Games like hopscotch have been around for years and no wonder! What small piece of equipment has the most value for money for outdoor learning?
If you ask me, it’s the humble piece of chalk!
I’ve visited lots of primary schools and childcare settings over the past twelve years and I’ve noticed that where the children are introduced to playground games they have much more settled behavior and fewer arguments.
It sounds obvious but that’s because the children are engaged in playing the games.
For some children, the playground can be a scary place and building in games can help them to cope better.
Even better, as a bonus, games like hopscotch have the following benefits:
- They keep the children physically active and fit.
- They provide opportunities to practice number skills such as counting forwards and backwards.
- They teach turn taking.
- They teach the children to cooperate and play together.
- They help children to deal with disappointment (if they don’t win)
- They give the children confidence.
- They make schools and settings a fun and purposeful place.
OK, let’s dive into 9 games that are really similar to hopscotch (starting with hopscotch itself first, so you definitely know all about that too!)
You will need:
1 piece of chalk
1 concrete / paved space
1 pebble / beanbag
2 – 4 players
On the ground, draw a grid. Write numbers to 1 – 10 in the squares. Take it in turns to throw the pebble (or beanbag if you are using one) onto the grid.
Say the number you land on out loud, and then hop and jump, saying the numbers until you land on that number.
When you get to the square with your pebble or beanbag, pick it up, without touching the other squares, try to jump to the end of the grid, and return to the back of the line, passing the pebble to the next child.
I introduce this to preschool children because it’s great for practicing turn-taking, number recognition, counting, and developing hopping and jumping skills.
2. Forfeit Throws
But here’s the value for money part – you don’t have to stick to the traditional hopscotch number grid.
Try experimenting with big chalk bubbles or chalk circles. You can draw these in a straight line, a circle, or a cluster.
The possibilities for games with numbers 1-10 are too many to write, but here are a few to get you started:
Take it in turns to throw your beanbag onto a cluster of chalk bubbles with numbers in.
Whichever number you land on, add a forfeit. You can think of your own, to best suit your children, or here are a few that I have used with kids:
Land on number 1 – Wriggle like a worm.
Land on number 2 – Run around the number line forwards and then backward.
Land on number 3 – Touch your toes 5 times.
Land on number 4 – Star jumps until I say stop!
Land on number 5 – Walk like a Gruffalo.
Land on number 6 – Miss a turn.
Again, this is great for number recognition and you can extend it when your children are ready.
Try adding some simple number activities and throw in some target practice:
Can you hit the number more than 3?
Can you hit the number 2 less than 5?
Can you add the number that is 3 plus 3?
Simply adapt the numbers and level of difficulty to suit your group of children, but try to remember, this is a game, and the key is to be playful and have fun so that the children don’t even realize they are learning.
3. Scotch Hop
Here’s another variation on Hopscotch – a sort of deconstruction of the game.
You will need
A piece of chalk.
A large outdoor space (paved or concrete).
Draw the numbers 1 – 10 across the space in random spaces.
Encourage the children to sing:
Scotch hop, scotch hop
Where will we stop?
Scotch hop, scotch hop,
Where will we STOP?
(You can use the tune to twinkle twinkle little star or make up your own tune).
Shout out a number for example number seven.
The children hop or jump to that number and the last person to get there is out.
Continue playing until you have a winner.
4. Mix It Up
But you don’t have to stick to numbers.
You could draw shapes instead of numbers if you want to encourage shape recognition. Or, try using letters of the alphabet. You could even write the children’s names in random spaces.
simply shout out a name and watch the children all jump towards it.
You could write simple words the children are learning to spell, to increase the level of problem-solving in the game, depending on the age and stage of your children.
The possibilities are endless with a bit of imagination.
5. Follow My Leader
This has been around since I was in school (so hundreds of years ago), but with childhood obesity rates on the increase, it’s still a lovely way to keep the children moving and active while playing.
You don’t even need a piece of chalk for this one. Just a bit of imagination.
The more you model being the leader, the better the children will get at taking the lead themselves.
You will need:
At least 3 players to start, and then as many children can join in as you like.
The leader moves around the playground / outdoor space and the other children follow. It’s best to model being the leader before you let the children take the lead so they can see how to play.
As you move around, vary the movements you do. The idea is that everyone behind the leader copies until the leader runs out of ideas and then they run to the back of the line and the second person in line then becomes the leader.
This is great for keeping the children active.
You can introduce moves such as:
Reaching up as high as you can
Sweeping as low as you can
Sideways walking (crab)
Walking like a chicken
There’s no limit to the movements- just use your imagination and keep moving. The sillier the better.
Benefits: turn-taking, keeping active, being creative, increasing concentration, increased coordination.
6. What’s The Time Mr. Wolf?
Another game that’s stood the test of time and you don’t need any equipment, although I have used a clock with moveable hands to model the times to the children.
If you haven’t got a clock, it’s not a problem. You can still play and have lots of fun.
You will need
A large space
1 child/adult to be the wolf
As many other players as you like.
(A clock if you want to use one).
The wolf starts the game by pacing across the space and saying:
One o’clock, two o’clock, and so on until they get to twelve o’clock (so 12 paces).
The wolf then stands looking back at the other children who should be in a line on the opposite side of the space.
The children then chant “What’s the time Mr. Wolf?”
If the wolf replies two o’clock, the children all take two paces towards the wolf saying:
One o’clock, two o’clock
and then stay where they are.
They then chant again, “What’s the time Mr. Wolf?”
If the wolf replies three o’clock, the children take another three paces towards the wolf.
Continue playing so that with every turn the children are moving closer to the wolf and continuing to ask, “What’s the time Mr. Wolf?”
….Until the wolf shouts DINNER TIME!
The wolf then runs and tries to catch one of the children. Whichever child they catch becomes the wolf in the next game.
Benefits: counting practice, mathematical language, keeping active, taking turns.
The biggest benefit of this game is the delight on the children’s faces when they hear Dinner Time!
7. Simon Says… (Keep Fit Version)
You will need:
At least 6 children.
Encourage the children to make a circle, and explain that they need to listen very carefully.
If Simon says…they should do it, but if Simon doesn’t say it, they shouldn’t move or they will be out.
This is great for developing listening skills, and in this version, if you play it in the playground or outdoor area, you can include lots of physical skills.
Run on the spot.
Do 5 star jumps
Run with high knees
Walk like a fox
(Remember if Simon doesn’t say it, no one should move a muscle).
Some other actions include:
Hop like a rabbit
Run to the fence and back
Stretch up as high as you can
Curl into a tiny ball
Dance on the spot
But don’t forget, if Simon doesn’t say it….you’re out!!
When you have modeled this to the children a few times, ask one of the children to become Simon, and use their own ideas to keep their friends fit.
Benefits: developing listening skills, concentration, coordination, following simple instructions, physical skills, taking the lead.
You will need:
A selection of skipping ropes.
(Ropes of varying lengths are a good idea so that children can find one to suit their height).
Skipping is one of the best physical ways to raise your heart rate. (Source)
Just think of a boxer training before a big fight! Teaching our children skipping games from an early age is a great way to encourage our children to keep active.
It can sometimes take a while to teach the skill of skipping so don’t worry if they don’t seem to be able to do it straight away.
Be prepared for lots of tangled-up ankles at first, but keep it playful and give the children lots of opportunities to practice and their skills will soon start to develop.
Start slowly. Encourage the children to use both hands to throw the rope over their heads. Then stop and slowly step over it.
When they’ve mastered that, they’re on their way and can start to speed up so give them lots of praise.
When they can skip with confidence, try adding a few rhymes. Two old favorites are:
Teddy bear Teddy bear turn around
Teddy bear Teddy bear touch the ground
Teddy bear Teddy bear show your shoe
Teddy bear Teddy bear that will do
School, school, the golden rule,
Spell your name and go to school
J..a…n..e. (or whatever your name is)
You can either let the children chant the rhymes with their own individual ropes, or try a longer rope with two spinners at either end and a jump skipper in the middle.
Benefits: Keeping fit / raised pulse and heartbeat, language development, coordination, balance.
9. Postman’s Knock
This is another old playground game and for some strange reason, although it’s old-fashioned, whenever I’ve played it recently, the children have loved it and asked for it again and again.
You will need:
At least 6 children (up to about 20)
A letter (a sealed envelope with a pretend address on it).
Sit the children in a circle and start to sing the rhyme:
I wrote a letter to my love but on the way, I lost it,
One of you has picked it up and put it in your pocket,
Not you, not you, not you, not you, not you, not you but YOU!
As the children are sitting in their circle singing the rhyme, a “postman” walks around the outside of the circle with the letter.
On the last YOU! of the song, the postman delivers the letter behind a child’s back and they have to pick up the letter and chase the postman clockwise around the outside of the circle.
The first person to sit back down in the space (either the postman or the recipient) stays sitting down and the other child becomes the next postman.
Benefits: concentration, turn-taking, language development, coping with disappointment.
There are lots of playground games that have stood the test of time. That’s because they keep the children engaged, they are learning new skills without even realizing it, but most of all, they are keeping active, healthy and are having lots of fun.