After-School Activities

Use Clues of the Past to discover Mother Nature's past and present.
Use Clues of the Past to discover Mother Nature's past and present.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Kids don't stop learning when they come home from school. The after-school activities for kids on these pages are entertaining, educational ways to engage kids and keep their curious minds working when they're not in the classroom.

From physically active hula-hoop games that teach cooperation to kite-making projects good for blustery fall afternoons, these after-school activities will provide hours of learning and laughs for your kids and their friends.


Category Hopscotch

Show kids how to use categories to make an old game of hopscotch brand new.

Classic Ringer Marble Game

Every self-respecting kid ought to know how to play a good game of marbles. Teach them how with the instructions on this page.

Chalk It Up

If your child is tired of her urban jungle, show her how to create chalk fantasy worlds with the activity on this page.

Loop the Hoop

This silly agility game gets kids working together to use a hula hoop in a new way.

Leaf, Leaf, Pinecone

Explore a nature spin on the old "Duck, Duck, Goose" game from your own childhood.

Kick the Can

This activity is old as the hills -- and as fun as it ever was. Show kids how to play a game their grandparents played, too.

High-Flyin' Fun

Go fly a kite! Teach your child to make his or her own special kite for those windy after-school afternoons.

Coded Message Kites

In this creative activity, your child can send a coded message to a friend or neighbor via a homemade kite. Learn how with some simple instructions.

Don't Back Down

This activity takes teamwork and timing. Show kids how to pair up and stand up without ever touching the ground.

Clues of the Past

There are signs of geological change everywhere we look. Encourage your child to find clues of Mother Earth's ever-changing face.

Put 'Er There

With some friends and some clothespins, your child can have a blast with this agility and concentration race.

Bent Out of Shape

Discover a racing game that will put your child and his friends into funny body positions as they head for the finish line.

Jump Rope Relay

This relay race uses jump ropes to get kids' heart rate up. Learn the rules for this basic racing activity.

Predator and Prey

Find out how the animals act in the animal world and teach kids how to mirror the predator and prey's behavior.

On the next page, learn how some "categorical" changes can alter a hoppin' game of hopscotch while teaching kids how humans classify their world.

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Category Hopscotch is a challenging after-school activity that will teach your child to think (and hop) fast.

Humans categorize pretty much everything we see in order to make sense of the world around us. We separate healthful things to eat, like vegetables and fish, from junk foods like candy bars and chips. And there are so many animals in the world, we categorize them into their species (i.e., reptile, mammal) in order to communicate with each other about these animals more easily.

Help your child explore this variation on the classic hopscotch game and encourage him or her to explore the ways humans categorize our world.

What You'll Need:

  • Hard surface
  • Chalk
  • Rocks or other markers
  • Small bouncing ball

Mark off a court in the style of a hopscotch court. In each square, write the name of a category -- for example, cars, fruits, and birds.

Players place their markers in the first square. Each player in turn walks or hops through the squares, bouncing the ball and naming something from the first category for each step in each square. Ball, foot, and word must arrive at the same time. No word can be used twice in any one run of the court.

Players who finish the court place their markers in the next square and must name things from that category. The first player to finish all categories wins and chooses the categories for the next game.

An alphabet variation: Each time a player steps in a square, he or she must name something from the category in that square, all items named starting with the same letter. A player faced with the categories of cars, fruits, and birds might say, "Buick, blackberry, blue jay."

On the next page, we'll show you how to teach your kids an after-school games you probably remember from your own childhood. Hint: You'll need that old bag of marbles...

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When we think of marbles, we usually think of some variation of this classic ringer marble game. This timeless after school activity is one that kids have enjoyed for generations, though they may have called it Taw, Ring Taw, Circle, or Big Ring.

In some areas, kids join marble leagues and play in tournaments. Your child doesn't have to be on a team to enjoy the game, but the more marble players in the ring, the more exciting the game.

What You'll Need:

  • Hard, smooth playing surface
  • Chalk
  • Regular-sized playing marbles
  • Larger shooter marble for each player

First, show your child how to mark a large circle on a hard, smooth surface. He may draw his circle any size.

Now have your child set nine to thirteen marbles in the center in a cross or "X" shape. The marbles should each be an inch or two apart.

One player kneels by the circle and grips the shooter with one hand, knuckle down behind the circle's outline. With a flick of the thumb, the player sends the shooter into the marbles in the ring. A player who knocks a marble from the ring keeps the small marble and shoots again. The player continues shooting until he or she fails to knock a marble out, and the next player takes a turn.

If the shooter accidentally falls from the player's hand while trying to shoot, the player can call "slips" and try again -- but only if no marbles in the ring have been touched. When all the marbles are knocked out, the player with the most wins the game.

If kids want to play "keepsies," the player that wins keeps the marbles, too!

On the next page, show kids how to create artwork in their urban jungle using chalk.

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This after-school activity is a great outlet for any kid tired of boring sidewalks. Kids don't have to be artistic to take the chalk challenge and brighten their world, but artistically inclined children will especially love this after school activity.

What You'll Need:

  • Nature magazines
  • Sidewalks or blacktop
  • Colored chalk

Help your child find a color photograph she likes in a nature magazine. Now, encourage her to try and duplicate the brightest, most wonder-filled pictures on nearby cement sidewalks (or other blacktop) using her own chalk.

Does your child love the jungle and the monkeys that call it home? Suggest she draw them swinging across the driveway. Does she dream of colorful tropical birds? She can create a menagerie there on the sidewalk right beyond the front door.

On the next page, learn instructions for a game that uses a hula-hoop in a whole new way.

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Kids have to learn to cooperate if they want to play Loop the Hoop -- this after-school activity requires a lot of group coordination but produces a lot of goofy fun.

For this game to really take off, round up as many of your child's friends as you can. The loopy-ness increases when there are more kids playing.

What You'll Need:

  • Hula hoop
  • Stopwatch (or watch with a second hand)

Instruct the children to stand in a circle and hold hands. The object is to pass the hula hoop around the circle. It's not as easy as it sounds: Tell the kids they can't let go of each others' hands. When the group begins, the hoop should dangle from one player's arm. To move the hoop around the circle, that player will have to step through it and slide it along his or her other arm to the next player's arm. Continue until the hoop has gone around the whole circle. Tell players to watch out for those feet, arms, shoulders, and heads!

Explore a nature-friendly twist on the old "Duck, Duck, Goose" game in the next section.

Looking for more fun activities for kids? Check out these pages for inspiration:

The Leaf, Leaf, Pinecone after-school activity is a new version of the classic "Duck, Duck, Goose" circle game with a nature-friendly twist.

This game is best played out-of-doors, but you can definitely gather some pinecones and encourage children to play this traditional game on a rainy day, too.

What You'll Need:

  • Pine cone
  • Friends
  • Grassy circle

Whoever is "it" must not only touch the heads of the other players, saying, "Leaf, leaf, leaf," but must also drop a fresh pinecone in the lap of the victim they choose before running back around the circle without being tagged. The person trying to tag "it" can touch "it" with a hand above the waist or with the pinecone below the waist.

Kick the Can is a great after-school activity that really gets kids running around. Learn how to play it in the next section.

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Kick the Can is an old game, but a great one -- even your great-grandparents may have played this as kids. Continue the tradition by teaching your kids how to do this after-school activity.

What You'll Need:

  • Playing area with open spaces and hiding places
  • At least three players
  • An empty tin can

Have all players stand on a line in a big space. One person is "it."

Another player kicks the can as far as possible. While "it" retrieves the can, everyone else hides. "It" lays the can on the starting line and hunts for other players. Players may change hiding places at any time.

What happens when "it" spots a player depends on the version being played. Play continues as long as everyone continues to have fun (or until dinner is ready).

Version 1: This version is best for players of different ages and speeds. When "it" finds a player, he or she calls out the name and location of the player. That person immediately goes to jail. "It" continues looking for players. Players can be released from jail if another player sneaks over to the can and kicks it before being spotted by "it."

Version 2: If all players have equal speed and agility, alter the rules so that "it" must tag a player before the player is jailed. While "it" is chasing, any other player may kick the can to free everyone else from jail.

On the next page, discover how kids can create a craft that soars through the sky with the greatest of ease.

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Follow the instructions for this creative after-school activity, then grab a kite so you and your child can enjoy an afternoon of high flyin' fun.

As with any craft activity, make sure to properly supervise your child when making the High-Flyin' Kite. Plastic bags, sharp scissors, and other craft supplies can cause injury when not used with caution.

What You'll Need:

  • Two thin sticks (one of them twice as long as the other)
  • String
  • Tape
  • Safe scissors
  • Plastic shopping bag

Find two sticks and place them together so they look like a small "t." Using string, show your child how to tie the sticks together where they overlap.

Next, form a diamond shape around the outside of the sticks with some more string. As you do this, have your child wrap the string around the ends of each stick a few times and tape the string tightly in place as well. This is the frame of the kite.

Now, cut a plastic shopping bag at its seams so that you have a completely flat piece of plastic. Lay the frame on top of the plastic and then cut around it, making sure the plastic is a couple of inches bigger than the frame.

Work with your child to put the plastic over the frame and tape it in place. Attach the kite string to where the sticks overlap. Just like that, it's up, up, and away.

If this kite is a big hit, keep kites a-flying for your child with the mysterious kite activity on the next page.

Looking for more fun activities for kids? Check out these pages for inspiration:

Kids can send secret messages with a Coded Message Kite.
Kids can send secret messages with a Coded Message Kite.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

A Coded Message Kite is an easy after-school activity that your child can make to send a secret letter to a friend.

Whether the message is "Come over and play" or "Happy Birthday!" your child's kite is sure to bring a smile to everyone involved.

What You'll Need:

  • Permanent markers
  • Plastic shopping bag
  • Ball of string
  • Ribbon
  • Stapler and staples

Step 1: Using markers, encourage your child to draw some pictures on the plastic bag to make a coded message for a friend to read when the kite is in the air.

Step 2: Tie the handles of the plastic shopping bag together with the end of a ball of string.

Step 3: Staple a few 2-foot lengths of ribbon to the bottom of the bag for kite tails.

Step 4: Find a windy spot outdoors (away from any overhead wires), and instruct your child to run with the kite. As the bag fills with air, show him or her how to slowly let out the string. The kite should begin to soar and dive. See if a neighbor or friend can figure out the message drawn on the kite.

Don't forget to take the kite in the house or put it in a trash can when everyone is finished playing with it -- plastic bags can be dangerous for small children and animals.

The next page explains an after-school activity that doesn't use any supplies at all, just a lot of balance and teamwork.

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Don't Back Down is an after-school activity that proves to kids that standing up isn't always as easy as they might think.

This activity uses the weight of one child's body to push against the other and raise them both up as a unit. Warn the participants that this game is tougher than it looks!

What You'll Need:

  • Two friends
  • Grassy space

Instruct two children to sit back-to-back on a patch of soft grass with their arms folded in front of their chests. Each child should then try to stand up without using arms to help.

To do this, they'll have to push themselves up against each other's back -- without losing contact. If they fall down, encourage the partners to try again. Once they're up, suggest they try going back down until they're sitting back in the starting position.

Show budding scientists how to discover ancient clues about the geography in their neighborhood in the next section.

Looking for more fun activities for kids? Check out these pages for inspiration:

Clues to Mother Nature's past and present are all around us.
Clues to Mother Nature's past and present are all around us.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Kids will enjoy search for signs of earth-shaping events in this after-school activity. Once they discover that the ground under their feet has a complex story to tell, they'll want to tell the entire neighborhood what they've found!

The surface of the earth is constantly moving as water and weather erode the rocks and move the soil. Help kids find evidence of recent geological events -- and perhaps ancient events as well.

What You'll Need:

  • A map of your community or a place of special interest

Using a map, encourage your child to explore his or her community or some other special place. Instruct them to mark what they find on their map. Floods, for example, leave watermarks on buildings. Also look for scouring of stream banks and for debris in tree branches.

Huge glaciers, which once scoured a large part of the North American continent, left distinctive marks behind. Large, exposed rock faces may have had long scratches cut into them as rocky undersides of glaciers passed over them.

If you live in the northern United States, direct your child to look for areas around the community that are flat and have many small lakes. These areas were scoured out by glaciers. Glaciers also "rafted" large rocks from one area of the country to another. Suggest looking for boulders of a kind of rock not normally found in the area.

Around the mountains, suggest to a child that he or she look for the same kind of scratches on rock faces that continental glaciers left behind and seek what geologists call U-shaped valleys. These are broad valleys cut by glaciers. Valleys cut by streams tend to be V-shaped.

Also suggest searching for areas where soil has been exposed and eroded by running water. Too much erosion causes stream banks to collapse

and can lead to landslides. If a child sees a very muddy stream, encourage him to follow it upstream to see if the mud comes from erosion along the banks. Kids can also look also for signs of erosion control in their community, such as trees planted on bare slopes.

On the next page, learn about a clothespin activity that really gets your child to shake a leg -- or a hand.

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When kids play Put 'Er There, you can expect lots of laughter from the backyard. This after-school activity is an agility game that uses kids' hands, feet, and funny bones.

This game is more fun with more players.

What You'll Need:

  • Friends
  • Two pieces of rope
  • Eight clothespins

Divide the group of friends into two teams with an equal number on each side.

Lay the pieces of rope on the ground about 15 to 20 steps apart.

Each team should divide in half. Half of the team lines up behind one rope and the other half behind the other. Then one person on each team puts a clothespin between each finger on his or her right hand. (That means each kid will hold four clothespins.)

Now the fun begins! The two kids holding the clothespins run to their team members behind the opposite rope and pass the clothespins to a teammate with a handshake -- and they can't use their left hand to help. If a player drops a clothespin, she can pick it up but must then return to the starting line and begin again.

When the next team member has the clothespins between his or her fingers, that player runs to the other rope and passes them to the next teammate in line. The first team to pass the clothespins to all its teammates wins.

You might not find these racing games at the Olympics, but your kids will love them. Learn about the silly race on the next page.

Looking for more fun activities for kids? Check out these pages for inspiration:

Changing body positions will change the way kids reach the finish line.
Changing body positions will change the way kids reach the finish line.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Kids love racing games and the Bent Out of Shape after-school activity is one race they won't soon forget. By twisting their bodies into funny positions, kids will find a whole new way to run for the finish line.

What You'll Need:

  • Two pieces of rope
  • Partner

Lay the pieces of rope on the ground about 15-20 steps apart. Instruct the children to stand side by side behind one of the pieces of rope.

Each kid should spread his feet apart, bend at the waist until he can touch the ground, and then grab his ankles. Kids must then stay in this position, keeping their knees locked, and walk as fast as they can to the finish line. The one to get there first wins. If a child loses her grip or falls over, she has to return to the starting line and begin again.

Suggest that kids try other funny body positions after this one and ask them how changing the ways their bodies move changes the way they arrive at the finish line.

There are other ways kids can alter their movement in a race. Pick the rope up off the ground and click on the next page for instructions.

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A jump rope race is great way for kids to get some exercise.
A jump rope race is great way for kids to get some exercise.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The Jump Rope Relay race is an after-school activity that isn't just fun and games -- it's great exercise, too. An active round (or three) of this game will speed up kids' rope skipping skills and improve agility.

As with most of the after-school activities on these pages, once you've given children the instructions for play, they can gather friends and do these activities on their own whenever they're looking for something fun to do when school gets out.

What You'll Need:

  • Two jump ropes
  • Open space with asphalt blacktop
  • A "base"

Have the kids line up in two teams at the starting line of a blacktop playground. When the starter says "go," kids should begin jumping rope down the blacktop.

When a child gets to the base they've set up on the other end of the blacktop, instruct them to tag the base, skip back to the starting line, and tag the next racer. The team to finish the race first wins.

Once the kids are tuckered out from all that racing, offer them a new twist on "Hide and Seek." We'll tell you all about it on the next page.

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Predator and Prey is an after-school activity that changes elements of the classic game of Hide and Seek. Instead of one person running around to find everyone else, here the "seeker" (or "prey") stays put and the "hiders" (or "predators") sneak up on him or her.

This game is based on behavior found in the animal world. In nature, predators must be good at hiding to sneak up on their prey. If prey animals want to avoid being caught, they must use their senses to detect predators. Many prey species stay in open areas where it's hard for predators to sneak up.

What You'll Need:

  • Three or more players
  • Outdoor area with plenty of hiding places

To simulate a natural "predator vs. prey" relationship, designate one child to be the prey animal. With closed eyes, the prey counts to twenty while the predators hide. Every predator must find a separate hiding place from which he or she can see the prey but cannot be seen by the prey. Predators may be close or far away as long as they stay within agreed-upon boundaries.

When the prey finishes counting, he or she may begin looking, and may lean in any direction, but cannot leave the starting spot. Predators may change hiding places at any time, but must stay where they can see prey at all times.

If the prey spots a predator, he or she calls out the name of that person, who is out and must come back to base. When the prey has spotted all predators, choose a new prey.

Looking for more fun activities for kids? Check out these pages for inspiration: