Leading activities allows you the ability to choose those you wish to do according to your participants, theme, location or even event. This goes beyond a field trip where you might go and just experience things. We want to go and DO something.
While activities may be possible depending on where you go, you’ll still need to supervise your participants.
Summers and school vacations are a very busy time. Kid activities, summer school, vacations, camp and more all need to be added into the calendars. Ask everyone to bring their calendars so you can determine the dates that work for everyone (or the greatest number of people). Choose dates and alternative dates for each activity.
Gather everyone’s ideas for cooperative activities and create a master list. Also review any information you’ve kept from previous activities / events you’ve participated in or heard about that you thought you’d like to try. Keep the full list for reference.
3. Narrow it down.
Start by taking off any activities that you know will not fit your participants, is too expensive, etc. You want to make sure all your activities are feasible. Ask everyone to select their top activities. You may want to limit each person to 2 or 3. Take your list down to a reasonable amount for the age of your participants so the choices are manageable.
Younger kids will want to do everything, so they need a shorter list. Older participants will be more picky (and busy) so keep your choices open. You may even end up doing more events for older participants with other people organizing them to make sure everyone gets a chance to participate.
4. Decide together.
Allow everyone to decide by voting. For younger kids, I’ve found that putting their heads down and raising their hands works well. They are more likely to choose the things they want to do than what their friends want to do. You can also have everyone write down their choices and make a list of the most popular activity ideas, then vote with a smaller list.
NOTE: You may choose to decide activities amongst the adults who intend to attend. Cultural and religious restrictions are more likely to be addressed. Also, you may need to limit the activities by the number of adults who can help supervise.
5. Differing abilities.
Not everyone can do the same things at the same level. You must take this into consideration when leading activities. You may need to make it easier or harder. Sometimes you have to completely change the rules.
When we did a fairy scavenger hunt, I ended up taking a picture of each fairy before hiding it so the sheet to mark off the found fairies gave the first graders as much of a chance of finding them as the third graders, despite the difference in reading level.
Once you’ve decided where you’re going, explore themes or ways to group the activities you’ve decided to do. Can you do two or three together?
One of our “cooperative activities” was doing individual activities at a variety of locations around our small town on a day off school. We started with the bakery and watched how cakes were decorated before decorating our own cookies. We then went to the lighthouse museum to see items that were used in the original lighthouse. We had a local historian telling stories on location about Native Americans and more. Lastly, we went to the beach and built sand castles. At each location, not only did we experience things there, we added activities to be more engaged.
7. Added activities.
Sometimes you’ll want to add activities. It gives you a reason beyond “going somewhere.” Think of how you can add activities to make those already decided upon more fun.
For example, going to a park can be fun for the kids. However, add a shape hunt for younger kids so they’re doing something they normally don’t. Older kids might have fun identifying plants, trees and flowers. Adding Frisbees or other items can also change a normal “ho-hum” activity into something everyone will enjoy.
8. Badge or patch?
Focusing your activities around a badge or patch can give you an instant theme. You’ll still need to tweak your activities for your audience.
Not everything has to be a badge or patch, however. Sometimes your activities can just be for fun. In these cases, I try to make sure there is something for the participants to take with them. This way, the item(s) can help serve as a memory trigger when they get home and want to talk about what they did.
Gather all the items you will need for the activity. This might include the instruction sheet, balls, cards, balloons, buckets, etc. If you don’t have something you need, acquire or make it.
When you’ve planned it out, test it. I drive to locations to verify how long it takes to get there. I make sure all the items I need are available at each location and make adjustments if necessary. I go through the materials I’m providing to make sure I’m not missing anything we’ll need. Doing the activity yourself will help you identify any items you still need. Some of them may not be obvious.
For example, it’s not unusual for me to take wipes with to clean helmets and other items the kids need to share so no one shares other things beyond the equipment. I also like to keep blue painter’s tape, sharpies and post-its with me as these all come in handy.
You need to be heard when giving directions. Be confident and enthusiastic in your presentation. If you’re working with multiple age levels, you may need to change your approach or show a step-by-step so they understand. Don’t let your entire focus be with the “getting it done.” Lead with a smile, and sometimes be a bit silly, to keep your activities flowing and fun.
For a small group, you can go solo. If you are doing multiple activities for larger groups, you can have others at stations or even provide written directions and / or diagrams. Then, explain the activity to the first group and they will share the information.
When your activity is done, review how it went with your participants. It will help you tweak your cooperative activities and events to make them better. Be sure to keep notes so if you plan to revisit the activity later, you have this information for future planning.
- Avery 2.5” round label printable, 12 up
- Badge checklist
Sites to Explore
Get the infographic here > larajla blog post
Get the PDFs of the badge program / supplements here > Full badge PDFs