Kids need time outside. Finding the right outdoor games for kids at school can actually help to build skills needed for attending and learning!
So many kids that I work with are sensory seekers. They need movement and extra physical input. As much as they can get, every day.
Typically, their favorite “subjects” in school: phys ed and recess! (With lunch being the third favorite!)
Several other kids I work with have difficulty with visual motor tasks in the classroom. They need additional gross motor activities that help coordinate more muscles groups.
With either of these two groups of kids, recess is a great opportunity to address their needs.
During recess, I can help kids get extra energy out. Or, I can find outdoor games to work on skills needed for classroom tasks!
The Importance of Outdoor Games for Kids at School
If you’re reading my other posts on the blog, you’re very aware of my love for multi-sensory learning.
You may have read the Pyramid of Learning post. So you’ve seen how the sensory systems are the foundation for learning.
When working with school staff, I often share one of my biggest requests: “Please don’t ever use missing recess as a consequence for kids!”
I share this with administrators and teachers. And I let them know why…
Typically, the kids who are misbehaving in the classroom… are the ones that NEED recess.
[Click the previous link for tips on how to address behavior problems in the classroom.]
The kids who are misbehaving the most, rely on the outdoor physical activity. It gives their brains and nervous systems sensory input that helps them behave and attend better!
Taking this time away from them can actually backfire. It can increase the challenging behaviors.
Additionally, recess can help kids that need more practice with gross motor coordination skills.
Outdoor recess time is a great brain break for kids. It offers fresh air and natural light. It’s also an opportunity to find outdoor games and activities that are beneficial for development.
Skill Building Outdoor Games for Kids While at School
My favorite outdoor games are being divided into three different categories. The first is somewhat of a DIY category. It requires minimal, inexpensive supplies and helps kids be creative in their outdoor play.
The second category involves movement. All kids’ brains need movement for learning. But as noted previously, some kids require movement!
[Balance and movement activities also help improve visual skills. Visual skills are needed all day for learning, too!]
The third category of outdoor activities shares coordination games. Kids can expend energy – but they can also work on improving coordination skills. (Skills needed for school fine motor tasks such as writing and cutting and managing their belongings.)
Low Cost DIY Outdoor Games for Kids at School
There are several quick games that you can have kids play just with chalk. These are great for balance / eye skills.
- Use chalk to draw a hopscotch design for jumping
- Draw “stepping stones” with chalk for a balance game
- Make a series of letters or numbers for jumping and hopping on
- Draw lines to use as a balance beam
- Create an entire obstacle course with chalk (balance beam, stones, sideways feet, etc)
Games with just a ball. These are great for improving visual focusing and visual tracking.
- Bounce and catch a tennis ball off a brick wall (wall ball)
- Kick a ball along a path or to a target and back
- Use a gym ball to kick off a wall (or throw it off a wall to catch)
- Target toss – doesn’t have to be in a big basketball hoop – use cans, bins, boxes, etc
- Four square with a gym ball- use chalk to draw the court [click the link for videos / directions]
Jump rope activities work on movement and coordination.
- Jumping rope – singles (kids beat their personal bests)
- Double jump rope
- Place on the ground for a tight rope balance beam
- Lay it on the ground, jump side to side over it
- Play limbo
Create a challenge for kids to create their own game. Choose one prop or object (such as chalk, a tennis ball, gym ball, jump rope.) Or have them find a prop!
[Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. See below for more information.]
Outdoor Games for Kids that Get Them Moving and Exerting Energy!
I decided to choose some games that kids can also play while social distancing outside, if needed.
- Hippity hop ball with handles (this Amazon link shows sizes for each age range)
- Potato Sack Races
- Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course Kit
- Tug of War
- Zoom Ball (so fun!)
- Relay Races with Cones
- Bucket Stilts
- Stomp Rocket
- Hopscotch Ring Game
- Numbered Spot Markers (create courses for jumping)
In place of the traditional bucket stilts above, I prefer to use this style of balance stilt. The flat side and the curved side create two levels of difficulty. Either of the stilts are also great to place on the ground for balance stepping stones.
[The Zoom Ball also works on bilateral coordination – click the link for more bilateral coordination activity ideas.]
Outdoor Games and Toys that Work on Visual Motor Skills
Why not improve eye-hand coordination during recess?! Visual motor coordination is needed for cutting, forming letters and numbers properly, and writing on a line or within a space. It’s also needed for managing classroom materials.
- Lawn Darts
- Bocce or Crazy Bocce
- Bean Bag Toss / Washer Toss
- Wooden Ring Toss
- Kan Jam
- Football toss / frisbee toss
- Toss and catch ball set (velcro)
- Scoop Ball Set
- Skip Ball Ankle Toy
- Best Educational Toys and Games for Kids (Ages 5-10) – These can be used for Indoor Recess Ideas! Several games focus on visual perceptual skills which are needed for many learning activities.
- 40 Fun Core Strength Exercises for Kids – So many kiddos have weak cores. It impacts their fine motor skill development and decreases their ability to attend. (free printable)
- Movement Activities to Enhance Learning – Find Movement Brain Breaks for Indoors
- 10 Tips: How to Address Behavior Problems at School – Shares suggestions on how to help your kiddo who has a hard time behaving.
Leave a comment below to share your favorite recess game for kids.