Author: Daniel O'Connor

Creating Our Own Activity Game Board

Jessica and I have always loved playing games.  Our passion for games has definitely rubbed off on the kids!  Recently, they came up with the idea of creating their own game board.  They used the panels of the gymnastics mats that we have in our playroom, but anything can be used for this idea.  You could use yoga mats, towels, or pillows.  If played outside, sections of yard could be marked off with towels, cones, hats… you can get creative here.  If using pavement, you could use sidewalk chalk.  Each panel was labeled a different task, with both kids creating separate boards.  We have a swing in our playroom, so for the kids turn, they closed their eyes and took a swing over the game board.  Wherever they landed, they had to complete that task.  For the adults, we closed our eyes and spun around on the board, walking to a random location.  If you have an outdoor swing, you could create a game board around it, otherwise spinning your body and walking to a spot works!

C used all 8 panels of the mats and made some really interesting spots.  I made signs for each spot and printed them out:

1 – Mario and Luigi chase you (remote control cars)

2 – We kick balls at you (soft ones, 1 minute)

3 – Safe zone

4 – Do hopscotch

5 – Safe zone
6 – Do 50 jumping jacks
7 – We throw balls at you (also soft, 30 seconds)
8 – Water drinking contest









G went at it with a different approach, acting as the teacher.  She used 5 panels, and when you land on a spot she would conduct a lesson:

1 – Show and tell

2 – Phys Ed (she wrote gym, but I let it slide!)

3 – Tech

4 – Art

5 – Music

We really enjoyed playing this with them.  They were really proud of creating their own game boards, having ownership over the rules.  There are so many different creative ideas you could use for your game boards.  And for those that hate spinning, like Jessica, you could use dice to advance around the board.  You could set the amount of turns for each player, and even award points for completing tasks, lots of options!



Categories: Uncategorized

Homemade Scoops

At my two schools, we have nice sets of scoops that we use to practice throwing and catching.  When I first started teaching, I was at a lot of schools that didn’t have any equipment.  There are plenty of activities that can be done without equipment, but when I wanted to get creative, I would make things at home.  I remember one of my first projects being a set of homemade scoops.  It takes a while to complete if you’re making them for an entire class, but if you’re making them for the family it will be a lot faster.  All you need is empty milk jugs and any kind of ball that can be tossed back and forth.  Once you clean out the milk jugs, you make a cut in the bottom and add some duct tape along the edges.  Once you have them made, you can practice your throwing and catching skills, seeing how many successful catches you can make in a row.  We mix in some defense over here, with Bruin and Berkeley attacking the ball!

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Cross The Ocean Challenge

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This is one of my favorite team building lessons that we have students participate in each year.  It is a very popular activity, and I love it because it allows us to work on so many important parts of practicing good teamwork!

I have kept the scenario pretty similar over the years, but any fun story can be created for this one.  I have all of the students behind one end of the gymnasium.  I tell them that behind them is an erupting volcano, and we must escape.  The only problem is that they have to cross a giant ocean, and are unable to swim the whole length.  They have special “rocks” that they can step on to help them across. For rocks, I just use blue polyspots that we have in the equipment closet.

I put the students in four separate groups.  For round 1, I give them one extra rock than the number of total students in the group.  Rocks can be picked up, placed down, and handed to each other.  You aren’t allowed to throw or slide a rock.  If any person in the group touches the gym floor, everyone has to re-start.  Once accomplished, I make it harder by taking a rock away.  This forces students to share rocks, or some get creative by piggybacking or leaving a student behind with the idea of going back on a rescue mission.  I love watching students communicate and work together in this one.  Sometimes groups have a hard time working things out, which create good teachable moments!

This game can be played at home, with any number of people.  You can use any kind of material you have around the house for rocks, we used paper plates!  It was fun watching the kids work together to move across the kitchen.  Even Berkeley, our giant puppy, wanted to get involved!


Categories: Home from School

An Old Classic – Wall Ball!


Some of my favorite childhood memories bring me back to games that we played at recess.  Our school building was pretty old, built in 1896.  One year, part of our recess fun was dodging shingles that randomly fell from the roof.  Recess was right outside of the building, we had a stretch of pavement which was fenced in.  The majority of our recess time, my group of friends and I would play a competitive version of wall ball.  We had a blast playing, it was fun to compete with each other.  We were also getting some good exercise while practicing our hand-eye coordination and throwing skills.

Unfortunately, students at my schools aren’t allowed to play wall ball at recess.  From what I understand, it’s due to the fact that students that are not playing the game might run through and get hurt.  The game itself, if played correctly is totally safe!

We took our kids to a building down the street to teach them, and they absolutely loved it.  Here are the rules that I play with, but modifications can be made!

We have always used a tennis ball, but you can use anything that you have available.  The game begins when one player throws the ball at the wall.  The ball must bounce one time before any other player tries to field it.  If the player attempts to field it, but makes an error, and the ball hits the ground they must run to the wall.  Any other player will then try and pick up the ball, and throw it to the wall before the player who made the error gets there.

This doesn’t need to be competitive at all, and no scoring is necessary.  When we played as kids, any time that we made an error and the ball beat us to the wall, we had an “out”.  When we had three outs, we were eliminated from the game.  In PE, we don’t play games that have students eliminated!  You could have someone that receives three outs do a lap around the playing area to come back into the game, or do an exercise to come back… lots of options!

Categories: Home from School

Keep It Up!!

As I continue to think of activities that can be done at home with little to no equipment, I remembered one of our favorites that we haven’t played in a while – Keep it Up.  I think that we have been avoiding it for a while because of our giant puppy likes to destroy balloons!  We can only play when he is super passed out.


This is a very simple activity that is great for practicing hand-eye coordination.  It can be played inside or out, solo or with other family members.  All you need is a balloon or a light ball to strike into the air.  Once the ball is tossed into the air, the goal is to keep it from hitting the floor.  For us, we count the amount of times we can hit the balloon before it falls.  This way, we create a high score for ourselves, something to try and beat every time we play!

Categories: Uncategorized

Geography – US States

Our kids have always been interested in all of the different U.S. states.  On our last family vacation to Florida, we counted how many different license plates we saw.  Every time we saw a new one, Jessica and I would talk a little about that state and recall if we had ever been there.  We spotted 30 different states on one trip!  I thought it might be fun to look up some state facts while we checked out flags and colored in our own.  This is something that we can revisit occasionally, as we only got through Alabama, Alaska, and Arizona.  I think that G could have done more, but C is REALLY into taking his time with the small details of his artwork.

This page has all of the state flags, available to print at home:

I found this page to have the best set of facts for each state:



Categories: Home from School

Creating Our Own Jump Rope!

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In browsing the internet for plans, I came across a STEAM challenge for PE:

Blowing Off S.T.E.A.M. in Physical Education: Make Your Own Jump Rope

It looked really fun, so we borrowed the idea.  I tweaked it a little bit to make sense for them, here is how it went:

We challenged the kids to practice jump roping for the next thirty days in a row.  The only problem is that we don’t have a rope and need to build one from scratch!  They could gather any material (except for an actual jump rope!) from around the house to use.  We asked them to come up with an amount of time that seemed reasonable to gather the items.  They decided that ten minutes sounded good! We told them to think about the length, weight, and feel of the handles.

C came back with a handful of elastics while G returned with a lot of paper, pillow stuffing, and tape.  Her idea was to roll up all of the paper and attach each piece with tape.  She worked hard at attaching the rolled papers, but wasn’t having much success.  She realized that this would create a straight line of paper with no flexibility.  She then took the elastics and tried putting them together.  It was cool because she just learned how to make elastic bracelets, so she used the same method.  We quickly realized that we didn’t have nearly enough elastics to make a rope big enough!  C was pretty checked out at this point… it didn’t really hold his attention. Looking back, if we had given him specific materials and just told him to build on his own, we think it would have been better for him.  G was really into it though!  She remained optimistic as we thought of other things we could use.


Her new thought: fabric!! Luckily, J has an entire closet of fabric, so G grabbed a big bag of scraps and thought it out.  (We asked her what she might suggest to families that do not have a big closet of fabric, and she thought they could use old clothes or towels) Initially, she wanted to glue them together, but realized that tying them was a better idea.  She picked flexible fabric, tied it together, and used elastics to attach pillow filling for comfortable handles.  She tried her rope, and realized it wasn’t heavy enough.  She picked more fabric, this one was thicker, and she attached it to the middle.  In the end, the rope worked perfectly, and she had fun trying it out! It was great to see her brainstorm and problem solve.  It was also nice to see her continue to work after failing on her first attempts! 

Fun Family Game!

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I had plans to run a really fun pin knockdown game this spring.  I figured we could adjust the game to  play it at home!

In the gym, we were going to use hula hoops, and bowling pins.  We don’t have these at home, so we improvised.  We used painters tape and 2 liter bottles instead. There are two teams, you could adjust based on the amount of people you have interested in playing.  Since there are four of us at home, it made for an easy 2v2 match up.  It’s structured much like corn-hole.

Using painters tape, I made a square scoring zone for each team.  The sides of the square were 22 inches, which I think I will make a little bigger next time.  The squares were about 15-20 feet apart from each other.  In the center of each square we had an empty 2 liter bottle.  From there, we tested out different balls to roll/throw at the empty bottles.  To begin the game, you stand next to your partner.  The first person rolling/throwing attempts to knock down the empty bottle on the other side.  You have to stay behind the front of the box on your teams side. After the attempt is made, a member from the opposing team takes a turn and you continue to alternate.


1 point if you knock down the bottle

2 points if you are able to knock down the bottle and have the ball remain in the box


We played until one team was able to make 11 points, having to win by 2.  The scoring can always be adjusted.

We had a variety of ball options, including a softer yarn ball, a spike ball, and a larger nubby ball (ones that come from arcade grabs).

Jessica and I favored the yarn ball and the kids usually used the larger one.  J & C took game 1 while C and I won game 2.  We all had a blast playing!! This will be one that we play often during our time at home.




Physical Education Ideas!

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