Getting outdoors offers many opportunities to have fun and be active. Taking your class outside is good for more than just active free play. The playground can also double as an outdoor classroom and is a great place for children to develop fundamental movement skills.
Here are some ideas for physical activity on the playground that teachers can use to bring some focus and direction to outdoor play.
1. Floor is Lava
You need your imagination and sense of adventure for this game: The ground is now lava and you can’t touch it!
Students have to try to make their way through the playground, from one designated starting place to the endpoint, without touching the ground. For example, they can jump from the slide or swing from the bars to a platform, and balance or jump from rock to rock.
This game can also be turned into a relay race. Divide the class into two teams. Each team cheers on its players as they make their way through, offering each other tips on navigating the landscape.
Also in this series
PE during a pandemic: How to help your students focus on building skills
PE on the field or pavement: Group games for open spaces
PE on the playground: How to design an obstacle course
PE in the forest: Group activities to develop movement skills in the woods
If the game is too challenging for younger students or those with mobility issues, place mats or other objects to bridge large gaps to help kids move through.
2. Design an obstacle course
Bring some focus and continuity to your outdoor time and have kids work together to create and design an obstacle course on the school playground. Check out some of our ideas for setting up an obstacle course at your school.
3. Red Light/Green Light
Green means go! Students have to keep moving through the playground and can’t stop—unless they hear “Red light!”
Once the light turns red, all students must freeze: don’t move a muscle or you’re out. Kids who are “out” can move around freely, and “police” those who don’t stop at the red lights—or those who don’t keep moving at green lights.
4. Playground Twister
Is your playground equipment colourful? If it is, you can play this fun game where the teacher calls out a colour and students need to make sure their hands and feet are touching equipment of that colour.
The teacher can also call out two colours, and challenge students to touch only equipment with these colours. Once the colours are called out, the teacher counts down from 10, and students have to be ready and frozen on their colours by the time the teacher gets to zero. Increase the challenge even more by making it a countdown: in the next round, they have nine seconds, and so on.
Marta Orellana teaches upper intermediate grades in a North Vancouver elementary school, where PE is generally taught by classroom teachers rather than PE specialist teachers.