Sidewalk games for when you can’t get to the park (and don’t have a yard)

If your outdoor play space is a few squares of sidewalk, your kids can still have some amazing creative and active play. The ideas listed here all encourage movement and are fun ways to bond and spend time together.

Trick challenge

See how long your kiddos can hop on one foot, hop like a kangaroo, jump super high, or cartwheel. My kids love to show me their “tricks.” You can also use the sidewalk squares to create a simple obstacle course, with a different fun movement (or animal) associated with each square.

Start by drawing a chalk picture on each sidewalk square of an animal to emulate, then show your kids your best frog jumps, donkey kicks, crab walk, and other animal impressions before they give it a whirl. This is guaranteed to turn into unstructured free play after a few rounds.

Body tracing with chalk

This seemingly simple activity has a ton of social-emotional benefits for kids, as well as getting them moving as they trace each other and colour in their own outlines. Tracing a sibling or friend is a great way to learn social cues and read emotion. You can also use prompts like “You’re wearing your dinosaur shirt today! I wonder what kind of shirt your chalk outline will wear?”

Chalk outlines are also a great jumping-off point for talking about emotions, as your child chooses whether their chalk outline will be smiling, frowning, or making a silly face.

Just add water

Create the simplest water setup ever and kids will flock to it, no fancy water tables or toys required. Some mixing bowls and a few scoops are enough to get your kids involved in active, sensory water play. If it’s a rainy day, get out the raincoats and boots. Jumping in puddles and counting how many earthworms you can find together is a physical activity and science lesson wrapped into one. 

Plainsies Clapsies

Have you heard of this old game? It requires only a ball and your best singing voice, and it’s just as fun for parents as it will be for your kiddos. Here’s the song: Plainsies, clapsies, twirl around the backsies. Toss it high. Toss it low. Touch your knees. Touch your toes. Clap your hands and through it goes.

Recite each line and toss the ball up:

1. Normally

2. Then clap and catch the ball.

3. Then twirl around and catch it.

4. Toss it high and catch it.

5. Toss it low and catch it.

6. Throw it, touch your knees and catch it.

7. Throw it, touch your toes and catch it.

8. Clap your hands, twirl around and catch it.

This game offers the simplest type of fun that will have everyone laughing as you throw the ball, make mistakes, and challenge each other to complete the whole song without dropping the ball.

Introduce some simple props

Hula hoops and skipping ropes are two inexpensive simple toys that go a long way in terms of inviting kids to move their bodies. There are endless skipping games and songs to enjoy (Double Dutch, anyone?) and even more games to play with hula hoops (human ring toss, jumping from ring to ring, holding the ring up and inviting kids to jump through, etc.). Bubbles are another simple way to offer a quick movement break, as kids see how many bubbles they can catch and pop.


Further reading:

One piece of chalk, 8 active games

Transforming city sidewalks to get kids moving

No backyard? Try bringing the outside in

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