TIP SHEET: OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES-Horizons For Homeless Children


Going outside is a great experience for any Playspace Shift when it is possible at your shelter.  Remember to always make sure that you talk with shelter staff and parents before going outside with children to make sure it is safe and appropriate.  Also, be sure the outside space is safe for children by removing anything choke-able, trash, or other unsafe objects.  Be sure you have a gated in area within which to play.  Finally, be sure you have enough PALs to keep the children safe when outside, as an outdoor environment can be more challenging than an indoor one.  That all being said, if going outside works for your shift, we encourage you to try some of the activities listed below and have a blast!


Jump Rope Games – Here are a couple of games you can do with the jump ropes in your shelter.

  •  Snake-Have two players each hold one hand of a rope and move it from side to side on the ground like a snake, first slowly, then more quickly, while the other players try to jump over the rope with one or both feet.  If a player touches the snake, she has to switch roles and wiggle the rope.
  •  Jump Inside the Lines-For this game each player needs a rope.  Each player stands inside her own 5 foot wide chalk circle and tries to jump the rope without stepping on or outside the line.  The last one jumping wins.  Or a player can go for personal best by seeing how long she can jump.
  •  Run and Jump-With everyone using her own rope, participants race against one another by running forward and jumping at the same time.  For a twist, play Run and Jump while following the rules of Red Light, Green Light.

Grab & Go-You will need pairs to play this game as well as a small ball or bean bag per pair.  You also need to set up 2 goal lines about 30-40 feet apart.  Players begin by standing on their goal lines with the ball between them on the ground.  At “Go” each tries to grab the ball and run back to the line without being tagged or to tag the grabber.  Either action scores a point.  The game ends upon an agreed upon number of points.

Quick-Footed Jumping Game-You will need pairs to play this game.  Players face each other and designate who will be “same” and who will be “different”( like choosing heads or tails in a coin toss).  Both then jump in place six times, counting out loud.  On the sixth jump, each lands with one foot forward.  If they kick out on the same side, the “same” player wins.  If they kick out on opposite sides, the “different” player wins.  The game continues for an agreed-upon number of rounds, after which kids can change designations-or rest!

Shadow Tag – This game is perfect for a sunny day. First gather the group in a sunny space and have everyone find their shadow. Have them move around to see how their shadow moves when they move. Next choose someone to be “it”. Call 1, 2, 30..go! All the players scatter and whomever is it must jump on the shadow of one of the other plays. Whomever gets ‘tagged’ becomes ‘it’. Keep playing until everyone has had a chance to be it or a rest break is needed.

Tether Balloon – This game will get you wet on a hot summer’s day. First pour a tablespoon or so of water into a large round balloon, blow it up and tie it. Stick a post (can be a stick or a broom handle, etc.) into the ground and tie the balloon to the top with a cord that allows the balloon to hang about 1 ½-2 feet above the ground. Two players each get a spray bottle filled with water. Have them sit on either side of the post. Each player must spray water at the balloon with their spray bottle. Winner is the person who gets the balloon to wrap the entire way around the post.

Recycling Cups – During the summer it is especially important to make sure kids stay hydrated. You can encourage kids to drink by having a plastic cup that is especially theirs. Give each child a plastic solo cup and help them to decorate it with permanent marker. Make sure to put their name on the cup. Now hang a clothes line between two fence posts or trees in your space. Using clothes pins you can hang the cups up during the shift. Each child will have their own special cup to drink from and you can collect them at the end of the shift to store away for use in future weeks. This will entice kids to drink more and  save resources by not having to keep buying new cups.

Hey, You Mist Me! – If you have a fence or wooden wall at your space this is a great activity for hot days. You can also hang a large piece of paper to do this as well. Have a child stand in a fun pose in front of the paper or wooden fence. Have an adult or another child spray them with a water bottle. Once the entire area is sprayed have the child step away. There will be area that is dry that is the outline of the child. Now the fence has fun characters on it, or if you used paper, they can take it home.

Flying Fish Race – Each player gets paper cutout of a 6 inch long fish. Have them decorate their fish with makers, crayons, etc. Give each child a book. Set out two or three paper plate “ponds” then line up the group 6-10 feet from the ‘ponds’ with their fish on the ground in front of them. At “go” the players use their book to fan their fish onto one of the ponds. First to do so wins.

Pinaqua – Fill a medium plastic trash bag with one or two gallons of water and knot the top.  Tie a rope tightly beneath the knot.  Toss the free end of the rope over a tree branch and either tie it securely or have an adult stand by to raise and lower the pinaqua.  After being blind folded and spun around three times, each player takes three whacks at the pinaquq with a broom.  The winner is the one who manages to break the bag and unleash the wave of water on everyone.