Fantastic Outdoor Game With Great Learning Potential

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Jump the river is a fun outdoor game for children of all ages to which we can add a STEM learning twist! The game uses rope or anything you have at hand to make a river that children have to jump over. Each time the kids make it over the river, it gets bigger and bigger. It is perfect to do with a group of children and can be done anywhere. I recommend going outdoors and playing this game in nature because it offers many great possibilities to sneak in some STEM! 

jump the river

How To Prepare And Guide The Outdoor Game

First of all you have to create the river. If you are out in nature the best thing to do is to collect some sticks. Then arrange them in parallel lines and keep them close enough together.

Now you need a story! I use the following narrative:

“You live in a village on one side of the river and all the food is on the other side, so each day you have to cross the river to gather food and then cross it again to get back home”

You can even have things for them to collect on the “food side” of the river. Use your imagination to make it more exciting!

Once they’ve gone back and forth for the first time the river gets bigger! I use the following narrative:

“As everyone sleeps there is a big storm and it rains so much that the river grows!” 

At this point separate the sticks so the river is wider and ask your kids if they are still able to gather food! I like playing around with the width of the river, making it narrower at some points and wider at others. You can have them find the shortest/longest route.

This continues until the river is far too wide to cross. Make sure to put the sticks, rope or whatever you are using far enough apart so that no kid can jump over. At this point, it is time to sneak in some problem-solving skills! It is time for some STEM learning!

Sneaking In Some STEM Skills

This outdoor game is perfect to encourage your kids to problem-solve and practice some engineering skills:

“Oh no! Nobody can jump the river and the current is too strong for swimming! How are we going to get food?”

Let the challenging task of crossing the river begin. This will get your kids planning, designing, testing and building to solve a problem. They will become engineers for the day! The great thing, if you are doing this outdoors in nature, is that you have so much material available! 

Talk about the different options, the different materials you have available. Ask questions and then see where their mind takes them. If you can, bring some rope, it always helps.

How to cross the river:

  • Make a bridge out of sticks or stones
  • Build a raft
  • Other creative ways your kids might come up with

Just a heads up, your kid might come up with a sneaky apparently “easy” way to cross the river and avoid all the building you had in mind. My 3-year-old just went for a walk and came back with the biggest palm leaf in the park (it was double her size!!). She lay it over the river and there was no need to build anything, just walk over. We still had fun balancing and talking about what a great solution she had found! At the end of the day she worked through it in her mind and came to her very own conclusion that we needed something BIG. 

Questions For Thinking And Vocabulary

However, if your kids are a bit older, they might have more fun creating something, so here are some questions you can ask as you plan your project:

  • What materials do you think are best for what you are going to do?
  • How are you going to do that?
  • Are you sure it will work? Why?

Explaining a project is a good way to deepen understanding. Communication skills are important in STEM to properly communicate your ideas and it is definitely a skill worth working on! So keep on talking and communicating with your kids while they engage in STEM learning.

I’d love to hear about some of the fun ways your kids came up with to jump the river! So please feel free to share in the comments. Hope you enjoyed this fun outdoor game.

Happy STEM learning!

jump the river outdoor

Check out other fun STEM activities to sneak in some STEM learning:

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