“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.

Jump Rope

• 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)

Simon Says

• 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.

Hopscotch

• 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!