5 Easy Ways to Add Physical Activity to Your Outdoor Lessons

two kids running

With the weather getting colder, providing opportunities for students to get up and moving becomes increasingly important. Where I work we provide outdoor education even when the cold winter weather comes. Giving students opportunities to be active gives them a chance to move around and stay warm when the temperature drops. During outdoor education time we still need to cover curricular content and writing/ drawing our thinking becomes more challenging with mittens and cold fingers. This means that finding alternative ways for the students to share what they know becomes key to helping them enjoy their time outdoors. In this post you will find 5 easy ways to add physical activity to your lessons and get your students moving during outdoor education. 

Most of these activities are intended to be used in an outdoor setting. However, some may be adjusted to be used in the classroom. You can also use some of these games during gym to reinforce some of your learning. Furthermore, if outdoor learning is not your thing yet you can use one of these activities as a springboard for getting your class outdoors. Adding some physical activity to your lessons can engage your students and help to bring learning to life. You can also use them as a means of informal assessment to gauge your student’s understanding of a topic.

All of these activities require no major formal preparation by the teacher. All you need to do is think through your spaces and know how you will organize your game. It may also help to have a set of facts or scenarios ready for your game.  

5 children playing tag

4 (or 3 or 5 … or however many) corners​

This is a great game to get your students moving and to help reinforce concepts that involve groups or categories. In this game, you assign each space or corner in your learning space a category. The teacher will call out an item or a fact and have the students run to the corner or area that they think that fits with this fact. All you need to do is plan your spaces and come up with a list of examples/items for the students to categorize.

Some Examples:

1. Studying rocks: Assign 3 corners as metamorphic, igneous, or sedimentary rock. Call out a question like:

  •  this rock is formed by a volcano
  • granite is an example of this type of rock
  • usually fossils are found in this type of rock

2. Studying the 5 senses: Assign a sense to 5 different areas of your learning space. If you need to differentiate spaces bring items such as pylons to mark an area. Call out questions like:

  • When you are eating a strawberry you use this sense
  • You use your skin for this sense
  • This sense tells you that there is a fire in the area 

Pick a Side​

This is a great running game that is similar to the 4 corners game, but requires students to make a choice between 2 options. In this game you will assign 1 side of the playing field as one answer option and the other side as the opposite answer. This could be as simple as a yes or no option. It could also be 2 different categories or even an opinion such as agree or disagree. The teacher will call out an item or a scenario and then students will choose a side and run to it. Again this game requires very little preparation. The teacher simply needs to have some facts or scenarios ready to go.

Some Examples:

1. True or False Game

This could be used with any topic. The teacher will read a fact or scenario and students will decide if it is true or false by running to that side. 

2. Agree or Disagree

Similar to true or false, the teacher will read a scenario and students will run to the side to say whether it is a statement that they agree with or disagree with. 

Children running in the park

Frozen Fact Tag​

This game is similar to freeze tag or frozen tag. In this game 1 (or more) students are “It.” When a student gets tagged they are frozen and must stand in a frozen position. To get unfrozen the teacher must come along and ask the student a fact about what the students are studying and the student must answer it correctly.


Studying habitats: The frozen student might be asked questions such as…

  • name one thing all animals need to survive
  • give an example of an animal that lives in ______ habitat.

Saved by the Fact Tag​

This game is similar to a game I used to play as a kid called “TV Tag.” In this game one (or more) students are “it.” They must try to tag another student. Once that student is tagged they become it. However, students may become “safe” or “T” as my kindergartens call it, from being tagged if they crouch down and say a fact about the topic that the class is studying. 


Studying classification of animals. 

Students must run around and avoid being caught by crouching or squatting and naming an animal and the phylum they belong to.

Organize the Facts (or Story Line)​

This game requires some preparation in advance. In this game, the teacher hides facts or parts of a story sequence. Students must move around the learning space and find the facts and then work as a group to organize these facts into a sequence. This can also be done with puzzle pieces or other materials that students must organize in order or a sequence.


Find the story…

The teacher hides clues or parts of a story sequence (a story that students have read) in the learning area. (If the teacher desires they may create different groups and colour code the clues.) The students must find the clues from the learning area and bring them back to their group. They then must organize them in the order of the story

Children running outside

Now Get Outside and Add Some Physical Activity to Your Outdoor Lessons…​

Now get outside and try out of these 5 easy ways to add physical activity to your outdoor lessons. In each of these activities, your students will love the opportunity to get outdoors and be active. Try to sprinkle these active learning opportunities throughout your lessons so that students are engaged and moving (and staying warm.) You can even get creative and invent your own games. Students love to be outdoors and love to be moving! 

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