Easy Outdoor Games and Activities for Kids

These classic outdoor games are fun for groups of kids or just your family

Four young children running outside in a grassy area

David Hanover / Getty Images

When you have a group of kids over for an outdoor birthday party or play date, it's handy to have some activity ideas up your sleeve. That said, outdoor games and activities for children don't have to be complicated to be fun. And because they're outside, your kids will likely be running around and burning off lots of energy and getting exercise while playing. Children need 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day, and what better way to get it?

Just about any open outdoor space will do for these activities, including parks, schoolyards, playgrounds, backyards, beaches, or meadows. Simple, easy-to-understand instructions for kids of all ages can encourage hours of active play. That means more time spent outside with their friends, enjoying the sun and fresh air—and giving you some time to enjoy your adult company, just catch your breath, or join in on the fun.

Fun Outdoor Games and Activities for Kids

The following list highlights classic, fun games that don't require a lot of components or setup. If the weather doesn't cooperate, many of these games, such as the dress-up relay race or obstacle course, can be easily transferred indoors to a basement, large living room, community center space, or gymnasium. Party on!


Kids playing outdoors

The object of this ball game is to run as far and as fast as possible from the person who is throwing the ball and to dodge the ball when it’s thrown at you without moving your feet.

Be sure to use a very soft ball, such as a foam ball, which is specifically made to be thrown at people without hurting them.

How to Play

  1. Start with a person in the middle. That person is the thrower, or "it." Everyone else should stand within arm’s reach of the thrower.
  2. The thrower tosses the ball straight up into the air. As soon as the ball is released, players begin to run away from the thrower. When the thrower catches the ball on its way back down, they yell, "Spud!" at which point players immediately freeze where they are.
  3. The thrower then tries to tag a player with the ball. The frozen player can try to dodge the ball but is not allowed to move their feet. If a player is hit, they will get the letter "S" and move to the middle to be the next thrower.
  4. If the thrower misses, then the thrower repeats steps 2 and 3.
  5. The game is played until a player gets all four letters "S-P-U-D," which means they are out of the game. The game continues until there is only one player left. That player is the winner.

Rainbow Challenge

Child holding red flowers

Charles Gullung / Getty Images

For this game, kids are challenged to find as many items in different colors as they can. It's ideal to play in a park, garden, or large backyard. Simply set a timer and encourage the players to run around and collect things in every color in the rainbow. When the timer dings (you can make this a shorter or longer activity depending on the space and attention span of the kids), have the children come together to present their bounty.

For little kids, you can simply have them collect items and then work together to sort them by color. To add challenge for older children, task them with finding as many items as they can within one color, such as looking for multiple shades of green or yellow.

Red Light, Green Light

Kids running

This is a simple and fun outdoor game that doesn’t require any setup or accessories. It’s great for a small or large group of kids.

How to Play

  1. One person is designated as the "stoplight." The stoplight stands with their back toward the other players, who stand about 15 to 20 feet away from them.
  2. The stoplight calls out "green light!" which signals the players to begin moving toward them. Then, the stoplight yells, "red light!" and turns around. If any player is caught moving when the stoplight turns around, that player is out.
  3. The game is over if all the players are out before anyone reaches the stoplight or if someone tags the stoplight. If a player reaches the stoplight, that person gets to be the stoplight in the next game.


Hide and seek

This game is essentially a reverse version of hide-and-go-seek.

How to Play

  1. One person who is "it" hides and everyone else looks for them.
  2. Each player that finds "it" joins them in the hiding place.
  3. As the players find "it," one by one, they all crowd into the hiding place and end up packed together like sardines in a can (hence the name of the game). The last person to find the hiding place is the next one to be "it."

Sidewalk Chalk

Kids using sidewalk chalk

Stephen Simpson / Getty Images

Hours of fun can be had with sidewalk chalk, for small or large groups. Simply buy a package of sidewalk chalk and watch their creativity bloom. Pick a theme, say spaceships and aliens, underwater world, or flowers and fairies—or simply encourage them to draw or write whatever comes to mind.

Four Square

Girl playing outside

You don’t need much to play this popular game. All that is required is:

  • A ball that's good for catching and bouncing (such as a soccer ball or volleyball)
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Space on asphalt or another hard surface on which you can draw lines and bounce a ball

The concept and rules are simple: First, draw a large square, about 8 to 10 feet long on each side. Then, divide the square evenly so that you have four equal-sized quadrants and label each from 1 to 4 in clockwise order. The first square is "king," the second is "queen," the third is "jack," and the fourth is "ace."

How to Play

  1. Each child stands in a square.
  2. The child in square 1 is the server and bounces the ball to any of the other squares. The child in that square must then hit the ball into another square without letting it bounce more than once in their own square.
  3. If they miss, or if the ball bounces more than once, that player is out (which is a good way to rotate in other kids if there are more than four children playing).
  4. If there are more than four players, the extra kids form a line to enter the game once someone gets out.
  5. If there are only four players in the game, then the child who missed the ball has to go to the fourth, or "ace" place. The object of the game is to be in the “king” spot the longest.

Obstacle Course

Kids running through an obstacle course

Rolf Bruderer / Getty Images

Kids invariably love running through obstacle courses. You can do this activity as a race, timing who gets through the course the quickest, or just for fun. Anything can be used to create the course, from play tubes and cardboard boxes to step ladders and bean bag chairs. Simply line up items for kids to navigate over, under, or around.

Review the obstacles with them before they run the course so they'll know what to do. For added complexity, you can add extra elements, such as doing jumping jacks or a summersault, at various points in the course.

Freeze Tag

Kids playing tag

Here’s an oldie but a goodie. Kids love the thrill of chasing and being chased, which is why variations of tag are so popular.

How to Play

  1. Have two kids be "it" for a party of 10 to 12 kids. (For larger groups, assign three or more kids to be "it.") Set up boundaries if you are not in an enclosed yard; use trees or park benches, or other objects as markers.
  2. When the people who are "it" call out "Go!" the other kids scatter in different directions.
  3. The people who are "it" will try to tag the players. Any player who is tagged will freeze. They can only be unfrozen and run again if another player who has not yet been tagged touches them.
  4. The last people who are not frozen become "it" in the next game.

Crayon Rubbings

Child holding fall leaves in their hands

baobao ou / Getty Images

Most adults have done a crayon rubbing or two as kids themselves. This makes a game out of an art activity and doesn't require too much effort on the part of parents.

Make the Crayon Rubbings

It's best to show kids how to make one before they begin their hunt. Peel the paper off of an old crayon, set a piece of paper on a leaf or something with an interesting texture, just for demonstration purposes, and rub the crayon over the paper until the texture or shape outline starts to show through.

How to Play

  1. Once the group knows how to make a crayon rubbing and a table is set up outside with paper and crayons, ask the kids to run around the yard to make crayon rubbings of as many different types of leaves as they can in 10 to 20 minutes.
  2. Encourage them to look closely and find leaves of varying shapes, sizes, and even leaves that have special features (like tears, bug bite marks, etc.). To save your landscaping, tell them that the leaves must already be lying on the ground.
  3. The child that comes back with the most crayon rubbings of different types of leaves is the winner.
  4. To continue playing, kids can go back out to make as many crayon rubbings as they can of different tree trunks, rocks, or anything else they find with an interesting surface.

Dress Up Relay Race

Child in dress up clothes

Charles Gullung / Getty Images

Relay races make great outdoor party games for many reasons. They get kids moving and active, they inspire teamwork, and they satisfy kids' love of competition. This game adds a fun twist that has kids put on dress-up clothing as part of the race, which adds a fun and festive extra step.

The dress-up relay race is a fun outdoor party game and can easily be tailored to fit the theme of a party by having kids dress up in pirate, sports, princess, or other outfits and accessories.

How to Play

Set up an obstacle course with items from the dress-up theme. Divide the kids into teams and have them race through the course and put on a dress-up item (such as hats, shoes, jewelry, tops, dresses, bags, skirts, or fairy wings) at each marker. Then, they go in reverse and replace items at each marker. The first team to have each player go through the course wins.

Water Balloon Toss

Water balloons for a game of water balloon toss

Onfokus / Getty Images

Here's an awesome outdoor game for any gathering. Because it involves water balloons, you may want to dress kids in their swimsuits. It's the perfect way to have fun on a hot summer's day!

How to Play

There are many ways to play with water balloons. The simplest version is to line up the kids in pairs and have them toss a water balloon back and forth until it breaks. The last pair with an intact balloon wins. Another option is to throw the balloons at each other with the intention of popping them, which is particularly fun on a hot day.

You can use different variations of games with water balloons that don't involve combat, too. These include tossing balloons at a target rather than each other. These games help develop motor skills and coordination.


Kids and parents playing kickball

Yellow Dog Productions / Getty Images

Kickball is a blast to play with a larger group and is fun for all different ages and athletic abilities. All you need is a large rubber ball, which is sometimes called a four-square or playground ball. The game can be played on a baseball diamond. Or you can use a makeshift field by using any grassy or paved area. If so, you'll want to roughly mark four bases at the corners of a "diamond."

How to Play

  1. Divide your group into two teams.
  2. Like in baseball, you'll have a pitcher who rolls the ball on the ground rather than throws it to the player who is "up" at home plate. The rest of the defensive team will be stationed at the 3 other bases as well as in between then and in the outfield.
  3. When the ball is rolled to home plate, the player who is up kicks it into the field. If successful, they run the bases, attempting to get to a base before getting tagged by the ball, which can either be carried by an opposing team member or thrown at the runner. If they are tagged when not on a base, they are out. If they are safe, they get a chance to run again and try to make a run by reaching home base when their next teammate kicks the ball. If they miss their kick or it goes foul (outside of the field), they get 2 more chances or are declared out.
  4. After three outs, the teams switch sides. You can decide to play for a set time period or number of innings. Whichever team has the most runs at the end of the game wins.

Nature Photo Scavenger Hunt

Little kid hugging a tree

Charles Gullung / Getty Images

Scavenger hunts can be great fun at parties or with larger groups of kids. There are many types of scavenger hunts, but if the weather allows, take your hunt outside and look for items in nature to get kids active and exploring in the fresh air. Plus, a nature-based theme helps to inspire a love of nature and the outdoors.

By focusing on nature, you’ll make this outdoor activity a great green game that's perfect for kids today. They will be learning about nature and developing their cognitive skills while having fun.

How to Play

Scavenger hunts take a bit of prep work, as you'll need to decide on the items to find ahead of time. The great thing with a nature scavenger hunt is that you don't need to put out or hide anything. Instead, simply take a walk in the designated play area and note what you see. Then, use these plants or animals in your list of things for kids to find. (Although, you can certainly place specific items with or without clues for your group to find if desired.)

  1. Decide on your teams. This game can be played as one or several teams.
  2. Hand out (digitally or on paper) the scavenger hunt list to each team and provide cameras (or cell phones), as needed.
  3. Let kids know what the boundaries are for the hunt.
  4. Send them out to find and photograph the items (with proper supervision, of course, depending on the participants' ages).
  5. The first team to find all the items wins.

Ring Toss

Kids playing ring toss

mixetto / Getty Images

Ring toss is a simple but addictive game that can be played solo or in groups. You'll need rings to toss and a standing stick to try to toss the rings onto. Ring toss game sets are available for purchase or you can use any rings you have with a stick or post secured in the ground. Alternatively, if you don't have rings, you can modify the game by designating an area on the ground where children attempt to throw bean bags or other items.

This game builds on hand-eye coordination, patience, and tenacity—and is loads of fun. Essentially, kids take turns throwing their rings to see how many they make on the stick (or designated spot on the ground). Whoever gets the most rings on the stick wins.

Steal the Bacon

Kids running in a field

Flashpop / Getty Images

Steal the Bacon is a fun outdoor party game that's perfect for grade-school-age kids. This classic outdoor party game will encourage kids to listen and pay attention, sharpening kids' reflexes while having fun!

How to Play

This game is played in a large field or backyard. Divide your group into two teams. Each team gets one "side" of the play space. Place two objects, such as balls, bean bags, or hand towels, in different colors in the center of the field. Decide on a safe area at opposite edges of the field for each team to have as their home base.

For each round in this tag-based game, each team seeks to "steal" their object ("the bacon") and get it back to their home base without being tagged. If a player gets tagged while holding the bacon, the other team gets a point. If they get the item back to their home base without being tagged that team gets a point. The team with the most points wins.

Balloon Stomp

Kids holding bouquets of balloons

Catherine Delahaye

Balloon Stomp is a raucous game that will get kids moving as they try to stomp their way to victory. Between the laughing, screaming, and popping of balloons, this outdoor game will be one loud and happy party event.

How to Play

Each child has two balloons attached to their feet with a string and, as in musical chairs, they walk around a circle until the music stops. Once the music stops, they try to stomp each others' balloons. (Be sure your group is wearing sturdy shoes and is instructed to watch out for each other's toes.) The last child with an unpopped balloon wins.

Fun Beach Game Ideas

Kids building sand castles

ArtMarie / Getty Images

If your group is going to be on the beach, try these entertaining beach activities for kids. Children can have lots of fun at the beach just by splashing in the waves, digging holes in the sand, or burying each other or their parents in the sand. When the kids are looking for something else to do or you've got a larger group to organize, try a bucket relay race where you can only use your hands to transfer water from the waves to fill your bucket.

Beach volleyball is also a blast. It's loads of fun for parents, too! You can fly kites and compete to see who can send their's aloft the fastest or highest. Or you can have a sand sculpture competition. You can also give them a beach-themed scavenger hunt to collect shells and pebbles.


Siblings playing badminton in their backyard

Ivan Pantic / Getty Images

Badminton is an easy-to-learn game that kids of all ages can enjoy. To play an official game, you'll need rackets, birdies (also called shuttlecocks), and a net. However, you can definitely have fun even without the net by just designating a line to hit the birdie over back and forth with a partner or groups of players.

How to Play

  1. Divide your group into teams and decide how many points you will play until—or set a time limit.
  2. Begin by having one person serve the birdie over the net.
  3. The other team tries to hit the birdie back over the net to the other team before it drops to the ground. Multiple hits are allowed.
  4. Play continues until a team misses the birdie and it touches the ground. When that happens, the other team gets a point.
  5. Whichever team reaches the designated score (such as 10 points) or has the highest score when the time runs out wins.


Kids playing on a play structure

fstop123 / Getty Images

Grounders is an entertaining twist on the game of tag. It's played on a playground or play structure, which adds an extra element of complexity that older kids will enjoy.

How to Play

  1. Decide on who will be "it." Just like in traditional tag, the person who is "it" attempts to tag one of the other players. If tagged, they become "it."
  2. However, the twist in grounders is that the other players must stay on the play structure.
  3. The person who is "it" can be on the ground with their eyes open but if they go on the play structure they need to keep them closed. Supervision may be needed for younger kids, as they need to slowly and carefully navigate by feel and hearing while pursuing players on the play structure.
  4. If "it" senses that a player is on the ground, they yell, "grounders," and then open their eyes to see if they've caught anyone. If so, that person becomes "it."

Running Races

Kids running across a field

FatCamera / Getty Images

Set up a course for kids to have a running race. You can choose to either have them do sprints or a longer run depending on the age and interest of the children. If you have a group of various ages, you can stagger the kids, with the younger children closer to the finish line. Then, yell, "ready, set, go," and they are off!

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Piercy KL, Troiano RP, Ballard RM, et al. The Physical Activity Guidelines for AmericansJAMA. 2018;320(19):2020–2028. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.14854

  2. O'Connor L. Implications for Learners-Dyspraxia.

  3. Yıldırım G, Akamca GÖ. The effect of outdoor learning activities on the development of preschool childrenS Afr J Educ. 2017;37(2). doi:10.15700/saje.v37n2a1378

By Katherine Lee
Katherine Lee is a parenting writer and a former editor at Parenting and Working Mother magazines.