35 Classic Backyard Games for Kids to Play Outside This Summer
It's hard to beat classic backyard games for kids when it comes time to entertain them during the long school-free summer months. From hide-and-seek to ghost in the graveyard, these outdoor games are sure to keep your crew, and whichever neighborhood kids stop by, busy for hours and away from their screens. Best of all, play almost all of these games listed below without spending any money. Let’s load up the sunscreen and head outdoors!
1. Steal the Bacon
Divide your group into two and assign each player a number. Each team should have a one and a two, for example. Set a boundary line for each team and place your "bacon" in the middle. The bacon could be a ball or any toy of your choosing. When you call out a number, that player from each team tries to capture the bacon and get it back over to their boundary line. The first person to do this without being tagged wins. It's one of those quintessential games for kids that parents likely remember playing during PE class.
2. Capture the Flag
Capture the Flag is easily among our top five outdoor games for kids when we really want them to break a sweat, or if you have a large group of kids, such as for a summer birthday party. To start, collect old T-shirts, bandanas, or socks to use as flags if you don’t have any flags on hand. The brighter the better and try to keep them all the same size if you can. Divide your group into two or more teams. You can give each team one or multiple flags to hide in their designated territory of the yard or park. Once the game starts, teams try to steal their enemies’ flags from the opposing teams and bring them back to the home base. The kids can decide who should guard their flags and who should seek them out. If an opposing team member taps or tags you, you are either out, frozen in “jail” until someone from your team tags and thus unfreezes you, or the player can join the opposing team.
For the game of spud, all you need is a ball and a group of kids. To start, throw the ball into the air and choose one child’s name to yell out. You can also assign each kid a number if you have a large group. That child must catch the ball while all the others scatter away. Once they have the ball, the other players are frozen. The player with the ball can walk toward the closest player, taking four steps and spelling out SPUD. Once they reach a player, the kid can roll or toss the ball toward the player trying to tag them. Balls should be aimed below the waist. The player can’t move their legs, but they can duck or swerve. If they get hit, they now have an S. If they are missed, the ball thrower has an S. Once you spell out SPUD, you’re out. The last one standing wins this backyard game.
For the game of horse, you’ll need a basketball and a hoop. Younger kids can play with a Little Tykes hoop or even a bucket if needed. The first player attempts a shot. Once they make it, the next player has to stand in the same place and duplicate it. If they miss, they accumulate the letter H. You keep going back and forth until one person gets all five letters in HORSE. This is a great game to play at the local basketball court, too.
5. Duck, Duck, Goose
Among our favorite games for kids ages 5 and under is Duck, Duck, Goose. In case you need a refresher on this classic: Get all your ducklings to sit in a circle. One of the players walks around the circle saying, duck, duck, duck, duck while patting each player they pass on the head. Whenever they want, they tap a player on the head and shout GOOSE. The player who was tapped with goose gets up and runs around the circle to try to get back in the goose player’s original seat without being tagged. If they make it, the goose has to do it again. If they get tagged, they become the goose.
6. Pin the Tail
You don’t need anything fancy or store-bought to play pin the tail, among the most classic of party games for kids. Use sidewalk chalk, a poster board, dry erase board, or washable paint to draw an animal or something with a "tail." Give each player a tail with something sticky on the end such as tape. Line the kids up. The first one up gets blindfolded with a bandana, shirt, or towel. Spin them around in a circle and have them walk toward the picture to pin their tail on. Whoever gets the tail closest wins.
7. Bob for Apples
If you have apples and a baby pool or large bucket, Bob for Apples. Load up your baby pool with apples and fill the pool with water. Have each child kneel over the pool to try and bite the apples with their mouth. To make this more sanitary with kids from different households, you can also give each child their own small tub with apples. The first one to bob out the most apples wins. Rinse the apples and use them for snacks later. Requires supervision, of course!
8. Corn Hole or Bags
Corn hole is a popular backyard BBQ diversion for adults, but it also makes for a great outdoor game for kids. It is one of the few among our top games for kids that typically requires purchasing a set, but shop around as prices vary fairly wildly. Place each bag set on opposite sides with a few feet between them. Give each team their colored bean bag and let them toss them toward the hole. Depending on how you’d like to play, points can be awarded for getting it into the hole and a lesser number of points for getting it on the board. Determine how many points earned will mark the end of the game. If you don’t have a corn hole set, it is possible to create one using cardboard and small whiffle or nerf balls.
9. Bozo Buckets
Traditional hopscotch is a timeless favorite!
Draw your traditional Hopscotch board with rectangles stacked on top with the numbers one, two, and three, in each rectangle. When you get to numbers four and five, you’ll put those side by side. Continue stacking, number six, seven, and eight. Place the final two side-by-side for numbers nine and ten. Have each child hop on one foot for a single rectangle and two feet for the two side-by-side. Switch it up by making kids spin or do it backward. Have younger kids recite which number they landed on.
12. Double Dutch
Get kids laughing with Hot Potato; use any object as your 'potato.' Photo by the author
14. Hot Potato
Play Hot Potato for free by enlisting any soft ball or roundish, soft object you have in the house as the "potato." If you have an actual potato, even better. You’ll need at least three people for this game. Start by sitting everyone down in a circle and practice tossing the item back and forth underhand. When the game begins, play music or say, 'Go' and begin tossing the ball to each other. When the music stops, whoever is holding the potato is out. In the non-music version, if you drop the potato, you’re out.
15. Musical Chairs
Kids of all ages can play Freeze Dance together. Photo by the author
16. Freeze Dance
Freeze dance is one of the easiest games for kids—and maybe the most fun to play. All you need is a little bit of clear space and some music. Start the music and everyone in the group dances. When the music stops, everyone should FREEZE. Those you keep grooving are now out. Don't move again until the music starts. To make the game harder, keep it off for a few seconds and see who wiggles.
17. Hide and Seek
18. Scavenger Hunt
19. Paper Airplanes
Decorate the sidewalks, deck, or walkway with sidewalk chalk. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala
20. Sidewalk Chalk
22. I Spy (Cloud Edition)
Consider a round of Tug of War to keep a group of kids entertained!
23. Tug of War
24. The Grass Is Lava
Turn an ordinary game of Rock, Paper, Scissors into a special game of tag. Photo by the author
25. Rock, Paper, Scissors + Tag
28. Spider Web
30. Ghost in the Graveyard
Who can hula the longest?
31. Hula Hoop
32. Flag Football
On a hot day, there's nothing better than a water balloon fight!