3 educational outdoor games

Jul 25, 2011 at 12:30 p.m. ET

A recent study by The Kaiser Family Foundation found that today's eight to 18-year-olds spend an average of 7-1/2 hours each day using entertainment media, leaving learning and outdoor play last on their list of priorities. Looking for educational games that are so fun your kids won't know they're learning? Get your family's minds and bodies moving with these three educational outdoor games.

kids outside
Balloon math

A test of math and agility add up to fun when you combine balloons, equations and a lot of outdoor space. Youngsters must find and complete the next step in a math problem before the previous balloon hits the ground, requiring quick math skills on your feet when they play games that teach.

  1. Fill balloons with air and write a number or math symbol on each balloon, spread around on the ground.
  2. Starting with a number balloon, have your kiddo toss it into the air and call out the number.
  3. Before the balloon falls, he must find a balloon with a math symbol, toss it into the air and call out the symbol.
  4. Continue with the math equation through the sum before each preceding balloon falls. Whoever completes the most math problems before each of their balloons hits the ground wins!

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Ball bounce spelling

Armed with chalk, a bouncy ball and knowledge of telephone keypad letters, your little ones will spring at the chance to practice spelling messages with a friend! Educational games for kids like this offer a chance to practice spelling while fine tuning their teamwork skills!

  1. Draw nine squares on the ground with chalk that represent numbers of a telephone keypad, filling in each number square with the corresponding number and letters from a telephone, using the number one as a "space."
  2. Have pairs of children secretly decide what message they'd like to spell out, giving other players a chance to guess the words.
  3. With a child on each side of the chart, have her bounce the ball into a box and call out a corresponding letter, with the other child receiving the ball, and bouncing the ball back into a box of his choosing, calling out the corresponding letter.
  4. Teams bounce the ball in the boxes back and forth until their intended message is spelled out. The team that guesses the most messages correctly wins!

Sidewalk chalk geography

Take kids outdoors for a guessing game that teaches knowledge and recognition skills of United States geography. You'll need chalk, a lot of space and a map for reference.

  1. Split children into teams, giving each team a set of different colored chalk.
  2. Have the first team draw a state of their choice, giving other teams the chance to guess the state and earn a point.
  3. The next team to go must draw a state that borders a state that is already drawn (unless they draw Alaska or Hawaii, which can be added anytime), giving other teams a chance to guess the state and earn a point, until all 50 states are complete.
  4. Teams earn points for correctly guessing states that are drawn as well as choosing a correct state to draw (with the correct shape more or less). The team with the most point wins!

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Especially with kids who struggle in the classroom, moving learning outdoors through educational games puts topics in a new perspective. "Some kids learn best through tactile and non-traditional means, which is why taking children outside to learn can help them thrive," says Sheri Chu, retired elementary educator with 20 years of teaching experience in Ontario, California. "The exercise is an added benefit as well!"

Have a subject your child is struggling with? Visit kids.gov for get-fit ideas, or try thinking up your own games for kids that incorporate learning and watch your adolescent's education soar!

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