Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Montessori Preschool Outdoor Play: Activity Ideas for Social Development

NAMC montessori preschool outdoor activities social development children jumping on playground
Let us always remember that inner discipline is something to come and not something always present.
—Maria Montessori
The Absorbent Mind.

Outdoor playtime in your Montessori preschool does not have to be completely unstructured. In fact, studies have shown that unstructured or lightly-supervised playtime can actually lead to aggressive play and behavior problems. Playing organized games and activities teaches cooperation, sharing, following the rules, helpfulness, social skills, and control of emotions. Additionally, organized play makes sure that all students are actively participating in some physical activity.

Here are some suggestions for activities to promote cooperation and social development during your Montessori outdoor play time.

Montessori Preschool Outdoor Play: Activity Ideas for Social Development

Outdoor Car Wash

  • Materials: Riding cars, bikes, wheelbarrows
  • Set up an area outside where the children can wash the playground “cars”. Children can have three stations: soap and sponges; clean water and sponges; and drying cloths.

Outdoor “Hot Potato”

  • Materials: Medium-size playground ball
  • Put a medium size ball (hot potato) in the center of a circle along with a student chosen to be 'in the oven'. The rest of the students stand in a circle representing the boundary of the oven, holding hands. The student who is 'in the oven' tries to kick the ball out of the circle using only her feet. The others try to stop the ball with their feet. Once the ball is out of the circle, another student is chosen be be ‘in the oven’.

Links on a Chain

  • Materials: a length of rope
  • Form a line, holding the length of rope at intervals. Tell the children they will be following a leader and doing everything the leader does. The Montessori teacher begins the game as the leader, but hands off to a student. Rotate leaders every thirty seconds or so.

Hop to It!

  • Materials: open space
  • Call the name of an animal and see if the children can imitate how they move. Examples: Bunny – hopping; snakes – slithering; horses – galloping.

NAMC montessori preschool outdoor activities social development children blowing bubbles


  • Materials: bubble solution made with 2 cups warm water, 1 cup liquid dishwashing soap, ¼ cup glycerin and 1 tsp. of sugar; funnels, straws, bubble ‘wands’
  • Mix all the ingredients for the bubble solution together and pour into several small containers. Dip various objects in the bubble solution and blow or wave them in the air to create bubbles.

With a little creativity, your Montessori outdoor time will be full of cooperative fun for everyone!

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, September 29, 2009.


  1. I like the idea of "car wash" and "hot potato" game.
    I agree that sometimes children need some structure in their outside play as well. All those games you mentioned promote a number of important skills that kids need day to day.

  2. I agree that unstructured outdoor play can lead to aggressive behavior. Yet I believe a little time is essential, but structured play is very important too. My student like a game called Jump the River. We have two pieces of rope, that are the same length. Children line up. The rope is laying paralell to each other. Start out about 4 to 6 inches apart. Then after each child runs and jumps over the gap in the rope "jumps over the river" then move them a little more a part. the line restarts on the other side of the river. Great fun works on large motor skills and facing a challenges.

  3. "Jump the River" sounds like a game that's enjoyed by your students. I can see how children would encourage their classmates to try their best to make it across the 'river'.

  4. The game, Jump the river sounds like a lot of fun and they are moving their bodie and the gross motor development is in play too. Fun!


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