While unstructured and open outdoor activities, such as playing in a swimming pool or going on a nature walk, suffice some of the time, outdoor games give children more structure. Whether you are hosting a party or just wiling away the afternoon in a park, scheduling outside games varies the pace and encourages children to interact with one another in new ways. Emphasize cooperative games and activities that have children banding together to beat the clock or accomplish a task.
Traditional outdoor games such as hide-and-seek often stem from activities children invented in parks and neighborhoods. Outdoor circle games, such as Spud, may involve a court, a grassy field or some equipment. Sports-oriented outdoor games include Capture the Flag and crab soccer, in which children crab walk rather than run during the game. Ball games such as dodge ball work well outside, as do racket games such as badminton. Line games such as Red Light Green Light and Red Rover often involve running and group movement, keeping energy high.
Great outdoor games do not require extensive equipment to create fun. Water fights, tossing water balloons and playing a game of tag using wet sponges entertain children of all ages. Some great new games take a classic, such as a scavenger hunt, and add a new element, such as videotaping items on the hunt rather than gathering them. Many outdoor games, such as hide-and-seek or blob tag, involve all players at once, rather than demanding that people wait their turn.
Great outdoor games encourage play and participation rather than centering on high levels of skill or stamina. Use outdoor activities to absorb the energy of a group of children, and then slowly relax them or provide a break with a quieter outdoor game in the shade. Simple outdoor activities such as painting, looking at cloud formations and storytelling provide winding-down time.
Once you explain a game and get children engaged in play, your work is far from done. Most groups of children require new activities or variations on play every 20 minutes during outdoor play. Add a new element to an old favorite, such as Mother May I, by inventing creative and silly steps. Play kickball with 20 bases or Duck Duck Goose with different animal names.
Active outdoor games mean children heat up more quickly. Provide breaks for drinking water, resting in the shade or reapplying sunscreen. Vary the pace of games, providing cool-down activities between highly active games.
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