Games That Get Kids Moving Outside

August 24, 2017
Games That Get Kids Moving Outside

These old fashioned classics have surprisingly great brain-boosting features and lend themselves to dramatic play adventures..  

Here’s some inspiration for games that ignite outdoor playtime and get kids moving from Jocelyn Greene and our partners at Child’s Play NY.

Hide and Seek

This game is certainly a well-known classic, but it’s also genuinely amazing for both our kids’ gross motor development, physical health and their cognitive development!

Why to Play

  • This game will get your kids moving.  Now that we can play this outside, add in lots of distance between the counter and the hiding spots.  Players have to run to the finish and get those heart rates up!
  • Practicing balance and coordination: Kids are working on spatial reasoning when they try to figure out whether they will fit or be hidden in a particular spot. If hiding spots require agility and flexibility to get into, so much the better!
  • Hide and Seek helps strengthen kids’ executive functioning skills, which are associated with successful school and life outcomes. When playing Hide and Seek, kids touch on the main pillars of executive functioning: working memory, mental flexibility, and self control.

Ways to Elevate Hide and Seek

We all know the traditional way to play, but here are some ways to take the game to the next level, making it satisfying and challenging for kids of all ages.

  • Give Hide and Seek a Dramatic Play Context – Many fairy tales provide excellent frameworks for your game. Try using the scenarios and characters from children’s literature to kick the game up a notch. Some of my favorites are Jack and the Beanstalk, Peter Rabbit, and Peter and the Wolf. You can also just play the basic game as characters that excite your children – superheroes and kid detectives work very well.
  • Change up the counting – customize your pre “Ready or Not” counting time by counting by twos and threes, counting in different languages, or counting in a character voice from whatever story you are using.
  • Turn Hide and Seek into Tag – kids 5 and up are especially enthusiastic about this add-on. If you are spotted in your hiding spot, you must make a run for it and try to make it to whatever “home base” or “safe zone” you have designated at the start of the game. Also decide if other players can “free” people who get tagged. Have fun customizing this part of the game to suit the age and number of players, especially if you are able to play outside.
For more information about how great this game is for our kids’ brains, hearts, and bodies, check out Child’s Play blog post here.

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Obstacle Courses

This game not only takes advantage of kids’ physical energy, it also serves as a wonderful way to focus and release that energy, leaving them calmer in the long run. Here are some tips that can help take your next course to the next level!

  • Make it a story – as with Hide and Seek, creating a narrative around your obstacle course will help keep the momentum up and keep your kids engaged. You can let kids create their own plot as a launchpad, or use characters/a plot that your children already love, like dinosaurs, outer space, or Moana. Just make the conflict – hot lava! an evil super villain! a planet made of sticky chewing gum! – something suitably dramatic to raise the stakes of the course.
  • Let your kids help with set up – giving kids the chance to help map out the route or path, as well as the physical obstacles, helps stimulate and exercise their “planning” skills. It also makes them feel a sense of pride and agency surrounding the game.
  • Add gross motor challenges – what could be better for getting those wiggles out than challenging kids to work their physical skills? include elements like somersaulting down the hall or hopping on one foot to the couch in order to reach the next part of the course.
  • Record the course – Let kids draw a map, create a comic book strip, or make an instructional guide about their course. This is a good wind-down activity that keeps kids focused as they cool off.
You can visit the Child’s Play in Action website for more thoughts on creating amazing Obstacle Courses!

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Animal Yoga

  • Cardiovascular health is key of course, but strength, flexibility, and breathing are skills that are equally important to cultivate in your kids.  Yoga hits all of those targets! Here are some fun ways to introduce a yoga practice for your children.
  • Get kids started by helping them channel their inner (and outer) “Downward dog,” “Cat/Cow pose,” and “Lion.” You can model the poses for them, but then encourage them to get creative and develop their own versions! Then let them choose and work on new and exotic animal poses! My son and I now have an “Ostrich pose” and a “Hermit Crab,” among others.
  • Try using “Lion’s Breath” during any pose to help kids release and cleanse  – it’s super relatable and lots of fun for kids!
  • Need some zoological inspiration? I recommend The Book of Animal Poetry, published by National Geographic, or The Animal Book, by Steve Jenkins.
Check out this blog post on Animal Yoga, which includes a video as well as commentary from Dr. Bronwyn Charlton of Seedlings Group on the gross motor benefits of yoga for kids.
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Jocelyn Greene is a New-York-born, LA-raised, mom, educator and director. She founded Child’s Play NY in 2008 to bring imaginative theater and high-level acting training to kids. With Child’s Play NY she works with hundreds of students a year and is equally at home adapting a fairy tale for 4 year olds as she is directing Shakespeare with 14 year olds.   Jocelyn has an MFA in Acting from NYU and a BA from Wesleyan University – but the school of motherhood has taught her the most!  Jocelyn lives in Brooklyn with her husband and 5-year-old son.  Child’s Play NY is now enrolling for their summer camp sessions for ages 4-14.  Subscribe to her video series for playful parenting at Child’s Play in Action or join this summer for camp