Remember when we were kids and we’d spend all day adventuring between our yard and the yards of our friends? These days, you’re more likely to see your kids huddled over a cell phone than bouncing on a trampoline or riding bikes through the neighborhood. “Kids these days” require a little more engagement and that’s exactly what these fun outdoor games offer. Apply some sunscreen, hand them a bottle of water, and encourage playtime outside to burn off that kid energy.
1. Rainbow Tag
This game is best played in an area with lots of obstacles or hiding places. Before the game begins, hide painted Popsicle sticks (one for each color of the rainbow) throughout the yard or play area. With each stick, leave a face paint stick with a matching color. Designate an “it.” Everyone else must run finding the Popsicle sticks and using the corresponding face paint to mark their face. Any time “it” catches someone, they must wipe off one color. The first person to collect the whole rainbow on their face wins.
2. Giant Memory Game
Use 12-16 poster boards to create a giant stack of memory cards. Bonus, if you’re an artist, this could be a chance for you to show off your skills to the kiddos. However, you don’t have to be a great artist. You could simply use a permanent marker to draw happy/sad/angry faces and teach emotions as they play.
3. Steal The Bacon
Sort of like Capture The Flag. Place an object in the middle of the designated area, have players stand at the perimeter and one person guard the bacon (the bacon can be anything from a ball to a shoe). On your signal, players can begin to try to steal the bacon. If the guard tags them, they must switch spots. The first person to steal the bacon and get it back to the perimeter wins.
4. Sharks vs. Minnows
Designate a shark and everyone else are minnows. Have the minnows line up on one side of the yard and try to get to the other side of the yard without being tagged. If they are tagged, they become a shark, as well. Once the remaining minnows make it to the other side, have them turn around and run back — this time there are more sharks to try to catch them. The last minnow swimming wins!
5. Scavenger Hunt
This can be as simple or as in-depth as you want to make it. You could make a list asking for different things in nature (think: A brown leaf, a smooth rock, etc.) or simply a list of colors or shapes. You could just say, “everyone go find a very round rock” and see who returns first or who returns with the most circular find.
6. Hula Hoop Game
Have everyone line up holding hands and give the first person in line a hula hoop. Players must pass the hula hoop to the end of the line without ever letting go of hands. If it’s too easy the first time, consider using multiple hula hoops or starting a hula hoop at each end (one will need to be kind of flexible so that it can fit through the other).
7. Obstacle Course
Help your kids set up an obstacle course to maneuver through. Think about things like having them climb over the picnic table benches and crawl under the small slide. Weaving through a line of various balls is also a good one.
8. Yard Twister
Use biodegradable yard paint to create an outdoor Twister board, then sit back and enjoy the antics.
9. Ladder Toss
There are two ways to play this. The simplest is the use a ladder and designate points for each rung, then have players toss bean bags or balls between the rungs. Another option is to use long socks or pantyhose with bean bags or balls at each end. Players will toss them and try to get them to hang on the rungs of the ladder.
10. Marco Polo
This is typically played in the water (hence the name), but it doesn’t have to be. Consider this a blind-folded version of tag, where “it” says “Marco” and everyone else answers “Polo.” “It” will have to rely on their hearing to find their friends and tag someone else.
11. Freeze Tag
Like regular tag, except when you’re tagged, you have to freeze. Another player can touch you to unfreeze you.
12. Red Light, Green Light
Have kiddos start at the opposite end of the yard, driveway or play area and stand with your back to them. When you yell “green light” they can all begin to run towards you. When you yell “red light” you should turn around and make sure everyone is stopped. Anyone still moving when you turn around is out. (Think: In jail for running red lights.) The first person to reach you is the winner.
13. Follow The Recipe
This is sort of like a scavenger hunt, but with a little more imagination involved. Have your kids make that old-fashioned twigs and leaves stews like you used to, but find ways to be oddly specific. Examples might be: Twelve twigs the length of your hand, 33 green leaves, 8 small white flowers, two stacking cups of sand or 6 sippie cups of water. First, of course, they’ll need to find the perfect soup pot. Direct them toward the mop or five-gallon bucket in the garage or help them find their largest sand bucket.