SEL Spotlight

4 Creative Movement Games To Enjoy Outdoors

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Guest Author: Ciera Shimkus LPC, Expressive Arts Therapist

Creative movement, SEL and time in nature all promote mental and physical well-being, so here are some activities that do all of that at the same time. After a long and difficult school year, with far too much time stuck indoors staring at a screen, I hope you’ll find these activities refreshing for the body, mind and soul.

creative movement outdoors

Group Activities

1. Nature Walk + Nature Charades

Take a nature walk and engage in all 5 senses – sight, smell, sound, touch, taste (carefully with that last one!).  Children can write down what they encounter on the walk or use this checklist from backwoodsmama.com. Encourage them to keep their list a secret for now, as they can then use it for the charades part!

To play charades: Children take turns acting out what they saw on the walk and ask others to guess what they are acting out.  Don’t forget, talking is not allowed during charades. You can just play for fun or keep score by awarding points to the first person to guess each charade correctly. For larger groups, you can even split into teams or small groups.

Why is this helpful?  Taking a nature walk and engaging in the 5 senses promotes the use of mindfulness (observing yourself and surroundings while being in the present moment).  Mindfulness is a great coping skill and promotes relaxation.  Charades promotes creative thinking in the brain that transfers to the body.

What SEL skills are used?  Self-management, self-awareness, and relationship skills

2. Summer Solstice Dance Jam

June 20th marks summer solstice or the first day of summer.  It is also the longest day of the year.  Many cultures for thousands of years have celebrated this day because it was a sign of hope.  Hope that the crops will be bountiful, that the village will be able to ward off evil spirits, the New Year is starting, and the Olympics will begin soon.  To embody these hopes, many cultures would throw large celebrations consisting of eating, praying, and, often, singing and dancing around something (bonfire, pole, tree).  Many cultures today try to combine the original customs with current times, thus the birth of solstice festivals during which participants often dress up in free-flowing clothes with flowers in the hair.  So on June 20th, celebrate solstice!  You all can go the simple route and have a dance party outside, or go all out and find nature to put in your clothing and hair, and dance around a campfire!

Why is this helpful?  Celebrating the season encourages gratitude.  It reminds us that despite adapting to a new normal this year, it is still an important life skill to find things we are grateful for instead of focusing only on the negative.

What SEL skills are used?  Relationship skills and social awareness

Solo Activities

3. Nature Walk + Nature Yoga

Take a nature walk and engage in all 5 senses.  Observe and experience all that nature has to offer — except poison ivy and oak, don’t accept that offer!  Invite children to keep a log of what they encounter and encourage them to create their own yoga poses based on things they may find in nature:  tree pose, frog pose, butterfly, dancer’s pose for a bird, child’s pose for a seed, cobra pose for a garden snake, or be creative and make up your own! You can also check out this poster from Flow and Grow Kids Yoga for ideas and inspiration.

Why is this helpful?  In addition to mindfulness, yoga promotes impulse control and bodily awareness which helps the overall development of self-awareness and dancing.

What SEL skills are used? Self-awareness and self-management

4. Insect Scavenger Hunt + Insect Yoga

Try to find as many insects outside as possible.  Afterwards, challenge children to create their own poses based on the insects they saw. For inspiration, check out this resource from Kids Yoga Stories.

Why is this helpful?  This is good for the very curious child that loves getting dirty and playing with bugs anyways! It checks off the science subject box too.

What SEL skills are used?  Self-awareness and self-management


Reprinted  with permission from Dancing with Class 

Margot Toppen

Margot Toppen

Margot Toppen is a visionary educator who works at the intersection of SEL, arts, and physical education.

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