Why is it Important For Kids to Play Active Games Outside?
There are so many reasons why outdoor play is so important for children. Some of the benefits of active game play is that it reduces the risk of obesity and related illnesses, increases attention spans and reduces hyperactivity, reduces the risk of depression (which is on the rise in children), increases test scores, builds confidence, sportsmanship, communication skills, and so many other great things.
So send those kids outside to play!
The games on this page are great for groups of kids whether it is at school recess, gym class, birthday parties, summer camp, family reunions or gatherings, but really, anytime you get a group of kids together. They’ll love it!
P.S. Sometimes when we think of playing outside in an active way, we think organized sports. While organized sports are great for kids, free play is just as vital, if not more important when it comes to their development. Playing pickup ball out back can teach kids communication skills, cooperation, how to compromise, how to equal out the playing field, conflict resolution, social skills, sportsmanship, and so much more. As well, when kids engage in unorganized sports they tend to be way more active due to less time waiting for instruction, or for their turn. Plus, teams are often smaller when it’s kids playing out back so they’ve really got to hustle!
P.P.S. If your kids are having trouble deciding who goes first, check out the ‘who goes first‘ page of activities and games that will help them decide.
These outside games are just the beginning. There are more games and their rules on the It’s All Kid’s Play blog as well as Pinterest. And sometimes I share ideas on Twitter, too! Oh! And be sure to check out the book I wrote, too. It includes even more travel games as well as over 1,000 other play activities so no matter where you are and what your interests or age, there is something in there for you–guaranteed! Check it out!
To play tug-o-war, you will need at least two players (more is better), a line (even if it is just a towel or line drawn in the dirt), and a long rope.
Divide into two teams. Have one team stand on one side of the line, holding onto one end of the rope. On the other side of the line, have the other team hold onto the other end of the rope. PULL! Whichever teams pulls a member of the other team over the line, wins.
Red Light, Green Light
You need at least four people to play Red Light, Green Light.
One player is the ‘light’ while everyone else stands with their back to the group. When the light says, “green light!” everyone can move forward from the starting point. When the light says, “red light,” everyone must freeze. The light then quickly turns around to face the group and if anyone is still moving, the light sends them back to the starting point.
When a player makes it to where the light is standing without being caught, they have won and get to be the light for the next game.
What Time is it Mr. (Mrs.) Wolf?
You will need at least four or five people to play What Time is it Mr. Wolf.
One player is the wolf and everyone else stands far away at a starting point. The wolf keeps their back to the other players (and cannot peek). Everyone asks at once, “What time is it Mr. (or ‘Mrs.’ if the wolf is a girl) Wolf?” The wolf says a time. If he says “12 o’clock”, everyone takes 12 steps towards him. After everyone has moved forward, they ask the time again. If the wolf replies “Time to eat you,” everyone has to run back to the starting point without getting caught by the wolf. If a player is caught, they are out.
The last player caught by the wolf, becomes the wolf for the next game.
Duck, Duck, Goose
Everyone sits in a circle, facing in. One player is chosen to start the game. They walk around the outside of the circle and gently touch each player on the head while saying “duck.” If they say “goose” instead of “duck,” the player who was called “goose” must jump up and run around the circle in the opposite direction than the player that called them “goose.” Both players are racing for the empty sitting spot in the circle. Whoever gets there first, sits down. The player who doesn’t have anywhere to sit now goes around the circle saying “duck” or “goose.” If there is a tie (the two racing players get to the sitting spot at the same time), the person who was called “goose” gets the spot and the other player has to go around again, choosing a new “goose.”
Kick the Can
There are several variations to Kick the Can.
Here are the basics on how to play Kick the Can: Place a can in the middle of the playing area, like the backyard. Select one player to be ‘it.’ They are ‘guarding’ the can. They cover their eyes and count to 20 and everyone else goes and hides. When the ‘it’ player is done counting, they try to find everyone. When they find someone, that player has to try and run back to the can and kick it before the ‘it’ player tags them. If they get tagged, they are the new ‘it’ player. If they get to the can before getting tagged, they are ‘safe.’ When someone has been tagged, the “it” player yells, “Ollie, Ollie Oxen Free.” This means that it is safe for the hiding players to come out.
You will need at least four people to have a three-legged race. You will also need old nylons/leggings or scarves to tie legs together.
Stand beside your partner and tie one of your legs to one of theirs. (For example, your left leg and their right leg or your right leg and their left leg.) Now try walking and running! It’s harder than it looks!
You will need an old potato (burlap) sack or old pillow cases. Each racer gets in a sack. Everyone races to the finish line by hopping in their sack. Don’t lose your sack!
Players (the more the better) form 2 lines. The two lines need to be far away from each other, but facing each other. Everyone holds hands.
One team calls out “Red rover, red rover, we call ___(a player’s name)____ over.” And they call over someone from the other team. That player then leaves their own line and runs to the other line. They try to ‘break’ the line by running between two players and make them let go of each other’s hand.
If the player breaks the line, they take a player from this line (the team they are not on) back to their own team. If they don’t break through, they join the other team.
Safety First: Be gentle!
Three players hold hands and stand in a line in the middle of the playing area. These players are the bulldogs. When they are ready, they yell “British Bulldog” and the other players (the more the merrier) try to run to the other end of the field without being touched by the bulldogs who are still holding hands (they can’t let go). If a player is touched by the bulldogs, they join them for the next round.
Keep going until everyone has joined the chain of bulldogs. The last player caught is one of the bulldogs for the next game.
Tag (the basic games) rules: One player is ‘it.’ The ‘it’ player tries to tag (lightly touch) one of the other players making them ‘it’ instead. They then chase the other players, trying to tag (touch) them.
Variations of the game Tag:
Freeze Tag Rules: When a player is tagged, they become frozen (can’t move). Frozen players stand with their arms spread out until someone who isn’t frozen can run under their arms to unfreeze them. Play until everyone is frozen or until the ‘it’ player gets too tired.
Blob Tag Rules: When the ‘it’ player tags another player, they also become ‘it.’ ‘It’ players hold hands to make a blob and try to make everyone a part of the blob. The last player tagged is the new ‘it’ player.
Can’t Tag Your Butcher Rules: You need at least 5 people to play this version. Once a player becomes ‘it,’ they can try to tag anyone but the player who made them ‘it.’
Shadow Tag Rules: ‘It’ players tag shadows by stepping on them instead of touching players.
Flashlight Tag Rules: Agree on where the game boundaries are (fenced yard). Each player gets a flashlight. Nobody but the ‘it’ player turns theirs on. The players run around and the ‘it’ person turns on their flashlight for a few seconds here and there to see if they can tag a player by shining the light on a part of them. Once tagged, that player can help the ‘it’ person by shining their flashlight on players.
TV Tag Rules: If players are just about to be tagged they can make themselves ‘safe’ from being tagged by sitting down and saying the name of a TV show at the same time. They can’t say the same TV show more than once which makes it trickier as the game goes on. If they don’t say the show’s name or sit down in time, they are it.
Cops and Robbers
One person is a robber and the other person is a police officer and tries to catch them and put them in jail–but after they steal the money or the jewels. You can have two players or many, many players.
Capture the Flag
Materials needed to play Capture the Flag: two flags (or towels) and 10 people (or more) and lots of space to play.
Divide the players into two teams. Cut the playing area in half so there are two sides, with a line between the two sides. If you are playing in the yard, one team’s side could be the front yard and the other team’s side could be the back yard. Each team takes a few minutes to hide their flag on their side as well as decide where to have their ‘jail.’
Goal of the Game: To ‘capture’ the other team’s flag by bringing it back to your own side without getting caught by the other team.
Once both teams have hidden their flag, the two sides try to ‘capture’ the other side’s flag. They are only safe when they are on their own side. If they are the other team’s side they can be caught and put in jail. More than one player can be caught at a time. They must be tagged to be caught.
Players who are caught on the other’s teams side (you have to go over there to look for and capture the other team’s flag as well as rescue your team players from jail) are taken to ‘jail.’ Jails can be guarded and teammates can break people out of jail–just be careful not to be caught! (Once they are back on their own side they are safe again.)
If a player with the other team’s flag gets caught, the flag is taken from them and put back in its hiding spot. That player is taken to jail.
Winning Capture the Flag: If all of one team gets put in the other team’s jail at once, the other team wins, even if they haven’t captured the other team’s flag. If one team gets the other team’s flag to their side, they win.
Karate, Kung Fu, Tai Kwon Do, Judo, and Jujitsu are several forms of martial arts. Do you know one? Practice. Or make up your own!!
Looking for more? Try these places as well:
Might I also suggest this time-saver…
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