“Play is the work of childhood,” Jean Piaget, a noted psychologist, once said. Fall is a great time for young children to still enjoy the “business of playing,” outdoors. It’s also a time to easily put some learning fun into classic outside games. Here are three beloved childhood games, with an added educational spin.
Players: As few as one, or up to a small group of players
Needed: A shorter rope for one player, a longer rope for three or more
For phonics practice: Suggest an alphabet game, done with each letter of the alphabet. For example, “A” my name is Annie, “B” my name is Bob, etc”
For math practice: Count each jump by ones, then practice counting jumps by twos, building up to counting by fives, and tens. Also, have her start at a specific number and count backwards! (20, 19, 18, 17…0)
Players: Two or more
Encourages practice of listening and following directions. One person is “Simon.” Simon starts each direction by saying “Simon says…” For example, “Simon says take two steps backwards.” Players follow that direction. If “Simon” gives a direction, without saying “Simon says” first, then players who follow that direction are out.
Players: Two or more, one at a time
Needed: Sidewalk chalk, flat stone or bean bag
Encourages gross motor, number and pattern skills practice.
To play: On a driveway or other flat outdoor surface, make a hopscotch grid. Number the boxes in the grid 1-9. The first player tosses the rock into square 1. Then the player hops over square 1, on one foot (younger players could make a two-foot jump) and continues hopping to the end. Then the player turns around and comes back, pausing on square 2. Balancing on one foot, he bends down and picks up the rock from square 1, hops over it, to where he started. Continue with square 2. If his toss misses square 2, his turn is over, and next player starts the pattern.
To vary the game, number the boxes by twos, (2, 4, 6…18,) by fives (5, 10, 15…45,) or by tens (10, 20, 30…90). Or go “backwards.” Start the grid with 9 and end with 1.
Blending a child’s natural inclination for play with practicing simple educational skills makes learning fun and seamless!
Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.