Remember all the fun you had running around outside when you were a kid? Well, at the risk of sounding a million years old, kids these days are more likely to be staring at their iPads than playing a game of Red Rover. Coax your brood into getting some fresh air with these outdoor games for kids that are guaranteed to keep them entertained.
26 of the Best Outdoor Games for Kids
PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. All prices are accurate upon date of publish. You can learn more about the affiliate process here.
1. Capture the Flag
Here’s an oldie but goodie that you might remember from your summer camp days. To play, divide kids into two teams and give each side a flag or another marker. Designate a fairly large playing area and split it into two roughly equal halves. (Don’t worry about trees or bushes in the way—obstacles just add to the fun.) The aim of the game is to run to the other team’s “territory,” capture their flag and make it back safely to your own side. But watch out: If you get tagged by someone from the opposite team while in their space, you get sent to jail. Fortunately, you can bust out if a member from your own team runs over to tag you free. (Remember: Only one person can bust out per jailbreak!) The game ends when one team manages to capture the flag from the other team and safely return to their own territory. Take things up a notch by playing this classic game at night with these glow-in-the-dark bracelets.
2. Duck, Duck, Goose
Little kids love this silly game where everyone sits in a circle and waits for the “tagger” to touch their noggin. As this person walks around and touches heads, they say either “duck” or “goose.” If they say “duck,” then nothing happens—but if they say “goose,” then that person has to get up and try to catch the tagger before they make it around the circle and take the empty spot. If the tagger gets caught, then they have to sit in the middle of the circle and the catcher now continues the game as the new tagger.
3. Hide and Seek
This one doesn’t really need explaining, does it? Just in case, here’s a quick refresher: One person is “the seeker” and closes their eyes to count to a certain number (ten seconds might be enough for small spaces, while 100 seconds might be better for larger ones). The seeker then has to try to find where the other players are hiding. The first one to be found becomes the next seeker and the last one wins the round.
4. Red Light, Green Light
The name of the game? Be the first person to reach the traffic light. One person (let’s call him Sam) is “it” (i.e., the traffic light) and stands with his back toward the other players, who are standing side by side in a line at least 15 feet away. When Sam calls “green light,” the other players move toward him until he spins around and says “red light,” and everyone has to freeze. Sam then turns back around and does it all again. If anyone is spotted moving during “red light,” they have to go back to the starting line. The first person to reach the traffic light and tag Sam wins.
5. Freeze Tag
In this fun twist on a classic, the person who is “it” chases the other kids to try to tag them (just like in the traditional game)—but if a player is tagged, they must freeze and remain frozen until another player (who hasn’t been tagged) tags them and unfreezes them. The game ends when everyone’s tired from too much fun.
6. Four Square
You’ll need a ball and some chalk to play this schoolyard favorite. Use the chalk to divide a square court into four smaller squares and number them one through four. One player stands in each square and the ball is bounced from player to player. There are a lot of different rules and variations to this game (like double bouncing in each square or having two players in each square), but whoever breaks the rule or fails to bounce the ball has to move down a square. The person in square one makes the rules, and the object of the game is to stay in this prized position for as long as possible.
Use chalk to make a hopscotch board on the pavement and number the squares from one to nine. The first player stands behind the starting line and tosses a rock onto square one. She hops over the rock to square two and then continues hopping on one foot all the way to square nine. Then she turns around and hops back again. Next, the same player tosses the rock onto square two and repeats the pattern. If a player tosses their rock and misses the correct square, their turn is over.
This entertaining game is basically the opposite of hide-and-seek. Here’s how it works: One person hides while the others count. If you find the hidden person, then you join them in their hiding spot. The last person to find the group loses. (No peeking while counting, cheaters.)
9. Marco Polo
This is generally a summer game, since you need a pool to play it. Get all the kids in the water and have one of them close their eyes and count to ten. Keeping their eyes closed, the player calls out “Marco” to which everyone replies “Polo.” The person who is “it” has to try to catch one of the other players without looking. The person who gets caught then gets to be “it.”
10. Jump Rope
It’s fun to jump on your own, but it’s even more fun to do it with others. You’ll need three players and two ropes for double Dutch (two to work the ropes and one to jump) and there are plenty of rhymes that can add more fun. Here are some ideas and a jump rope for kids to get you started.
11. Kick the Can
This one is similar to hide-and-seek but with a punting twist. Start the game the same way you would the classic version, but place a can in the middle of the play area. Once “it” has finished counting, he goes off to find the other players. If a person is tagged, then they have to go to a holding pen. But if one of the un-captured players manages to kick the can, everyone in the holding pen is released. The game is over when “it” has captured everyone.
12. Simon Says
A go-to for boring car rides, let your kids stretch their limbs by taking the game to the great outdoors. One player is designated as Simon and starts by saying “Simon says [insert action].” Everyone then has to complete the action. But here’s the trick: If Simon makes a request without actually prefacing it with “Simon says,” then anyone who does that action is out. The last person standing gets to be Simon for the next round.
13. Red Rover
Two teams stand in parallel lines facing each other and holding hands. Keep the groups a good distance apart—about 20 feet. One line starts by declaring who they want sent over, yelling “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Jenny right over.” Jenny then has to leave her team’s line and run as fast as she can toward the other team and try to break through the hands. If she breaks through, then she gets to take someone back to her team. But if she doesn’t, she now has to join that line. The line that gets down to one person first loses.
You’ll need to purchase a large parachute for this one, but trust us, it’s worth the investment. There are so many different ways to play with the ’chute, but here are some ideas: Players can toss it all the way up and all the way down, they can throw it up into the air and then run underneath or they can place objects on top of the parachute and make them jump. The possibilities (and fun) are endless.
Kind of like volleyball, this game is great for kids of all ages (and grown-ups too). To play, stand around the net and toss the ball down onto it. As it bounces back up, another player hits the ball back down to the net. Keep going until players have had enough (which takes a while, in our experience).
16. Scavenger Hunt
This one takes some planning, but kids love running around the backyard or park trying to collect all the items on their list. Here are some ideas to get you started: something colorful, a pinecone, a flat rock, a flower or something pokey. Get creative!
Wallball, a schoolyard classic sometimes called handball, requires nothing more than a big bouncy ball and an outdoor wall. There are several variations on the game that you can read about here, but the simplest one involves using a fist or the palm to bounce the ball to the ground, such that it hits the wall and bounces back to another player who must repeat the process without pause. Players must bounce the ball in turn; anyone who can’t make it to the ball in time on their turn (and send it back to the wall with one and only one bounce on the ground in between) is out, as is any player who makes contact with the ball out of turn.
18. Water Balloon Toss
A staple at summer birthday parties and a fine choice for whenever the weather is warm and two or more kids need entertaining, a water balloon toss is an exciting outdoor activity that, as the name suggests, involves tossing a water balloon back and forth. The catch? With every successful toss, the player who caught the water balloon must take one step back before sending it through the air to their (now more distant) partner. If the balloon drops and doesn’t break, the game proceeds…and if the balloon can’t go the distance or handle the impact, someone’s sure to get splashed.
19. Pokémon Go!
Presenting, an outdoor virtual scavenger hunt that Pokémon fans can play anywhere they go—including on boring errands with you. This smartphone game involves earning Pokémon items by checking in at points of interest throughout your city or town, some of which might be located on your own cul-de-sac or in the backyard, while others require traveling to public places, like a local park. The game promises flexible and exciting play no matter what the day has in store, plus plenty of motivation to get outside and explore.
20. Ultimate Frisbee
Beloved by college jocks and little kids alike, ultimate frisbee is a mash-up between a classic frisbee toss and a game of tackle-free football, in which a frisbee replaces the pig skin and pass the flying disc to members of their own team in an attempt to get it to the other side and score without it being intercepted in the process. Needless to say, this outdoor game requires a wide open (and preferably grassy) space and enough kids to form two separate teams. Still, it’s a winning choice for larger outdoor gatherings, like birthday parties and BBQ gatherings in the park.
21. Mini Golf
This one requires little explanation—namely because it’s a well-known fact that mini golf is a blast for kids of all ages and their adult chaperones, and far more manageable for pint-sized players than, say, trying to get a hole-in-one on a regular putting green. Plan a trip to a mini golf course near you and you’re guaranteed a full day of outdoor fun for the whole fam.
For those who aren’t familiar with this two or four-player racquet sport, badminton is a bit like tennis…except instead of a ball that bounces, you have a birdie that flies through the air and (hopefully) doesn’t make contact with the ground. You’ll need some special gear for this one—specifically, racquets, birdies (i.e., shuttlecocks) and a net (get the whole kit here), but you can skip the latter and just demarcate a line on the ground if you don’t want to spring for the whole set-up. Either way, the fun is well-worth the investment and the play is entertaining for kids of all ages.
Here, a tried-and-true outdoor game that involves one player crouching on the ground while the other player puts their hands on their back and frog leaps over them before switching places. The leapfrog sequence repeats until one of the players—two are required, but it’s even more fun with a crowd—reaches the edge of the yard. A lawn race without the competitive aspect, this simple, sweet and silly game is a shoo-in for the pre-K crowd.
SPUD is a combination of freeze tag and dodgeball in which players have a few seconds to run away from a “thrower” before freezing in place and doing their darndest to dodge the ball without moving their feet. (For obvious reasons, a soft foam ball is recommended for play.) Once a semi-stationary player fails to evade the ball, they collect the letter “S” and take over the role of thrower. The game continues until one player has collected all four letters in S-P-U-D…but really, there are no losers here.
This quintessentially English lawn game for two, four or six players involves using a wooden mallet to maneuver balls through hoops (or wickets) that have been staked into the grass. It’s not as simple as it sounds, though, since the balls have to make their way through the hoops and across the lawn in a particular sequence and hit a peg at the end without moving other balls, hoops or pegs out of place en route. Read up on all the rules here; then, ready the cucumber sandwiches and let the games begin!
Kickball is a beloved schoolyard ball game that’s basically played like baseball, but with a much bigger (and bouncier) ball and kicking instead of bat swinging. You can play this one on a baseball diamond at the local park or set up bases on any open field you have access to; however you make it happen, it’s a surefire way to keep a group of kids entertained and exercising for a good long time.