Before you launch headlong into official orienteering events, it can be great fun to try it out yourself in the comfort of your own garden or a local park.

You can even do this type of orienteering indoors on a wet day when you’re at a loss as to what to do about the “There’s nothing to do…” and “I’m boooooorred…” moans.

Introductory Orienteering Game for Children aged 3+

There are multiple variations of this type of orienteering, known as Star Orienteering. I’ll give you some ideas to start off with and you’ll probably come up with your own variations as you go along.

For the youngest explorers, I find it best to leave out the map altogether so that they can first become familiar with finding controls in a small search area, what to do when they get there and what to do then! A ‘control’ is the orienteering name for the flag you are hunting.

I created this version initially to use with junior infants (aged 4+), but children of all ages enjoy variations of it. Children younger than 4 will need an older sibling or adult to help them for the first few games, but should manage easier games quite readily from about 2½.

The beauty of it is that it’s so easy to adapt to suit ability levels! In school, I often use it with older children as a fun way to have a quiz or a test, simply using quiz questions instead of pictures and a blank scorecard for their answers.

I have provided free downloadable samples of a simple matching game you can use with very young children, along with instructions to make your own version of this.

What you will need:

  • Variety of coloured card (one colour per control)
  • String or wool
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Images
  • Score card
  • Printer (You could draw of course!)
  • Crayons or pencils to play

What to do:

Print and cut out the control cards
Step 4
  1. Cut out two rectangles of each piece of coloured card. One will become the ‘Control’ and the other matching colour will remain at ‘The Base’.
  2. Punch or cut a hole in the corner of your control cards and thread a length of string through it.
  3. Decide upon difficulty level. I will describe here what to do with for the simplest game: Picture matching. You are free to use these Control Cards I’ve already made, or you can make your own. I used to make mine.
  4. Print, cut out and punch a hole in each of the large images.
  5. Thread one of these onto each control card. It’s as simple as that!

    Print and cut out score cards
    Step 5
  6. Now that you have your control cards ready, you will also need a scorecard. Again,  you are free use these Score Cards one I’ve made for you!

Setting up the Game:

Okay, so now you have your scorecard and your control flags and a second set of coloured cards. What on earth do you do with them all???

Firstly, decide where you are going to play the game. Look at the area and set your ‘Base’ up at a location where you will be able to see all the controls – and therefore be able to watch the children to ensure their safety.

Have Fun!
Hang the controls around the garden

Position your control flags around your search area. They could be tied to a tree branch, dangling from garden furniture or hanging from your playset. Make sure they are visible from your base and safely within reach of the smallest player!

Hold the second set in your hand or spread them out on a chair or table.

How to Play:

Children can play individually, in pairs or even in small teams, it doesn’t matter. What does matter though, is that pairs/teams must always stay together and work together to take turns. The best team might not always be the ‘winning’ team.

There is one score card per team / individual player.

All players line up at the Base, and a player from each team chooses a coloured card. They keep this with them.

Teams then go in search of the matching coloured card to find out what is at the control. When they reach the control, they circle the matching image on their scorecard.

Next, they return to Base, replace this coloured card and choose a new coloured card. This process is repeated until they have matched up all the images.

Have FUN!!! 🙂

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