Outdoor games

Being outdoors, especially in a natural area, is good for the body, mind, and spirit. It is so for children as it is for adults. It is great to incorporate outdoor activity into the daily routine, including the regular school day. With our beautiful Queensland weather, children get to play outdoors most lunchtimes. While one day of indoor play on a wet day is a novelty, more than one and we start to feel cooped up.

However, other than at lunch breaks, outdoor play is not always scheduled as part of the school routine as it is in Finland, where children have, according to this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘a mandatory 15-minute outdoor free-play break every hour of every day.’

I support the premise of Finnish education that ‘Fresh air, nature and regular physical activity breaks are considered engines of learning.’

They must also have benefits to health and happiness. In Where will the children play? I suggested that ‘While it is great for children to have unstructured play time. It is also important to have equipment to support their play, be it imaginative, social, or physical.’ The reason for this statement is the disagreements I’ve seen occur when children have nothing to play with and no ideas for creating games of their own. It seems that many of the games played in the not-so-long-ago days, before the invention of video games and television, have been lost to subsequent generations.

Johnny Automatic, cartoon of a girl and boy playing with a ball https://openclipart.org/detail/721/playing-ball

In Are you game?  I wrote about some of the ways playing games can contribute to the development of social skills such as:

  • Sharing
  • Taking turns
  • Cooperation
  • Following rules
  • Dealing with competition
  • Accepting a loss
  • Accepting a win graciously

When in the classroom, I incorporated some type of game, whether indoor or outdoor, small group or large group, into every day’s schedule. Some of these ideas I have already shared on the readilearn website, including instructions for How to play freeze. I recently added some Maths games and activities for the whole class #1  which include suggestions for playing outdoors, such as Odd and Even. (Both these resources are free!)

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills is also talking about outdoor games. She mentioned childhood favourites; such as, tether tennis, hopscotch, hide-and-see, jump rope, and flashlight tag. As I do, Charli wonders how playing these games compares to playing screen games. I have to admit that I like both, but I think it would be great for children to learn how to play some of my childhood favourites; such as:

  • Drop the hanky
  • Cat and mouse
  • Red rover
  • Fly
  • Skipping
  • Elastics
  • Hula hoops
  • Ball tag (brandy)
  • Hide and seek
  • Tag (tiggy)
  • Spotlight (flashlight)
  • Ball games

I’m sure you could add others. You know, all games were invented by someone at some time, and it is fun to make up games of your own.  Give children a little equipment, or none, let them use their imaginations and see what games they can come up with.

I have ‘invented’ a few games over the years. Some of them are already available on readilearn, others are on the list of to-dos. They are not all outdoor games, there are a variety of board games. But Charli has specifically asked for outdoor games. She said,

In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves playing an outdoor game, like tetherball, hoops, tag. It can be made up, traditional, cultural or any kind of twist. Go where the prompt leads.

This is my response. I hope you like it.

Wanna play?

From the verandah, the park looked enormous and inviting. The men, lugging boxes and furniture upstairs, stopped chatting. Mum bustled them too, ‘Here. Not there.’

‘Stay out of the way,’ she’d commanded. He suggested the park. ‘Not by yourself,’ she’d said.

He went anyway, crossing the wide road alone. He watched a group of kids kicking a ball around. They looked friendly, but… He glanced back at the house. Not missed. Would they let him play?

‘Hey, kid,’ one shouted. He turned to run. ‘Wait!’ called the voice. ‘Wanna play?’

Reassured by smiling faces, he joined in the game.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

41 thoughts on “Outdoor games

  1. finlandwithsmallsteps

    We often take our school and education system for granted here and dont remember how good things actually are here for the kids. As a mom of active twelve year old boy, I think the teachers would go crazy without these outdoor breaks 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      That’s so true. Learning is great when you’re having fun, so water play is always popular. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  2. Sarah Brentyn

    Totally agree. We’ve talked about this before. I love the 15 min every hour idea. Never heard of that until I saw it on your blog. I am so guilty of letting time pass and not getting my kids outdoors. It’s weird because I spent so much time outside growing up. Anyway, lovely post and off to catch up on your others!

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  3. Pingback: Games for the Fun of It « Carrot Ranch Communications

  4. Hugh's Views and News

    This took me back to my days of playing outside in the sandpit. At school, we also had a large trolley that held about six inches of water in it. It was full of objects that we could fill with water and kept us children happy for a long time. Given the health & safety rules these days, I don’t think that water trolley would be allowed anymore. Such a shame, given the amount of fun and joy it gave many children at the school. These days, we seem to see young children with iPads in their hands, which is such a shame as I believe technology can wait until they are at least a few years older.
    A lovely piece of flash-fiction, Norah. That first journey into a new world is always the most difficult.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for commenting, Hugh. I remember that water trolley too – but not from school days, from teaching days. It was still in use last time I looked (which was in 2011). I haven’t heard of it being banned, but you could be right. Children certainly do enjoy playing with water, and there is so much to be learned. A lot of learning about volume, pouring etc, can also be learned from having sand in the trolley.
      I don’t object to kids using technology. It’s amazing how effectively they can use the devices at a young age. But there needs to be a balance. When I was a kid, TV was the big baddie. Before that it was books. Now it’s technology. What will it be next?
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash fiction. I hoped it would be believable.

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  5. Bec Colvin

    I love the idea of structured play each day, and I do remember your classrooms being full of fun and games. I love your FF! Such a nice story of making friends and being invited to join in.

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  6. The Plagued Parent

    I agree, it should be mandatory for kids to learn some of those classic games! I was helping my daughter coach a soccer team of 8 year olds and I said let’s plat red rover! They all looked at me like I had two heads, they’d never heard of it!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Red rover was banned from school playgrounds here years ago for being too rough (I think). Kids seem to find plenty of ways of being rough on their own. 🙂

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  7. Annecdotist

    Hurrah for your character! With a move to a new house, it’s right and proper that the playground should be his priority.
    Fifteen minutes play every hour sounds great and so sensible. I’m assuming you’ve also come across those forest schools which I think originated in Scandinavia but are also cropping up here where lessons of all types take place outside, not just sports.
    I’m afraid I didn’t recognise many of the games in your list – I guess that’s one big area where international/regional differences in the use of language persist.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Anne. Thank you for your lovely comment.
      I have heard a little about those forest schools. They sound amazing. I would have loved that, as most children would.
      When I have time I’ll write an explanation for the games. It will be interesting to hear what you call them.

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  8. robbiesinspiration

    I loved this post, Norah, especially your 99 word flash fiction. It was so nice and made me feel happy. Outdoor play is very important and, sadly, a lot of children seem to have lost the ability to entertain themselves without TV and computers. That is why we installed a huge sandpit when our boys were small – so that I could teach them how to play imaginatively in the sand.

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  9. dgkaye

    Great post Norah. It’s so important for kids to get fresh air and physical activity. Sadly many kids are attached to their videos and games and not getting enough outdoors. And it doesn’t help that many school systems are taking away after school extra curricular activities and some taking out gym class altogether. What is this world coming to?

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    1. Norah Post author

      That’s true, Debby. Schools are not only reducing physical health classes, they are reducing play time. All for the sake of force feeding unimportant stuff and assessment. They call it accountability, but I don’t think they’re being accountable for the right stuff. Someone should hold them accountable.

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      1. dgkaye

        Absolutely Norah. Such an oxymoron between cutting healthy activities and cutting drug costs for obesity on the rise. Wouldn’t it be a treat if people in power actually thought with their brains and not their pocket books? 🙂

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  10. TanGental

    One of the delights I recall from primary school was making up games at playtime; my kids did that too. It would be awful if that stopped so more power to your elbow Norah. And yes to the flash; that’s what we want to hear.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Geoff. It is great when children know they can make up their own rules and don’t have to follow what they’re given, just because. When you make up rules for a game, you can make them to suit yourself! And then change them if need be. 🙂

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  11. Patricia Tilton

    I love how you include curriculum with outdoor activities, as it does teach so many important interactive skills. Nothing like spending a day outdoors playing games. Kids today just don’t have that opportunity and the world is more complex with predators. Such a different time when we were kids — we lived outdoors and made up our play. Enjoyed your flash fiction piece!

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    1. Norah Post author

      That’s for agreeing with me about outdoor play, Patricia. As kids, we used to gather in the street and other kids from the neighbourhood would come and join us. Then streets got busier, kids weren’t as home much any more when parents worked, and they weren’t allowed outside without adult supervision. It all curtailed that outdoor, active, imaginative play time. It’s a loss to development in social skills, as well as in physical skills and imagination.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Sounds like a great idea. It’s funny how we reach an age when we think doing such things in public is inappropriate and embarrassing. It’s quite acceptable to play games, such as ‘Don’t step on the crack’ with children, but if you were to do it on your own, you’d probably raise a few eyebrows!

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  12. thecontentedcrafter

    Sometimes, when I’m reading your preambles to a flash -or even the posts you write for Readiliearn – I think thank heavens you are here! I see so many children who seem to have no ability to play. they complain that they are bored, they demand attention from the helicopter parent circling anxiously…… I see them at the park, sitting on the seats, eyes glued to their devices – and my heart is heavy for them….. When I see children running and climbing and playing naturally it is such a joy! I’m 100% with the Finns!! For the young children all learning can and should be done through games and structured activities that have real meaning for them – and therefore are fun. I’m so glad you are here, publishing ideas for games and encouraging parents and teachers to use them. It’s really important work! Thank you!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for bringing joy to my heart, Pauline. I really appreciate your support. Love this: “For the young children all learning can and should be done through games and structured activities that have real meaning for them – and therefore are fun.” There can never be too much fun! Thank you, Pauline. xo

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