Relationship Building

10 Activities to Get Your Students Moving

students drawing outside

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Whether your students are learning virtually in front of a computer screen or in-person with you at school, our students are in desperate need of physical activity. We all know the strain sitting in the same place all day can have on our bodies. This strain is no different for our little artists.

Here are 10 activities to help students burn off energy and learn in the process:

1. Chase the Rainbow

Sometimes kids need to run. Running is one of the best ways to get their blood pumping and their bodies moving. With that release of energy comes more focus on creation and listening skills.

  • In-Person Learning: Take a class of students outside and search for each color of the rainbow. When you say “Chase the rainbow!” and identify the object they should run to, they will run and touch the colored object and run back to you. For example, instruct students to touch a red slide, then an orange cone, then a yellow outdoor crate, and so forth until they have run to each rainbow color.
  • Virtual Learning: Have students try this active lesson in their own living space. They can set a timer to see how fast they can zip around to touch objects that are all the colors of the rainbow.

2. Water Drawing

Playing outside with water is always an engaging activity for students of all ages. With minimal materials, you can create a fun activity that involves a bit of outdoor play!

  • In-Person Learning: Fill spray bottles and condiment squeeze bottles with water, ensuring each of your students has their own water tool. Take students outside to a flat blacktop or concrete area and demonstrate how to draw with water using the spray bottle and squeeze bottle. You could even have students answer art prompts by drawing on an outdoor surface. For example, ask students to “Draw a 3D cube,” or “Write the three primary colors,” using their water squeeze bottle.
  • Virtual Learning: Have students fill a water bottle with water and find a place outside their living space to carefully draw with the water using a prompt you’ve provided. They may also want to take a picture of their water creation for you to see.

3. Nature Walk

We are lucky enough to have access to a school forest right outside the back of our school. Our forest is filled with walking trails, class-sized seating areas, and benches for nature observation. Whatever the space around your school looks like, you can be inventive with how to organize a nature walk.

student holding leaf

  • In-Person Learning: Take a nature walk with your students to observe natural elements, draw from observation, or collect materials for art projects, such as leaves, for texture rubbing.
  • Virtual Learning: Using the artist Andy Goldsworthy as an inspiration,  have students create small collections of natural art forms. They can submit a photo for you to review or talk about their creation during your virtual meeting time.

4. Sidewalk Chalk Drawing

Our artists absolutely love any excuse to play with sidewalk chalk. You can even make sidewalk chalk yourself or with your students.

sidewalk chalk

  • In-Person Learning: Take your students outside to decorate the sidewalk near your school entrance with positive images and phrases. You can also play a round of “complete the drawing” where you draw a squiggle or shape for a student to build off of to create an inventive drawing.
  • Virtual Learning: Have your students create positive messages and drawings on their driveway, apartment steps, sidewalk, or an available area outside their living space to inspire those who pass by.

5. Obstacle Course

There are endless possibilities to add to an obstacle course. Using that inventive art teacher brain of yours, brainstorm ideas to get your students up and running.

  • In-Person Learning: Using borrowed materials from your physical education teacher, or drawing with sidewalk chalk, create an obstacle course for your artists. Some parts of the course can involve checking for knowledge such as “How many primary colors are there? Do that many jumping jacks,” or “Draw a pattern in the air before moving to the next station.”
  • Virtual Learning: Have students think about creating an obstacle course for a friend or family member. They may want to set up the obstacle course outside using sidewalk chalk and outdoor recreational objects or inside within their living space.

How to Get Moving in the Art Classroom


6. Body Shapes

Learning to move your body in inventive ways is another way to get your artist’s blood pumping. They can practice making their body into letters, lines, shapes, patterns, and more.

  • In-Person Learning: Take your students outside or to an open area and give them prompts for creating shapes with their bodies. Try asking students to “Create a pattern with your whole class. Some students need to be a line, and some students need to be a dot with their body,” or “Use your body to show me three kinds of shapes.”
  • Virtual Learning: Have students stand up and back away from the camera. Instruct students to create patterns with their arms, stretch their bodies into shapes, or use their bodies to spell out letters. You may also want to take a screenshot of your computer to share.

7. Egg-Chicken-Dinosaur-Royalty

This game is a fun one to help students remember sequencing while also getting students to move their bodies at different height levels.

  • In-Person Learning: Check that your students know how to play rock-paper-scissors. Teach them the varying movements that correspond to each level of the game. An “egg” waddles around in a ball low to the ground. A “chicken” flaps its arms like wings. A “dinosaur” stands up and makes claws with their hands. “Royalty” crosses their arms elegantly. All students start as an “egg” and play rock-paper-scissors against each other (they must play against a person who is at their same level. Egg plays egg, chicken plays chicken, and so on.) Winners of the round of rock-paper-scissors advance to the next level, and losers stay at their current level. The goal is to get an entire class to advance to royalty and then play again!
  • Virtual Learning: This one is tricky for virtual learning, but you could always explain the game to your students and see if they want to try the game with a small group of people in their living space.

8. Foreground, Middle Ground, Background

This game is another sneaky trick to get kids up and running. It works best outside in a large space.

students drawing outside

  • In-Person Learning: Start by bringing a class of students to a large outdoor space. Then, explain the main parts of a landscape, foreground, middle ground, and background. Assign certain students to run to a designated spot representing the foreground, middle ground, and background. When you say “Go!” snap a picture so students can clearly see themselves within the landscape.
  • Virtual Learning: Use this same concept of identifying foreground, middle ground, and background, but have students move to different parts of the room to demonstrate their understanding of these concepts.

9. Artful Four Square

If your school already has a foursquare court, you are ready to go. Otherwise, use sidewalk chalk or ropes to signify the edges of a large four-square court.

  • In-Person Learning: While playing traditional four square, have students list something each time they hit the ball. For example, “Name a color,” or “Name a shape,” on each hit. If students hit the ball without saying a word that fits the category, they are automatically out.
  • Virtual Learning: Change up this traditional game of foursquare to an online format but having students stand up and stretch, then unmute to say a word and make a corresponding motion and “pass” the motion to a friend in the class. The friend receives the motion by doing it on camera first, then makes up their own motion and corresponding word.

10. Art Teacher Says

This is a simple play on the game “Simon Says,” but of course, it’s “Art Teacher Says.” After a few rounds, you can also invite other students to be the “Art Teacher” in charge.

  • In-Person Learning: Start by having students stand up in an open space. This is a game of motions and actions that are directly related to art content learning. For example, “Art Teacher says to draw concentric circles in the air,” or “Art Teacher says to recite the art mantra in a whisper.” If students do the task, but the “Art Teacher” doesn’t start with the phrase, “Art Teacher says,” they are out and can sit down to stretch and observe other students.
  • Virtual Learning: You can play this game the same virtually; simply keep the motions to something that can be performed on the screen instead of needing to unmute microphones. For example, “Art Teacher says to make two parallel lines with your arms,” or “Art Teacher says to pretend you are Jackson Pollock splatter painting.”

Hopefully, these quick motion games will break up your lessons to get students to be just a little more active. On the plus side, you and your students will also get to enjoy a much-needed break.

What games do you like to play with your students to get them moving?

What time of day is it most important to give you and your students’ movement breaks?

What lessons or activities do you find work best outside?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Sarah Krajewski

Sarah Krajewski, an elementary school art educator, is AOEU’s Social Media Content Creator and a former AOEU Writer.

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