Families all over the country are either working from home, homeschooling, trying to establish new routines, or all of the above. Now more than ever, it is important for kids to remain active and get outside to play. I’m here to remind you about some of the best outdoor games for kids.
Remember all those fun outdoor games kids played before the internet existed? As a child of the 80s, a mom of 6 kids, and an experienced teacher, I do.
I know a bunch of not-so-new ideas of games for kids to play, as my grandma used to say, “Out of doors!” Play all these outdoor games for kids without physical contact too.
How are Au Pairs uniquely able to keep kids active?
Parents who are working from home with the added responsibility of supervising kids’ online schooling need help! Daycare centers are closed and nannies are staying home.
Parents may be tempted to turn to screens as babysitters rather than tell kids to find outdoor games to play. With the added caveats of social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and self-quarantines, children need consistency (and creativity) more than ever these days.
Host Parents who are hosting Au Pairs are especially equipped to face this challenge. After all, Au Pairs live with their Host Families and provide reliable, consistent child care and childcare-related duties. Au Pairs are young people, ages 18-26, with plenty of energy and motivation to keep kids active!
Mother, May I?
Mother, May I? (or Mother Says) is one of the oldest outside games for an Au Pair to play with younger children. Kids form a row facing the Au Pair, who stands a distance away. In some versions, “Mother” faces the kids. In other versions, she turns her back to them. The Au Pair can play “Mother” and direct a child to move toward her; before following the command, the child needs to say, “Mother, may I?” If the child forgets to ask permission first, he or she goes back to the start line.
For Mother Says, and bigger kids, Mother can be more specific, like, “All children wearing red may take 3 steps forward.” Directions can get more complicated too, like bunny hops, cartwheels, or giant leaps. Just like the traditional game, before moving, the children ask, “Mother, may I?” The first child to reach mother wins!
Simon Says is one of those fun outside games for kids where imagination rules. Kids and Au Pairs can take turns being Simon. Directions can be very simple, “Simon says touch your nose,” or quite complex, “Simon says hop on your left foot and count to ten.” Kids can learn and practice basic counting, directions, or names of body parts in both English and their Au Pair’s native language!
Hopscotch is another simple game that can be played outside and enjoyed by a wide variety of ages. In fact, your Au Pair may have grown up calling it Marelles (France), Rayuela (Argentina), or Pico (Vietnam). Most courts are drawn with rectangles, but some even use circles or spiral shapes. Older kids can mix it up and add dance moves between the jumps or create math problems with the numbers they roll.
Can outdoor games for kids improve relationships?
Games for kids to play outside can build relationships. They can bring kids closer, reduce arguing, and even demonstrate the value of kids’ relationships with their Au Pair and with their parents. Rediscover outdoor games that require kids to solve problems together or explore their outdoor spaces in new ways.
Scavenger hunts are one of many fun outside games for kids. Spring is also the perfect season, since there are all sorts of discoveries to be made when you look closely. Have kids and adults make lists of outdoor objects to find. List things such as a flat rock, a blade of grass, a four-leaf clover (that’ll keep ‘em busy a while), a feather, something red or something living.
Your outside space will determine your list. Collect items in a paper bag, take a photograph (a great way to memorialize the together time), or even write on paper (like “something living” could be an ant or a bird, which can be left outdoors!).
Obstacle courses are one of those active games to play outside and build an attitude of togetherness. Kids might want to call it a ninja warrior course. Keeping safety in mind, kids and adults can work together to create obstacles in their outside space with common objects.
Little kids can jump over small boxes while older kids can try more complex moves like box jumps on the front steps. If you are lucky enough to have a monkey bar or swings, include them in the course. Once kids know and can do the course, use a timer and see how fast they can complete it!
Jumping rope does require a rope, so you might need to get creative if you don’t own one. Actually, beginners might practice without a rope at first. There are many varieties of jumps and games to do with a rope, alone, or in pairs. Avoid double dutch while observing social distancing, but try counting how many jumps kids can do without tripping, forward, backward, on one foot, and so on.
Can outdoor games for kids improve everyone’s quality of life?
Let’s face it. Parents still have to manage the household, even if everyone is at home and underfoot. That can be stressful. Sending the kids outdoors to play is great, but having a responsible adult with them is even better.
Au Pairs live with their Host Families, become a part of the family, and are there to engage the kids while parents do what parents need to do. Need an extra set of eyes and ears? All Au Pairs have documented childcare experience and have a unique culture to share with the whole family.
Races are great to get kids’ energy out in a productive way. I know, big kids always outrun little kids. Rather than always making kids run against each other, why not time them over a given distance and see if they can beat their own personal best?
Sidewalk chalk art is perfect for those with limited outdoor space, like just the sidewalk outside your apartment building. Kids can draw anything they imagine, or make a game of picture charades or hangman out of it. Au Pairs can search online for cultural works of art and have the kids reproduce them on the sidewalk for all to enjoy!
Hide & Seek
Hide & Seek is one of the best games to play outside. Adults set ground rules, limits of where hiding is allowed, and safety reminders about hiding. Older kids love to play this at night and call it Man Hunt (flashlights and reflective clothing recommended).
Soccer is the international sport, football to the rest of the world. Chances are, your Au Pair and kids will speak this universal language. Soccer is an outdoor game any kid can learn and love.
How does Go Au Pair support active Au Pairs and Host Kids together?
New arrivals with Go Au Pair all attend a workshop especially designed for success with their Host Families. Au Pairs leave with ideas and activities designed to keep them active and bonding with their Host Kids.
In addition, Au Pairs earn 3 credits toward their educational requirement, freeing them up for more family time. Au Pairs attend a hands-on American Red Cross class to learn up-to-date First Aid and CPR techniques.
Kids who play outside are healthier and smarter
Healthier and smarter go hand-in-hand. Children who aren’t feeling their best can’t focus or hold their attention for nearly as long as healthy ones.
Kids who are active are ready to learn, can handle stress better, and are generally happier than those who are less physically active. Parents, sitters, and teachers know this truth.
Kids who get frequent breaks to play outdoors are just more ready to learn. Ask any Kindergarten teacher! Kids who sit for hours staring at their devices are easily agitated, less cooperative, and might get stuck in a rut.
Research shows that being outdoors helps kids’ brains relax. This is more important today than ever. Free play and outdoor games are equally important. Each plays an important role in improving creativity and overall brain function.
Whether or not your family is lucky enough to have an Au Pair, take this time to get outside and get active together.