Can garden football games improve academic achievement?

It’s the Women’s FA Cup Final! Did you know there’s a strong link between physical activity, fresh air, having fun and academic achievement? Here we share some interesting evidence, plus some garden football games you can play with family and friends.

How can garden football games improve academic achievement?

There are many factors that impact academic achievement including getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and having the right support at home. But here we focus on the positive effects of playing games outside in the fresh air with family and friends.

Taking exercise

Numerous studies link regular physical activity to academic achievement. A paper compiled by the Youth Sport Trust found that children who are physically active concentrate for longer and show higher levels of attainment.

Research published by the National Academy of Sciences shows the same findings. They also discovered that mathematics and literacy are the subjects most improved when children take more physical exercise.

Physical activity has a positive effect on mental health. Regular exercise reduces stress and anxiety, improves mood and increases self-esteem, all of which have a positive impact on academic achievement.

So, how much physical exercise is enough?

It’s recommended that children aged 6-17 get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day!

Getting plenty of fresh air

There is a growing body of evidence that shows getting fresh air, especially when combined with physical activity, has numerous benefits for the body and brain.

A study published by Sue Waite at Plymouth University found that four out of five parents believed camping positively effected their child’s school education.

Spending time outside increases children’s intake of vitamin D which is neuroprotective. Plus, being outside means they breathe more oxygen, and 20% of the oxygen we breathe is used for brain function. Spending time outside means they can focus better and think more clearly.

Also, did you know the more oxygen we breathe the more serotonin the brain releases?

Seratonin is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy, relaxed and refreshed – all of which affects academic achievement.

Having lots of fun

Having fun is really good for us! It reduces the stress hormone cortisol, boosts the immune system, improves cardiovascular health and releases feel-good endorphins. All these factors have a significant, positive impact on mental and physical health.

We all believe that happier, healthier children learn better and a wealth of studies confirm this is true.

Garden football games

You can play these games with two people, four people or more. All that’s important is getting outside, having exercise and lots of fun.

Touch football

Divide your group into two teams and decide how long the game will be (20 or 30 minutes perhaps?). Make a goal at each end of the garden – use anything you can find as goal markers.

Just like football, the aim is for each team to score goals with a football and to stop the other team from doing so.  But, unlike football, there are no goal keepers.

To stop a player scoring a goal a member of the other team must touch them (instead of tackling them). Once a player has been touched, they drop the ball and stop running.

The team that scores the most goals in the time wins!

Flag football

This is exactly the same as touch football except each player wears a belt with two flags attached to it. To stop play, the defender must remove one of the flags from the ball carrier’s belt.

Handkerchiefs, dishcloths or scraps of fabric can be used for flags.

Family scrimmage

Divide your group into two teams and decide how long the game will be. The aim of the game is for each team to score goals with a ball (and stop each other from scoring goals) just like football.

Unlike football, you don’t need goalkeepers. Also, the ball can be passed between players by handing or throwing the ball to each other as well as kicking it.

One team can stop the other from passing the ball and scoring goals by tackling, just like football.

When a team scores a goal, they earn 6 points. The team with the most points by the end of the game wins.

Obstacle course

Make a football obstacle course using anything you have in the garden, shed or house (flowerpots, skipping ropes, plastic trucks, buckets etc).

Have fun passing, dribbling and shooting a football to complete the course.

You could use a timer to see who can complete the course in the fastest time.


How many times can you keep a football in the air without letting in touch the ground? Take turns to keep score!

Accuracy challenge

Set up a target like a hula hoop, target board or a bucket a reasonable distance away. Divide the group into two teams.

One person from team A tries to kick the ball to the target. Someone from team B stands between the person and the target and tries to stop the ball from reaching the target by using their foot. It’s a bit like piggy in the middle.

If the person from team A scores, they get a point for their team. They have three attempts to score.

Switch players until everyone has had a turn at scoring and stopping.

The team with the most points wins the game.

Our tutors believe learning should be active and enjoyable

We hope you’ve enjoyed our garden game ideas. At Tutormykids we strongly believe that learning should be active and fun. All our tutors are qualified teachers who are dedicated to motivating children and igniting a love of learning that lasts a lifetime.

We offer home tuition in English, maths, sciences, humanities and languages to children in Cambridge, Ely, Huntingdon, Newmarket and the surrounding areas. Please get in touch for a chat: