Physical activity is so important for everyone and the earlier we develop a habit of being active, the more likely we’ll continue. I put together this list of outdoor activities for kids to help parents find ways to inspire their children to be active.
And sometimes we want our kids to stay occupied outside so that: 1) we can keep our house clean and 2) we can get stuff done!
Kids can usually find dozens of ways to occupy themselves outside, unless they suspect you want them to. My kids all of a sudden become incapable of finding anything to do when I ask them to find something to do outside.
So, next time you need to get some cleaning done or want to finish reading a book in peace and quiet, read off this list of suggestions to your kids to keep them busy for hours outside.
Classic Outdoor Games
When I was a kid, we spent ALL our time outdoors and most of those games are just as fun now as they were then.
Capture the Flag
Split players into two teams and set up two flags on opposite ends of a field. The goal is to capture the other team’s flag and bring it back to your side without getting tagged.
Kick the Can
One player is “it” and must guard a can while the other players try to kick it over. If “it” tags a player, they go to jail until another player kicks the can to free them.
Tug of War
Divide players into two teams and give each team a rope. The teams must pull the rope in opposite directions, and the team that pulls the other team across a line on the ground wins.
Hula Hoop Contest
Give each player a hula hoop and see who can keep it spinning the longest.
Water Balloon Toss
Pair players up and give each pair a water balloon. The pairs stand facing each other, and each tosses the balloon back and forth without breaking it. The pair that tosses the balloon the longest without breaking it wins.
Sidewalk Chalk Games
I always keep a huge supply of sidewalk chalk because it’s one of my kids’ favorite outdoor play tools.
An oldie but a goodie. Once you have the hopscotch board drawn, each player just needs a small stone, stick, or coin to use as their marker.
Two or Four Square
You might want to help your kids draw the box for this game. Kids always tend to draw the squares too small and then they have no room to move within their squares or bounce the ball. This is another playground classic that kids still love.
Draw Your Own City
My kids love to draw elaborate sidewalk chalk cities. It’s fun to see their creative designs. Plus, they can sometimes spend HOURS filling in all the details so this is a great activity for buying yourself some quiet time.
The great thing about backyard or neighborhood sports is that they are free from the pressure (and talent) you’ll find in organized teams. Kids can adapt the rules to make the games more fun.
Many neighborhood sports don’t require much equipment. To play catch, you just need a ball and two people.
Add a bat, some bases (either some throw down bases or drawn with sidewalk chalk) and a few extra people and you can play a game of baseball.
Or, forget the bat. Grab a playground ball and play kickball instead. This is a great one for younger kids or if the players vary widely in age.
One of our favorite family outdoor games is badminton. The kids will sometimes take the rackets and birdies and instead of playing a game, have a contest to see who can keep the birdie bouncing off of their racket the longest.
Another fun game is balloon volleyball. To play, just blow up a balloon and use a rope or net to create a volleyball court. Players must hit the balloon over the net without letting it touch the ground on their side.
Of course, there are tons of other outdoor sports. These are some of our favorites (we own some and have played others at friends’ houses).
- Ladder Toss
- Ring Toss
- Bucket Ball
- Disc Golf
- Giant Jenga
Our family has a Nerf arsenal. One of my kids’ favorite activities is to have a Nerf War where they divide up into teams and run around shooting each other with foam bullets.
When there aren’t enough kids around to form teams, they have just as much fun with target practice. They use empty cans, water bottles or leftover plastic Easter eggs (I basically give them full access to our recycling bin) as targets.
No Equipment Required
If you think you have to have a bunch of sports equipment or toys to keep your kids entertained outside, think again. Sure, those items give you choices, but there are plenty of no-equipment games kids can play.
ag is a simple game where one person is “it” and they have to chase and touch the other players to make them “it.” The game starts with someone being chosen to be “it,” and then they start chasing the other players.
When they touch someone, that person becomes “it” and they have to start chasing the others. The game continues until everyone has had a turn being “it” or until players decide to stop playing.
Freeze tag is a variation of tag where the players who are touched by “it” must freeze in place until another player unfreezes them by crawling between their legs.
The game starts the same way as regular tag, with someone being chosen to be “it.” When “it” touches someone, that player freezes in place until another player crawls through their legs. Once a player is unfrozen, they can continue playing.
Tunnel tag is a variation of tag where the players who are “it” must hold hands to create a tunnel that the other players must crawl through to be safe.
The game starts with someone being chosen to be “it,” and then they and the other players who become “it” must hold hands to create a tunnel. The other players must crawl through the tunnel to be safe, but if “it” tags them before they make it through, they become “it.”
Duck, Duck, Goose
Players sit in a circle and one player walks around tapping other players’ heads saying “duck.” They eventually tap someone’s head and say “goose.” The goose must chase the first player around the circle before being caught.
Hide and Seek
Hide and seek is a game where one player closes their eyes and counts while the other players hide. The player who is “it” then tries to find the other players.
The game starts with someone being chosen to be “it,” and then they close their eyes and count while the other players hide. Once the counting is done, the player who is “it” must search for the other players. The game ends when all the players have been found, or when the players decide to stop playing.
Sardines is a game where one player hides, and the other players must try to find them. However, when someone finds the hidden player, they must hide with them.
The game starts with one player being chosen to hide, and then the other players must search for them. When someone finds the hidden player, they must hide with them in the same hiding spot. The game continues until everyone has found the hiding spot, or until players decide to stop playing.
Red Light, Green Light
One player is the “stoplight” and stands at one end of the playing area, with the other players at the other end. The stoplight calls out “green light” to allow players to move toward them and “red light” to stop them. The first player to reach the stoplight wins.
One player is Simon and gives commands starting with “Simon says.” Players must follow the commands only if “Simon says” is included. If they follow a command without “Simon says,” they’re out.
Don’t underestimate the joy of doing something as simple as watching the clouds to identify shapes. Or, walking around the yard to collect rocks, leaves, flowers or insects.
Chores Disguised As Fun
We all know that chores are more fun with companionship. Turn some of your dreaded outdoor chores into a kid activity and kill two birds with one stone!
Here are some outdoor chores that you might be able to convince your kids are fun activities:
- Washing the Car – Sure the kids will spray each other more than the car and the car won’t be spotless, but it will be cleaner than it was before and the kids will have a blast.
- Watering Plants – I don’t know what it is about arming my kids with a garden hose that delights them so much, but this is another activity they really enjoy.
- Spraying Sidewalk with Natural Weed Killer – If you’ve ever let your child be in charge of cleaning mirror or glass, you know how much kids love spray bottles. Might as well let them loose on the weeds with their spraying gusto!
- Washing the Dog – Back to the garden hose, with the addition of sudsy bubbles. Just make sure you’ve given them an all-natural pet shampoo that won’t hurt pup’s eyes or skin (or theirs).
I tried hard to categorize all of the ideas so you could choose activities that appealed most to you. These last ideas though, didn’t fit easily into any of the categories above. So, here are my “miscellaneous” suggestions.
Make a normal lunch but send your kids outside with a picnic blanket and all of a sudden, it’s a fun activity.
Create an Obstacle Course
My kids do this all the time. They’ll take wood from the firewood pile to create obstacles they have to jump over. They lay down paper shopping bags that they have to jump on. Let the kids go crazy with the items from your recycling bin and they’ll create an amazing obstacle course!
When I was a kid, I spent hours biking around my neighborhood. Nowadays, we are too aware of all the dangers to let our kids roam freely. If, however, you are fortunate to live in a neighborhood where you feel safe and your kids have friends they can bike with, this is still one of my favorite outdoor activities for kids.
My kids LOVE scavenger hunts and treasure hunts! If you don’t want to take the time to create your own clues or lists, feel free to use these printable scavenger hunts and treasure hunts I created.
Younger kids always have fun with bubbles. Whether you send them out with an ordinary bottle of bubbles or you spend a little extra on novelty bubbles or fancy bubble wands, bubbles are a surefire way to keep little ones entertained.
Make a Movie
Older kids won’t be won over with bubbles, but they won’t mind getting access to a camcorder or smartphone. If your kids are responsible enough to handle that type of equipment, encourage them to make a movie.
They’ll spend hours coming up with ideas and shooting the videos. And, you’ll have a wonderful memento of their childhood years later.
You don’t need a fancy outdoor bowling set. Instead, use items from your recycle bin (e.g. cereal boxes, empty water bottles) as the pins. Any ball will work (except an ACTUAL bowling ball!).
Whether you have an inexpensive Frisbee or a pricier (but easier to throw and catch) Aerobie, this is such a great activity for improving kids’ hand and eye coordination. Plus, other than the Frisbee, no other equipment is required. You can play it almost anywhere, as long as there is enough room to throw it without damaging anything.
Water Guns or Water Balloons
Despite the fact my kids always resist bath time, they absolutely love getting wet outside of the bath or shower. During warm weather, their favorite outdoor activity is to have water fights with water guns or water balloons.
Need help motivating your bookwork to get outdoors? Check out these books that celebrate getting outside.
Printable List of Outdoor Activities for Kids
Print off the list below to keep on hand as inspiration the next time the kids are bored.