As the weather cools down and the nights get longer, it can be harder to think of ways to get the children out and about for fresh air and exercise. Personally, I would much rather be hibernating inside by a roaring fire wrapped in blankets with a good book, a movie or a board game. However, since becoming a parent this is a rarity (read non existent). J, like most children, needs space to move and burn off all that abundance of energy fizzing in his feet. Thankfully, these games and activities are perfect for kids to wear themselves out and can be done in the garden or a local park or woodland.
Obstacle courses are the perfect garden game for a competitive child as they can compete against siblings, friends, or the clock. Learning to move on, between and around objects is an important developmental skill and helps your child to develop their spatial awareness. You can also incorporate skills they are working on such as throwing, catching, kicking, hopping etc. You can make use of whatever you have in the space you are playing in and children of all ages can join in.
Below are some ideas for obstacle courses in different areas.
In the garden you could use:
- tunnels to crawl through,
- cones to skip or hop around,
- decking to jump off (if it isn’t slippery),
- hoops to jump in and out of, climb through, or run around,
- crates and a plank of wood to walk across,
- buckets to throw balls or bean bags into,
- any play equipment you have in your garden.
In the park your child could:
- run around the climbing frame,
- climb up a ladder,
- crawl across a bridge,
- slide down the slide,
- jump 10 times of the trampoline,
- kick the ball into the goal 5 times.
In the woods (check the natural resources for safety first especially if they are high) your child could:
- climb over a tree trunk,
- jump off three tree stumps,
- weave around 10 trees,
- use tree stumps as stepping stones,
- catch a fir cone,
- swing of a rope.
Experimenting with different ways of moving can help children improve their balance and muscle strength as well as general fitness. It can also make being active more fun. They can move in traditional human ways (running, skipping, hopping, jumping, tip toe), or like an animal (leaping, crawling, on all fours), like a character (fairy, giant) or like an object (wave like a tree, move like a train).
You can combine different movements into an obstacle course too. For example, hop to the tree, throw three bean bags into a hoop and then pretend to be a soldier marching to the slide.
You can also combine movements with learning skills. For example:
- hop to find an object beginning with t.
- skip to touch something smooth/rough.
- tip toe to collect four leaves of different shapes.
- move like an elephant to find an object that rhymes with brick.
My favourite movement games are Simple Simon Says and What’s the Time Mr Wolf? If you are not familiar with them they are explained below:
- Simple Simon Says involves one person giving the instructions and anyone else following them. The instructor gives movement instructions with the rest of the group follow, for example, ‘Simple Simon Says hop on your left foot.’ As the game progresses the instructor will purposely miss out the words ‘Simple Simon Says’ and just say, ‘run to the tree and back.’ Anyone who does the movement is then out as Simple Simon didn’t tell them to do it. The eventual winner then takes over as the instructor.
- What’s the Time Mr Wolf? has one character playing the role of the wolf. They stand at the front of the group with their back to everyone else. The remaining players stand some distance away (best decided based on the age of the players and the space you have). The group shouts out, ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’ and the person playing the wolf replies with a number. The group then take that many steps towards the wolf. When the wolf is ready (ideally when players are closer to them) they shout, ‘dinner time’ rather than a number. The wolf then has to try to catch one of the group before they run back to their safe space. Whoever is caught takes the role as the next wolf. You can adapt this game to have a wider variety of movement. For example, you could say that each round has a different movement, so the first round everyone has to jump when approaching the wolf and when trying to escape from them. The second round could be to hop etc.
There are some great action nursery rhymes and songs for younger children which can be played as garden games. Children can make up their own movements if they aren’t familiar some already. You could use props or toys for them to move to make it even more fun.
- Here we go Round the Mulberry Bush
- Round and Round the Garden like a Teddy Bear
- Ring O Ring O Roses
- Indy Wincy Spider
- Hickory Dickory Dock
- 5 Little Ducks
- 3 Little Men in a Flying Saucer
- One Two Buckle My Shoe
- 10 Little Flower Pots (sung to the tune of 10 Green Bottles)
- Hokey Pokey
- The Grand Old Duke of York
- Row Row Row Your Boat
A classic garden game, the treasure hunt is loved by children (and adults) of all ages and is a great activity to do with a range of ages. Hide something in the garden and create a map for your children to follow. Ensure that the clues you write involve different movement or actions. For example, take 4 paces to the left like a monkey. You could even complete this in your local park or woodland if you have another adult setting it up ahead of you.
I hope that you have fun trying out these different garden games with your children. Invite some friends or family over to play together. Garden games are a fun and easy way to get your kids outside in colder weather to burn off all their energy and help them to sleep better during the longer nights.
Let me know which garden games you think you’d like to try in the comments below.
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