In elementary school, I loved field day. I loved getting out of school, being outside, snacking all day, and playing games. Of course, as I got older it became more about how silly I thought I looked. Everyone in school watching this one game and I was going to be a fool.
Field day has changed a bit since then, and I think it’s a good thing. The focus is on group games and everyone moving. There is less sitting and watching. There is less stress and more fun for every kid. Is this what your school field day looks like? Does your school still have a field day?
I can see some schools getting rid of field day because it makes some kids feel bad or it seems unfair. The truth is I think it’s good practice for students to participate in an activity like this, but I also want it to be fun.
Modernizing a Field Day
If you still have a competitive field day I know there are definitely kids who would be upset if that changes. But modernizing field day to be more inclusive and fun ensures it will be part of the school year for generations to come. I’m going to tell you how my school did it.
Here is how my upper elementary school approached field day so that it was fun for all the 4th-grade and 5th-grade students. A lot of it was also run by parent volunteers, with very little prep from the teacher, and it can be reused for years.
Here’s How It Works
- Every teacher was responsible for creating a station where a class of kids could compete. (The special ed team also created a station so that there was some flexibility in timing). Most of the games also involved teamwork either as a whole class or a couple of teams. The games could have a winner and the class could be split into teams, but the truth was the winner didn’t matter much.
- Parents would set up, gather any materials the teachers needed or didn’t have from past years.
- The parents would provide snacks for the students, usually carried around in a wagon or wheeled cooler.
- Each class got a color bandana to make it feel more exciting and team-like. Plus it matched the theme we used – Survivor.
- On the day of field day, the 5th graders lined the hallway to high five and get the 4th graders excited as they jogged or walked out of the school.
- Teachers started at their own station (each was given a number) and then everyone rotated through stations until the time was up or we finished (we never finished). Stations lasted 10-15 minutes.
- Snacks happened on the go and there was a lunch break.
It was pretty easy. The kids always had fun even if they complained because they wanted more competition.
Field Day Activities
Here are 11 activities we did with a short description.
- Pink Dress-Up Relay
There were two buckets of various oversized pink clothes. The students were broken up into two teams. Students had to dress all in pink and run around a cone and back relay style. The pink boa was a huge hit with the boys.
- Rice on a Spoon Relay
Have a bucket of rice and a smaller cup about 10 feet away. Split the class into two teams. Students had to run a spoon of rice across the field trying to fill the bucket. It was done as a relay one spoonful at a time. See which team is faster.
- Sponge and Bucket Relay
It’s similar to the rice relay. Split the students into teams. There is a big bucket of water and a smaller empty bucket. Students will run relay style. They will fill the sponge, run across the field, squeeze the sponge and return to their team. See who fills the small bucket faster.
This station ensured there was a good class picture on field day. You can change the background to match your theme each year. My school had the theme of Survivor the tv show.
- Ring toss
Think about what variations you can come up with to make this a challenge. Use hula-hoops instead of rings. Make it themed.
- How Many Can Fit
I always played a version of this game as a gymnastics coach, but big kids love it too. Use carpet square or hula-hoops. Have the students spread out in their own hoop and slowly take hoops away so that they have to share. Can the whole class fit in one or two hula-hoops? How many students can fit in one?
- Sack Race
I think almost everyone has played this game. Get some sacks and see who can get from start to finish the fastest. Play relay style and have the kids cheer for each other.
- Three-legged Race
We use the bandanas we gave the students to tie legs together, but you could try to come up with a themed way to run this race. Which pair is the fastest? Are you willing to try groups of three?
- Snakes Over/Under Relay
We used snakes, but you can pick something to match your theme. Students are broken into teams and stand in a line with their team. The snake goes over their head and then under their legs. The person at the back runs the snake to the front and they go again until everyone has a turn. You can also send the snake to the left and then to the right.
- Balloon pass
It a super silly and hilarious. Students are broken into teams. They line up with their team. Students try to pass the balloon in various ways. Can students pass it under the chin? Using their knees? Using their elbows?
Find a blow-up animal(s) or something that matches your theme. Students shake the parachute. Who can get the blow-up animal off the fastest? There are so many versions of this.
- Human Knot
It’s a classic. Break students into teams. Have the team stand in a circle and cross and hold hands. Then they need to communicate to untangle themselves without letting go.
- Hula-Hoop Loop
- Students stand in a circle and hold hands. A hula-hoop is looped on their arms. Students see how fast they can get the hoop around the circle without letting go. You can also play in teams.
- Bonus: Egg Toss
This is the final even of field day and everyone watches. Students pair up with their teacher. Teachers get egged, students get egged, and the winner gets major bragging rights.
Themes for Field Day
Having a theme for field day makes it more fun. You can switch out a few props for the game you organize each year and it just makes it a little bit more exciting (especially if you have a multigrade field day where students will see the games again). Here are a few ideas.
The tv show, not the song
- Super Heroes
A little victory dance at each game that can be recorded and shared on the last day of school
- Wet n’ Wild
- Color Wars
- Tropical Vacation
- Top 100 Songs of the Year
Look at the titles and grab some nouns
- Sports Teams
For us, it would be the Patriots, Red Socks, Celtics, and Bruins. Just have parents bring in things.
- Field Trips We Went on This Year
A walk down memory lane and games.
I hope this gives you a fresh take on field day and helps you end the school year with a ton of fun!