20 Fun and Classic Outdoor Games for Kids
Some of my favorite childhood memories are the fun outdoor games for kids I played from sun-up to sun-down every day during the summer. Even though these games may seem a bit retro to kids today, they are still lots of fun to play and might even become one of your kid’s favorite childhood memories.
When I was a kid, playing outside was just what we did every day during the summer break. Our parents never worried if we got a minimum one hour of active play each day, they were just glad that we kept ourselves entertained and out of their hair. In our neighborhood, kids of all ages traveled in a pack from yard to yard playing game after game until well after dark or until the third and final warning yell from mom to “get home now or else!” might result in a grounding. It was an unspoken promise that the next day would be filled with friends and more fun games as we picked right back up where we had left off the day before.
What Do The Experts Say?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics “Regular active outdoor play is essential for a healthy child. Play is not just about having fun but about taking risks, experimenting, and testing boundaries.” When kids play outside their sensory skills like motor skills and social skills improve. Pediatricians have found a direct relationship between academic success and increased outdoor playtime.
How Do I Get My Child To Play Outside?
If your child is not used to playing outside by themselves or with other kids don’t be surprised if they just stand around pouting. Chances are they just don’t know what to do because this is all new to them.
Luring your child away from their electronic devices when the weather is sunny and warm outside is a challenge most parents face. But if the trade-off is an hour or more of fun playing a new game outside with you, they might just turn off their video game, throw on some flip-flops and actively join in on a fun game or two. You can even start with some fun outdoor toys or and artistic with some fun ideas for sidewalk chart art.
The key to playing outside with your child is showing them how to play these fun outdoor games. My kids love learning the games I used to play when I was a kid and yours will too.
All of these games are easy to play and perfect for any age, including adults. Sometimes all you need to get started are some great ideas.
20 Yard and Outdoor Games Your Kids Will Love
1. Red Rover
This is the perfect outdoor game for a large group of kids. Divide kids into two teams spaced about twenty feet apart. Each team holds hands in a line facing the opposing team. Team One chants “Red Rover, Red Rover, let (name of one child from team two) come over!” The child whose name was called runs towards Team One’s line trying to break through a pair of holding hands. If they break the chain the child selects a player from Team Two to join their team, but if they don’t break through the chain, they join this team. Play continues until one person is left standing
2. Four Square
With sidewalk chalk divide a big 12’ x 12’ square into four equal squares labeling the top left square as Ace, top right as King, bottom right as Queen, and bottom left as Jack. One person stands in each square. Ace starts by bouncing a ball in their square then hitting the ball into one of the other squares. Players hit the ball into opposing player’s squares until someone misses. The player who misses the ball is out and the remaining players advance to the next squares. The empty square is replaced by a child waiting to enter the game.
3. Duck, Duck Goose
A classic that never gets old and great for all ages. Players sit in a circle and one player, the “ducker” walks around the outside perimeter of the circle gently tapping each person’s head saying “duck”. When the ducker taps a player’s head and says “goose” the player stands up and chases the ducker around the circle trying to tag them before they reach the open space.
4. Drip, Drip, Drop
This game is just like duck, duck, goose but with a wet sponge added. The “ducker” holds the sponge above each person’s head and when they want to select a player to chase them, they squeeze the sponge over their head to soak them. The person who gets soaked jumps up and chases the other player around the circle trying to tag them.
Divide up the players into two teams starting about fifteen feet apart in an open area and place three to four dodge balls in the center of the field between the teams. Teams race to grab a ball and throw it at the opposing team without crossing the centerline. If the ball hits a player without being caught the player is out. If the ball is caught then the person throwing it is out. Play continues until only one person is left.
6. Mother, May I?
A fun and easy game to play with your family and friends. Select one player to be “Mother” and have them stand about 20 feet away from the rest of the players who should line up shoulder to shoulder spaced a few feet apart. The “Mother” calls to one of the players giving them instructions to move forward like “bunny hop forward three times”. The player must ask “Mother, may I?” and if granted permission by the “Mother” may perform the instructed steps. If the player moves and forgets to ask “Mother, may I?” they must go all the way back to the starting spot. The first one to reach “Mother” wins!
7. Red Light, Green Light
All the players start on the far side of the yard or playground except for one person who is the caller. The caller turns his back to the group and shouts, “green light” and all the players try to run towards the caller. When the caller shouts, “red light” and faces the players, everyone must stop and freeze. Anyone caught moving is out. The first person to reach the caller wins.
8. Hot / Cold
One player hides an object while the other players look away. Then while other players look for the hidden object the person who hid it says “hot” if they are close to the object or “cold” if they are far away from it. First person to find the hidden object wins and gets to hide it in the next round
This is a fun group game that can be played in your yard. One person is designated as the gargoyle and the rest of the players are called seekers. The seekers select one seeker to be the “healer”. The gargoyle takes apart a flashlight and hides the parts all over the yard. After the flashlight parts are hidden the seekers look for the flashlight parts while trying not to get tagged by the gargoyle. If a seeker is tagged, they are frozen until the healer taps them. The seekers win if they find all the flashlight parts, assemble them, and shine the light on the gargoyle. The gargoyle wins if he freezes all the seeker players including the healer.
10. Ghost in the Graveyard
One person, the ghost hides while the seekers sit in the free spot and count, singing: “one-o’clock, two-o’clock, three o’clock, four, five o’clock six o’clock seven o’clock more, eight o’clock, nine o’clock ten o’clock, eleven o’clock, noon, noon we’ll be searching for your soon.” (repeat) but this time when you get to twelve o’clock say “midnight”. The seekers look for the ghost. When the ghost is spotted, they yell “ghost in the graveyard” and try to run to the free spot without being tagged by the ghost. The first person tagged now becomes the new ghost.
Each player tucks a long sock into the waistband of their shorts in the back so that it hangs down like a tail. Players try to capture other players’ tails. The person with the most tails at the end of the game wins.
This is the perfect retro game everyone loves to play. Using sidewalk chalk draw a steppingstone-shaped hopscotch path down the length of the sidewalk. Players take turns tossing a small stone onto the hopscotch then jumping from block-to-block hopping with only one foot allowed to land on a square at a time, avoiding the block with their stone on it.
13. Simon Says
This is a classic game that encourages plenty of movement! The player designed to be Simon calls out actions for the rest of the players to do by saying “Simon says” before each action. Players must listen carefully to the caller and only do the actions that start with “Simon says”. Players who perform actions that don’t begin with “Simon says” are out.
14. Capture the Flag
The perfect outdoor game for a group of kids. Players are divided into two teams. Each team secretly hides their flag in their own designated area. Once flags are hidden players from each team try to invade the other team’s designated area searching for the hidden flag. Players tagged while in the opposing team’s area are sent to jail, a designated space in each team’s area. Jailed players can only be freed if one of their teammates tags them. The first team to find the opposing team’s flag wins.
15. Statues In The Park
An easy-to-play outdoor game for kids of all ages. One player is “it” and the rest are statues. Statues must stand perfectly still in any pose while the person who is “it” is looking. The person who is it can move the statues into any position they want. Statues try to change poses without being seen by the person who is “it”. If the person who is “it” catches a statue moving that person becomes “it”.
16. Spider in the Web
All players stand together on one side of the yard except for one person who is the spider. The spider stands in the middle of the yard and tries to tag other players as they run across the yard to the other side. Anyone tagged becomes a spider. The game continues until everyone is a spider.
A fun game to play outside as a family. Divide players into two teams placing them twenty feet apart and begin throwing a large rubber ball back and forth from team to team. Players must catch the ball to stay in the game but if they miss it they are out. Players who catch the ball with one hand can choose to add a player from their team who was out back into the game or steal an opposing team’s player. Play continues until there is one person left.
18. Slithering Snake Jump Rope
A jump rope is all that you need to bring this retro game to life. One child, the Snake holds one end of a jump rope while the rest of the children gather in a center around the Snake. The Snake spins around making a circular pattern with the jump rope while the other players hop over the jump rope as it approaches them. Anyone touched (bitten) by the rope is out.
19. Monkey In The Middle
This is an easy game to play almost anywhere as long as you have three or more kids. One child, the “Monkey” starts in the middle with one player on each side who throws a ball back and forth to each other. If the Monkey catches the ball they get to switch places with the person who threw it who is now the new Monkey.
This is a classic outdoor game your kids will love to play. One person is designated as “It” for the first round. The person who is “It” throws a ball high in the air and calls out another player’s name. All the other players run away except the person whose name was called. Once the person whose name was called catches the ball she yells “SPUD” and everyone else must freeze. She then throws the ball at another player. If the ball touches the person, they get an “S” and get to be “It.” The first player to spell S-P-U-D loses the game.
Teaching your kids how to play these fun outdoor games is like passing down a family tradition that they can share with their kids someday. These games are sure to keep your kids busy and active all summer long!
This post has been updated. It was originally published July 21, 2021.