As the school year winds down, schools everywhere host their annual field day. The day is filled with games, relays, and lots of laughs and memories! Let’s ramp up the fun and connect field day with reading and books! It’s a great way to tie together two things that kids love and make field day extra special. Here are 8 book-themed field day activities that your students will talk about for years to come!
A book or literacy-themed field day is a great way to bring books to life for our kids. We can give them a chance to “jump into the action” of some of their favorite books. In the weeks leading up to field day, you can even give teachers a list of the books that they can read to their class to help build excitement and anticipation. Then on the big day, students will love connecting these books to the field day activities they are participating in.
1. Beware of Falling Food!
The beloved book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett is the perfect inspiration for a field day relay race. For this water relay, students will be divided into teams. They will race with cups of water to see which team will be the first to fill a bucket. I’ve also seen this type of relay done with a cup or small bucket that has holes in it – making it more challenging.
But why stop at an ordinary water relay? While racing, students will need to be aware of and doge falling food! Teachers and parents can help on the sidelines by filling the air with falling food (aka tossing water balloons)! It’s sure to be a water relay your students will love!
2. The Wild Things Race
What has three legs or three heads? Why, wild things, of course! Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is the inspiration for your field day three-legged race. Students will pair up and stand side by side. Using a velcro strap or strip of fabric, their two middle legs are tied together, creating three legs. Students will work together to run to the finish line without falling.
This type of relay can also be done as a three-headed wild thing race. Instead of working in pairs, groups of three students will become a three-headed team by putting on an extra large t-shirt. The student in the middle puts their head through the main hole in the shirt, while the students on the sides put their heads through the arm holes. The three-headed wild things then race to the finish line using teamwork and communication.
3. Gingerbread Man Tag
“Run, run, as fast you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!” Kids of all ages know these lines from the beloved book The Gingerbread Man by Gail Yerrill. With the challenge of getting caught, it’s the perfect book to inspire a game of tag.
For a game of Gingerbread Man Tag, choose 2 or 3 students to play the characters that chased the Gingerbread Man. They will be the taggers. The rest of the class tries to run away without being caught. If a student gets tagged they must sit down.
The last student running is crowned the gingerbread man. If time is available for another round, the gingerbread man becomes a tagger.
This is one of the field day activities that students will love but requires very little prep or supplies! Having a few of those in the mix will make organizing and preparing for field day a little easier.
4. Monkey Relay
If you aren’t familiar with the classic book Caps for Sale by Esphyr Solbodkina you are missing out. This fun story of a peddler, his caps, and a band of mischievous monkeys has been a favorite for many years. This book inspires the monkey relay for field day. All you need are some hanging monkey game pieces from the Barrel of Monkeys game.
Students work in teams to build a monkey chain that is 10 monkeys long. Each team should be divided so that half of the students are on one side of the relay and the other half of the students are on the other side. The first student starts by holding one monkey in their hand. They must then use the monkey arms to grab a second monkey before walking to the other side of the relay.
When they reach the other side they must hand off the monkey chain to the next person. That person must then attach another monkey to the chain before walking back. Any monkeys that fall off must stay on the ground. Teams continue to go back and forth until they build a monkey chain that is 10 monkeys long. The final person must successfully walk back to their team without losing monkeys to win.
This fun relay requires balance, hand-eye coordination, and patience! You can adjust the number of monkeys needed to win to fit your students. Younger students might be challenged with 5 or 6 monkeys while older students might need 10 or more.
5. Obstacle Course
When it comes to beloved field day activities, the obstacle course is definitely a favorite. This year, the obstacle course takes inspiration from a loved children’s book character, Peter Rabbit. We all know the beloved story of The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.
Peter loved going to Mr. McGregor’s vegetable garden. But when Mr. McGregor comes out Peter must make a quick getaway. Let this be the inspiration for setting up your field day obstacle course.
Students can start by running to a pile of plastic food and picking out 3 vegetables. The vegetables must be carried in a basket as they walk along a balance beam or narrow board on the ground. Once completed they can run like Peter to the next obstacle where they have to jump over a shovel, rake, and other gardening tools. Before finishing, students will need to crawl under the “fence” (aka a desk or tunnel made of arched pool noodles) to escape the angry gardener. The first team to have everyone through the course wins!
6. Football Toss Without Footballs
Tossing footballs through a hoop is a classic field day game. Add some fun by converting this game into a game of feeding the old lady who likes to eat everything! There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback makes the perfect background for a tossing game.
Ask the art teacher or a parent if they can create a large stand-up mural of the old lady with her mouth cut out. Then grab a variety of items from the books for students to toss. Plastic flies and spiders, along with stuffed animals or other random objects from any of the Old Lady books, are the perfect tossing items for this field day game. No footballs needed!
Field day would not be complete without a game of tug-of-war! It just might be the top of all field day activities. For this book-inspired version, pairing students up against teachers and parents is a great way to make it feel like an impossible task. And. . . it’s the perfect game for the mantra “I think I can, I think I can.” Inspire your students to work together to complete something that seems difficult using The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper as the example.
With a challenge ahead of them, your students will rely on teamwork, perseverance, and a little hard work to try and beat the adults.
8. Hungry Hippo Game
Have you seen the scooter board game Hungry, Hungry Hippo? It’s the perfect addition to any field day! But instead of a hungry hippo, let your students become Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel! Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton is the perfect book companion for this game!
The game starts with a pile of small plastic balls in the center of the court. Each team sends out one steam shovel pair at a time. One student lies on their belly on the scooter board, while the second student drives and steers them by pushing on their legs. The student on the scooter board holds a small laundry basket out in front of them. This becomes the steam shovel bucket.
When the game starts, the pair races to the center of the court and tries to “dig up” as many of those plastic balls as they can by capturing them in their laundry basket. It’s a fast-paced game filled with lots of laughs! If you need to see this game in action, check out this short video on YouTube.
Plan Your Book-Themed Field Day Activities
As you can see, with a little creativity and your favorite books, you can plan some amazing field day activities for your school! Choose these activities or add some based on books your students love. You could even have a contest where students can create a book-themed field day game. The winner gets to see their game in action on field day!
Whatever you decide, I know that pairing books and field day is sure to create an event that will be loved by students, teachers, and parents!
Save These Field Day Activities
Make sure to pin this to your favorite book or field day Pinterest board so that you can come back when you are ready to start planning your big event!