Trying to make outdoor play more fun for your kiddos? Sometimes simple is best. You don’t need seasonal sports and multiple extracurricular activities to help your kids stay active. These simple (and budget-friendly) fun outdoor games will get your kids excited about getting outdoors and moving their bodies—and they can be done in any season. In fact, many of these ideas are even more fun in the snow!
1. Capture the Flag
Grab any two pieces of brightly coloured cloth (the flags) and a long rope or other divider that can be used to delineate sides. Each of the two teams must hide their cloth/flag on their own side. Then it’s game on. Each team has to search for the other team’s flag, retrieve it, and bring it back to their home base to win the game. The only catch? They can’t get caught with it. If they find the opposing team’s flag but are caught with it before they make it back to their own side, the team gets to hide it again.
2. Flashlight tag
The game of tag is arguably the simplest, most popular game for kids, whether in the schoolyard or at the park. If you want to make it even more interesting, play in the dark and add a flashlight to the mix. Whoever is “it” has to aim their flashlight at the person they’re trying to catch. To make it even more interesting, turn it into a game of flashlight freeze tag. Once someone is “caught,” they must freeze and wait for another player to unfreeze them by shining their flashlight on them. This game is especially helpful for busy families who only have time to get outside at night. (Note: we always make a rule that there is no shining the flashlight above shoulder level. No one wants a bright light in their eyes!)
3. Four Square
Four Square is a great game that’s extremely popular in many schoolyards at recess. So why not draw your own Four Square court with sidewalk chalk? Mark a number from one to four in each square, and use a bouncy ball to play. Each player stands in each of the squares, and the player in square four starts by bouncing the ball in their square and then hitting it towards one of the other squares. The receiving player then hits the ball to any other player. The ball must bounce in the receiving player’s square once and they must hit it to another player before it bounces a second time. If the player misses a square or the ball bounces a second time before they hit it, they are “out.” If there are more than four players, the player who’s out goes to the end of the line of waiting players. If there are only four players, the player who’s out would move to the next lowest position, four being the highest square.
4. Broken Telephone
I can always tell my kids are playing Broken Telephone with their friends when I see a big group of kids standing in a circle who can’t stop laughing. The person who starts thinks of a phrase, song name, or short story whispers it into the ear of the person next to them, who then whispers it to the person next to them (and so on) until it comes all the way back around to the first person again—the original story teller. Then they say the real phrase aloud, and explain how it changed from the original. The more kids involved in the game, the more things get diluted along the way.
This is an oldie (as in kids have been playing it for over 300 years) but a definite goodie. The object of the game is simple and kids can either draw their own course with the chalk or have a parent help. Use your imagination and draw the boxes to be jumped in in various colours and shapes. Use the chalk as the marker or find stones, beanbags, or small plastic toys. Once your children have conquered hopping the course, see if they can double hop on each box or use varying feet for hopping on the way up and the way back.
Kids of all ages LOVE the thrill of a hiding game. It requires no equipment and can be played in any weather. It’s also a great way to get moving: running, hiding, trying to avoid getting caught, and trying to be the last person standing all makes for great connection time if you play with your kids! (Or great fun for a big group of kids while the grownups chat.)
7. What Time is it, Mr. Wolf?
This one is similar to red light, green light, but even better because the anticipation is what makes this classic game so fun (especially for younger kids). The wolf (aka the person who’s “it”) turns their back to the rest of the group, who line up a fair distance away. The group calls out “What time is it, Mr. Wolf!?” and the wolf responds with the time of their choosing. If it’s “5 o’clock,” each person in the group must take five steps, and so on. Once everyone is close, the wolf responds that it’s “LUNCH TIME!” before chasing and trying to catch someone. Whoever gets caught first is the next wolf.
8. Scavenger hunt
A scavenger hunt never gets old! Simply search for and find a printable scavenger hunt that interests your kids, grab a pencil or marker, and go! This is a fun way for children to explore the outdoors and practice fundamental movement skills along the way. Even better, you can get the whole family involved in the challenge.
This playground game is just like tag, except on a playground. The first player who is “it” tries to tag other players from the ground only. If they choose to go on the playground structure to try to catch someone, they must close their eyes. At any point in the game, if the person who is “it” yells “Grounders!” then any other player who is on the ground becomes “it” with them.
10. Hula hoop obstacle course
Set up several hula hoops in a variety of shapes or patterns. Kids can run from hoop to hoop or jump in/out of the hoops. Or add more things, like a jump rope, bicycles, rubber balls, and more imaginative ways to create your obstacle course. If you want to take it to the next level, here’s how to make a DIY obstacle course outside.
11. Tug of war
Tug of war is great because it’s not only fun, but also teaches kids about team-building, compromising, and problem-solving. Divide the kids into two teams with an equal number of kids on each. Wrap a piece of duct tape or tie a ribbon around the middle of the rope and draw a line on the ground. Teams each take an end of the rope and on the word “go,” pull the rope as hard as they can. The first team to pull the centre of the rope past the line on the ground is the winner. Make sure your rope is sturdy enough for tugging, and shake up the teams so that everyone can pull with everyone else.
Sometimes the best outdoor activities are the simplest. What else would you add to this list of classic outdoor games?