As the weather warms up and everyone heads outside, be ready to ward off all of the “I’m bored” declarations with these 33 fun games.
From active running games, to splashing water games, to messy games that will make you glad you have a hose, these activities will suit a wide variety of ages. Most just require simple prep and items you may already have around the house.
Whether you’re a mom, dad, babysitter, or camp counselor, these games are sure to bring fun to your child’s summer!
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1. Obstacle Course
Everyone loves a good obstacle course. You can create one in your own backyard using objects like a play tunnel, a balance beam, hula hoops, string, pool noodles, and more. Set up a simple course for little ones and model how to complete it before letting them go through. Get your older kids involved by having each person be responsible for creating one obstacle for the course. You can time them as they go and have them try to beat their previous time. Or set up two courses side by side and race!
2. Scooter Races
All you need for this game are some scooter boards and a driveway or sidewalk. Let your children race each other while sitting on the scooter boards.
Mix it up by playing ‘red light, green light’. Have one person stand at the finish line and say “green light” letting the others move forward on their scooters. When the person says “red light” everyone must stop. If someone keeps scootering forward, they are either out or must start back at the beginning (depending on which rules you want to follow). The first person on a scooter who reaches the end (you can draw a line with chalk) wins. Then that person can be in charge of yelling “red light, green light”.
3. Animal Tag
Spice up a regular game of tag with Animal Tag. Designate one area to be the “cage” where players will be sent if they are tagged. Choose one child to be “it”; They will be the zookeeper responsible for tagging all of the animals and sending them back to their “cage”. Choose another child to be the mischievous “monkey”; They can tag players to let them out of the cage.
Divide the rest of the children into groups. How many groups depends on the number of players, but overall you can have one group hop like rabbits, frogs, or kangaroos, another gallop like horses, zebras, or antelope, another group run like cheetahs or lions, another can crawl like dogs, pigs, or bears or even skip. Choose animals based on your theme whether it's the zoo and a cage or a barnyard and a barn.
For more of a challenge, create different cage areas for each group. Or turn it into a game of freeze tag and let the monkey unfreeze the other players by tagging them.
4. Four Square
Four Square requires a large flat area, a piece of chalk, a kickball, and at least four players. Start by drawing a large square divided into four using the piece of chalk. Starting in the top left square, label them King, Queen, Jack, and Baby (you could also just label them 1-4).
Randomly assign children the squares to start. As the game progresses, they’ll attempt to move into the higher squares. If the “King” is out, they either start over at “Baby” or must get in line to wait to get back in, depending on the number of players.
The “Baby” starts with the ball and serves it into another square. The next player must hit it into the next square after one bounce. Players must continue to bounce the ball from one square to the next. If a player hits it out of bounds or can’t pass it before it bounces once, they’re out.
- Around the World: Players must pass the ball clockwise. The hitter can call out reverse to switch the order before hitting it to now pass from counterclockwise.
- Around the World No Reverse: Same as above, but you can’t reverse it.
- Categories: Let the King choose a category, like food (state, movie star, colors, etc.). Each player must name an item in the category when they hit it, without repeating something that was previously said. If they repeat something, they’re out.
- Extra Rules
- Bus Stop: If the King calls “bus stop”, everyone must ignore the ball and run to touch the center where all four squares meet with their foot, the last one to do so is out.
- Ballerina Feet: If the King calls “ballerina feet”, the players must all rush to their corner and get into first position in ballet (heels together, toes out following the corner’s lines), the last one to do so is out.
- Train: If the King calls “train” everyone must quickly get onto a line. The other players can shuffle along the lines while the King shuffles and tries to tag someone, the person tagged is out.
- Tea Party: If the King calls “tea party with XYZ” those two players must bounce the ball back and forth until someone is out.
5. Bicycle Fun
Bikes are another fun outdoor activity. With trikes, bicycles, and adaptive tricycles, most children will have fun riding their bikes around the neighborhood. You can add games too. Play “How Slow Can You Go” with a piece of chalk. Draw out a straight or wavy line and time your kids to see who can go the slowest without stopping or needing to put their foot down. Or create obstacles using cones or cans and have your children maneuver around them.
6. Sharks and Minnows
If you’ve got a group of kids, this game is a perfect alternative when tag starts to get a bit boring. Designate one or more players to be the “shark” they will try to tag the minnows. The rest of the players are “minnows” and should stand together in a straight line at one end of the playing field, all facing the shark in the middle of the field. When the shark yells “Swim!” all of the minnows should try to run to the other side of the field without being tagged.
If a minnow is tagged, there are two possible options: You can have them become “seaweed” having them sit down and try to reach out for other minnows to turn them into seaweed too. Or you can have them become additional sharks for the next round.
Play continues until only one minnow remains untagged, they become the new lead shark. This game can also be played in a gym class or in the pool.
7. Kick the Can
All you need for this game is an empty can and a group of participants. Place the can in a large open area. Choose one player to be “It” who should then count to 50 while the other players hide. Then It tries to find and tag all of the other players. If another player is tagged, they must go to the designated “jail” area near the can. Any player who hasn’t been tagged can try to “kick the can” to set all of the players in jail free. When It has all of the players in jail, they win. Whoever was in jail the longest becomes the new It and a new game starts.
8. Opinion Tag
Decide on four spots to be bases. Label them “Love it” “Okay” “Don’t like it” “Never tried it”. Choose one person to be “It”. It chooses a food, sport, activity, etc. and yells it out loud. For example “baseball” or “carrots” or “Spanish class”. All of the other players must run to the base that describes how they feel about the chosen subject. It tries to tag one of the players as they run. If a player is tagged, they become the new It for the next round.
9. Sponge Tennis
For this game, you’ll need a balloon and a sponge on a stick. You can make your own by using a large sponge, a painter’s stick or ruler, and tape to wrap around the handle and prevent splinters. Or purchase a sponge on a stick for a quicker solution. Children can then bat the ball back and forth to play “tennis”, add a net to enhance the game. Or simply attempt to keep the balloon in the air by working together.
For extra fun, head outside. Fill a bucket with water and dip the sponges into it, then play this game with wet sponges! A scrub brush sponge stick is designed to get wet!
10. Water Cup Races
Get two plastic cups and poke a hole in the bottom center of each. Tie a string to a secure anchor point, thread a string through the cup and tie the other end to another secure point (like a tree branch or chair). Bring both cups to the end of their respective strings and hand each child a filled water gun. Have the children shoot the water into the cups to push the cups along the string. Race to see who can get their cup to the end of the string first!
11. Sponge Tag
Easy to set up and tons of fun, all you need for this game is a bucket of water and a large car wash sponge. Choose one child to be “It”. It should take the sponge and dunk it in the bucket. Then It chases the other players trying to tag them with the wet sponge. The first person tagged becomes It and refills the sponge.
12. Frozen Feet
Perfect for cooling down on a hot day, you’ll need ice cubes to play this game. There are two versions of this game.
Version 1: Fill a tub with ice cubes and place an empty tub beside it. Set a time limit (1-2 minutes). See how many ice cubes one child can move from the filled bucket to the empty bucket using only their feet. Then empty the second bin and let another child try. Whoever can move the most cubes within the set amount of time wins!
Version two: Fill one tub with ice cubes, water, and marbles. See how many marbles one child can pick up from within the tub using only their feet in a given time limit. Put the marbles back in the tub and let another child try. Whoever gets the most marbles wins!
13. Over Under Sponge Relay
For this game you’ll need two large sponges and two buckets that are the same size and two large tubs filled with water. Divide the children into two groups and have each group stand in a line. Place the full tubs in front of the lines and the empty buckets at the end of the lines.
Hand the large sponge to the first person in line. They must dunk the sponge and pass it over their head to the next person in line. That person must pass it under their legs to the next person who then passes it over their head... and so on. The last child in line squeezes the sponge out into the bucket then runs to the front of the line and the relay continues. The first team to fill their bucket wins.
If you think this will take too much time, use a small bucket or sharpie a fill-to line on the inside of the bucket.
14. Melt the Ice
This game requires a bit of prep work. But it can be used with a variety of ages and played individually or in a group.
Play individually or cooperatively: Get a large container and fill with one inch of water, then play a few small toys and freeze. Add more water and toys and freeze again. Repeat the process for each layer until the container is full. Remove the block of ice and give your child tools to melt it. (spoons, salt, paintbrushes, spray bottles, etc.) to try and melt the ice and retrieve their treasures.
Play in a group: This version is a bit easier to prepare. Just fill an ice cube tray with one penny and water. Then freeze. Give each child one ice cube and see who can melt it (not break it) in their hands first and get to the penny. That child is the winner and everyone gets to keep a penny!
15. DIY Sprinkler
Sometimes unstructured play is best. Have your child help you create this sprinkler. You’ll need a sturdy plastic bottle, a drill, tape, and a garden hose. Use the drill to make holes in the bottle, if you have older children you can supervise as they do this step. Then securely tape the container to the end of the garden hose. Turn on the water for an instant sprinkler! Your children can run through it, jump over it, and have plenty of fun
Looking for fun sprinkler games? Your children can play ring-around-the rosy, hokey pokey freeze dance, and more around the sprinkler.
16. Water Balloon Toss
This game is a lot like an egg toss but the water balloons instead. Start by filling several water balloons. Have the children divide into pairs and give each pair one water balloon. Have the children start close together and throw the water balloon back and forth. On each successful throw, have both children take another step back. If the water balloon breaks or the pair fails to make a catch, they’re out. The team that ends up the furthest apart wins!
17. Water Limbo
All you need for this water game is a hose. Have an adult hold the hose up high with water streaming out of it. Children can take turns limboing under the stream. After each round, the adult should lower the hose. If the child can’t make it under the steam, they’ll get soaked and be out! Last one limboing wins!
18. Drip, Drip Drench!
This twist on ‘duck, duck, goose’ includes fun water play. Have all of the children sit in a circle, except the child who is “It”. The person who is “It” should walk around the circle holding a sopping wet sponge over each child’s head. As they pass they should say “Drip, drip, drip” until they get to a chosen player and say “Drench” squeezing the sponge over the person’s head. The chosen player gets up and chases it around the circle trying to tag them. It tries to make it around the circle once and to sit in the chosen player’s spot. If It is tagged, they must sit in the center of the circle until someone else is tagged. The chosen player becomes the next It. Resoak the sponge and start again!
19. Ping Pong Toss
Grab a ping pong ball, a sharpie, and several plastic cups. Label the cups numbers 1-5. Fill the cups halfway with water and set the cups up so the ones labelled 1 are closer and the ones labelled higher numbers are further away. Give a child five ping pong balls and let them throw them into the cups for points. You could also let the children throw as many ping pong balls as they can in thirty seconds. Then let the next child take a turn. The child with the most points wins.
20. Egg Roulette and Other Egg Games
You may want to put down a cheap plastic throw away tarp for these games.
Egg Roulette: Fill a bowl with several boiled eggs and one raw egg hidden in the mix. One at a time the child should crack an egg on their head until one breaks.
Egg Toss: Divide the children into pairs and give each pair one raw egg. They must toss the egg back and forth, taking a step back after each successful toss. The winners get the most distance between them without dropping the egg.
Egg and Spoon Race: Give each child one raw egg and one spoon. The first child to get to the finish line and back without dropping their egg wins. If the egg drops, the child must start over from the start line. If the egg breaks, they’re out.
21. Rainbow Tag
This fun face paint game mixes tag, with capture the flag. You will need five tongue depressors, each marked with a color of the rainbow. You will also need matching face paint colors. Hide the tongue depressor and matching face paint in a variety of places around the yard.
Choose someone to be “It”. All of the other players run off in search of the sticks. When they find a stick, they should put a stripe of the matching face paint on their cheek and then continue searching without letting anyone else know where the stick is.
In the meantime, the It tries to tag the other players. If It tags a player, It can wipe off one stripe of color from their face.
The first player to get stripes of each color on their face wins!
22. Squirt Gun Painting/Tag
For these games you’ll need squirt guns filled with liquid watercolors.
Squirt Gun Painting: Set up easels with paper or tack paper to a tree. Fill each squirt gun with a different color. Then give each child a squirt gun and let them spray the paper to paint it. Your children can switch guns to mix different colors.
Squirt Gun Tag: Make sure everyone is wearing a white shirt that can get dirty. Fill the squirt guns with two different liquid watercolors and divide everyone into teams. If you get squirted by the other team’s gun, you’ve been “hit” and you’re out. Continue until only one player remains standing that team wins!
To extend the game, play the color wars version. Individually or in teams, each child tries to get the others to be as colorful as possible (if a child is “hit” they aren’t out). The child with the most white remaining on their shirt at the end of a designated time wins!
Even More Games
23. Parachute Games
Mushroom, Popcorn, Cat and Mouse, and so much more. There are plenty of games to play with a parachute!
Get started with Popcorn. Divide all of the children into two teams and have each child grab a handle on the parachute. Get balls of two colors and place them on the parachute. Players on each team should then try to shake the handles and “pop” them off the parachute. The team with their ball color left on the parachute at the end wins!
Find more parachute games to play here!
24. Bean Bag Ladder & Hula Blockers
For these games you will need bean bag and a ladder or hula hoop.
Bean Bag Ladder: Set up a ladder and label each step to be worth a certain number of points. Let kids take turns throwing bean bags onto the ladder rungs for points. The player with the most points after everyone has taken a turn wins.
Hula Blockers: Grab a hula hoop for each player and set them in the grass. Have each child stand in a hula hoop and divide the bean bags evenly between them. Each child should try to throw the bean bag into the other player’s hula hoop and try to block them from entering the hoop. For an added challenge, play with more than 2 kids.
25. Ball Pit Search
Set up a cheap ball pit using a kiddie pool and ball pit balls. Choose small toys or stuffed animals to hide in the balls. Then let your child search for the toys within the ball pit. You could turn it into a competition by seeing who can find the most toys the fastest. Hide the toys again and replay.
26. Giant Games
Twister: Play a giant game of twister on the yard. You’ll need a spinner from a regular game of Twister or by creating it yourself. Then use four spray paint cans to create a board on the grass and play regular Twister. You’ll have a fun game to play until the grass is mowed.
Tic-Tac-Toe: You can use the same spray paint to create a giant tic-tac-toe board. Choose items like hula hoops or other items to play tic-tac-toe!
Memory: Create giant matching cards using poster board. Get your child involved by having them help create the cards by drawing pictures using markers. Then set up the board with the cards facing down and play a giant version of memory!
27. Sidewalk Chalk Simon
Have you ever played the electronic Simon game? Make it interactive and physical with this sidewalk chalk game. Create a Simon game board out of chalk. Form a circle with sections of color.
Have your child stand in the middle of the board. Call out a color and have your child jump into the section, repeat it, and then jump into the center again. Next, say the first color and a new color and have your child repeat the jumping sequence. Continue adding colors until your child can no longer remember the sequence.
Switch it up by using numbers, letters, or other pictures in the sections instead.
28. Snakes and Worms
Get green and brown strings and cut them into several pieces. Hide the pieces of yarn around the yard. Divide the children into two groups and choose one captain. The children will run around the yard looking for yarn. And the captain’s will stand in the center of the yard and tie the yarn onto together to create a long worm/snake. The team with the longest piece of string wins.
29. Quarter Bounce
All you need for this simple game is a quarter and a bouncy ball. Place the quarter in the sidewalk crack. Have one child stand on each square and bounce the ball attempting to knock the quarter out. The first child to knock the quarter out of the sidewalk crack wins.
This classic game requires sidewalk chalk, small marbles, and large marbles. Use the chalk to draw a three foot diameter circle with a line through the center. Each player needs a large marble to use as a “shooter”. Place 10-15 marbles in the center of the circle. Shoot your marble by flicking it from the ground. Grab whatever marbles you manage to knock out of the circle. Continue knocking marbles out until none remain. Whoever has the most marbles at the end wins.
If you don’t knock a marble out of the circle, you must leave your “shooter” in play. If the other player knocks it out on their turn, they win and the game ends. Otherwise you may pick it up again on your next turn.
31. Simon Says
Choose one player to be “Simon”. Simon will give commands to the other players. If Simon begins the command by saying “Simon Says” everyone must follow the command. If Simon begins the command without saying “Simon Says” players aren’t allowed to do the action.
For example, if Simon says, “Simon Says touch your toes!” you must touch your toes, if you don’t, you’re out. If Simon says, “Touch your toes!” you shouldn’t touch your toes. If you do, you’re out.
The last player standing wins and gets to be Simon for the next round.
32. Scavenger Hunt
Create a scavenger hunt for your children to do out in the backyard. You can hide written clues for them to find and follow to a treasure. For example, a clue like “Climb up and then down, down you go. Look for me on the ground below” could lead your child to the area under the slide to find the next clue.
Or create a list of objects (a stick, a leaf, a round stone, etc.) that they need to find. The first one to find all of the objects on the list wins and gets a prize.
33. Traditional Games
Still looking for more ideas? Teach your child some fun traditional games like:
- Capture the Flag
- Marco Polo
- Jump rope
- Red Rover
- Floor is Lava
- Various Sports
What are you waiting for? Choose a game from the list, head outside, and start getting active with your kids!
Ready for more fun outside or indoors? Check out these fun games with your kids!
B. (2019). 35 Fun Outdoor Games for Kids of All Ages. Kids Activities. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3aQpitl
B. (2020). 25 Fun Games to Play with Water this Summer. Kids Activities. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/39QJ3AK
S. (2016). RIDICULOUSLY FUN OUTDOOR GAMES FOR KIDS!. How We Learn. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3d05nd9
Top 10 Messy Party Games. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2Qb28Wr
Ward, K. (2018). 17 fun outside games kids will love playing. Care. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3aSyQ71
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