Outdoor celebrations include lots of physical activities — hula hoops, Frisbees, ball games, circle games, scavenger hunts, and play equipment — that involve everyone in non-competitive fun. Find a place to hold your event where there is plenty of play space, shade, a water source, bathrooms, and no concerns about vehicle traffic. Consider a local park, recreational area, or school sports field. Then decide on a special event to begin the festivities. How about a parade! Children and families can all join in — on bikes, trikes, and wagons, in strollers, and walking with streamers and balloons. You might even ask a local junior high marching band to lead the way, and invite local political, community, and center-related leaders. Their attendance will help build on important links, put your program in the spotlight, and give family members and staff a chance to interact with policy makers.

Make It Grand!

Consider inviting community groups to demonstrate their particular interests and talents as they share the joy of physical activities. Skipping rope, doing gymnastics, dancing, and twirling yo-yos are just a few that show children the variety of skills and the fun that go with physical movement. Ask parents, staff, and community members for their suggestions. Try to find at least some groups that include children in their demonstrations or are comfortable teaching simplified versions of their activities to children after the demonstrations are over.

Let the Games Begin

Meet with staff and parents beforehand to make a plan for organizing appropriate activities. Here are some resources to use as you look for noncompetitive games:

  • Funsical Fitness by Scott Liebler (Front Row Experience)
  • Games to Play With Babies, Games to Play With Toddlers and Games to Play With Two Year Olds by Jackie Silberg (Gryphon House)
  • Outdoor Play: Sports and Games for Kids of All Ages (Frank Schaffer Publications)
  • Parachute Play by Liz and Dick Wilmes (Building Blocks)
  • Parents as Partners (Lakeshore).

Build Respect for the Environment

As you plan this enjoyable and important day, involve children in deciding how respect for the environment can be part of the celebration. Talk about what this means and come up with a few rules you'd like everyone to follow, such as throwing trash in appropriate containers, not picking plants or flowers, and leaving the area as clean or cleaner than you found it. Make a plan to reach your environmental goals. Then also think of at least one activity everyone can participate in that will demonstrate ecological awareness. For example, you might want to plant flowers in a particular area of the play space, do some group weeding, or take up a small collection at your event to purchase a special shrub to donate to the area you're using.

This article originally appeared in the May, 1999 issue of Early Childhood Today.