Giving an Outdoor Play

Use your outdoor play equipment as a stage for a favorite story.

By Risa Young and Robin Smith
  • Grades: PreK–K


  • The book Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, found in most libraries
  • Outdoor equipment, especially monkey bars

Developing Skills:

  • Children will use creative-dramatic, gross-motor, and social interaction skills.

In Advance: Read or tell the story Caps for Sale to children. While you tell the story, help children act out the parts sitting down. For example, you can ask them to reach over their heads to feel the caps, have them look for the missing ones, and ask them to imitate the monkeys' motions and noises.


On another day, take the story outside and read it on the playground.

Then suggest that the monkey bars can be the tree in the story and the children can be the monkeys. Invite an adult to act as the narrator/peddler: Children will know what to do from the narration of the story.

Tell the "monkeys" to climb up in the tree and have the narrator/peddler start retelling the story. The peddler can walk about the area with the pretend caps on. When the peddler sits down against the monkey bars for a rest, the children can quietly climb out of the "tree" and pretend to steal the caps.

Continue with the story while the children on the monkey bars make noises and imitate whatever the peddler does.

This is such a favorite, children may want to do it many times. Encourage repetition; each time children do the play, they will get more out of it. Eventually, they will be able to do the story independently. Try asking children, "What would happen if the monkeys didn't throw the caps down? How do you think the story would end?"

The following week, encourage them to recall the experience of dramatizing the story Caps for Sale. Ask: "What if we make up our own story and act it out on our playground?" (You may want to offer a story starter such as, "Once upon a time, there was a shy kitten who liked to spend the day hiding under the climber ...") Print the children's story as they dictate it. Later, read it back to the children, collect any props that would be useful for children in dramatizing the story, and help children perform the story on your outdoor play space.

SPIN-OFF: When sharing a picture book with children, stop before the ending of the story. Close the book and ask children, "How do you think this story might end?" Support each child's contribution as you discuss possible endings. Later, share the picture book in its entirety. Emphasize that the ending of the story was simply the way the author of the book chose to end it, but that other possibilities can work as well. Ask: "How did the author's ending make you feel about the story? How did your own ending make you feel? Can you think of other possible ways to end this story?"

More Book Ideas

Chimpanzees I Love by Jane Goodall

Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree by Eileen Christelow

Naughty Little Monkeys by Jim Aylesworth


  • Part of Collection:
  • Subjects:
    Outdoor Activities and Recreation, Summer, Summer Themes