13 Outdoor Family Games for Kids
In a large outdoor area, lay down a length of string or rope to create a center line. Gather small sponges or balls and distribute them evenly between two teams, which take positions on either side of the line. Set a timer for two minutes (a phone timer with an alarm works well). At "Go," players start tossing balls into the opposing team's side, gathering and returning any balls tossed into their own. When the timer sounds, play stops, and balls are counted. The team with the fewest balls wins.
Challenge your family to sprint, walk, or swim by completing an Olympic distance endurance event. The competition can stretch out over several days or weeks. You might try a triathlon (swim, bike, and run a total of 32 miles), 1,500-meter swim (30 laps in a 25-yard pool), men's 50K speed walk (31 miles), or women's cycling road race (87 miles). Use a handy log to keep track of your activities. When you're done, treat yourselves to a special prize.
Choose one person to be in charge of the music. When the music starts, everyone else dances, the crazier the better. When the music stops, the dancers must freeze in their position. Anyone caught moving after that is out. Play continues until there is one person left—the winner. This is an especially fun family game for young kids!
Tug of War
Tug of war is a classic outdoor game for older kids! Split kids into two teams, and have them hold a rope an equal distance from a predetermined center line. The objective: Use your strength to pull the other team across the line.
The entire clan can participate in these fun family games. Collect burlap sacks, create a start and finish line, and have an old-fashioned sack race. Or divide the family into pairs and use a scarf to bind their inside legs together for a fun three-legged race.
Pool Noodle Javelin Toss
Start your own track and field event with a safety-conscious javelin competition. Use pool noodles as the javelins and throw them through various hoops to score points. Shape other pool noodles into circles (a la Hoosier Homemade) for the targets, or use hula hoops or large embroidery hoops. Making the targets different sizes increases the challenge.
Geocaching is a real-world, worldwide treasure hunt game that both kids and adults can play using a GPS device or smartphone. Geocachers bury small items, or caches, along with a logbook, that other geocachers can then find using coordinates and clues. Caches are often hidden in parks or in other public places—they can be anywhere! Learn more and get started at geocaching.com, where you can also post photos from a successful hunt.
"The real fun of it is discovering new places and working together as a team," says Bethe Almeras, the education and outreach director of Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play. "It's more about the finding than what you find. And if you have older kids, it's something they can do with a group of friends too."
Whipped Cream Fight
In the mood to get messy? Arm each family member with goggles a can of whipped cream, then head outside for a whipped cream fight! Prepare to be assaulted with screams of delight and an edible mess.
This after-dinner family activity is great for building brain power. Gather a bunch of objects from your property (flowers, a frisbee, leaves, tennis balls, etc.), then have an adult moderator secretly sort them into groups of three to five, based on something the images have in common (all are related to water, say, or all are green). The moderator then shows the other players each item in a group, holding them up one at a time for about 3 seconds. Players must remember what flashed by as they try to guess what the objects have in common. The first to make the connection takes the round.
The Cup Runneth Over
Players are sure to get soaked with this spray bottle challenge that's brimming with fun. Divide the group into teams of two. Give one player on each team a water squirter filled with water and the other player a plastic cup and Ping-Pong ball, then have them stand six feet apart. At "Go," the player with the bottle tries to squirt enough water into her teammate's cup to float out the ball. Set up a water bucket nearby for refills during play.
Grab some glass bottles, arrange them in a triangle, and you’ve got a backyard bowling lane! Your family can take turns rolling a semi-heavy ball at the pins—and don’t forget to keep score. This backyard game is great practice for real-life bowling alleys.
Improve your kids’ literacy skills and create friendly competition with life-sized backyard Scrabble. Click here for instructions on making and using this family game for older kids.
Jumping Jack Competition
If lousy weather is producing a bumper crop of couch potatoes around your house, try injecting some movement into your family's day with a classic exercise: jumping jacks. "They're a great cardiovascular exercise that helps you use a lot of your muscle mass, consume a lot of oxygen, and burn calories," explains Neal Pire, Director of Sports Performance at Volt Fitness in Glen Rock, New Jersey. Even better, a good cardio workout can "help control blood sugar and mood, and balance your energy," says Pire. To experience it for yourself, try these jumping jack games with your kids. Compete to see who can complete the most!