Using Kims Game To Improve Your Memory

KimsGameSmExcellent memory skills can be critical to a law enforcement officer’s daily activities and yet most of us have never had any training to improve those skills. There are a lot of simple ways you can work with your team or a partner to improve your skills. Consider using Kim’s Game at your next roll-call training session as a simple way to build your memory and observation skills.

Use Kim’s Game To Improve Your Memory Skills

The name Kim’s game comes from Rudyard Kipling’s book called Kim published in 1901. “Kim” is the story of an Irish orphan who grew up in India. Kim was being trained to be a spy by the government’s intelligence agency. This spy training involved many things but one was a way of improving his memory. To do this the trainers showed Kim a tray of gems and other stones and he was allowed to memorize them for one minute. After the minute had elapsed they… covered the tray and asked Kim how many stones he saw and what kind of stones and gems they were.

This process has been adapted by military units and even the Boy Scouts as a way to train and improve your memory skills. According to Wikipedia World War I British Major Hesketh-Prichard developed many techniques in art of sniping, including the use of spotting scopes, working in pairs and using Kim’s Game to train observational skills, many of which are still used today by law enforcement counter-sniper teams.

The basic process is as follows:

It takes two or more people to play
Put twenty or more objects under a cloth or handkerchief
Allow the players up to one minute of time to memorize the objects
After the objects are covered again ask the players to list as many as they can remember
Change and vary the objects and repeat the process over and over to build memory skills

Advanced Variations

Remove or replace one object and have the players name what was removed or inserted.
Ask them to completely describe each object. For example in the photo above: What is the playing card? How long is the pencil? What does it say on the business card? What number is showing on the die? What color is the crayon? What is the brand name of the battery?
You can also use PowerPoint to show photos of objects or complex scenes from the real world to add realism to your training.
Use the game regularly to improve memory and your skills of observation.

How To Play Kim’s Game

Place about twenty or thirty small objects on a tray, or on the table or floor and cover them with a dark cloth. Use things like buttons, pencils, corks, candy, playing cards, stones, coins, pens, etc. – anything you can find – cover them over with a cloth or take a photo and project it onto a screen using PowerPoint.

Gather a group of people, or use this as a 10-minute roll-call training session for example.

Make a list of all the objects on a piece of paper, and make a column opposite the list for each person’s replies. Uncover the articles for 30 seconds up to one minute, or project your photo on the screen, then cover them over again or go to a blank slide.

Take each person separately and let them tell you each of the articles that they can remember, and mark it off on your scoring sheet. The person who can remember the most objects is the winner. A variation of the game involves removing an object and rearranging the others to see if the players can identify the object that is missing.

Army Ranger Sniper Training also details one training exercise called the KIMS game:
…they would put different objects on the table: a bullet, a paper clip, a bottle top, a pen, a piece of paper with something written on it — 10 to 20 items. You’d gather around and they’d give you, say, a minute to look at everything. Then you’d have to go back to your table and describe what you saw. You weren’t allowed to say “paper clip” or “bullet,” you’d have to say, like, “silver, metal wire, bent in two oval shapes.” They want the Intel guys making the decision about what you actually saw.

The KIMS game that Army Ranger Snipers use is played repeatedly throughout their two-month training course. As time goes by, students are given more objects to look at and less time to look at them. To add to the challenge, the time between seeing the objects and reporting what they saw gets longer as the course goes on. By the end, they may see 25 objects in the morning, train all day, and then at night be asked to write down descriptions of all the things they saw.

Many military units use Kim’s game which some have nicnamed “Keep In Mind System. The name for the game is a backronym, chosen because the initials of the words spell “KIMS” (as in “Kim’s Game”). It is staged as depicted in the photo above. You start simple but then get into more and more items. Eventually about a month later it becomes harder to challenge Soldiers, so they add distractions like a loud radio, or give briefings during the time which they absorb the information. At a point you stop making them repeat what they saw that day, even awaking a person in the middle of the night to recall the objects.

Do It Yourself Kim’s Game Items as seen in the photo above:

1. Playing Card
2. Sugar/Sweet & Low Packet
3. Green Army Man
4. Peppermint
5. Balloon
6. Crayon
7. Straw
8. Paperclip
9. Poker Chip
10. Old Key
11. Penny
12. Spoon
13. Clothes Pin
14. Pencil
15. Battery
16. Dice
17. Bandaid
18. Rock
19. Mini Tootsie Roll
20. Eraser
21. Rubber Band
22. Jax
23. Q-Tip
24. Twist Tie
25. Business Card

Use a dark colored bandana or cloth to cover the items has a great royalty free graphical image of a messy kids bedroom that works great for Kim’s Game on PowerPoint at:

CLICK HERE to download our free 10-Minute Roll Call training session on using Kim’s Game.

Here are some links where you can learn more about Kim’s Game and it’s uses:’s_Game
US Army Ranger Kim’s Game Training:’s_Game

Try it yourself and let us know how it works for you or what new ideas you have for using Kim’s Game.

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One Comment

  1. While not a memory game, a card game designed to test and improve one’s color/number/pattern identification skills I have come across is Blink from Mattel ( I’ve found it to be quite stimulating, and it’s less that $10.

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