Field Day Inspiration & Tips

What’s more invigorating than a day outdoors engaging your participants in therapeutic activities? Scheduling a Field Day is a perfect opportunity for your participants to enjoy new and familiar outdoor activities while burning off some energy.  

What is a Field Day?

Traditionally, a field day is a springtime event held at schools. Field days celebrate the school year coming to an end by engaging in a day full of outdoor activities.

Should field days only be reserved for spring? Or schools? Of course not!

A field day is a great activity idea that Recreational Therapists can use whenever the weather allows. And, more importantly, it could be adapted to just about any population.   

Common Field Day Activities

You can customize your field day activities based on your participants’ interests and needs. There are plenty of options you can explore including:

group of people enjoying a field day activity
  • Relay races
  • Obstacle courses
  • Water balloon activities
  • Three-legged race
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Tossing games (bean bags, horseshoes, etc.)
  • Team Building Challenges
  • Track and Field Events
  • Dodgeball
  • Bocce
  • Parachute games
  • Hula hoop competition
  • Variations of your participants’ favorite outdoor activities

Be creative. Combine activities to make things more interesting. You want to make it a memorable day for your participants (and staff) so they’ll look forward to the next outdoor event.

Organize Your Field Day Event

What’s the best way to implement your field day activity? Here are a couple of things to consider…

Competitive or Just for Fun?

Are your participants motivated by competition? Think you can add some teachable moments during the competition?

Divide your participants into teams. Assign point values based on how each team places in each field day activity. 

For example, a team that placed 1st in an event gets five points, 2nd gets 3 points, and 3rd gets one point. 

Tally up the points at the end of the day and have a special prize or outing for the winning team.

But a field day doesn’t have to be competitive. For some populations, just participating in the activities will be enjoyable enough…and easier to implement if you are short on staff or volunteers.  

Add a Theme That Resonates

While this isn’t always necessary, a theme can add another dimension to the field day. 

It could be something as simple as Fall into Fun or Welcome Spring. 

If you work with specific populations a theme like Sober Day Outside or Seniors Enjoying the Sun can create a sense of unity for the event. 

Choose a Format


If you want your field day to run well, the format is an important part of activity planning. Consider the format that works best for your facility, activity team, and participants. This can include:

  • Stations: Setting up various stations throughout the designated area. Schedule a rotation where each team visits a station. If competing, keep records of how each team does at a station.
  • Festival: Set up stations, but let the teams or individuals visit different activities at their leisure. Include other fun stations like face painting, a craft activity, or a healthy eating snack bar. This is a more relaxed version of a field day when competition isn’t the main focus.
  • Track and Field: If you have a larger group that likes to compete, you can schedule individuals or teams with similar abilities to go against each other in relay races, obstacle courses, tug of war, and other activities in heats. 

Adaptations for Your Field Day

Each population will need adaptations to the format and activities so the field day is therapeutic, cohesive, and enjoyable. 

For example, if you have individuals with mobility issues, consider how they will get to each activity. 

In the planning process, be sure to list what adaptive equipment is needed at each activity. 

Remember: The best activities challenge your participants without overwhelming them.

Outdoor Activity Considerations

A day outdoors comes with many variables that are out of your control. 

Those scorecards you worked hard to create can easily be swept up by a gust of wind and never seen again. 

Sunny days are great, but it’s essential to have shaded areas available for those who have sensitivities to sunlight due to medications, health conditions, etc. 

Being active outdoors also requires monitoring residents during hot days.

And, as activity professionals, we know a Plan B is always part of the planning process. How will you hold your participant’s excitement for a field day event when there’s a line of thunderstorms headed your way?  Have a large indoor space available?  Another indoor activity planned…just in case.

The Key for Successful Planning…

Communication. It’s that simple.

It’s difficult–probably impossible–for one Recreation Therapist or Activity Professional to successfully implement a field day. Save yourself some stress and make sure everyone involved is on the same page. 

A lot goes into planning a field day. Throughout every step of the planning process–including the event–you want to make sure you have a clear line of communication with everyone involved. 

Don’t assume people know what to do. While planning a field day event may be the main focus of your job for the moment, others aren’t on the same wavelength. 

It doesn’t mean you have to go all “type-A drill sergeant” on them. Just be mindful of what might not be on your team’s radar regarding the field day event. 

Here are some communication tips to help your field day run smoother:

  • Get suggestions and feedback well before the day of the event
  • Check-in with different disciplines (dietary, CNAs, maintenance, etc.) the week, day before, and the morning of the event
  • Assign and explain tasks
  • Write out instructions for each activity 
  • Explain the scoring process if applicable
  • Meet with your participants before the event to explain the process and expectations
  • Create clearly visible signs for each station  
  • Make schedules easily accessible to participants, volunteers, and staff
  • Be sure you are easily available when inevitable problems arise

Enjoy the Event

You probably have a million things running through your mind as you are planning and implementing a field day activity. It’s important to remain calm and focused. 

Easier said than done…right?

A participant is having a behavior at the water balloon event. Dietary is late bringing out the snacks. Two volunteers are paying more attention to their phones than recording the times for the obstacle course. And then someone comes up to you with a question that feels more like a personal attack on your event planning. 

Take a deep breath. Let it go through you. We’re all in this to have fun. If it’s clear you’re not having fun, what example is that setting for everyone else involved?

Be your best self even when things get chaotic. You’d be surprised how things tend to work themselves out when a field day is well planned and you’re creative with handling issues.

Have Questions? Got a Great Field Day Activity?

Comment below or start a discussion at the TRRT Facebook Group or TRRT Exclusive Community.

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Good suggestion and method to make it more fun. Thank you for sharing this.