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