Non-Competitive Active Games for Kids

Siblings playing in bouncy castle at backyard
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There are no winners or losers with these non-competitive games for kids—only lots of active fun. Try them at your next family party or birthday celebration. These games and activities can be adapted for different ages, interests, skill levels, and party themes, and many can be played indoors or out.

Active Play Ideas

Ideas for non-competitive active play include:

  • Animal Antics: Distribute animal stickers or small stuffed animals to each party guest, then challenge them to imitate their designated critter with motions and sounds. Line them up for an animal parade.
  • Ants on a Log: Have kids stand on a line (make it with a jump rope, sidewalk chalk, painters' tape, etc.). Give them each a number. Then have them switch places to line up in the opposite order, so #1 ends up in, say sixth place, while #6 is in the first place. The challenge is that they can't step off the line while they rearrange. It takes teamwork. This non-competitive game comes from Playworks, a group that works with schools to help kids play actively and cooperatively during recess.
  • Art-y Party: Have guests collaborate on a large banner or mural made with sidewalk chalk or paint (handprints and footprints are especially fun).
  • Bounce in the House: Rent, borrow or buy an inflatable jumping structure. Kids can never get enough of this non-competitive physical activity.
  • Criss-Cross: Designate a goal, such as a table, chair, box, or yardstick. Gather all the kids across the room or yard from the goal and have them crawl (or march, etc., as with Traffic Lights) to it, then return to the starting point. At the starting point, give them a penny or piece of wrapped candy to hold, then have them go again—back and forth, as long as they want to keep at it and try to hang on to their prizes too.
  • Find the Pennies: Hide shiny pennies or nickels around your home or yard and challenge kids to find them, alone or in teams. Have them place found coins in a special jar and explain that the birthday child will donate the cash to a favorite charity. Better yet, choose a charity that aligns with the party's theme: an animal shelter for a puppy party, or a food pantry for a cooking party.
  • Group Juggle: To play this non-competitive game, start with guests standing in a tight circle. Give the birthday child a soft, mid-sized ball (one that all the guests can easily throw and catch). The first child tosses the ball across the circle to another player, then that player tosses it back to the child next to the birthday kid, and so on around the circle. (You may need to call out names to help the kids know who's up next.) Practice this pattern several times until everyone's comfortable. Then add another ball, reminding the kids to keep throwing it in the same pattern (to and from the same person). Add up to four balls total to create the very cool illusion that your circle is a giant juggling machine.
  • Help Your Neighbor: In this version of tag, there is no "it." Each player gets a beanbag and must walk around the room or yard balancing the bag on her head. If it falls off, she freezes—until a friend comes along to replace the dropped beanbag.
  • Make a Mess: Throw a messy party. Let kids toss flour, dig in the dirt, squirt silly string and shaving cream. The kids cooperate to make a huge mess.
  • Overcome Obstacles: Create an obstacle course in your home or yard using furniture, fabric tunnels, cardboard boxes, sidewalk chalk, etc., and have party guests navigate it—not as a race, but as a team activity. Better yet, give kids the raw materials and have them design their own course.
  • Ready, Set, Get Wet: Kids and water are always a fun, active combination. Put out a slip-and-slide, a sprinkler, an array of squirters, or a big tub of water and some buckets (then stand back).
  • Traffic Lights: This is a simpler, less competitive version of the classic "Red Light, Green Light." Have the party guests run freely, then call out "red," "yellow," or "green." Players must stop on red, sit on yellow, and go on green, but no one is called out if they forget. Mix things up by having them perform a different movement (dance, hop, crawl, etc.) for each round.
1 Source
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. Bleeker M, Beyler N, James-Burdumy S, Fortson J. The impact of playworks on boys' and girls' physical activity during recessJ Sch Health. 2015;85(3):171‐178. doi:10.1111/josh.12235

By Catherine Holecko
Catherine Holecko is an experienced freelance writer and editor who specializes in pregnancy, parenting, health and fitness.