Leap Day comes around once every four years, and it falls during the home stretch of winter, a time when kids and parents can use a change of pace. Here are some ideas for creative Leap Day activities and celebrations you can do in class or as part of a family event. The good news is that at this dreary time of year, Leap Day gives us an excuse for fun physical activities, math games, and even literacy and community service projects.
Literally Leap for Leap Day
To get kids moving, try a variety of hopping and leaping contests. Make sure you have plenty of room, like the school gym, so children can see how far they can leap without knocking into each other. See who can jump the farthest. Have standing and running long jump events. See who can jump the highest. See who can hop on one foot the longest. Have a jump-rope-athon. And how about a jumping relay race? Children can have a leaping parade around the school grounds.
Focus on Frogs
When we think of leaping, we often think of frogs. Frogs can lend themselves to great Leap Year activities and parties. For fun activities, try musical lily pads, which is played like musical chairs. Make large lily pads with green construction paper to place on the floor (remember to tape them down so no one slips!), or use large pieces of butcher paper and have the children color or paint them green.
Some other frog fun: Try a frog-croaking contest (loudest or longest croak wins!).
In the classroom, frogs can become a science lesson by teaching about their lifecycle. Your parent group can arrange to borrow some frogs from a pet store or purchase some to serve as class pets.
Fun With Numbers
How much do kids know about the number 4? With a nod to the concept of Leap Year, share some games and activities that highlight this number. Divide kids into teams of four and compete in a relay with four parts, such as running, skipping, hopping, and crab-walking. Have a scavenger hunt where kids have to find numbers divisible by four or four of select items (four books, four pencils, etc.).
Older children can think about the concepts of a four-year span of time. Hang a large stretch of blank paper (the butcher paper will come in handy again) and have children write their predictions for what will be happening in four years. Spark conversations to get them writing by asking fun questions: Will all mobile phones “talk’’ in four years? Will American Idol still be on TV?
Leap Into Reading
Here is a way to use the concept of leaping or jumping into an activity. Use the Leap Day theme to promote an opportunity for bonus reading. Encourage everyone to read an extra chapter a day during the week leading up to Leap Day. Have a literacy party on Leap Day, featuring vocabulary words such as “intercalary” and “bissextile,” two synonyms for a leap year. Let kids wear their pajamas to school and spend part of the “extra day” curled up with a great book.
Leap Into Service
What better way to spend an extra day than helping others? Or helping the planet? Organize a community service project around Leap Day. Consider such activities as a food pantry collection or a schoolwide cleanup. Or hold a book drive, with a slogan that points out on this extra day in February, let’s donate our extra books.
Leap Into Spring
Celebrate spring a few weeks early. Decorate with a spring theme and choose snacks that reflect spring, such as fresh fruit. Have children mix white paint into primary color paint to create a palette of spring pastel colors. Have them paint flowers, birds, and other reminders of spring. Plant flowers in pots, choosing varieties that can be replanted outside when the weather is warmer.
Leap Day/Crazy Day
It seems crazy to see Feb. 29 on the calendar, so make it a crazy day by including some unusual activities. Try Crazy Hat Day, encouraging the kids to wear their most zany hats. Or try Crazy Dress Day and have the kids wear their clothes either backward or inside out. Luckily, this one only comes once every four years!