Field Day Games


The “Field Day Fun Day” class at Child’s Play NY was born out of excitement and my own necessity! My son has always been “more artsy than sporty.” One day, he came home from 4th grade, telling me he was still exhausted from a physical fitness test they had to take that morning. It didn’t sound great. 


A little background: He had stopped going to soccer classes after they started playing actual matches – rather than dramatic play games (“pretend the ball is ice cream and get it on the orange cone!”). In general, he preferred bubbles to balls – and organized sports just weren’t his thing. Of course, the playground was suddenly too “babyish,” and without some kind of goal, he wasn’t just going to run in the park.  So, I knew we had to find some approachable, joyful way to get athleticism and sports into his life…or at the very least, some movement!


Since I kinda make up games for a living, I knew that physical play and movement are essential for healthy child development, not just for the body, but for the brain. Adele Diamond, a renowned cognitive neuroscience researcher says: “Physical play is also critical for developing cognitive skills such as attention, memory, and problem-solving. When children move their bodies, they activate multiple areas of the brain, which helps to strengthen neural connections and improve overall brain function.”  I’ve loved evolving games like Obstacle Course to give them a theatrical flair. 

So, I started with his happy memory I knew he had: Field Day in 1st grade! Despite the competition involved, the excitement he expressed about a three-legged race, tossing water balloons and balancing eggs on a spoon, brought out giggles and glee. Not to mention healthy beads of sweat. It was just the inspiration I needed. 


Theater Games + Movement Games = Loads of Fun


I enlisted a Child’s Play NY theater teacher, extraordinaire Emily Stout, to collaborate with me and develop a curriculum of movement games for kids. Her playful spirit, natural athleticism, and appreciation for healthy competition created a warm space for kids to get physically fit.  It was our take on “field day” games, but of course, it would have a theatrical flair because of the nature of what we do as drama educators. I texted some parents of similarly movement-oriented kiddos and Field Day Fun Day was born.  


There were relay races as animals, charades that involved running, plenty of silly tag games, and (my particular favorite) a dancing game that involved trying not to laugh. By the end of the 45 minutes, the kids had a proper workout. The kids were literally “game” for this workout when conventional sports were not their thing. Balls were squishy, a big die told them the number of sit-ups to do, balloons were water-filled, and the competition was playful. Week after week, they could stay in plank longer, run farther, and jump higher. 


Eventually, the class became an offering at his school, and we moved to other parks around Brooklyn. I loved watching sunbathers and dog walkers enjoy watching the kids play. The giddy joy of movement – even without a “sport” was apparent, and we’ve had visitors from toddlers to grandmas wanting to join in the fun. 


Tips for Field Day 


Fun Props and Tools for Movement Games 

I love making up games with things you already have at home. I wrote about tools like flashlights and tape and how that can support dramatic play. But sometimes, with these kind of physical games, we do need some more “props”. Here’s some of what we used in our Field Day Class. 

  • Hula hoops
  • Orange cones
  • Large Dice
  • Over-sized and squishy balls
  • Scarves

Below is an image of the scarves we used for three-legged races! 

Embrace the Silly

The best games were the ones that got us laughing. 

One favorite example here is something called Straight-Faced Dance Off where you literally dance with another person and try to get them to laugh. Something about the eye-contact and the goofy moves you inevitable make are so silly and joyful. Of course there’s a work-out in there too, but that’s (almost!) beside the point!


Move As One

A great game we enjoyed was Human Knot. Watch this video to see how we play it and what makes it the perfect game!  It is great for team-building and camaraderie. 

Enjoy the Work-out

Kids loved getting into challenge mode and competing against their past “high score”. This was a great work-around for students who didn’t like competing against each other.  An example of this was when we made a Plank Chain. Kids line up in a plank and the person in the back says “Ready!” and runs to the front of the plank line. We timed how long it took us to get everyone through the line. And then we would try it again, in an even shorter amount of time.  

kids making a plank for exercise and fun

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

It’s fun to have a variety of solo and group exercises. However, partner exercises, like 3-legged-races are classic and delightful. We even loved playing warm-ups that were collaborative. 



Kids vs. Teacher

It is always a good bet to have the kids working against the teacher. In this clip you can see Emily joyfully playing tag and trying to get all the kids out.   They work on their sprinting and enjoy the thrill of competing with the teacher!


Anything is a movement game

The classic game of Charades gets a running twist! In this clip, you can see Running Charades in action. Kids are given a topic to pantomime for their team. Once it is guessed, the runner sprints back to Emily. Then she gives them a new thing to have them guess. Since two teams are on opposite sides, this is a fun competition. The acting out of characters, sports or even vehicles adds a little extra drama…which we love!


Reach out for a consultation about bringing Field Day Games or any play-based project into your community!