Tuesday, May 26, 2009

5 Make-Your-Own Outdoor Learning Games

1. Phonics Limbo

Make a limbo stick out of an old cardboard wrapping paper tube, 5 paper towel tubes taped together, or a broomstick. When limboing under the stick, each kid has to say a word that starts with a letter (or sound) announced by the last child who just finished limboing. For their answers to count, children must say them aloud while they're still bent backwards but before their bodies finish clearing the stick.

2. Word Families Ring Toss

Collect 5 cardboard paper towel tubes and 15 heavy-duty paper plates. Use scissors to cut an X in the center of 5 plates. Then, push a paper towel tube up through each X, making the plate the base of a ring toss stand. Write a common word family on the top part of the base of each stand (-at, -an, -it, -en, -op.) Cut out the centers of 10 paper plates to create rings, and write a consonant on each ring. Kids toss the rings on the stands and get a point for each real word they create. (For example, if the m consonant ring lands on the -at stand, they earn a point for building mat.) Tip: to get the stands to stay upright in grass, poke large sticks in the ground first and place the stands, through the paper towel tubes, over the sticks.

3. States & Capitals Tag

To be considered safe, a child must yell out the name of a state and its capital before getting tagged. Each state/capital can only be used once during a game. For even more of a challenge, the child who's It yells out the state, and the child in danger of being tagged must say the correct corresponding capital. Otherwise, tag, you're it!

4. Jump Rope Math

Challenge kids to jump rope and say aloud the right numbers while keeping with the rhythm. Cater this game to each child's level. Kids can simply count up or down as they jump, or yell out all the fact families for any equation (4 + 5 = 9, 5 + 4 = 9, 9 - 4 = 5, and 9 - 5 = 4). Ramp up the difficulty by having them say aloud their times tables or even 5-7 fractions (of their choice) in ascending or descending order--phew, a toughie!

5. Rhyming Chalk Talk

Draw 10 chalk pictures representing 5 rhyming pairs of words (such as man and fan or mop and top) on the sidewalk. Then, kids take turns saying aloud the rhyming pairs as they use a watering can to pour water on pictures (to identify the rhyming matches). Water makes it more fun, helps children see which pictures have been matched already (each picture can only be used once), and cleans the sidewalk! (On a hot day, use the hose instead! If water conservation is a concern in your area, save rainwater to use in the watering can.)


  1. Hello Wendy

    Greetings from Scotland! I found you on Twitter by searching using the keywords "Outdoor Learning"

    Great to see you promoting outdoor activities. Thank you very very much.

    Best wishes

  2. You're welcome, Juliet! Games that combine gross motor skills and learning can be very powerful--there's a lot of research on their effectiveness. Plus, they get kids off the couch, which is a plus!

    Learning Resources, the company I work for, has a division in the UK. You may be interested in checking out the active play products/toys they carry: http://tinyurl.com/pmjg7r

    Thanks again for following!

  3. Hello! What a adorable looking site you own! Did you customize this site on your own?