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Great Outdoor Activities for School Events

School events can be a great additional component to an English School’s calendar for teachers, students and the school itself. These events can be a great opportunity for teachers and students to interact outside of the classroom, often helping to build better relationships. Additionally these events give our students the rare and invaluable opportunity  to practice their English outside the classroom environment. From a school’s perspective, events can be an excellent way to build loyalty with a student-base, often resulting in good word of mouth and possibly even new students.

At our school, we have a `Spring Picnic` event every year in May. Parents, students and friends of students bring a packed lunch and we have a day of English related games. We’ve been working quite hard on refining this event for our school over the last couple of years and in this post I’ll be sharing with you what we did at our `Spring Picnic` this year in the hope that it may give you some ideas for events at your school.




Location: The biggest, greenest park in our area

Time: On a Sunday, 11:00 am ~ 3:30 pm

Students Bring: Their lunch

Age Group: Kids and their parents (we also have a `bring a friend` option which is very popular and a good way to introduce new students to the school)


11:00 am ~ 11:15 am: Sing-a-long

Our event starts at 11:00 am and the first activity of the day is to welcome everyone with some songs that we use in class. We all gather in a big circle and sing and dance together.


11:15 am ~ Midday: Free Time Play

Following the sing-a-long for the next 45 minutes teachers and students play together on the slides, rides and swings provided at the park.


Face Painting

While students are playing with teachers on the rides and swings we also have face painting. This is extremely popular and we have needed to become extremely efficient at the process to keep to our time schedule for the day. To do this efficiently and effectively, every year we design and make plastic templates that we can use to paint the kids’ faces. As I said, this is extremely popular and something that the kids look forward to every year and always talk about for weeks after the picnic.



Face Painting


Midday ~ 12:30pm: Lunch


12:30 pm ~ 3:15 pm: Games

As a school owner, the games I like the most are the ones that get the `most bang for the buck`. Events can be a lot of work to prepare, take a lot of time and cost money to hold (we don’t charge our students for events. Personally, I don’t like to charge students for events and feel that holding events for them is a way to show appreciation and gratitude for their loyalty and patronage) but often the best games are the ones that cost very little and take the least preparation.


Game 1: What Color Is It?


Materials Needed: None

Cost: Zero


This is a simple spin on the `What’s the Time Mr Wolf?` game. One student (or it can be more depending on the numbers) stands at the front ( this student is `in` and the other students are about 20 meters away. The students ask the student that is `in` “What’s your favorite color?” The student that is `in` nominates a favorite color, “pink” for example. The students then ask “What color is it?” and the student that is `in` calls out a color. A color other than the nominated color (pink in this case) and all students excluding the student that is `in` take 2 steps forward. This continues until the students get close enough that the student that is `in` feels that he/she can catch someone, whereby he/she will call out their nominated color (pink in this case) and chase the students hoping to tag someone before all the students reach the safe-zone. An oldie, but a goody and this never fails to be a hit.


Game 2: The Blanket Relay


Materials Needed: 2 Tarpolines big enough for a child to lay on, rope for handles

Cost: Approx 1,600 yen


We also like to use games that parents can join and this is one such game. It’s another really simple game, but great fun for the kids and parents. We did this for the first time this year and it was the biggest hit we’ve had so far at our picnic days.

Take 2 tarpaulins and tie rope to the eyelets in the ends to make handles. This game is a relay. 2 teams of parents and their children. It’s a race where the child lays on the tarpaulin and the parent pulls the tarpaulin to the other end of the designated area and changes with team members. First team to finish, wins. Very simple, but very fun. We were surprised by how much fun parents had and how competitive they were. Great for photo opportunities!



The Blanket Relay


Game 3: Tug-O-War


Materials Needed: A long, very heavy rope (don’t skimp on the thickness of the rope to avoid anyone getting hurt)

Cost: Approx 7,000 yen (this is a little expensive, but can be used for many years)


Everyone loves a tug-o-war! We have a tug-o-war for elementary school kids and a separate one for 3 ~ 5 year olds. Again, very simple, but lots of fun and great for photo opportunities.





Game 4: Animals In a Row


Materials Needed: Animal flash cards, bean bag balls

Cost: 500 yen


This is a great game with great use of English that I picked up from Craig Irish. Craig was kind enough to post a video of the game to his school’s Facebook page. `ACE Club’ specializes in kids events and for the best description of this game, watch Craig’s video here



Animals In a Row


Game 5: Ball Ladder Toss


Materials Needed: Balls, 2 ladders (you don’t necessarily need to use ladders, you simply need something to stick numbers flash cards onto in an up and down fashion), numbers flash cards

Cost: 1,00 yen


Another simple and fun game. We made numbers flash cards (laminated A4 size). We stuck the numbers flash cards to the rungs of the ladders and had students in 2 teams throw balls to hit the numbers. When they hit a number, the students calls out the number and it’s added to the teams total points.



Ball Ladder Toss


Game 6: Limbo


Materials Needed: Limbo sticks (we made one from bamboo), music

Cost: Zero


Everyone loves Limbo! Another great game to get parents involved in. The kids love seeing their parents doing the limbo and really enjoy participating together.





Game 7: Treasure Hunt


Materials Needed: Candy

Cost: Depends on the amount of candy used.


The last game of our picnic is a treasure hunt. We do this every year and this is a favorite with our students, for obvious reasons! We hide the candy around the park and the students have lost of fun finding it !


3:00 pm ~ 3:30 pm: Goodbye Songs

We finish off the day as we started, everybody together in a big circle. We sing some more songs from classes and finish with our Goodbye song.


As I said earlier, events can be hard work, but they are also very rewarding. I hope you’ve found something useful in this post that you may be able to use at your next event.


Fun Kids English



Greg Crawford
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