Outdoor gymnastics… It was a bit of a shock for a lot of coaches & teachers. We can’t do indoor sports anymore! It is very strange when you are teaching in a gym or a gymnasium and suddenly you have to do all your lessons outside. You suddenly have a different environment and no longer have your standard materials.
The current situation in our country meant that we had to rearrange the lessons we normally give to gymnasts, toddlers, pre-schoolers and other groups. We could not use the gymnasium.
After a period of more than 14 weeks, it was fortunately permitted to do sports again. However, this had to be done outside. And also under strict rules and conditions. In consultation with the municipality, a location was determined, the rules were discussed and a start could be made. From that point on, the baton is passed on to the coaches. Creative and innovative thinking is required about the use of materials, safety, group divisions, clothing regulations, a bad-weather protocol, and so on.
And if you have mapped all this out, then of course the lesson preparation follows. What can you offer outside? What is safe, fun and educational? In this article I will give you tips on how to go about this. We will show you how you can give a well-built PE lesson simply and with few materials. We also explain the importance of outdoor sports and the continuity of gym lessons. So that you will have enough inspiration to go outside with confidence, not only now, but also in the future, when the weather is nice!
Being able to do gymnastics outside is very handy anyway. Around the summer holidays it happens regularly that the gym is too warm and we therefore do gymnastics outside.
Movement, and staying active, is good for a child. But why? And is it just as important for children to keep exercising as it is for adults? The answer is yes. It is even more important. Because: ‘learned young, done old’. Behaviour that is learnt now is difficult to unlearn in the future. If we now ensure that children play sports every week, there is a good chance that they will continue to do so in their adult lives! In addition, there are of course many physical, social and mental aspects that make weekly sports a must.
Small children have an adaptability that no adult possesses. You may have noticed it yourself during the quarantine period. Whereas adults experienced a lot of stress, boredom and/or anxiety, children came up with fun and creative ideas to get through the day.
You can therefore imagine that most children will have no problem with you offering them fun outdoor gymnastics exercises. Some may not like it at first, but soon you will have your toddlers and pre-schoolers moving around. With a bit of luck, in beautiful surroundings and with fresh air! 😁
Sport is good for your health. Everyone knows that. Gymnastics lessons for the young child provide endless health benefits. Some of them are highlighted below:
1. Exercise makes your bones, muscles and joints strong
Until around the age of 40, but especially at a young age, you can influence the density of your bones. The more you jump, climb, dance and run, the stronger your bones become! Your joint capsules and muscles are also strengthened by moving around a lot. This reduces the risk of injuries, even when you are older.
2. Exercise contributes to a healthy weight.
Exercise demands energy from a child, improves the digestive system and ensures a more stable blood sugar level. In combination with a healthy diet, exercise therefore ensures a healthy weight.
3. Moving improves your reflexes
During gym class, children are very focused on learning new skills and have little eye for their surroundings. The more the child becomes familiar with movement, the more external stimuli it can tolerate. For example, a child learns to run and tap someone at the same time. Or to balance and to hold a beanbag. Translated into everyday life, it can better assess dangerous situations and act accordingly.
4. Exercise improves overall health
Exercise increases lung capacity, allowing the body to take in more oxygen. A good oxygen household increases your immune system.
Points of attention
Decide in advance what your exact working area will be. Where exactly are you going to give your gym class? Outdoor locations can sometimes be rather confusing. It is good for both you and the children that you have a defined area in which you will teach. For younger children it is not clear enough when you indicate that you will only teach on the grass, when they can easily get outside as well. The often wide and distant views in the open air make it difficult for children to stay in a certain area. So clearly demarcate an area, so that it becomes manageable for the children. You can do this with, for example, cones, red/white barrier tape, hoops, blocks, posts, etc.
Clothing and footwear
Inform parents in advance about the importance of proper clothing during outdoor sports. Because of the surface, it is important for children to wear good, sturdy shoes that allow them to move around on grass, tiles and in the sandpit.
Clothing, of course, depends on the weather. Layering is the magic word here! Have the children put on an easy cardigan over their sports shirt, so that they can act quickly and easily in changing weather. In rainy weather, let them put on a mackintosh so that the upper body stays dry and warm.
Outside you have to deal with different surfaces. Think of sand, grass, stone tiles, rubber tiles, artificial grass, etc. The surface determines whether you can play certain games or not. The surface ensures that you can play certain games well or not at all. Also, small equipment is not always suitable for every kind of surface. Keep this in mind when preparing your lessons. Do you have different surfaces for your lessons? Then use them! Children love it when there is variation.\
Even if your working area is well demarcated, the materials safely placed and the children well instructed, assistant leaders or assistant parents in the lesson are always desirable. Of course, this does not only apply to outdoor lessons; it is also difficult to run a toddler or pre-school lesson on your own indoors. If a child hurts itself, has to go to the toilet or needs help with assignments, it is nice to have an adult who can assist you as the main leader. As mentioned before, it is more difficult for children to stay in the working area when they are outside. For safety reasons it is therefore important that several adults are present.
Important to check before starting the lessons: the environment.
If you teach in a playground or on a school playground, chances are that there is playground equipment and other fixed materials in your working area. Many of the fixed equipment will be a welcome addition to your lessons. Try to include the fixed equipment in your lesson preparations. This saves you having to drag the equipment around, and the children are offered new and interesting challenges.
Also check, of course, if there are any materials that could be a danger to the children in the lesson. If so, make it clear that these materials may not be used.
Playing with small equipment on the slide:
If you teach outside, it is always possible that your working area looks a little different every week. In rain or wind, which makes the ground wet and dirty. In hot weather, which makes some surfaces too hot to do gymnastics on. Or perhaps loose material from school or children living in the area has been taken to the work area. It is always good to take this into account beforehand.
Children love to dance. And dancing… they dance to music!
Use nice exercise songs to introduce or end your lesson, or fill a whole gym class with music assignments!
For outdoors it is convenient and easy to use a bluetooth speaker. These are already for sale for a few euros, and is definitely a good investment for the outdoor lessons. The other groups of your association will also make use of it.
Put together a playlist on your phone or tablet in advance, so that all you have to do during the lesson is turn on the music.
Sample lesson outdoor gymnastics: Who`s the King?
This game is a derivative of Somebody is Him Nobody is Him
- One or more balls in play
- Everyone gets a golden chain (ribbon)
- If you are thrown off, you give up your gold chain
- Collect as many gold chains as possible
- If you don’t have a chain, you’re not finished, but try to collect as many chains as possible.
- The pupil with all the ribbons is finally to king.
- While changing the ribbons, you cannot be tapped for 5 seconds.
- Do not run with the ball.
Example lesson outside gymnastics: double task gymnastics
This cube can be used as an addition to a core or as a barrier. Make sure the playing field is large enough so that everyone has enough space. All pupils receive a (soft) ball. The pupils throw the ball as high in the air as possible. In between, the pupils make a gymnastics element and try to catch the ball again after the gymnastics element. Do you have too little material? Then you can work in groups. One person throws the ball, the other pupils do the gymnastics and try to catch the ball.
Examples of gymnastics elements after throwing the ball
- Roll over
- Wheel beats
- Who can do the most gymnastics and catch the ball?
- Other objects: balloon, water balloon, etc.
Example lesson outdoor gymnastics: speed exercise
You make several groups with 2 or more pupils (depending on the number of materials you have). One pupil stands in front of the pawns, one pupil stands behind the pawns with a ball in his hand. When the pupil throws the ball up in the air as high as possible, the other pupil must knock over all 4 pawns as quickly as possible before the ball stops. Then the pupils swap roles.
- To vary, you can give the pupils more pawns and test who can score the most points.
- The same, only the pupil who is walking must stop all the tennis balls lying on the pawns before the ball that has been thrown lies still on the ground.
Example lesson outdoor gymnastics kindergarten
Command game: warm-up game
Age: 4-6 years
Explanation: As many hoops as there are children are distributed over the outfield. The children look for a place near their hoop. Then the teacher calls out a command that they must carry out. They may only do this if the word “command” is said before it. Here are some examples:
- Command in the hoop
- Crawl through the hoop
- Walking over the hoop
- Jumping rope with the hoop
- Sitting in the hoop
- Stand in the hoop.
If the toddler does the command, while no command is called, a “punishment” follows. For example, a run around all the hoops. In the end you can make the toddlers sit down when they are finished and see who remains the longest.
What are your experiences with moving gymnastics lessons outdoors? Let us know in the comments!