School's out for the day, and the kids are tumbling home for the afternoon, perhaps with a few friends in tow. Sure, there's homework, and maybe you'll have errands, but everyone wants to take a break for a little snack and some fun play. Here's a marvelous backyard game that even happens to boost third grade map skills learning. In this game, kids will use a compass to locate north, south, east and west, and then will find a hidden prize using only cardinal directions and coordinates. You can hide anything--a teddy bear, or a special message, perhaps--but we especially like hiding the afternoon snack. After all, there's nothing like hunger to get kids motivated, and nothing like a satisfying snack to remind them of the rewards of victory.
What You Need:
- 1 or more kids
- One "expedition master" (parents, that's you!)
- Healthy snack
- Open play space--a yard or park area works especially well
What You Do:
- The "expedition sponsor" should start ahead of time by hiding the snack in a cool, exciting place that kids can still reach. Then, the "sponsor" should announce that the snack is missing! It can be discovered, however, using simple expeditionary equipment: a compass and the "sponsor."
- Huddle as a group, with the compass. Use it together to identify north, south, east and west in your expedition area, and make sure everyone understands.
- If you've got just one kid, the game can proceed from here. But if there are extra kids, that just makes for more fun. Try having one or two kids help you hide the snack and determine coordinates; and it's always fun to have more than one kid find the snack.
- Now give expedition coordinate instructions. Starting at a start line that you have established, direct your explorers. Say, for example, "five steps, southeast," or "seven steps due North," and if your explorers truly head off in the wrong direction, bring them back to the start line. Lead them all around...but do make sure they achieve the mission goal of discovering that healthy snack!
- As a variation, once kids are comfortable with compass directions, you can try pairing them off as well, so that one partner gives directions to the other, and teams compete to find the snack. Get ready for laughter and fun...but also some very solid learning. Kids can easily get mixed up trying to remember compass coordinates on a two dimensional page; there's nothing like the kinesthetic experience of moving around to help it all make sense, both for now and for years to come.
Lauri Kubuitsile is a former science teacher turned fulltime writer living in Botswana. She has taught at preschool through high school grade levels both in Botswana and in America.