Easy Outdoor Games and Activities for Kids

Keep groups entertained when the weather warms up

Children (3-8) running in park (blurred motion).
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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. Outdoor games and activities for children don't have to be complicated. 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 or just catch your breath.

The following list highlights classic, fun games that don't require a lot of components or setup.

SPUD

The object of this 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, he yells, "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 his or her feet. If the player is hit, he or she 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 she is out of the game. The game continues until there is only one player left. That player is the winner.

Red Light, Green Light

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 his back toward the other players, who stand about 15 to 20 feet away from him.
  2. The stoplight calls out "green light!" which signals the players to begin moving toward him. 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.

Sardines

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 him.
  2. Each player that finds "it" joins him or her 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."

Four Square

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 his own square.
  3. If he misses, 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 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.

Freeze 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 Rubbing

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.

To 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, ask the kids to run around the yard to make crayon rubbings of as many different types of leaves as they can in 25 mins.
  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 with an interesting surface.
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