore, and herbivore

Important Note: When drawing the lines on the bags, there are no specific measurements to follow because every animal requires and eats different amounts of food in real life. Since carnivores require the most amount of food, draw the carnivore lines near the top of the bags. Draw the herbivore lines near the bottom of the bags and the omnivore lines somewhere in the middle. Believe it or not, not having precise measurements will actually help in The Food Chain Game!

Rules of the Game

When you say GO!, the children will race to the grassy area to gather as much popcorn as possible. This popcorn represents the food the animals need to consume to survive as follows:
  1. Herbivores only eat plants, seeds, nuts, berries, bark, etc. Therefore, they can only collect popcorn from the grass.
  2. Omnivores eat both plants and other animals. They can collect popcorn from the ground AND from the herbivores. 
  3. Carnivores are meat eaters. Therefore, they collect popcorn from herbivores and omnivores... NEVER from the ground. 

Popped popcorn scattered in the green grass

How to Play

  1. Playing The Food Chain Game is similar to playing tag. When a child is tagged, they have been 'eaten' and are out.
  2. When a child has been tagged, they need to add their popcorn to the other child's bag and give their empty bag to you.
  3. Once a child has filled their bag up to the line, they can no longer gather popcorn. They now need to avoid being tagged by the others.
  4. If an omnivore or carnivore wants to 'eat' another animal, the two children stop and compare the lines on their bags. Whoever has the bag with the lower line gets 'eaten' and has to surrender their popcorn to the other. Any extra popcorn above the line gets rescattered on the ground.
  5. The game ends when there is either no more popcorn on the ground or when the carnivores have filled their bags to the line.
  6. If time allows, play this game again a couple of times to give everyone the feeling of being an herbivore and carnivore.

Follow Up Discussion

After playing The Food Chain Game, talk briefly about what happened while the children were playing. How did it feel to be an herbivore? How hard was it for them to survive? How did it feel to be a carnivore? How hard was it for them to survive? In many games, the herbivores are the first ones eliminated from playing, then the omnivores. How did the game change when there were only carnivores left? Did the carnivores start tagging each other? What other patterns did your children see while playing?

Related Children's Book

Are you looking for a related children's book to read with your children before or after playing The Food Chain Game? If so, How Does the Food Chain Work by Baby Professor might be a good option for you. (PS. Don't let the name Baby Professor deter you from this book. How Does the Food Chain Work was written for 9 to 12-year-olds... not babies!)

Book cover: a cartoon drawing of a fish eating a smaller fish that is eating an even smaller fish

🍎 Author's Summary: Nature is sometimes cruel. The big animal eats the small animal and the chain goes on. If an animal is vulnerable, it becomes food. But did you know that humans are the key beneficiaries of the food chain? Learn about the food chain - what it is and how it works - by reading this science book for kids aged 9-12. Happy reading and learning!

🍎 Author: Baby Professor
🍎 Publisher: Baby Professor
🍎 Year: 2017
🍎  Pages: 64

Cartoon of a hungry fish with teeth chasing three smaller fish

Did you enjoy this post about The Food Chain Game? If so, check out these blog posts for more science books and activities:

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