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!
1. 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.
Why we love it: 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.
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?)
Best for: All-Ages
This is really an all-ages game. 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.
What you’ll need: Nothing but yourself for a traditional version of Simon Says. You can definitely 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.
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.
Number of players: Minimum of three people (1 Simon and 2 players)
2. Scavenger Hunt
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
Why We Love It: 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!
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.
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.
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.
3. Lava! Lava! (AKA The Floor is Lava)
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
Why We Love it: 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
What You’ll Need: Relatively sturdy and secure items that can be climbed/hopped or jumped on
Number of players: 2+
4. Sly Fox
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.
Why We Love it: 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
What You’ll Need: Nothing but the kids!
Number of players: This game is more fun with more people, but can be played with as few as 3.
5. Duck, Duck, Goose
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.
Why We Love it: 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
What You’ll Need: High energy and a space big enough to form a big circle
How Many Players: This is a real party game and works best with bigger groups. A minimum of 6 players works best
6. Marco Polo
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!
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!
What You’ll Need: Only a blindfold if you want to use one! 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.
How Many Players: Again, more is more depending on the space you have. A minimum of 4 is best for the most fun
7. Tug of War
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.
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
What You’ll Need: A sturdy rope and enough space for your teams to move
Number of Players: This can be a 2 person game, but it’s extra fun with even-numbered teams!
8. Keep the Balloon Off the Ground
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!
Why We Love it: 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!
What You’ll Need: Just a balloon and a sense of fun!
Number of Players: Minimum of 2
9. Hide & Seek
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.
Why We Love It: 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.
What You’ll Need: A big enough area with hiding spots for everyone.
Number of Players: Minimum of 2
10. Sidewalk Chalk Matching
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!
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
What You’ll Need: Multi-colored chalk and enough pavement to draw your shapes on.
Number of players: Any number for this game – the only limit is how many color and shape combinations you can come up with!