In this new digital age, many kids are spending their downtime inside on devices. While this isn’t always a negative, there are multitudes of studies demonstrating the benefits of kids spending time outdoors.
From vitamin D and exercise to socialization, improved sensory skills including coordination and cognitive function, outdoor play is proving to be a crucial aspect of childhood which cannot be skipped.
Outdoor play is also proven to decrease stress and improve happiness, so we have come up with 50 super fun outdoor games for kids (and adults too)!
Some of these games are oldies but goodies, some are new takes on old games and some you may have never come across before at all!
Studies show that unstructured outdoor play promotes creativity, which is a wordy way of saying that even though we’ve given you rules, they’re made to be broken! If your little ones come up with a better variation, go with it!
In fact, we’d love to know if there’s a more fun way we should be playing our games!
Here are 25 Awesome Outdoor Games your kids will love:[toc]
1. Simon Says
An oldie but a goodie, Simon says is one of those games that works for all ages, requires no equipment or props (but they can be a fun addition), can be as high or low energy as you want and can keep everyone thoroughly entertained.
What’s great is that it works across all ages. The bigger kids can either play Simon, or, they can help the little ones. It’s easy to explain the rules and it’s so much fun for the kids.
- Best For: All-Ages
- Number of Players: Minimum of three people (1 Simon and 2 players)
- What You’ll Need: Nothing but yourself for a traditional version of Simon Says.
How to Play: One person stands up the front as the leader, with the rest of the players facing them. The leader is “Simon” and Simon gives commands with two variations, saying either:
- Simon says sit on the ground!
- Sit on the ground!
If Simon starts the command with “Simon says” then everyone must quickly do what Simon says, which in this example, is sit on the ground. If the phrase “Simon says” isn’t used, the players ignore Simon. If anyone gets caught not following correctly then they’re out.
So, if someone follows a command which didn’t start with “Simon says”, they’re out. Or, if they ignore a command which does start with the phrase “Simon Says” then they’re out.
The great thing about this game is that you can make the game as hard or as easy as you want. If you have some kids who need to burn some energy then Simon might tell them to run around the yard three times. If it’s a hot day, Simon might tell everyone to jump in the pool or spray each other with the hose.
You can also use props to spice the game up. We love playing a version where everyone has dress-ups next to them (hats/necklaces/sweaters etc) and you can incorporate them into the game.
Some great fun Simon commands:
- Simon says sing twinkle twinkle little star
- Simon says do a cartwheel
- Simon says make a conga line and go around the yard
- Simon says line up in age order
- Do 5-star jumps! (did I trick you?)
For more great Simon Says Ideas click on that link you just passed over. We love the game so much that we wrote an entire articl on it.
2. Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts can go for hours! They can be suited to any age – nice and easy for the little ones, or more challenging with quizzes and riddles for the big kids.
You can also tailor them to suit your yard and include the house for a bigger area. You can really get creative and encourage your kids to do the same. Scavenger hunts can be tailored to a theme for parties and are just a really fun game for kids to play!
This is great because the big kids get a sense of responsibility and have to get creative to guide the little ones through. Clues can start easy and get progressively harder, which means the bigger kids will have to explain the clues to the little ones as best as they can.
- Best For: All ages! If you have a big range of ages it works well to buddy up a big kid with a little kid and they can go through the scavenger hunt together.
- What You’ll Need: At a minimum, pens & paper to write your list of items to find, or your clues. For more creative scavenger hunts you’ll need more materials.
- Number of Players: Best with 3 or more.
How to Play: Creativity is key with a scavenger hunt. Traditionally the players receive a sheet of items to find and tick off and a box or a bag to put their treasure in.
For the most basic version, this could be anything that’s usually found in your backyard (flowers/round pebbles/leaves/bark).
For a more complicated version, you can hide household items and write riddles that the bigger kids have to work out. For example, you could hide a watch and include a riddle-like: I have 2 hands on my face; you can check on me to keep your pace.
You might also put a creative spin on your scavenger hunt and have a painting station set up where players have to draw/paint/sculpture (with play-doh) a scene in front of them.
Or, they might have to act out a scene from a movie they love, or sing a favorite song or even make a human pyramid.
For teenagers, you can make a trickier scavenger hunt where they have to solve each clue before they get the next one
3. Lava! Lava! (AKA The Floor is Lava)
This one can be a seriously fun energy burner for the kids and works really well at a playground. Want to tire your kids out? Make the ground lava and be a lava monster! Boom! Happy and exhausted kids!
Plus this game really gets their imagination going. Once you’ve finished, you can calm the kids down by getting them to draw their lava world and them leaping over it.
- Best For: Pre-schoolers – Pre-teens
- Number of Players: 2+
- What You’ll Need: Relatively sturdy and secure items that can be climbed/hopped or jumped on
How to Play: This game does require some setup. If you’re playing in the backyard then you can use outdoor furniture (that you don’t mind being stepped on), logs, trees or even towels and other pieces of fabric to create a course.
Once you’ve set up your course, the game is to jump from piece to piece to avoid stepping on the ground, because it’s lava! You can either just jump around avoiding the ground or make someone a lava monster whose job is to catch people. This increases the fun and the sense of danger
4. Sly Fox
This is another great kids game that doesn’t require any equipment and really relies on quick reactions and good attention from the kids!
- Best For: Pre-schoolers – pre-teens
- Number of Players: This game is more fun with more people, but can be played with as few as 3.
- What You’ll Need: Nothing but the kids!
How to Play: One person is chosen to play the “fox” who stands with their back to the other kids who are standing a distance away in a straight line.
While the fox has their back to the other kids, they can crawl, creep, run or walk closer to the fox. The fox’s job is to catch them moving closer and so when the fox turns around, the players freeze!
If the fox sees someone moving, the player has to go back to the starting line. The first player to reach the fox without being caught wins either points or they get to be the fox the next round.
5. Duck, Duck, Goose
Another high-energy classic, this is another amazing kids game which will keep them entertained and leave them all tuckered out!
- Best For: Pre-Schoolers – Pre-teens
- Number of Players: This is a real party game and works best with bigger groups. A minimum of 6 players works best
- What You’ll Need: High energy and a space big enough to form a big circle
How to Play: Everyone except one child sits in a circle. The one kid standing is the “Goose” and they walk around the circle, gently tapping everyone on the head and saying “Duck” out loud.
When the Goose decides it’s time, they tap someone and yell “GOOSE!” instead of duck. The new Goose jumps up and chases the old Goose around the circle.
The goal is for the old Goose to sprint around the entire circle until they get to the empty spot left by the new Goose where they sit down.
If they make it to the empty spot without getting caught, then the new Goose repeats the process. If the new Goose is quick and catches the old Goose, then the old Goose starts again.
6. Marco Polo
Why We Love it: A classic pool game, Marco Polo is a great kids game for in or out of the water. It’s made for loads of giggles and fun! It’s also a nice little history lesson for the kids about the famous Italian merchant who traveled the silk road and then had a fun kids game named after him!
If you play in the water it does wonders for building confidence for kids learning to swim.
- Best For: This classic is a fun all-ages game!
- Number of Players: Again, more is more depending on the space you have. A minimum of 4 is best for the most fun
- What You’ll Need: A swimming pool and a blindfold if you want to use one
How to Play: Choose a seeker and blindfold them or get them to close their eyes. They then spin around 5-10 times on the spot while everyone else scatters.
Once they’ve spun they call out “Marco” to which everyone else has to reply “Polo”, which clues in the seeker to where the players are standing.
The seeker then tries to catch the players, always calling out “Marco” to hear their “Polo” response. Whoever gets caught becomes the next seeker.
If you’re lucky enough to be playing this one in the pool then you can get out, but then the seeker can call out “fish out of water” and if you’re out of the pool, you’re immediately it!
This game works best in a space that doesn’t have too many obstacles for the seeker to trip over, enough room for the kids to run, but not so much space that no one ever gets caught.
7. Tug of War
Why We Love it: This is a great team activity which big and little kids (and even the biggest kids, adults) can get involved in! And best of all, tug of war used to be an Olympic sport, so you can tell your kids that they’re basically training to be Olympians!
- Best For: This one is best for the bigger kids, grade-schoolers and up
- Number of Players: This can be a 2 person game, but it’s extra fun with even-numbered teams!
- What You’ll Need: A sturdy rope and enough space for your teams to move
How to Play: Divide your players into two teams. Lay out a strong length of rope with a marker indicating the center point. This can be on the ground or on the rope itself.
Players line up in their teams at each end of the rope. As a general rule, the strongest players should be at the back. Players pick up the rope and when everyone is ready, a referee blows a whistle or yells “start”.
Players pull as hard as they can on the rope, walking backward and trying to pull the other team towards their side. The team which pulls the other team across the central marker are the winners.
8. Keep the Balloon Off the Ground
This one is for competitors, is simple, super fun and great for hand-eye coordination. It’s also a great option when you have leftover party balloons and kids full of sugar who have energy to expend!
- Best For: This is one for the little kids, although some big kids will happily play with the little ones because they’ll have to throw themselves around to save the balloon!
- Number of Players: Minimum of 2
- What You’ll Need: Just a balloon and a sense of fun!
How to Play: Take a balloon and throw it in the air and then take it in turns to tap it up into the air again. The goal is to stop the balloon from ever hitting the ground.
You can count the number of times you hit it up and try to beat your score each time. This is a great one for little kids to practice their hand-eye coordination and counting skills all at once!
9. Hide & Seek
We love this game for the creativity it sparks in kids. The obvious hiding spots tend to get used up quickly and so kids are forced to think of new ideas for where to hide.
Plus the suspense of the seeker being near you when you’re hiding (without finding you) is amazing!
- Best For: This is a great one for all ages. You can pair up any little ones with the bigger kids – they will LOVE getting to hide and be a part of the game with their older cousin or sibling.
- Number of Players: Minimum of 2
- What You’ll Need: A big enough area with hiding spots for everyone.
How to Play: One person is the designated seeker. They close their eyes and count (slowly!) to twenty out loud. While they’re counting, the rest of the players scatter and find hiding spots.
Once the seeker has finished counting, they can go and seek the other players. The first person to be found is the seeker in the next round and the last person is the winner of the round.
If you’re brave, you can change up your hiding spot while the seeker is looking for you making for a dynamic round!
If your kids are getting bored with this game be sure to check out our article on alternative ways to play Hide and Seek.
10. Sidewalk Chalk Matching
Why We Love It: This one is amazing for the little ones who are learning colors and shapes. It also lets them practice their motor skills. So fun plus cognitive and motor skills in one!
- Best For: Pre-Schoolers who are learning their shapes and colors
- Number of players: Any number for this game – the only limit is how many color and shape combinations you can come up with!
- What You’ll Need: Multi-colored chalk and enough pavement to draw your shapes on.
How to Play: Using different chalk colors, draw matching shapes in the same colors i.e. yellow triangles, blue circles, green squares, red triangles etc.
Mix up the shapes so no duplicates sit next to one another. Then get your little ones to find matching pairs by jumping on the color and shape that you call out. Whoever gets the most pairs wins!
11. Bocce Ball
This game has been played for centuries by the ancient Romans and Egyptians. Italian immigrants took it to America, where it has become a favorite backyard game.
In these stressful days, we all need a way to relax and, if we can do that with our family in our own backyard, then it’s even better. Playing a game of Bocce ball is the way to have all that while giving us the chance to exercise and enjoy a little competition.
- Best For: It is suitable for any age group from four upwards. There are smaller, lighter balls available for young children and beginners.
- Number of Players: 2-8
- What You’ll Need: You will need to buy a Bocce ball set in advance and then have it ready for play. There should be eight balls in at least two different colors and a single pallino/jack.
How to Play: Teams play against each other to try to hit the pallino or jack – or get as close to it as possible by aiming and throwing their bocce balls in that direction while keeping the bocce balls within the court. Bocce ball can be played by two individuals or by teams of up to four players on each side.
Be careful when buying a Bocce ball set, while the balls may all look similar, there are actually huge differences in quality. Be sure to check out our handy Bocce Ball Buyers Guide to help you purchase the perfect set for your needs.
12. Washer Toss Game
This simple, but exciting game will bring an element of competition to your family picnic in the park or barbeque in the yard. A party game for people of all ages or a solo pursuit for relieving stress, the Washers Game is a versatile and fun form of exercise.
- Best For: This is a game for all ages.
- Number of Players: 1-4
- What You’ll Need: Two washer pits or boards, 8 washers
How to Play: The aim of the game is for individuals or teams to compete against one another to try to be the first to reach a winning score of 11, 17 or 21 points.
How to score in a Washer’s game:
- A washer in the cup = 5 points
- A washer close to the cup = 1 point
- A washer outside the pit = 0
Points are allocated after all the players have had a turn. If the second player’s washer accidentally pushes his opponent’s washer forward, the first player graciously accepts his good fortune.
For detailed rules and tips on how to play check out our Guide to the Washers Game.
13. Kick the Can
This game is a cross between Hide-and-Seek and Tag. It is exciting and energetic, the rules are simple and it can be played just about anywhere.
- Best For: Anyone who is over the age of four and can run and kick a can.
- Number of Players: 3-10 (best with 4 players or over)
- What You’ll Need: A metal can, bucket or similar receptacle.
How to Play: Firstly, a can is placed in the center of the designated game area and players decide where the holding pen is going to be. The players decide what number “It” is going to count up to and then one of the players is selected to be “It”.
“It” must close his/her eyes and begin counting up to the required number loudly while the other player runs away and hide.
When “It” reaches the required number, they tried to find the other players. Players who are discovered must go to the holding pen and wait.
If one of the remaining players can run and kick the can without being detected by “It”, then all players in the holding pen are freed and allowed to continue playing. When all the players have successfully been tagged by “It”, the game is over.
I warn you that this can take a very long time if you have stealthy, fast players!
Cornhole isn’t just a game you play during a tailgate party. Get your kids together for a friendly competition while you get the grill going. The loser gets to help you set the table.
- Best For: This game is best for grade-schoolers upwards.
- Number of Players: 1, 2 or 4
- What You’ll Need: A Cornhole Set (2 Cornhole boards, 2 sets of Cornhole bags, A large, flat open space, A tape measure or a ball of string
How to Play: Place board 1 and then measure 27 ft from the lower end of that board and place board 2. The boards should be facing each other. Now place each set of bags on the boards.
Decide which side of your board is best for you to throw from and your opponent will stand on the opposite side of that board. If you are playing with four people then your teammate will play on board 2 facing you.
This game requires skill in aiming and throwing accurately. The aim of Cornhole is to score the most points by getting your bag into the holes of a cornhole board.
How to score:
- Any bags that have landed in the holes receive 3 points
- Bags that have landed anywhere on the board are worth 1 point
- Bags that are not on the board get zero points
- The team that gets to 21 points first is the winner.
15. Red Light, Green Light
This quick, easy game can be played just about anywhere, but using a big space in your backyard will make it even more fun. Just remember to mark out the start and the finish line with string or in some way to avoid arguments.
This simple, fun game requires players to listen and develop awareness and gross motor control (agility).
- Best For: Pre K – Grade 5
- Number of Players: A small group of players works best.
- What You’ll Need: No equipment needed.
How to Play: The main idea is that one person controls all movement (Like a traffic light) from the front of the play area and the other players have to try to creep forward without being detected.
- Choose the player who is going to be the Traffic light standing at the front of the play area.
- All the other players must be behind the starting line.
- When the Traffic Light calls “Green Light” players are allowed to move forward. This is called with the Traffic Light’s back facing the players.
- Traffic Light calls “Red Light” while simultaneously turning around to view the other players. If any players are spotted moving after “Red Light” has been called, they have to return to the starting line.
- The winner is the person who gets to the finish line and tags the Traffic Light.
Variations: Give different instructions on how players must move towards the finish line. Expand the game by introducing other colors to the lights with different requirements.
16. Capture the Flag
This game has been a favorite with leaders at Summer Camp or for other organizations that have to keep a large group of kids occupied for a lengthy period. The main aim of the game is to enter the other team’s territory undetected, capture their flag and make it safely back to your own territory.
It is a simple high-energy game that keeps kids active and alert. It requires minimal equipment and organization.
- Best For: 4+
- What You’ll Need: 2 flags or markers (anything bright and light-weight, such as a Tshirt, will do), A large area, which can be roughly divided into two
- Number of Players: This game is best played with a large group of players so that you can organize them into teams.
How to Play: Divide the total number of children into two teams. Each team should have its own designated area where they will place their flag.
If an opponent is caught in your territory you can “tag” them and send them to a holding pen/jail.
Enemies can be freed from your jail by members of their own team who risk entering your area, tagging them and returning to their own area without being caught.
Once a player has captured the opposing team’s flag and managed to return untagged to their own area, the game is over.
Variations of the game allow all the team members in jail to join hands and make a break for freedom and return to their own area. This rule should be agreed upon by all before play starts.
This backyard game can be played by kids of a mixed age group. The older kids can do the organization and the younger ones can do the running and hiding. If the game is played in a large space with plenty of hiding places, you will not see your kids for quite a while.
17. Obstacle Course
This activity is only limited by the imagination. It can be tailored to individual children’s abilities, interests, and ages. It promotes dexterity and improves both fine and gross motor skills.
- Best For: All ages from toddlers to fit elderly people
- Number of Players: Suitable for one child or a large group of children. Just make sure that they are supervised and know about any potential hazards.
- What You’ll Need: Various obstacles (you can buy or DIY)
How to Play: You and your child can decide which obstacles to set out. Many of the obstacles can be found around the house and do not need to be specially bought or designed. Remember to leave sufficient space around each obstacle to avoid participants from bumping into each other.
Try to be creative in the use of the obstacles, for example:
- A large cardboard box can be used to crawl through or jumped over.
- Foam pool noodles make ideal hurdles to jump over or wiggle under.
- Ropes of varying lengths can be used for skipping or simply walking along next to.
- Old tires or hoops can be hopped in and out or crawled through.
Of course, it is possible to buy obstacle equipment so that you have a permanent obstacle course set up in your backyard where kids can burn off energy any time they feel like it.
18. Red Rover
WARNING! This game can get rough and adult supervision is advisable.
I think children across the globe have played this game in one form or another. The aim of the game is to get through a barrier of hands that the opposing team has joined together. It is a rough and tough game of speed and assessment of risk.
How to Play:
- Children should be divided into two teams. Try to ensure that there is a fair mix of strength and speed in the abilities of the children in each team.
- Children pick a leader for each team.
- All team members join hands or wrists in a long line facing the opposing team.
- The leader of one team calls the name of a member from the other team and “invites” them to cross over and breakthrough their locked hands. The invite comes in the form of a call which is: “Red Rover, Red Rover, let X come over!”
- The player by that name should make a quick assessment of the weakest link in the line of arms and try to launch himself through the chain at that point. If he is unable to force his way through the chain, he must join the chain of the opposing team.
- The game ends when one team has added all the opposing team members to their chain.
This is a traditional backyard game that has been played for generations in one form or another. A great way to keep your kids fit and healthy.
How to Play: The basics rules of Tag are simple to understand. Someone is “It” and they have to run around and try to “tag” the other players.
- Decide who is going to be “IT”.
- All the other players run away.
- “IT” must chase the other players and try to tag them.
- If you are tagged by “IT” you become “IT” and the original chaser must run away.
- You then run around and try to tag another player so that they can become “IT” in place of you.
There are so many different ways to play Tag and you can even make up your own version if you like! You can even include equipment like flashlights if you want to play after dark, but in the original version, no equipment is needed.
Fun variations on the basic Tag game:
- This is played in the same way as basic Tag, but when players are tagged, they join hands with “IT” and you both have to try to tag other players together.
- As other players are tagged, they join the chain by holding hands.
- When four players have been tagged, the chain splits into two and players must continue to be tagged until everyone is caught.
- In this game, if you are tagged you have to place your hand on the part of your body where you were tagged.
- If you get tagged again, you have to place your other hand on that part of your body and continue trying to avoid being tagged.
- If you are tagged a third time, you become “IT” because you have run out of hands!
Stuck In The Mud
This game needs three or more players.
The idea of this tag variation is that when the catcher tags another player, they are stuck in the mud and can’t run away anymore. If the catcher can get all the players stuck in the mud, he wins.
- The game starts like any other catching game, with the catcher trying to tag the other players.
- If you are tagged, stand still with your arms out and legs wide apart to show you are stuck in the mud.
- Any player who is still free can rescue the ones who are stuck in the mud by crawling between their legs.
- If a large number of people want to play, you will need more than one catcher.
Rounders is a fast team game that is easy to organize in your backyard. In this game, two teams play against each other to get as many players from the opposite side out at the same time as trying to score as many rounders as they can.
Although it is a simple game, it requires skill, speed, and great team play.
How to Play:
- Divide the children into two teams. One team will bat and run between the bases; the other team will bowl the ball and try to catch it. Each team takes turns batting and bowling.
- One person from the team stands at first base with a bat. The bowler has to throw the ball (underarm) towards the batter.
- The batter can have three goes at hitting the ball. Once they hit the ball, they run to first base and further until the ball is retrieved and back in play. The batter then needs to try and get all the way round the pitch making contact with each post before the fielders get the ball to the post that they are heading for. Each player must also run with the bat whilst running around the pitch.
A runner is “out” if:
- The ball they hit is caught by a member of the other team before the ball hits the ground.
- If a player from the opposite team has the ball in their hand and manages to touch the batter while they are running.
- One of the opposition touches the post with the ball before the batter reaches a base.
How to score in Rounders: Scoring points in rounders is simple. A rounder is scored if the ball is hit, even if a no-ball was thrown, and the batter touches the 4th post before the post is stumped or the ball is back with the bowler in the bowlers square. Scoring can be adapted and simplified as required.