Skip to main content

The best outdoor games for kids – try these fun, classic activities

Cool activities to play outside with kids

Baby and a cat sitting on a cornhole game
David Prahl / Shutterstock

When the nice weather rolls around, there’s nothing better than getting the kiddos outside to run and play. It can be difficult these days because getting kids off the devices is always a challenge. Another obstacle is often the dreaded announcement of being bored or there isn’t anything to do outside. Well, as parents, we know that’s certainly not true, especially when there are a whole host of outdoor games for kids.

Having an array of fun and engaging outdoor games is always a perfect pick for the whole family, whenever you’re hosting a party or when the kiddos have friends over for a playdate. The wonderful thing about outside games is that they are timeless. They take adults back to their childhood, and even teens enjoy taking a page from their elementary school gym class days.

Now don’t worry if you’ve forgotten some of those backyard classics like Red Light, Green Light. We’ve got your go-to menu for outdoor games for kids that never go out of style.

Fun outdoor games for kids

A game of horseshoes set up outside in the grass.
Heinz Waha / Shutterstock

If you’re looking for fun games to play outside with the entire family, having kids over for a birthday party or just because these activities are always a hit with children of all ages. Young kids may need a bit more guidance to keep things going and to avoid tears.

Tag

You’re it! OK, so everyone hates to be “it,” but sometimes that’s the way the game goes. Tag is a great game for kids since there’s a lot of movement involved. It’s also a perfect pick for developing those leg muscles with all the stops, starts, and changes in direction to avoid getting tagged.

The rules of tag are simple. One or two people are tapped as “it.” The object is to tag the other participants until everyone is out. The last player standing becomes the new “it.” Having two people as “it” takes away the sting. There are plenty of variations of tag. Freeze tag is a popular one that has tagged players standing or freezing on the spot they were tagged. Untagged players can tag frozen ones to get them back into the game. To avoid a meltdown by the “its,” set a time limit for each game. Another variation of tag is to have all the tagged players become “its.”

Capture the Flag

A popular camp game, Capture the Flag is the ideal game when you have enough players to divide into two teams. Each team has a designated area or camp to defend. The object is to prevent the other team from gaining possession of your flag. In addition to running, Capture the Flag requires a bit of strategy and cooperation. In the spirit of Tag, players are out if they are tagged by the opposing team.

Hide and Seek

This is an oldie but a goodie, and one that even tweens and teens like to play. Manhunt is simply a nighttime version of the classic outdoor game. One person is designated as “it” while all the other players hide. Try to set boundaries on where players can hide. For example, the neighbor’s yard is typically deemed off-limits. When all the players are found, they join in the search. Setting a time limit can help avoid upset. Try to rotate who is the starting “it,” especially with younger kids.

Sardines

Sardines is an upside-down version of Hide and Seek. One person is chosen as the hider, while the other players must seek. The twist is when a player finds the hider, they join in the hiding spot. When there is one person left looking, the game is over. That player becomes the new hider.

Monkey in the Middle

Another classic, Monkey is the Middle is the perfect game for three or more players. One person is designated as the monkey and tries to intercept the ball as it’s thrown back and forth between the other players. If there are budding soccer players in the house, play the game on the ground with players passing the ball with the player in the middle trying to break up the pass. Another version is with street hockey sticks and a puck.

Jump the River

This is a fun game to play at parties or with multiple kids. Everyone forms a line. You make the river using two jump ropes. When starting the game, the two vertical jump ropes are relatively close together. Each participant jumps over the river and runs back around to the end of the line. After everyone has had a turn, one side of the river moves farther away, making the leap more challenging with each turn. A person is out if they step in the river. To win, a player must make the last jump without landing in the river.

Four Squares

An extremely popular recess game, Four Squares is easy to play at home, too. All you need is to create a court of four 12-by-12-inch squares using sidewalk chalk. You can play Four Squares on the driveway. Label the squares with numbers or letters. One player stands in each square. All the players are facing each other. The designated server bounces the ball into another person’s square. That player must hit the ball with their hand into another player’s square on the first bounce. A person is out if a ball is missed, hit out of the square, or has more than one bounce before being hit. When a player is out, the other players rotate around the square and a new player hops in. The goal is to remain the server for as long as possible.

Other outdoor games for kids

kids playing soccer at a family reunion
Africa Studio / Shutterstock

If you need some more outside activities to keep on the back burner, these are always a smash.

  • Kickball
  • Backyard obstacle course
  • Cornhole
  • Ring Toss
  • Spud
  • Relay races
  • Red Light, Green Light
  • Water balloon toss
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Backyard bowling

Getting kids outside and playing is always a perfect pick. Sure, it can be a chore when you need to drag kids away from their devices, but the end result is worth it. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children ages 3 to 5 need three or more hours a day of physical activity, while kids ages 6 to 17 should get an hour.

Outdoor games for kids are an ideal way to get the whole family outside and engaged. Getting children in the habit of playing outside also sets them on the path for daily exercise when they’re older. With this list of classic outside activities, you’ll always have ideas to choose from when kids knock on the back door and say they don’t know what to play.

Editors' Recommendations

Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
Wow your kids with these fun facts about animals
Teach your kids something interesting
Kids at a zoo watching a snake

Kids are naturally inquisitive so why not wow your kids with some fun facts about animals? Even if you don't have time to tour the local zoo or aquarium; that doesn't mean your kids can't always be learning about animals. Whether you're talking about exotic wild animals or domesticated ones, it's always fun to find out some new and interesting facts about animals of all kinds. Here are six fun facts about animals that will excite your kids.
The fur of a polar bear isn't white

Although most of us commonly assume that a polar bear has white fur, that isn't the case. Polar bears have black skin, which helps attract the sun and keep them warm, and translucent fur. The fur only appears white because it reflects the light.
An elephant's trunk contains more muscles than the human body

Read more
Plan a great family road trip: The best aquariums in the U.S. for kids
Your kiddos will have lots of stories to tell when they get home
Little boy sitting in front of an aquarium watching the fish

Sebastian said it best when he told Ariel that "life under the sea is better." Of course, we can't technically live under the sea, but the next best thing is a visit to an aquarium. If you're planning your family's next adventure, a road trip to an aquarium is a perfect pick, especially if your kiddos are fascinated by life under the sea. For families glued to the television during Shark Week, seeing sharks in person is a must-do task.

Thankfully, some of the best aquariums in the U.S. are actually just a road trip away and are in hot spots, offering families a super cool vacation. The top aquariums in the U.S. just happen to be in major tourist attraction cities like Boston, New York, and Chicago. So, if you're ready to see one or more of the most sensational U.S. aquariums in person, we've got the don't-miss list below.

Read more
Why you should celebrate your kids’ inchstones
These important moments are a reason for recognition
Cute baby crawling across a rug

Marking baby milestones is certainly not a new trend. Parents have been capturing baby's first steps and words for ages. Baby milestones are always a big focus because they pinpoint important developmental achievements of little ones as they grow. The lack or delay of certain baby milestones is often a red flag for pediatricians, which is why so much attention is placed on them.

A new parenting trend taking hold recently is celebrating inchstones. While inchstones isn't a contemporary term, it may be unfamiliar to many parents. Inchstones is typically a word used by parents of children with special needs as they inch their way toward bigger milestones. So, why is the practice of recognizing inchstones growing in popularity, and why should parents get on board?

Read more