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Environmental Games to Play with Children Outdoors

author image Shelley Frost
Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience come from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.
Environmental Games to Play with Children Outdoors
Play Photo Credit SerrNovik/iStock/Getty Images


Environmental games aim to raise awareness about the importance of caring for the Earth in an entertaining and engaging way. Playing these games outdoors offers a natural setting, which emphasizes a positive environmental message that often lasts beyond the game. Many enjoyable environmental games adapt to fit children of different ages and genders.

Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts offer a way for kids to get out into nature, which helps raise their awareness of the importance of protecting the planet. Create a list for the hunt based on the location. Sanborn Western Camps suggests including something old, seeds, items with different textures and something people cannot live without. If possible, include examples of damage to the environment, such as litter or pollution from a factory. These items give the participants a firsthand look at how our actions impact the Earth. To help preserve the natural environment, use a digital camera to take a picture of each natural item without disturbing it. The first team to find all items on the list wins. Use the scavenger hunt as a springboard for a discussion on reasons and methods of protecting the environment.

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Litter Race

The litter race environmental game helps clean up the outdoor location where you are playing—a park, school playground or neighborhood works well. The children collect litter in teams, wearing gloves as protection. Instruct kids to avoid sharp items. Trash picking tools also protect the kids. The goal is to collect the most litter. If you're collecting a large amount of litter, you will likely have to estimate or weigh the bags of trash. For smaller cleanup efforts, count the pieces of litter collected by each team. The team that collects the most litter is the winner. The environment also wins since this game removes litter from the area. Discuss the importance of cleaning up your own trash instead of throwing it on the ground, including the impacts of trash left outdoors.

Another way to play the game is to sort out the recyclable items from the other trash. This game works well indoors, with the kids sorting through trash collected around the home or school. The team that finds the most recyclable items is the winner. Show the kids how many items were able to stay out of trash as a result of sorting out the recyclables. This helps reduce the amount of trash sent to the landfill by sending at least part of it to the recycling plant.

Nature Balance

Nature Balance is a variation of tag that teaches kids about the balance of nature, according to the Sanborn Western Camps. The kids break up into three groups: bobcats, grass and mice. A visible marker, such as a different color ribbon, helps the kids identify one another. The mice try to tag the grass since mice eat grass. The bobcats tag mice, since bobcats eat mice. The grass players tag the bobcats because bobcats provide nutrients to the grass when they die. If a player is tagged, he becomes the next species in the chain. For example, if a bobcat is tagged, he becomes grass. Stop the game periodically to determine the balance of each species. This leads to a discussion about how balance impacts real plants and animals. If there are too many mice and not enough grass, the mice have more competition for the grass that is available.

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