13 Tips to Help You Host a Fun Family Field Day

Experts share how to throw a family field day that will get your whole family outside, moving, and having fun.
David Roth

As the weather gets warmer, it's time to try something new with the family. Do you remember how much you looked forward to field days when you were younger, with three-legged races and egg-on-a-spoon competitions?

Well, they don't have to be a thing of the past. If you have a big backyard or live near a public park or schoolyard, you can host your own field day for your family. Field days aren't just for kids either—invite over the grandparents and aunts and uncles along with other families in the neighborhood to join in on the fun. And it won't require a lot of supplies, just some household supplies that make for easy planning.

We spoke with Roseanne Lesack, Ph.D., BCBA-D, ABPP, a parenting expert and licensed child psychologist, and Patrick Kiesendahl, the social manager of the family-owned Woodloch Resort in Hawley, Pennsylvania, for field day planning tips and activities that will inspire you to organize your own afternoon full of fun and fitness with the entire extended family.

1. Create a game plan ahead of time. Even laid-back parties need some organization. Kiesendahl suggests making a party checklist and a set-up plan for games ahead of time. That way you can really "maximize the fun."

2. Appoint a leader. "Where parties go south is when no one is organizing anyone," Kiesendahl said. "If you're starting the games, you want to establish what you're doing first. Will there be teams? What are the rules?"

3. Set up low-maintenance games as guests arrive until the official field day activities begin. You won't want to start the field day activities exactly on time because any latecomers will miss out. "Parties go in stages," Kiesendahl said. "Set up games like KanJam and Corn Hole to keep people entertained until everyone arrives."

4. Music is the most important part of any outdoor party. An upbeat kid-friendly playlist can make your field day even better. "With music going, you can have a dance party, play musical chairs, have lip sync competitions, anything," Kiesendahl said. Search for "family-friendly" playlists on Spotify, or play the latest Kidz Bop album if your kids are fans.

5. Keep kids hydrated. Even if they're drinking soft drinks or Gatorade, make sure your kids get enough water while they're running around. If you're at home, fill up a few pitchers to keep in the fridge so kids can quickly refill their bottles with cold water. If you're in a park, scope out water fountains ahead of time, or make sure to bring a cooler with water bottles.

6. Make snack time part of the fun. Don't just serve snacks—turn them into an activity. "I love having kids decorate individual cookies or cupcakes. At my son's birthday party we also had kids make s'mores!" Dr. Lesack said.

7. Make games out of basic household items. "A great go-to is 'Minute to Win It'-style games with things you find around the house," Kiesendahl suggested. "Throw M&M's on a spoon and run around an obstacle course, have kids pass a hula hoop while holding hands."

8. Take advantage of a hot day with safe water games. Dip sponges in water and have kids throw them at someone to try and knock an apple off their head, Kiesendahl suggested. "The sponges are soft so they're safe to throw, and it's a great way to cool down!" Get the whole family involved with the games: If the parents are the ones getting hit with a wet sponge, kids might be even more eager to participate.

9. Try a spin on a classic scavenger hunt. "For younger kids, instead of hiding scavenger hunt items around the yard, tell them to 'find something blue' or 'bring something back that's larger than your pinky,'" Dr. Lesack suggested. This requires less work on your part, too, since these objects likely already exist in the yard. You might even be surprised by what everyone finds!

10. Turn competitive games into art projects. Once kids have collected plenty of leaves, sticks, and flowers, help them make art projects out of what they find. "Buy some simple canvases and glue and have kids sit down and make nature collages after a scavenger hunt," Dr. Lesack said.

11. Make games educational. "Everyone gets to learn through play with a family field day," Dr. Lesack said. She suggested incorporating lessons kids might have learned in science class. For example, ask older kids to search for something that needs to be pollinated.

12. Get creative with themes. Themes are not necessary to have a successful field day, but they're an easy way to make your party creative. "Woodloch once organized superhero games where kids had to throw 'Thor's hammer' and toss a Frisbee that looked like Captain America's shield," Kiesendahl said.

13. Make your fiend day a phone-free event. "Parents, put your phones away!" Dr. Lesack said. "Our children have so much access to electronics, so a field day is a great way to show your children to get up, move, and develop a love of the outdoors."

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