Sidewalk Chalk - My Favorite Learning Tool

When the weather is nice, the kids (and Mom) are itching to get outside and play. I personally like the playing to learn approach. Did you know there's an outdoor world of math and reading fun that awaits you and all you need is sidewalk chalk, dice, and your imagination? Anything we can do inside on paper can be done outside on the driveway or sidewalk, as long as we don't care if it eventually gets "erased" by rain or sprinklers. Not only do the kids and I get to exercise our brains but we also get to exercise our bodies. I get to stretch my hamstrings and quads as I bend over to draw game boards or numbers, and the kids get to hop, skip, and jump around. Here are a few favorite sidewalk games I'd like to share. You can adapt any of them to the abilities of your children, and multiple ages can play together.

Numbered Ladder Game

Draw a long, long ladder with at least 25 rungs, each rung big enough for a kid to stand in. Number each rung starting with 1 and going to 25. You also need a dice.

Rules - Grown-up throws the dice and the child hops up that many spaces on the ladder. If they land on an even number, they have to go back 1 space. Continue on until you have a winner.

Multiplication Ladder

Use the same ladder as above.

Rules - The child rolls 2 dice and multiplies the 2 numbers together. He/she then totally covers in the answer square with chalk (their choice of color.) They continue until they've covered every square they possibly can, and then discuss why there are squares that won't ever be covered.

Division Ladder

Again, use the same ladder as above.

Rules - Hand the chalk to your child and ask them to put a yellow triangle around any numbers that can be divided by 2. Next have them put a blue circle around any numbers that can be divided by 5, a pink square around any numbers that can be divided by 10, etc.

Numbers Bingo

Draw out as many bingo boards as there are kids and put a number in each square. The kids can collect a pile of rocks or something for markers.
Rules - Depending on the skill level, yell out an addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division problem for them to solve. They then cover the answer with a rock. The one who gets bingo is the winner. You can change the mathematic function with each game.

The Reading Trail

Draw a trail of boxes and arrows down the sidewalk. Draw a box, then arrows directing them to the next box, about 10 feet away, and so on. At the end could be a beautiful drawing, if you're artistically inclined, or a small prize, or a hug from you. In each box, depending on your child's reading level, write a single word or a sentence.

Rules - Your child starts at the beginning and moved on when he/she reads the word or sentence.

Reading Obstacle Course

Set up an obstacle course with a sentence or word chalked between each obstacle. For example; sentence, zig zag around cones, sentence, jump through the hula hoop, sentence, balance walk on a length of string, sentence, jump over the blue "river" chalked on the ground. If you want, all your obstacles can be drawn on the sidewalk instead of using real items.

Rules - Read the sentence and go through the obstacle!

Color Me

Are you currently working on body parts, the circulatory system, or the heart? Let the kids chalk it out while narrating what they know. Themes like communities, animal lifecycles, wildlife, nature, your family tree, etc. are fun to draw out. Younger kids can work on color recognition.

The Alphabet Board

Make a giant game board with 25 squares. Put a letter of the alphabet on each square in random order, excluding the letter "x".

Rules - Each kid has to start at the beginning and take each square one at a time. They have to come up with 5 words that start with that letter/sound before they can move on. To make it harder for the older ones, ask them to also come up with a word or two that end with that letter.

As you can see, it's fun to learn with a stick of sidewalk chalk in your hand. I hope these games get you outside and get your imagination working as you tweak them to fit your needs. Have a great time and may the rain stay far away from your creations!

About the Author

Peggy Baron plays with her kids in Colorado, and runs, a website devoted to helping parents and kids have fun together in the kitchen. Peggy is the editor of the popular Cookin' Kids Newsletter, a bi-monthly newsletter with fun facts, recipes, jokes, games, cooking safety, and cooking terms wrapped around different themes.