If you are wondering what to do with all the eggs after the Easter egg hunt is over or if you are just looking for a fun way to get kids moving outside this spring, look no further than an Easter Egg Roll! Kids and adults can enjoy the thrill and give their hand-eye coordination, self control and emerging good sportsmanship a real workout, all without even realizing it.
This activity is featured in our April Activity Calendar. Download your free copy here.
Step 1: Dye eggs.
Dye enough soft-boiled eggs for each child to have about three shots at it, and maybe make extra in case you attract a few new friends who want to play. Learn how to dye your eggs using ingredients from nature here.
Step 2: Gather your materials.
Each egg roller needs a long-handled, flat-headed spoon. You may also want to bring something to indicate the start and finish line, like some ribbon or big “START” and “FINISH” signs. To help little ones stay focused, we also placed a stuffed bunny at the finish line and told them to roll the eggs to the bunny.
Step 3: Get outside.
Find a patch of grass long enough for a roll. About 20 yards is more than enough for kids 3 and younger. Go longer as kids get older.
Step 4: Line players up and demonstrate.
After a quick egg rolling demonstration, line up the players, spoons in hand, on the start line. Emphasize how delicate these eggs are before you start. You may even want to demonstrate how easy it is to crush an egg so kids know to be careful.
Step 5: Ready, set, race!
Whoever reaches the finish line first with no damage to their egg wins! With preschoolers, you might just be looking for the egg that is most intact or simply cheering if they manage to go in the right direction.
While you’re at it try some other games too—
Slalom—Set up “cones” (anything works, including upside-down yogurt containers) and challenge rollers to weave around the cones on their way to the finish. You can also include trees, rocks or other objects already part of your course.
Egg spoon race—Put eggs on a spoon and race to see who can finish without dropping or cracking their eggs.
Egg toss—Just as in a water balloon toss, partners toss an egg back and forth trying not to break it. After each successful round-trip toss, they take a giant step backwards, making the next toss even more harrowing for the delicate egg. The last pair with an unharmed egg wins.
Why is this activity great for kids?
Trying to use a spoon to roll a soft-boiled egg across grass without breaking it demands that kids’ eyes and hands work together, making it great for developing eye-hand coordination and essential fine-motor skills.
Fun as it is (and, it really is), kids also get a lesson in sportsmanship and persistence. Today, many adults work hard to shield kids from disappointment, leaving them under prepared to cope with life. But, there is no mistaking when you crush a soft boiled egg in the grass—you see and feel real results. The egg roll is meant to be fun, so go ahead and give kids as many mulligans as you want. But, you can also feel good knowing that, if and when their egg breaks, they will get some valuable practice with picking up the pieces and rolling on.
Perhaps most importantly, the egg roll is an exercise in self control. Anyone who rolls has to balance the desire to rush with the delicate nature of task. Even those too young not to break the egg are learning about their own limits as they play. Childhood self-control far exceeds intelligence as a predictor academic achievement, and provides the basis for mental flexibility, social skills and discipline. It predicts success in education, career and even marriage. Pretty sophisticated stuff for such a silly and fun Easter tradition!
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We think of self control as a child’s ability to focus on something in such a way that maximizes learning. In order to do that, they first need to direct their attention and focus on a single thing. They also need to discern which information around them is most important and deserving of their attention. Thirdly, they need something called “inhibition.” Think of inhibition as the ability to control impulses, block out distractions and continue attending to the same thing. Focus, discerning and inhibition all require rather fancy brain work and are thought to be part of the “executive functions” or the set of cognitive processes involving the prefrontal cortex that help us manage ourselves and the environment to achieve a goal.
Why does it matter?
Our world is full of distractions, more today than ever. Kids who are in any learning situation need the ability to control their impulses, block out noise and attend to the person, objects, events, or discussions that are central to learning. As classroom teachers, we saw that kids who did this ruled the classroom. As outdoor educators and parents, we know the same holds true outside of school.
But don’t take our word for it; the research is impressive. It turns out that these executive function skills are closely tied to success in the classroom, higher level education and life beyond school. Experts like Adele Diamond of the University of British Columbia have shown that, “If you look at what predicts how well children will do later in school, more and more evidence is showing that executive functions—working memory and inhibition—actually predict success better than IQ tests.” Although these skills are difficult for young children and don’t crystallize until adulthood, the more kids practice them, the better at them kids become.
What is an Active Lifestyle?
At the end of the day, there is nothing more important than our kids’ health. From our perspective, children cannot enjoy good health without an active lifestyle that incorporates regular, physical activity as well as time spent in nature. And, we can only influence how they use their time for a short part of their lives. If we really want to ensure their wellness for the long haul, we need to get our kids hooked on being active outdoors.
Two bits of good news: little kids naturally want to be physically active, and they love to be outdoors. So, the challenge we face is how to make active time outdoors a priority in our lives and how to teach our kids to do the same. Understandably, this is increasingly challenging in a culture that imposes so many schedules and structures around kids time. And it is all the more important when kids spend the majority of their waking hours indoors, staring at a screen, or living in communities in which the green spaces are fewer and more restricted than ever before.
Why does it matter?
Research in the past 25 years has confirmed a link between physical activity that takes place outdoors and positive health outcomes. Also, it has drawn an association between an indoor, sedentary lifestyle and negative health consequences. For young children, time to play, ramble and explore outdoors leads to the most extensive and lasting benefits—more than adult-led, structured outdoor activities like organized sports.
Perhaps the two most common issues in children’s health to which a lack of outdoor, physical activity contribute are childhood obesity and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]). Beyond the millions of overweight children, obesity rates have doubled for children (ages 6-11) and tripled for adolescents (ages 12-19) in just two decades. The number of children diagnosed with and medicated for ADHD continues to rise, and ADHD results in significant impairment to children socially and academically.
Studies have shown that lifestyles learned as children are much more likely to stay with a person into adulthood. For example, 70% of teens who are obese grow up to be obese adults. On the flip side, if physical activities and time spent outdoors are a family priority, they will provide children and parents with a strong foundation for a lifetime of health.
What are Fine Motor skills?
Fine motor skills refer to how we coordinate small muscle movements in the hands and fingers in conjunction with our eyes. Children begin with whole arm movements at birth and refine their movement, using smaller muscle groups as their bodies develop. With time and practice, children are able to enhance and strengthen the movements in their fingers, becoming able to manipulate small objects and perform a range of important life and learning tasks.
Why does it matter?
Kids need fine motor skills in order to perform every day tasks like using fork and knife, turning a door knob, cutting with scissors and catching and throwing a ball. These same skills are essential for tasks associated with higher level learning like hand writing and typing on a keyboard. If kids enter school without good fine motor skills, they can not only fall behind, but learning can become very frustrating. Moreover, they can develop lasting negative attitudes towards learning and themselves as learners.
Persistence & Grit
What are Persistence & Grit?
A persistent person can continue on a given course of action in spite of challenges or barriers that arise. In other words, persistence is the ability to stick with something and keep trying. It's partner, grit, is the strength of character, and sometimes courage, to allow one to persist. Those who possess grit don't mind rolling up their sleeves, focusing on the task at hand, and sticking with it to completion despite the challenges that come their way.
Why does it matter?
Talent is helpful, but it's hard work, persistence and grit that unlock talent and turn capable people into success stories. As Thomas Edison so famously said, "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." Practice with being persistent, including the chance to struggle and learn how to overcome struggle, will help kids later have ability to wade through and make sense of confusing new information, navigate difficult situations, and solve tough problems.
Further, studies like those discussed in Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman's NurtureShock tell us that kids will actually perform better when we praise their hard work instead of just telling them how smart or great they are. As parents, we also tend to offer kids activities which are enjoyable and attainable and, as such, too easy. Bear in mind that if we spare them frustration, we actually deny them the chance to work hard and develop persistence and grit.