Field day activities should reinforce the message that exercise is fun. To promote enjoyment, some organizers ask students to choose a certain number of activities that appeal to them. Others deemphasize personal athletic ability by having classes or teams compete against one another.
We’ve gathered ideas for traditional and not-so-traditional activities that will appeal to a wide range of children. Keep in mind that kids’ physical abilities and attention spans vary by age. Consult your school’s PE teacher to be sure that all your field day activities are developmentally appropriate for students.
PreK and Kindergarten
Choose simple activities that allow children to practice skills like kicking and throwing. Avoid games with too many rules, which can be confusing for this age group.
Kicking: See how far kids can kick a soccer ball or send a shoe flying off their own foot.
Jumping: Hold a sack race or a frog jump.
Throwing: Hold a beanbag toss or a throwing contest using a rubber chicken.
Running: Design a relay that mixes short runs with fun activities like blowing bubbles or doing somersaults. Or hold a traditional 25- or 50-yard dash.
As they advance through the elementary grades, students develop more coordination and can understand and enjoy more complex games. Kids age 5 and older are more likely to be able to shoot baskets or do jumping jacks, for example.
Contests: Offer a variety of events such as basketball free-throw, Hula-Hoop, jump-rope, and limbo contests.
Relays: Add movements like jumping jacks or cartwheels to a relay. Or use props to stage a balloon race or sponge-passing relay.
Dance lessons: Set up a station for kids to learn line dances like the Macarena or the Cha-Cha Slide.
Throwing: See how far kids can throw a Frisbee or a softball.
Running: Hold a 50- or 100-yard dash or a jump-rope marathon, where kids jump rope along a set path.
Students in middle school can understand more complicated games and organized sports, but they still like to be silly. For this age group, try to strike a balance between wacky games and traditional athletic events.
Sporting events: Games like volleyball and dodge ball allow you to involve many students at the same time.
Throwing: Have kids throw a roll of toilet paper through a toilet bowl lid, or let them get wet with a water balloon toss.
Relays: Let students get messy with a flour relay, or have them waddle like a duck or walk like an elephant.
Running: Hold a 100-yard dash or challenge students with a wheelbarrow race.
Fun for All Ages
Obstacle courses: Have kids crawl through large cardboard boxes, hop over cones, and more. For younger kids, use foam or other soft materials for obstacles, and make sure they’re low to the ground.
Relays: Ask students to balance books on their head while walking to a set point. Or hold a shoebox slide relay, where students shuffle to a certain spot while wearing the boxes on their feet.
Hula-Hoop pass: Have a team of kids hold hands and pass a Hula-Hoop from one end to the other without letting go of their partners’ hands.
Bowling: Make bowling pins by putting sand in the bottom of soda bottles. Roll rubber balls or soccer balls to knock them down.
Fill the bucket: Place two buckets approximately 10 feet apart and fill one with beads, construction bricks, or other small items. Kids use a scoop to move everything from one bucket to the other. (On a hot day, transferring water from bucket to bucket with a sponge works well!)
Balloon surprise: Write different activities on slips of paper. Insert slips into balloons (one per balloon), then inflate. Kids pick a balloon, sit on it until it pops, then do the specified activity (for example, do 10 jumping jacks, rub your tummy and pat your head, stand like a flamingo).
Follow the leader: Have an adult or older child lead a line through the field doing activities like jumping on one foot, pumping fists in the air, frog hopping, and other similar actions.
Dance station: Pick a fun song and dance off any extra energy!
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Originally posted in 2009 and updated regularly.