Most of us were children in those days when kids’ outdoor games were our primary source of entertainment. Computers were a luxury a few could afford, and telephones have not yet made their way into every person’s hands. We would play outside until dark with our friends and neighbor kids, unwilling to leave the company when the time was nigh.
Some of us nostalgically reminisce about those good old days every now and then, saying that children hardly spend any time apart from their gadgets these days. While the latter is true, we should remember we live in a different time. There is no stopping the progress, and depriving your children of the opportunity to use gadgets they will work with later in life is unreasonable.
Nevertheless, nobody said real human interaction became outdated all of a sudden. There is much more to children’s games than catches the eye. At first glance, they are but a fun way to spend time. But take a closer look – and you’ll see that games teach kids skills, give them the opportunity to socialize and learn new things about the world around them, all while giving them exercise and consuming the overflowing energy children are endowed with.
While children will inevitably spend their time allured by the colorful screens, you should encourage them to partake in real-world activities. Call it a digital detox, if you may, but for the little ones. We enjoyed those games immensely in our time. Why should our children be different?
We comprised the list of the ten best outdoor games for kids you can encourage children to play. Most of them don’t require specialized equipment so that kids are not encumbered by anything and have fewer risks of breaking things. Those few games that do need gear won’t make you part with huge sums. You can get the equipment for some of those games at one of the best outdoor sports stores, Gritr Outdoors.
1. Capture the Flag
We are not playing favorites here, but of all team games, Capture the Flag is the most exciting one. It frequently appears in films and series, and no summer camp can do without it. Capture the Flag is a great example of the rule “the more, the merrier”, both in terms of people and space.
The game can take place indoors and outdoors, depending on the number of participants and the size of the house. It is more fun when played outside, though, since it gives children more freedom and ignites the creative spark within them. The rules are as follows: the children are divided into two teams. Both teams have their signature flags or other markers.
Capturing those will be the primary objective of the game. The playing territory is split between the teams into two areas by a conspicuous boundary. Once you determine the boundaries, you can designate two areas as jails for tagged players. The moment a player enters the opponent’s territory, they can be tagged and placed in jail until they are rescued by a teammate.
If a teammate manages to break the rival line and rescue a captive without being caught, both are granted safe passage to their territory, and the rescuee can continue playing.
The flag can be hidden anywhere, but it should be visible, so no drowning it in the pond, burying it in the ground, etc. Each team can designate a flag guard who will protect it from the attacks, but they should remain within a reasonable distance from the flag until the opponent invades the space.
The game is over once one team successfully captures the opponent’s flag and brings it to their territory without being caught. The game can go on for many an hour, so you can establish a time limit. If no team succeeds before the time is out, the team with the most prisoners is deemed the winner.
The best thing about this game is that anything can serve as a flag – you just need two eye-catching objects, and you are good to go. You can spice things up and let the game journey into the evening with a set of illuminated flags.
2. Red Rover
Red Rover is another team game, less time-consuming and space demanding. No equipment is required, so you can gather the kids and get things going. Two teams, each forming a line, stand holding hands, facing the other team from at least 20 feet. Every turn one team chants “Red Rover, Red Rover, let … come over!”
The named child leaves the line, accelerates, and runs into the other team’s rank, trying to break the line. If they succeed, they can take someone and return to their team. If they don’t, they have to join the opposite team. The game ends when one team runs out of members: the last person has the final chance to turn the tide.
3. Crack the Whip
This is a great game to play in winter while skating, but it can also be played on regular terrain, with some losses in fun and some wins in safety. The rules are simple: all players hold hands in a line. The person at the head of the line skates or runs around, meandering and taking sharp turns. The further down the line, the bigger the force that moves the players.
People at the tail of the whip have the hardest time holding on, which happens to be the goal of the game. If one of the players fails to keep holding on, they can try to rejoin the line closer to the head. The skating variant is strongly recommended exclusively for children who know how to skate since this game is quite demanding.
4. Musical Chairs
Everybody knows Musical Chairs – the game, drenched in the spirit of rivalry, one of the classic kids’ outdoor party games. It’s a good way to spend time if children don’t want to team up. Arrange the chairs in the number one fewer than the number of players in a circle facing outward (obviously). Then assign a DJ, the person responsible for the music.
While the music plays, the players walk in a circle, but once it stops, they rush to take a seat. Since there are not enough seats for everyone, one person always remains unseated. They are out, and the game goes one, with one chair fewer. The final player to remain enjoys the laurels of the winner, while the rest think about ways to take revenge. A child’s game, just as intended.
No list of outdoor games for kids can be complete without a game of tag. Everyone played it at some point in their lives and had their knee scratched. But the only way to avoid scratches is to sit at home staring at a screen, and that’s not something we’re after.
The rules are as easy as one, two, three: children decide who’s going to be “it”. That person chases other players, trying to tag them with a hand. Once a player is tagged, they become a new “it”. It’s reasonable to introduce the rule not to tag the person who’s just tagged you to prevent the game from turning into a tag for two.
The fun thing about this game is that there are countless variations that bring diversity into time-tested classics. Children can play Shadow Tag, where you tag a person’s shadow with your foot instead of touching them. It’s a nice way to introduce such a notion as personal space and add more challenge to the game.
Freeze Tag allows the “it” to immobilize players by touching them. The touch of another player can unfreeze the tagged one. That is one of few Tag variations that seem to have a comprehensive winning condition. You can further diversify the game by making people shout out TV show titles or other silly stuff to unfreeze a player.
6. Red Light, Green Light
The things children watch these days. Some might not have seen the Squad Game, but a simple game called Red Light, Green Light saw a sharp rise in popularity after the show was released. The regular variant is very loss-friendly in terms of not killing players who fail and doesn’t require the Traffic Light to sing creepy songs in Korean.
The group of children assigns one of them to be a Traffic Light, who stands at one end of the playing field while the rest stand at the other. The game starts with the Traffic Light’s back to the group. When they say “Green light”, the players are allowed to proceed. Their goal is to cross the line where the Traffic Light is standing.
At any random moment, the Traffic Light can yell “Red light” and turn to face the group. Everyone must freeze in place, lest they should be spotted and removed from the round. The person to successfully reach the Traffic Light and tag them, if any, takes their place for the next round.
The doors a piece of simple sidewalk chalk can open are plenty (everyone who’ve seen Pan’s Labyrinth would agree). In our case, those are doors to creativity. Hopscotch is one of the most common games involving chalk and one that is fairly simple. The players need to draw a hopscotch grid with numbers from one to nine.
The next thing children will need is a pebble or some other rock good for tossing. The game begins with tossing the pebble onto Square 1. The player then needs to jump over the square and hop onto the following one with either one foot or two feet, depending on the grid’s composition, and continue jumping in this manner all the way to the end.
Having reached the final square, the player turns around and hops their way to the start, stopping on square 2. Standing on one foot, they need to get the pebble from the next square and jump over it to the starting point. Once completing one round, the player repeats the same procedure, throwing the pebble onto the next square.
If you miss the square with your pebble, you pass your turn to the next player. The first child to complete the whole grid wins. Any number of people can participate, but only one can occupy the grid at a time.
8. Giant Jenga (Tumble Tower)
The classic evening tabletop game takes on a fresh new look and moves to your backyard since it’s now ten times bigger. The game is very intuitive and fun, and the result is solely in your hands.
You can join the game and have as much fun as the children do. The rules are simple: you should build a tower from the wooden blocks that come in a corresponding set and then take turns removing one block and positioning it on top. The person who makes the tower crumble loses.
Everybody knows good old Hide and Seek. That is probably the most common game parents play with small children and thus may get tired of it sooner or later. What we offer is reversed Hide and Seek.
The start is the opposite of the traditional game: instead of one seeker, you designate one hider. That person hides, and everybody looks for them. Should a seeker find the hider, instead of revealing their position they quietly join the hider in their hiding spot.
After a while, that spot will be swarming with children (just like sardines in a can) that still need to at least try to be stealthy. The last person to find everyone is hiding in the next round.
We’ve decided to throw in at least one sport because, well, we are an outdoor sports store. Baseball is, one, a game; two, played outdoors, so it fits our list perfectly. Baseball is a team game that involves a lot of cooperation and precision and is a great way to teach your children comradery.
You don’t have to unleash an avalanche of rules on young players and just let them tip a toe into this amazing sport. A baseball bat and a throwing glove (don’t forget about the ball) are everything you need to introduce children to this sport. Teaching the basis is not easy but extremely rewarding.
Those are but a few fun outdoor games for kids. No list is big enough to comprise all activities that can make your outdoor time even more enjoyable. The next time your kid says there is nothing to do outside, you have at least ten reasons to prove them wrong.