Summer time is outdoor game time

Helpful tips for safe and fun outdoor games.

Outdoor games and activities are a great way to build camaraderie, have fun and be active. What was your favorite outdoor game when you were 10, 17 or 43? Are they memories from family reunions, summer camps and school events? Popular outdoor games include freeze tag; red light, green light; knots or tangled; jump rope or double Dutch; hopscotch; and, especially on a hot day, water balloon toss.

Outdoor games continue to be timeless ways to be active, have fun and build enthusiasm. Consider these helpful hints from Michigan State University Extension for leading outdoor games.

Safety is always first. What are the conditions and considerations for the outdoor location? Consider the playing field or park’s conditions and size for the number of participants. Is there access to water, shelter and restrooms?

It’s always helpful to have a first aid kit and ice bag available. Sunscreen is helpful too, but in accordance with your licensing, agency, school or camp policy.

It is all in the planning. Be ready with the supplies you are going to need to lead the activities.

When selecting outdoor games and activities, keep in mind the players ages and interests. Think about how to accommodate mobility. Iowa State University has resources on making adaptations.

What is your start and stop signal? This alerts participants when to look for your leadership and instruction. A few examples are a whistle cowbell, clapping or arms in the air until everyone’s attention is directed towards the group leader.

Communicate and demonstrate the sound or command up front so participants will be cued when to react. This is important, especially if there is a weather or other emergency.

If the group is large, divide them and request one person per group or team become the “informers” so they have the game plan. Ask them to meet you to hear game instructions, and they then share them back with their smaller group. Best of all, keep the instructions to a minimum.

Stop the activity at the peak of fun. This way, participants will want to play it again at another time.

Skip the elimination games such as musical chairs, or tweak the game to become “cooperative chairs.” Think about when participants are eliminated—they often become bored and lose interest in the activities.

Tag safety. Tagging in relays or capture-the-flag games is part of the game. Demonstrate “safe tagging” versus a smack or a slap. This includes modeling where a tag can or cannot occur.

Make sure the game leader clearly and briefly describes the rules, demonstrates the key components like how to run to the base or pass the soccer balls, ask for questions and remember to adapt the activity as needed for age or other reasons.

The fourth H in 4-H is health, so think about building exercise and healthy eating activities into your day.

Best of all, whether you are leading games for a family reunion or a summer out-of-school program, make sure you are an enthusiastic leader and play along. Play-on by modeling fair play and fun through your actions!

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