Here's a list of simple and classic outdoor games for kids to enjoy some old-school fun in the backyard! You don't need a large group or fancy outside toys to enjoy these childhood games. Kids can have a lot of fun with their own two feet, and even more with a playground ball and a piece of chalk.
Know of more fun games to play outside? Suggest a favorite below and let us know how to play!
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Ghost in the Graveyard
Kristy Pepping: This is an especially fun outside game to play at night in the dark. The object of the game is to find the "ghost." This is the player who is hiding. The player who finds the ghost’s hiding spot yells “Ghost in the Graveyard” to alert the other players as to where this person was hiding. The player who finds the ghost is designated as safe. All the other players must race back to space designated as the base. The ghost tries to tag someone else before they do and that player is IT for the next game.
Kelly R.: This outdoor game for kids is played like a traditional game of tag, but when the person who is "it" tags you, you must freeze on the spot. Stay frozen until another person who is not "it" comes along and taps you. If the person who is "it" manages to freeze everyone, he or she wins.
Kelly R.: Draw a hopscotch design on the ground with one or two squares in each row, and number the squares 1-10. Throw a stone into square 1. Hop along the boxes (one foot in the rows with one box, two feet in the rows with two boxes), skipping the box with the stone in it. When you reach box 10, turn around and hop back, pausing to pick up the stone. On your next turn, toss the stone into box 2. Continue until you make it all the way to box 10. If playing with more than one player, take turns tossing the stone and hopping. If you miss the correct box with the stone or land it on the line, lose your turn.
Kelly R.: This is our go-to outdoor game for our family of four. Draw one large square (8-10 feet across) with chalk and divide it into four equal squares. Squares are numbered 1-4, and one player stands inside each square. Player 4 bounces and taps a playground ball into an opponent's square to start play. When the ball enters any player's square, he or she must tap the ball into another square. Any player who misses the ball, lets it bounce more than once, or sends it out of bounds must move to square 1, and all other players move up one square.
Hide and Seek
Kelly R.: This is one of the best outdoor games for kindergartners or preschoolers to play with big kids! The person who is "it" covers her eyes and counts while the other players hide. The seeker must find all of the other players, and the last one to be found becomes the new seeker. You can play variations where the seeker must tag the other players, or where there is a home base that the hiders need to reach to become safe.
Red Light, Green Light
Kelly R.: Players line up along a starting line. One player is a traffic light, and stands at the finish line with her back to the other players. When the traffic light says "green light," all of the players must move toward the finish line. When the traffic light says "red light" and turns around, the players must stop. Any player still moving goes back to start. Continue until the first player reaches the finish line and becomes the new traffic light.
Kelly R.: Players are assigned a number (for 4 players, use 1-4). "It" stands in the middle of the players, throws a playground ball into the air and calls out a number. All players scatter, except for the player whose number was called. He grabs the ball, yells "SPUD," and all other players must freeze. The player with the ball throws it at one of the frozen players. If the player is hit, he receives the letter S in S-P-U-D. If not, the person throwing receives a letter. The person with the letter becomes "it." Players are out when they receive all of the letters, and last player standing wins.
Michael Farina: This game combines catch and tag, mimicking the most exciting play that can happen in a baseball game. Pickle features two bases, with one player (a "thrower") at each base, and any number of "runners." Throwers toss a ball -- normally a baseball or softball, but any ball would do -- in a game of catch. The runners start on one base and try to run back and forth between the safe bases without getting tagged out. Runners can spend as long as they like on a base, choosing an opportune time to try to steal. Once a runner is tagged, they switch places with the thrower.
Kristy Pepping: Sardines is a fun outside game to play that is a take on traditional hide and seek. Basically, one person hides and everyone else searches trying to find out where this person hid. Whenever a person finds the hidden person, they quietly join them in their hiding spot. Soon, the hidden group starts to look like a bunch of sardines. Hence the name! The game ends when all players join the same hiding spot.
Capture the Flag
Alexandra F.: Try this if you want to play games outside with a group that's a bit bigger! Divide the playing area into two territories and the players into two teams. Each team has a flag or other token which they hide somewhere on their territory. The goal is to find and capture the other team’s flag and bring it safely back into your territory. But beware! If you get tagged while in the other team’s territory, you either go to “jail,” freeze in place until a teammate tags you, get sent back to your territory or whatever other consequence players decide together ahead of time!
Duck Duck Goose
Kelly R.: Players sit on the ground facing each other in a circle. The player who is "it" walks around the outside of the circle, tapping each player on the head and saying either "duck" or "goose." The player tapped as "goose" must jump up and chase "it" as he runs around the circle to try to sit back down in the newly vacant spot. If goose doesn't tag the runner, he becomes the new "it."
Kick the Can
Kristy Pepping: One person is selected and an empty can is placed in the open for this classic childhood game. With eyes closed, the person who is "it" counts to an agreed-upon number. Then the other players run and hide. The "it" person then tries to find and tag each of the players, always with one eye on the can. Any player who is tagged is sent to the “jail,” usually in plain sight of the can. The rest of the free players attempts to kick the can before being tagged out. If they can kick the can without being caught, they set all the captured players free.
Monkey in the Middle
Alexandra F.: Also called Keep Away (and probably lots of other names!), Monkey in the Middle is a fun outdoor game for small and large groups alike. Choose one player to be the “Monkey.” The rest of the players arrange themselves in a circle around her and try to keep a ball away by throwing it to one another and out of the Monkey’s reach. If the Monkey manages to capture the ball, whether in the air or from the ground (but not by taking it out of anyone’s hands!), then whoever threw it last switches places with her and becomes the new Monkey.
Sharks and Minnows
Kelly R.: Players stand along a starting line, and must reach the finish line without being tagged by the shark. Any minnows who are tagged by the shark become sharks, too. Repeat racing across until all remaining minnows have been tagged. The winner is the last minnow to be tagged.
What's the Time, Mr. Wolf?
Alexandra F.: This is an outdoor game my kids discovered thanks to one of our favorite cartoons of all time, Bluey. One player is the Wolf, and stands with their back to all the other players. The other players line up a good distance from the Wolf - how far depends on how challenging the players want to make it, but probably at least 15 feet or so to be fun.
Players ask in unison, "What's the Time, Mr/Mrs Wolf?" and the Wolf responds with a time - 10 o'clock, 3 o'clock, etc. Players have to take that many number of steps forward toward the Wolf, whose back is still to the players. This exchange keeps repeating until the Wolf answers, "Dinner Time!" Players then have to race back to the starting line before the Wolf tags them - whoever gets tagged is the new Wolf!
Kristy Pepping: Everyone is divided into 2 teams. Then each team forms a long line holding hands and facing each other with some distance in between. Next, the teams take turns saying, "Red Rover, Red Rover, let xx come over!" That child leaves their team's line, runs toward the other line and tries to break through the held hands. If they break through, they take a child from that line back to their team. If they don't, they join the new team. When a team only has one person left, that person tries to break through the other team. If they don't, their team loses. If they do, they gain a player.
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