Can you answer this one important question about outdoor play?

As you can see, our children are ready to get outside to play. But what do we need to think about before we send them off to enjoy their time outdoors?

The natural tendency is to just line the children up and send them out. After all, the children certainly know how to run, jump, slide, and dig for worms. However, there is one thing I need to consider BEFORE I let them head out the door.

Have fun with your kids before you go outside

Getting your kids back inside

Getting your children to line up and head outside is a no brainer. They are excited to get outside and their eagerness to go will naturally make them want to get ready to go. However, getting the children to come back inside is another story.

At the beginning of the school year, I have students who seem to have no idea that when I call out to them, they should actually come to me. I have other students who are so intrenched in their play that they simply don’t hear me. And then I have students who hear me and come to me but then realize not everyone is lining up, so they run off again to try and “help” me get the others to line up. All that leads to pure chaos when it comes to heading back indoors.

Can you answer this one important question?

Before heading outdoors, you need to be able to answer this question for yourself:

How will I get the children to come back inside at the end of their playtime?

When I call out to them and say, “Mrs. Stewart’s class, it’s time to line up!” will the children respond and line up or will they just keep doing their own thing?

What to do

Before heading outside, consider making a plan of how you will call the children to come to you at the end of play time (a specific Call-Out) and then TEACH the children your plan. Not only should you teach the children your Call-Out plan, you should also have them PRACTICE your Call-Out plan too.

A quick five-to-ten-minute lesson BEFORE you head outside and let the children run off to play on how to line up AFTER the children play outside can make all the difference in getting your students into healthy habits that will make the transition from outdoor play time to coming back inside go more smoothly.

Give them a reason

Not only do you need a “Call-Out” that the children hear and recognize when it is time to come back inside, you also need to give them a reason to want to come back inside. Something besides, “it’s time to go back inside” will help them understand that there is a plan and be a better partner in that plan. Perhaps you have snack time next. In this case, you will say, “We need to head inside so we can get ready for our snack!” I let the children know that when I call out to them using our key phrase then they need to line up so we can head back inside to get ready for snack. Make sense?

I find that taking a few minutes every now and then (or as needed) to practice our call out routine before the children head off to play keeps us all on the same page.

Call Out and Count

My plan for getting the children to come back inside looks something like this.

  1. I call the children to come to me using this Call Out phrase: “Pre-K Line Up!”
  2. When the children are all in line, we all count the number of children who are in line (I give each child a light tap on the head or shoulder as we count). The counting lets those who are not in line know that we are waiting for them and they usually hurry up and join us.
  3. Then I remind the children what is coming up next, “When we get inside, you need to wash your hands and get ready for snack.”
  4. Then we head inside for the next part of our day.


  1. Before you head out for play, think about how you will smoothly get your students to stop their play and head back inside with you.
  2. Come up with a little plan and then teach that plan to your students and have them practice it. Repeat your practice as needed.
  3. Help your children understand what is next in their day so they can be a better partner in getting ready for the next part of their day.
  4. Instead of using up valuable outdoor play time to teach your routine, head out just a little early or make a special trip outside so the children can practice your “Call-Out” routine.
  5. Remember, promoting competence begins with you having a plan, teaching the children your plan, and then giving them time to practice and master their skills so that they can be a competent participant in that plan.
Deborah J Stewart

Deborah J Stewart

Every time I think I know everything I need to know about teaching young children, God says, "Hold on a minute!" and gives me a new challenge.

Let me tell ya...

With each new challenge that you overcome, you will find yourself better equipped and more passionate about teaching young children.

God didn't call wimps to lead, teach, or care for His children. Nope, he has high expectations, so get ready. You will have to give your very best but after teaching for over 30 years, I can tell you that it is a wonderful and rewarding journey.

Whenever your calling feels hard, just remember, 'He who began a good work in you (and in the children you serve) will be faithful to complete it.'

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