Let’s Go Outside and Play!

Ask a child what their favorite part of the school day is and they will most likely say, OUTSIDE! October 16-22 is “Take It Outside!” week. Open the door and turn your learning environment inside out. Share the wonders of the natural world with young children while increasing moderate to vigorous activity, fostering creativity and imagination, activating all the senses, extending children’s language skills, encouraging loud and unstructured free play. The many health benefits of outdoor play (vitamin D exposure, increased immunity, better sleep, lower stress levels) create happy and healthy children. Here are some ideas of what you can do in your Outdoor Classroom:
• Roll down a grassy hill. No hill? Pull out a tumbling mat and have children roll like a log from one end to the other.

• Pull out the parachute and move it like the wind, gently blowing (slow and soft movements up and down) or create strong gusty gales (fast and quick shaking movements). When the wind blows in the autumn, leaves fall from the trees, twirling and dancing in the wind. Place some real leaves on the parachute and have the children shake the parachute accordingly as you describe how the wind is blowing, either gently or more briskly. After a big, stormy strong wind the leaves have all scattered. Children will have fun as they “rake” up the leaves that have blown (shaken) off of the parachute.

• Pick up a stick, find a rock, climb a tree, look for bugs, smell the flowers, collect leaves, go on a nature hike, dig in the dirt, jump in a puddle, have fun in the mud.

Go on a hike and count tree rings!

• Play “I Spy Outside.” Take turns saying, “I spy something _____” and then together run to that object.

• “Wanna Play Chase?” Children just want to run and it’s always fun to run with or after someone. Tell the children to always ask the person they want to chase, “Wanna play chase? I’ll chase you first and then you can chase me. On your mark, get set, go!”

• Move like the animals — fly like a bird, slither like a snake, scamper like a squirrel, walk like a bear, jump like a frog or a rabbit.

• Set up a Nature Scavenger Hunt. After assessing your playground or yard, make a list of things that the children have to find. The list might include an acorn, a Y-shaped twig, a pinecone, a clover, a pillbug, a gray rock, or whatever else might be in the immediate environment. Naturally, the list will depend on the season and the age of the hunters.

• Make a Sidewalk Chalk Obstacle Course. Using sidewalk chalk create a maze for children to follow using different movement skills. Draw — straight lines, curvy roads, zig-zag paths for children to walk on; lily pads to frog jump onto; shapes to hop into; rivers to cross; and rainbows to jump over.

Make nature and the outdoors a part of your teaching. Lead the way and be the first to say, “Let’s Go Outside & Play!

Ducking Out of Duck, Duck Goose

The rules to play the traditional children’s game of Duck, Duck, Goose are generally that all players except “IT” sits in a circle. IT (sometimes called the “goose”) walks around the outside of the circle, behind the players’ backs while tapping gently on each of the seated players’ heads, saying “Duck…Duck…Duck…” each time they tap a head. When IT taps a player’s head and says, “Goose!” the new “goose” jumps up and chases the first child around the circle. If the new goose doesn’t tag the other child before s/he reaches the open seat in the circle, IT takes the place in the circle and the new goose resumes the game by tapping heads. (If the new goose did happen to tag IT, s/he gets back to his/her spot in the circle and the first child remains IT.)

However, I’ve noticed sometimes the person who is IT doesn’t just “tap” a child’s head gently, they “hit”! Also, children who don’t want to be “hit” may put their hands on top of their head and lower their heads into their laps. Other children may follow that child’s lead and then there are no heads to “tap,” indicating that no one wants to play the game.

I want to share with you what I feel is a more developmentally appropriate way for young children to play this game in an early childhood classroom or home setting.
A Tisket, A Tasket, My Fruit & Veggie Basket
Materials Needed:
Small basket filled with plastic fruits and vegetables
How to play:
1. Sit young children (players) in a circle.
2. One child is chosen to hold the fruit basket and walk around the outside of the circle, behind the players’ backs while the group chants:

A tisket, a tasket,
My fruit and veggie basket.
I went walking down the lane,
And on the way I dropped it,
I dropped it, I dropped it…

4. On the last verse, the child walking around the circle drops the basket behind a player’s back.
5. That player picks up the basket and runs after the first child, who is running back to the open place in the circle.
6. If unable to tag the player before s/he gets to the open spot, the new player holding the basket must now walk around the outside of the circle, dropping the basket of fruits and veggies behind someone who has not yet had a turn.
7. The game ends when every player has had a chance to hold and drop the basket.

Another way to play this game in a similar way is to have the first child hold a small cardboard pizza box and walk around the outside of the circle, behind the players’ backs while the
group chants:

Pizza delivery in the box,
Pizza delivery piping hot,
Pizza delivery ready or not.

On the last words, “Pizza Delivery,” the child drops the pizza box behind a players’ back and the game continues per the steps above.

Preschool children love the element of surprise that these games offer. Whose back is IT going to drop the basket or pizza box behind? They also love to play chase and the activity of running and increasing heart rates is very beneficial for physical health and development.

These activities are also great for teachers to use when children are in transition — i.e., waiting for parent pick up or for their group’s turn at the art center in the classroom, etc. Remember young children do not need to engage in competitive games with definite winners and losers. Having fun and playing cooperatively is a great main objective!