Little kids love to be outside — they’re making stews with flowers and leaves, hanging from trees like sloths, and doing whatever their tiny little brains dream up for them. Somewhere in the pre-teens and early teens, though, your kid might begin to lose interest in playing outside. Sure, they might go out to practice their sport. But, more often than not, you can find your teen and their friends piled up on the couch. Or, you know, staring down at their phone screens sending each other TikToks or memes (or whatever the youths are into these days). The idea of introducing outdoor games for teenagers to the kid who hasn’t made eye contact with you since breakfast can seem like Mission: Impossible. A key to success here? Choosing games that’ll pique their interests.
So, how can you get them out of your house and into the yard? Try these fun games and outdoor activities they might actually put their phone away.
1. Blob Tag
This is just like regular tag except once a person has been tagged, they latch onto “it” and go together to tag the next person. The game continues and the “blob” gets bigger until there is only one person unattached. At that point, the winner can either just be the “winner” or they can become “it” and the blob can disperse so that the came can start all over.
2. Flashlight Tag
This is much more like hide-and-seek than like tag. Once it’s dark outside, head out and bring a flashlight. As “it” (the person with the flashlight) counts to 100, everyone else should run and hide. In this version, you don’t have to be physically touched to be tagged. If “it” catches you with the beam of light and calls out your name, you lose. Be on the lookout for new places to dive behind or under, as long as you can escape the flashlight, you’re still in the game.
3. Find The Leader
Send one person (“it”) out of the room and have the rest of the team get into a circle and designate a “leader.” When “it” returns, have them stand in the middle of the circle. The leader will come up with wacky motions and dances for everyone else to follow and “it” must try to guess who the leader is. Encourage the kids to try to watch different friends and neighbors, but avoid keeping their eyes fixed on the leader.
4. Vroom, Vroom
Have your kids scatter across the lawn and stand with their hands in front of them, like they’re driving a car. Play “traffic cop” by giving them directions for driving. This can be anything from turning right to telling them to swerve to miss a pothole. Encourage your teens to make driving noises. This is extra fun in a smaller yard where “crashes” are bound to happen.
5. Sleeping Beauty
Have one teen play Sleeping Beauty and lay down on the grass or in a lounge chair and pretend to sleep. All the other players should take turns trying to “wake” Sleeping Beauty by making them laugh or open their eyes. Remember: No touching!
6. Lap Game
Set up chairs like you would for Musical Chairs, except you make sure there’s a seat for everyone. Once everyone has a seat, a parent or leader asks a “yes” or “no” question. (Think: “Have you ever been out of the state?”) If the answer is no, the person stays in their seat. If the answer is “yes,” the person moves to their right, even if that means sitting on someone’s lap. There isn’t really a clear winner, just a lot of silliness and laughs.
Teenagers can be aggressive. We recommend softer balls or water balloons.
8. Sponge Pass
Have your teens form two teams and line up facing each other. At the head of the line place a bucket of water and a sponge. At the end of the line you should place an empty bucket. On your mark, teammates must begin soaking up water, passing the sponge down the line and wringing it out in the empty bucket. The first team to empty their bucket (or fill the other) is the winner.
9. Capture The Flag
Every little kid played this at field day, but why not encourage some wound-up teens to give it a try? Make it more fun by playing at night using glow-in-the-dark tape to mark boundaries and other glow-stuff for flags.
10. Elbow Tag
Pair up your teens and leave one person as “It.” Your teens should link arms and put their free hands on their hips. It must run around and attempt to catch someone and hook their arm through a free elbow of one of the partners. Once they’ve latched onto one person in a set of partners, the other partner must let go and become It.
11. Lawn Twister
Use some biodegradable grass spray paint to mark out a Twister board on the yard. Consider making it extra big if you have a large group of teens. Spin the wheel and watch hilarity ensue.
Consider this the opposite of hide-and-seek. In this fun version, one person hides and everyone else sets out to find them. The trick? As more people find the hider, they must hide with them until there’s only one person still seeking. The key is to find a hiding place big enough to fit almost everyone, but still small enough that it isn’t obvious. It can get pretty cramped in the hiding spot — hence the name.
13. Broken Telephone Pictionary
A great team-building exercise or ice breaker, this activity is as fun for adults as it is for teens. The game is like the classic broken telephone game but it involves drawing. Here’s how to play: Line up a group of five to 10 teens, with each standing behind the other. The person at the back of the line places a sheet of paper on the back of the person in front and draws a picture. Then the person has to draw that same image on the back of the person in front of them, and so forth until the person at the front draws what they felt on their back. Like with broken telephone, the image will probably be completely off from the original image, but that’s the fun part.
14. Sack Race
Fact: No one is ever too cool or old for a sack race. Grab a bunch of burlap sacks and draw a finish line at the end of the yard. Some teens will fall, while others make a perfect stretch across the field. But all of them will have a blast. To make things interesting, make it part of an obstacle course!