Not long ago, I created this brand new preschool song. It fits well with themes such as: Summer, Birds, Zoo, and Pink. The actions include standing on one foot which is a valuable skill for preschoolers to practice as they strengthen their gross motor muscles.
Did you know?
Flamingos sleep while standing on one leg.
Flamingos get their pink colour from their diet of shrimp and algae.
As this is an original song, please be sure to include my name as the songwriter any time you share this song.
The Flamingo Song
Words by: S. J. Little
Tune: Are You Sleeping
Flamingos flapping, flamingos flapping,
Big pink wings, big pink wings.
Flying through the sky, flying through the sky.
Time to land! Time to land!
Flamingos standing, flamingos standing,
On one foot, on one foot,
Sleeping while they’re standing, sleeping while they’re standing,
Time to wake! Time to wake!
Flamingos flapping – flap your arms
Big pink wings – flap your arms bigger
Flying through the sky – tilt your body while flapping your arms to suggest soaring through the sky
Time to land! – Stomp and emphasize the word “land”
Flamingos standing – stand on one foot
On one foot – stand on one foot and hold up one finger
Sleeping while they’re standing – pretend to sleep while still standing on one foot
Time to wake! – startle awake and emphasize the word “wake”
I hope you and your children enjoy this original flamingo song. If you do, don’t forget to join my email list to stay tuned for more unique preschool songs.
As the weather gets warmer, it’s valuable to get kids outside and moving. That’s what these classic 3 games are all about. Best of all, they are no-prep outdoor games so you can play them just about any time and anywhere.
You may already be familiar with some of these games. Perhaps you played them as a child. I know I did. Whatever the case, if you’re looking for more games to play with your preschooler, keep reading.
Tips for No-Prep Outdoor Games
Before we get into the games themselves, I have a few tips for you.
Keep a close eye on the children’s interest level. Try to end the game just before the children begin feeling bored. This way, they will remember it as a fun game. If you wait until they are extremely tired and bored, they are less likely to enjoy the game again in the future.
Choose a playing space based on the age and stamina of your children. For older children choose a larger playing area, for younger children, a smaller space will do. You could use a field, your backyard, a multipurpose room, or a patio (with good railings). Get creative.
Have fun! If you are enjoying the game your child is far more likely to have fun playing.
What Time is it, Mr. Wolf
Even if you don’t know this game, there’s a good chance your children might. This game can be used in a variety of settings, including swimming lessons and skating lessons.
Number of Children:
One-on-one with an adult
Gross motor movements (running and stepping)
Turn-taking (waiting for their turn to be the wolf)
How to Play:
Select one person to be the “wolf”. Have them stand on the opposite side of the playing space. Have the other players line up side by side on the starting line.
Together, all the players (except the wolf) call, “What time is it, Mr. Wolf?”
The wolf calls back a number between 1 and 12, or “Lunchtime!”
If the wolf says, “It’s 3 o’clock,” all the players take three steps toward the wolf.
Then all the players ask again, “What time is it, Mr. Wolf?”
Whenever the wolf chooses, he can reply, “Lunchtime!” When he does, the wolf chases all the players back to the starting line.
If the wolf tags anyone before they reach the starting line, they become the wolf. For small groups of 8 children or less, just the person who was tagged first becomes the wolf and the first wolf becomes a player. For larger groups, every child who is tagged joins the wolf so that, as the game progresses, there are more and more wolves and less players.
For older children, have the wolf turn around so that they cannot see how close the players are getting. This is not necessary for preschool children and it can be tricky to keep them from peeking.
Red Light, Green Light
Fantastic for use while teaching transportation or safety themes, this game is well-loved and for good reason. While this game absolutely works without any prep, it can be improved by choosing something to use as the “red light” and the “green light”. In the past, I have used printed stop and go signs, blank red and green pieces of construction paper, red and green hula hoops, red and green cones, or whatever else I had on hand.
Number of Children:
One-on-one with an adult
Gross motor movements (running and stopping)
Ear-body coordination (hearing instructions and obeying them)
Listening skills (learning to respond to “stop” or “red light”)
How to Play:
Choose who will be the “caller”. The caller can be a child or a teacher/parent. Have the caller stand on one side of the playing space. Have all the children stand side by side on the opposite side of the playing area.
When the caller says, “Green light!” all the players run toward the caller. When the caller says, “Red light!” all players must stop where they are. The caller continues to call “red light” and “green light” until all the players reach where the caller is standing. Then a new caller is selected and all the players return to the opposite side of the area.
For 8 or fewer children, allowing the children to be the caller works well. For bigger groups of preschool children, it may be best to only have the teacher be the caller. This is especially helpful if you are under tight time constraints. When the teacher is the caller they can control the game. For example, they can make it shorter if gym time is almost over.
For elementary aged children, this game becomes a challenge to not be caught moving when it’s a red light. If caught moving, they are sent back to the start line. For preschool children, remembering to follow the instructions is often exciting and engaging without being sent back to the beginning. However, if a child really isn’t responding to the red light, sending them back to the starting line will help them be more intentional to pay attention next time.
Extend the Fun:
Extend the fun by adding more colours. This works especially well if you have visuals to hold up for each colour. Some ideas include:
Orange = go slow
Blue = (stop and) turn around
Purple = hop
Are you doing a transportation or safety theme? Try making visuals representing the stop and walk crosswalk signals to help children learn what they mean.
Mother May I
I recommend this game for a small group of 3-5 children who are aged 3-5. This is due to how slow the game can be when each child moves separately. For larger groups, try having all the children take the steps together, much like What Time is it Mr. Wolf.
As an adult, this game may seem pointless, but many children love it. They enjoy having the power to make choices when they are the “mother”. Be careful to ensure that every child has a turn to be the mother.
If you are uncertain about using this game’s traditional name “Mother May I” try calling it something like “Monkey May I”.
Number of Children:
Variety of gross motor movements (large steps/small steps, and if extending the play: jumps and turns)
Turn-taking (waiting for their turn to ask to move and to be the mother)
Making choices (preschoolers love being able to choose and that’s why this game holds appeal for them)
Following instructions (if extending the play, following 2-step directions)
How to Play:
Select one child to be the mother. The rest of the children line up on one side of the playing space while the mother stands on the opposite side.
For this game, each child has a turn to ask the mother what number of steps they can take. Typically, I limit the number to anything between 1-12. Have the first child ask, “Mother, may I take 3 steps?”
The mother gets to choose. They can say, “You may,” at which point the child who asked moves the prescribed number of steps. Alternatively, the mother can say, “No.” If the mother says, “No,” she must then tell the child how many steps they may take, for example, “You may take 2 steps.” The child who asked will then take only 2 steps forward.
Following that, it is the next child’s turn. Continue giving the children turns. The game ends when a child reaches the mother. Then choose another mother and have all the children go back to the starting line.
Again, I stress that when playing this game, it is very important to give every child a turn being the mother.
Extend the Fun:
Once the children have played several rounds, change things up by describing the type of step. “Mother, may I take 1 giant leap?” “Mother, may I take 12 tip-toe steps?”
Do you have older kids? For groups of children aged 4-10 I recommend the game: Farmer Farmer. It is similar to British Bulldog, but with a twist.
What other no-prep outdoor games do you enjoy playing with your preschoolers?
Do your preschoolers still have energy? Great! Here are two other ideas to help you keep them moving:
This game gets children moving with very little prep required. As an easy preschool gym game, it can be adapted to most spaces and adjusted for nearly any theme.
Designate four areas as the sides the children will be running to.
In a gym with four walls, consider attaching a piece of coloured paper or a poster to each wall. (When playing with a group of children, I prefer using a wall rather than a corner so that the children have room to spread out.)
In an open area, such as a field, consider placing four different coloured hula-hoops to designate the four sides. (See other options below.)
To start the game, show the children each of the four sides.
Call out an instruction, such as “Run to yellow!”
Run with the children to the “yellow” side.
Once everyone has arrived, call out another instruction. For example “Hop to blue!”
Alternate between actions that are exciting vs. quiet, fast vs. slow, and tricky vs. easy. (See my list of suggested actions below.)
Keep an eye on your children’s engagement level. As soon as they start losing interest, or preferably just before they do, wind up the game. Finish with one exciting action followed by one quieter action.
Ending with a quiet action will help prepare your children for the transition into the next activity.
2 Year Olds: At the basic level, this game works wonderfully with most 2 year olds. These youngsters will enjoy playing this game many times, if you change it up a bit each time.
3 Year Olds: This is a great game for 3 year olds! They especially enjoy it if you can give them opportunities to call out the instructions.
4 Year Olds: If you include more challenging actions, or perhaps increase the number of sides to 6 or 8, 4 year olds will enjoy this game. However, I recommend only playing it occasionally with 4 year olds, as they may begin losing interest if they play it too often.
Size of group
1 Child: This game can be played with one child. It will go best if you play it with the child. Take turns calling out the instructions.
2-8 Children: Having a small group of children makes this game more exciting, while enabling you to allow each child to have a turn or two calling the instructions.
9+ Children: This gym game is excellent with a large group of children. However, you may not have the time to allow each child a turn to call the instructions. Therefore, unless you are sure you can give every child a turn, it is likely best to call all the instructions yourself.
Ideas for the four sides
If you don’t have walls to attach papers to, try using different coloured hula hoops, cones, or blankets. Alternatively, choose pre-existing objects to run to such as a bench, a flagpole, or a tree, etc.
If you have walls to attach papers to, your options are endless! For younger children, stick with simpler options, but for older children, enjoy challenging them with new vocabulary that is trickier.
Blank coloured paper: could be basic colours (red, yellow, blue, green), or more tricky colours (purple, orange, brown, grey). You could even do themed colours (for Valentine’s day: red, pink, white, purple).
Shapes cut from paper: For 2 year olds, I have done basic shapes (circle, square, triangle, star). For older children try trickier shapes (rectangle, octagon, trapezoid, oval). You can cut whatever shapes you want! For example, you could do pet themed shapes (cat, dog, fish, bird).
Posters: if you are in a preschool or childcare facility, chances are you have various posters around. Why not use some of them? You could use transportation, zoo, or dinosaur posters to match the game with what the children are learning. (If you don’t have posters, colouring sheets could work.)
Flat objects: Consider using foam letters or large puzzle pieces for the four sides. So long as the four objects can be clearly distinguished by name, you can use just about anything.
Ideas for actions
Changing up the actions will help ensure a full-body workout for your preschool children. Be sure to use a variety of easy and challenging actions!
Fly (running with arms out as wings)
Slither (or army crawl)
Bear crawl (on hands and feet with knees straight)
Hop on one foot
Crab walk (on hands and feet with tummy facing up)
Walk backwards (not recommended for larger groups, though it can work if you let them go two or three children at a time)
Other actions: Children have incredible imaginations! Engage their creativity with theme-based actions.
Stomp like a hippo
Walk like a giraffe (stretch arms up and take long steps)
Run fast like a cheetah
Waddle like a penguin
Hop like a kangaroo
Growl like a t-rex (make short arms and run while growling)
Stretch like a brachiosaurus
Fly like a pterodactyl
Stomp like a triceratops
Buzz like a bee (make tiny wings with hands and run while buzzing)
Fly like a butterfly (flap arms as large gentle wings while crossing slowly and quietly)
Jump like a grasshopper
Crawl like a ladybug
I think you get the idea so I’ll stop my list here. This game could also work with themes such as: farm, under the sea, transportation, emotions, sports or Olympics.
How to choose which action
The basic way to play this easy gym game involves someone calling whichever action they want. (If you let the children make their own calls, you’ll end up with a lot of running!) Consider making the game more engaging and visually appealing for your children, especially if they are still learning English or have language delays by doing one of the following:
Before playing the game, choose 6 actions and write them on a die. (You can make your own dice out of cardboard, or try looking for giant dice at your local dollar store.)
Hand the die to the child who is calling the instruction. Whatever they roll, that’s the action you’ll do next.
Use picture cards:
Use themed cards, such as animal cards, to determine the next action.
The child who is calling the instruction pulls a card from a bag (looking or not looking, you choose). Whatever action is on the card, that’s what everyone does.
When running in circles is a very good thing for children…
Ah, spring is in the air. That lovely time of year when grass turns green and flowers begin to bloom. I love this time of year for so many reasons.
Unfortunately, this season also gets into the children. Teaching circle time becomes far more challenging than before. The children become extra antsy, wiggly, and sometimes more irritable.
I am writing this article in the spring because this is when children need more time to run. At the same time, I highly recommend increasing the amount of running throughout the year, as many children today spend far too much time sitting.
The Running in Circles Strategy
What’s the strategy? It’s very simple really. Let your children run in circles. Not only that, but encourage them to do so.
Let me explain.
The vast majority of preschool schedules include a segment of time for gross-motor play, such as running and jumping. Most preschools call this gym time.
Different teachers handle this time differently based on their children, space, and the materials available to them. Some teachers put out a variety of toys from balls to tricycles and consider gym time as free play. Others plan structured games, such as Red Light/Green Light, for the entire length of gym time. Still other teachers will go halfway in between with some structured time and some free play.
I have worked with teachers who do gym time in all three ways. Letting children run in circles can be done in any type of gym time.
By running in circles rather than to a wall and back, the children can run at their own pace. Faster children might run 5 laps while slower children may only run 2 laps. No one has to wait for the slower ones to catch up, and everyone has fun together.
What it Looks Like
How does this look in my gym class? I’m glad you asked.
As the children arrive in the room used for gym, I have them stand (or sit) in a particular place. Typically, I use a wall or a line on the floor for them to stand along. Always beginning gym time this way eliminates a large amount of chaos, which can come from transitions.
Once everyone is lined up, I like to do some sort of warm-up whether stretches or singing a standing up song, such as Head and Shoulders.
That done, I tell the children to run in circles around the room.
The first few weeks I find it helpful for me to run with the children, modelling one large circular track around the room. I make sure I’m excited about it and encourage them to join me. As they become accustomed to this, I can simply encourage them to run, while I stand in the middle. However, I don’t stay standing long. To increase their endurance more, I wait until they start losing steam, then I join them by running in circles too. This typically spurs the children on for another lap or two.
What is the point of this strategy?
I have seen two tangible results in my classes.
First, the children’s endurance improves. One class of two and a half year olds, whom I implemented this strategy with, noticeably improved their endurance in a couple months of running in circles once a week. They also appeared to greatly enjoy running after the first few weeks.
Second, in running those laps, the children burn through some of their hugely abundant energy and then are more ready to play structured games such as Red Light/Green Light.
Those are just from my observations. Many studies and personal testimonies exist about the benefits of physical exercise for children, such as the following links:
Various structured games do get the children moving which is excellent. I, however, still like to have the children run in circles prior to playing structured games. This helps them focus on following the instructions later. Also, the children who struggle most to follow the dos and don’ts of a structured game are often the very children who need to run the most. Running in circles is easy and doesn’t require following complicated instructions. Besides this, many structured games do not keep the children at a high level of physical activity the same way simply running does.
Running in Circles at Home
Parents, did you know there are many ways of encouraging your children to run in circles at home too?
You can take them to the back yard and encourage them to run laps around it. For older children, you can have them run around the outside of the house.
If you have a house like the one I grew up in, you may have a circular path in your house that can be used for running on days too cold to go outside.
Motivation can be tricky when it comes to encouraging your child to run at home. Your child will likely enjoy it more if you or another child runs with them. If you aren’t able to run with them, for older children, you could try timing them. How long does it take to run 5 times around the yard? Can they do it faster tomorrow?
We often hear how important physical activity is, but can find it tricky to include in our children’s day. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as easy as running in circles.
Looking for easy active games for your child? Try these: