How To Get The Most From Hosting a Sports Day at your Early Years Setting
National School Sport Week took place between the 20th and 26th of June 2022, which meant that many schools and nurseries up and down the country held their own sports days.
Physical education in the early years sector is key for child development not only to promote a healthier lifestyle – but it is also a fabulous opportunity for both children and practitioners to wind down at the end of the school year. As we look to promote healthier physical and mental health in our children – providing a fun sports day can impart some enthusiasm in movement that will benefit children as they grow.
A study from University College London shows active children go on to be active adults, which is why we want to share our tips on creating an inclusive and fun sports day in your early years setting.
The Obesity Issue
Sadly, childhood obesity is still on the rise. The latest figures from the UK Parliament suggest that 14.4% of reception age children (age 4-5) are obese, with a further 13.3% overweight. These children may suffer long-term physical and psychological effects stemming from childhood obesity, so tackling it early is extremely important. The official programme to reduce childhood obesity includes healthy meal options, portion control, better quality sleep and 60 minutes of exercise every day.
As early years professionals, we can’t influence all of these factors all of the time, but some of them are in our control. We have a responsibility to make a positive impact on the children in our care, and most importantly, we have the ability to make it fun! Exercise is important all year round, but during the summer as we spend more and more time outside we can introduce new games and sports to get the children more active.
Why Host Sports Day?
Sports Day has been a tradition in schools around the UK for decades, and it is a wonderful opportunity to allow children to showcase their physical skills and capabilities as well as make friends with other peers in their assigned houses or teams. Bringing a sense of fun and comradery to your early years setting or school helps teach children about valuable skills such as teamwork, communication, and respect for their competitors.
In relation to the EYFS, developing a child’s physical coordination and strength is crucial, and taking part in a competitive day such as this can be the perfect chance for a child to put their abilities to the test and learn new skills.
Perhaps one of the best parts of hosting a sports day is the ability to invite parents and guardians to the event, getting them engaged with their child’s physical and emotional development, as well as promoting healthy habits and wellbeing.
So what do you need to consider when preparing to host a sports day event this summer? Here are the three main points we will be covering in this blog:
- Event Ideas
- Dealing with competition
For small children, a series of sports sessions’ or ‘sports afternoons’ might be a better idea than a full day. You could run a ‘sports week’ to make sure that all of your part-time children can get involved.
For large groups, a circuit of activities with an adult at each station is a great option. It means that all of the children can be involved in activities at once without any waiting around.
Have a read through our activity ideas for inspiration:
The Olympic Torch
Why not start off with an Olympic-inspired run?
In the days before the big event, get crafty with the children and make an Olympic torch to bring to the sports day. All you’ll need is some cardboard tubes and some red and yellow tissue paper.
To kick off your event, you can get all of the children to run with their torches to a designated spot and put all of their torches down in a circle. If you have a lot of children taking part in the same area, you can create different torch circles for different groups. When the last child puts their torch in the circle your sports day can begin!
There will be many classic activities that you and I remember doing on sports days when we were small, and these nostalgic events will never go out of style! Often the simplest activities are the most fun:
- Sack race
- Egg and spoon race
- Walking backwards
- Bean bag balance race
In the midst of a sunny July, there is nothing quite as satisfying as bringing some water sports into your sports day. Though you are unlikely to have a swimming pool at your disposal – there are lots of things you can do with paddling pools, slip ‘n’ slides, and sprinklers!
The Garden ‘Swim’
Teach the children to do different strokes with their arms such as backstroke, breaststroke and doggy paddle. Get them to practice these strokes while they ‘swim’ to the other side of the garden. You can even set it to music and play musical swimming statues!
For this one, you’ll need lots of different containers. Fill a big container, like a paddling pool with water and get the children to scoop it up with a small container and run to pour it into a bucket. You can do this individually or in teams, all filling the same bucket. When the bucket is full of water the game is over. To make it quicker (and drier) you could do the same game with small balls.
The Obstacle Course
One of the most exciting (and entertaining) events at any sports day is the obstacle course. Water can be involved in this event with a series of sprinklers that children have to run through or a paddling pool they have to step through during the race.
Think about the equipment that you have. Can you use any of these to set up different races? How about a car or scooter race, or a space hopper race? You could use the outfits in your dressing-up box to create a dressing-up race. Space different items of clothing out between the start and finish line. When the children get to each item they put it on and carry on running to the next one. Not only do the children enjoy the thrill of racing, but they can also laugh at the funny outfits they end up in!
You don’t have to race on legs! Especially if not all of your children can walk. Try a crawling race or a bum shuffling race! Or even a slithery snake race! Get the children to try and find different ways of moving to the finish line, and reward not just the winner, but the most imaginative too!
Throwing & Ball Skills
Bowling is a really easy one to set up. Fill some empty bottles with a bit of sand to keep them upright and get children to roll a ball towards them to knock them down. You can create lanes with rope or rolled-up bedsheets and change the distance of the pins depending on the child’s age and ability. This is a great one for self-esteem as children can have as many goes as they like to knock the pins down and they can all win!
Throwing contests are lots of fun, but make sure the item you’re throwing isn’t too heavy and won’t hurt! Foam javelins are ideal, but if you don’t have access to these, soft teddies are just as fun! To make it fairer, why not create large target boards so that all of the children can have a go until they hit it.
Balloons are always a hit! Why not start off a game of ‘keepy uppy’ with a balloon. The aim is to keep the balloon in the air for as long as possible. Mix it up by asking the children to keep the balloon in the air using just their heads, then anything other than their heads! Once they’ve got the hang of it you can get them into groups and ask them to work as a team to make sure their balloon doesn’t hit the floor.
There are a few simple prizes you can hand out to the winning teams and individuals during sports day. Star stickers can be a great option to recognise the winner of events, and DIY medals are a fabulous idea that children can get involved in making in the run-up to the day. Make a podium outside out of plastic boxes and allow children to have their own medal ceremony and parade at the end of the day!
Photographs can also be a great idea for a prize, but more for the parents to remember the day by. When creating a child’s learning journey, having photographs of their milestones and achievements is important. You can also take photographs throughout the day using iConnect and send them to the parents on ParentZone.
Dealing with competition
As well as a fun event for children, staff, and parents – sports day teaches valuable lessons to children in terms of respect for others, teamwork, and competition. Competition can be a healthy skill for children to learn, however with the wins also will come losses, and sometimes this might be difficult to explain to a younger child without them becoming upset or aggravated.
To make sure your sports day doesn’t end in a frenzy of tears, why not focus on teamwork and cooperation for your events? There are a few different ways to create a fairer sports day for younger children.
Non Competitive Events
You could make all of the day’s activities non-competitive. Instead of set races where everyone watches, why not set up different activity stations and allow children to move around freely to visit each station and have as many or as little goes as they like.
Competing with yourself
How about creating an individual scorecard for each child, and recording how they did at each activity. Let them have one go at everything and write down their result. Then go through all of the activities again and see if they can beat their own scores.
Competing in teams
Why not split the group up into a few different teams so that children are competing in large groups. The top 3 children at each event earn 3 points, the next 3 earn 2 points and everyone else that competes earns a point. This way every child is contributing to the final tally and will feel that they are a valuable part of their team.
Capturing the moments
Sports Day can be a valuable part of the early year’s curriculum and will provide an interactive way to hone a child’s physical skills. If you decide to host your own sports day this summer, why not use ParentZone to capture the memories for the parents and guardians at your setting?