16 of the Best Outdoor Games for Kids
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.
1. Capture the FlagHere’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.
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.
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 TagIn 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 PoloThis 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 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 SaysA 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!