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Winter warmers

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By Rose Joyceretired nursery teacher and advanced skills teacher

Don’t keep your children cooped up indoors over winter! Get them running about outside with these great little games

Children playing football

Children enjoy playing games outside whatever the weather, as long as the adults in charge make it fun and keep everyone moving. They love it when they are allowed to do ‘risky’ things not normally associated with school, like running away or kicking a can. Using resources naturally found outdoors creates opportunities for other kinds of learning too, such as safety when handling sticks and stones, the impact of litter on our environment, issues of health and fitness, and so on.

Odds and evens

Before you begin this game, establish boundaries regarding ‘running away’. Start by making a large circle; an adult should remain in the middle of it throughout the game. Count round the circle giving each child a number. Then call out: Odds all in! Clap! Odds all out! Clap! Evens all in! Clap! Evens all out! Clap! The odd numbers must go into the centre of the circle and clap their hands high in the air. They then move back to their original position and clap again. Vary the game by asking the children to skip, jump, and so on. Keep this moving at a good pace, maintaining a constant rhythm and only speeding up as the children begin to get the hang of it. Then call: Odds all run away! Odds all run back! Evens all run away! Evens all run back! Finish the game with: Odds and evens run away! Odds and evens run back!

Stone and spoon race

Divide the class into two groups and ask them to make two large circles. Put a spoon and a stone in the middle of each circle. Taking turns going clockwise, each child runs into the centre of the circle, picks up the spoon, puts the stone on it and then holds it as they run out of the circle, round the outside of it, back to their space and finally into the centre to deposit the spoon and stone. The winning group is the one that finishes first. While one child is running, encourage the remainder of the group to jump up and down and clap to support the runner and keep themselves warm.

Here we go round a pickled walnut

Change the words slightly to ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ to let children be just a little bit silly. Begin by getting the children to stand in a circle. One adult goes into the centre and another adult (or a confident child) asks, What would you like to be today? The adult responds, I would like to be a pickled walnut! Everyone then joins hands and moves together in a clockwise direction singing, Here we go round a pickled walnut, a pickled walnut, a pickled walnut. Here we go round a pickled walnut on a cold and wintry day. The other adult (or child) can go into the circle and respond to the same question by offering something else that will amuse the children, such as Here we skip round a soggy banana. Once the children are familiar with the format they can each have a turn.

Top tips

Make sure the children are appropriately dressed. Better to be able to take a layer off if you get too hot than shiver from the start.

Keep the children on the move. Do an energetic warm up to get the circulation going and take their minds off the elements.

Establish boundaries regarding behaviour at the beginning of each outdoor session and stick to them.

Kick the can

You will need four clean, empty soft drink cans for this game and four groups. Each group should spread themselves out in a space with their own can. Let them kick the can to each other, first going round from one to the other and then across the group. They must remember to keep the can on the move all the time and to include everyone in the group. The distance the children stand away from each other will depend on their kicking and retrieving skills.