It Not "Just Recess" Anymore!

Teachers often heave a sigh of relief when they take their students out to recess. Finally! The children can burn off the pent up energy they had been accruing for the past few hours indoors. But what if we change our outlook on outdoor play time? What if we create an outdoor environment that offered all of the learning opportunities that one would typically find indoors? What if children could run out to a well-planned play yard to find experiences in math, science, nature, dramatic play, water, building and construction, sensory activities, physical development, art and music? What if they play yard developed critical thinking, discovery, problem solving, and cooperative skills? The result would be that we wouldn't have "just recess" anymore. We would have The Outdoor Classroom!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Snowball Targets! SNOOOOOW FUN!

We don't get snow in Southern California, and so if we want to have the experience of throwing snowballs, we have to make it ourself. We were a little concerned with letting the children go all out with an unbridled snowball fight, so with a bit of prep, we created the most exciting dramatic play thus far - SNOWBALL TARGET PRACTICE!

With the help of some coworkers, we strung several lines of string from the school wall to our patio overhang. I then hung targets from the strings. I varied the heights and the depths of the string for added challenge. We draped a sheet at the back to catch the flying snowballs and prevent them from smashing into the Art and Language table. A flat wall would work, too, but I was pretty sure that my director would not have appreciated the thump, thump, thump of careening "snowballs" hitting her office window!

To create a defined space, we laid tires along the edge of the space. We put chairs behind the chairs to create a viewing and waiting area. Of course, we provided winter wear such as scarves, mittens and fluffy hats to get into the winter mood!

We provided a large crate filled with "snowballs" (see below) and allowed 2 children at a time to stand on the bales of hay and launch their snowballs at the targets. We allowed each set to empty the crate. The children all cheered for each other when someone hit a target and all of the children helped in the cleanup each time the crate was emptied.

The enthusiasm for this activity was so high and all of the children (and many of the parents!) wanted a turn. I even saw a few teachers practicing their aim with the targets. We did have one teacher stationed at the center to keep everyone in a "festive" mood and to regulate the queue.

The snowballs are Ziplock bags filled with packing peanuts. I used strong clear packing tape to seal each bag into the shape of a ball. The targets are simply laminated construction paper. We had a snowman die-cut, so I added the snowmen for extra appeal and told the children that the goal was to hit the snowman.

This is by far one of the most exciting events we have set up on the yard (there are many exciting things that arise on the yard, but this one was intentional). It was a hit with the children, parents and teachers! The snowballs could also be used for a controlled snowball toss, or even a {monitored} snowball fight.

And so, WINTER has officially arrived in SoCal! Yippee!

Happy Holidays everyone!


  1. this is genius. love the motor skill work that is involved and the creative play. We don't have any snow yet but I can see this being fun with actual snow balls too! And a great way for kids to get their snowball throwing fix without throwing snowballs at each other!!
    Thanks for sharing this on the outdoor play party.

  2. Thanks, Abbie! I took the idea from the Legoland Theme Park in California. They had a real snow play area for the kids during November and December. I loved the targets that they had put up and I especially loved that the kids weren't throwing the icy snowballs at each other! Because as we know, as much fun as that can usually ends in tears!

  3. What a great way to enjoy snowball fun without the snow! Thanks for linking up again! Looking forward to seeing more of your fabulous outdoor play ideas in 2012!

  4. I LOVE this active play idea! I am choosing this as a favourite to feature on It's Playtime tomorrow as part of a Winter Play theme. Thanks!

  5. This is a brilliant idea. I made lots of Pom Poms this year, reckon they would work as well. Great fun!

  6. Anna, thanks for the feature :)!

  7. Ha ha- What fun! Thank you for sharing your ideas with us on The Sunday Showcase Have a happy New Year!