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Great Outdoor Games for Kids

These classic, fun games to play outside are sure to be a hit with kids

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Children (3-8) running in park (blurred motion).
David Hanover/The Image Bank/Getty Images

When the weather warms up, kids increasingly start heading outdoors to play. These classic, fun games can be a great way for kids to spend hours outside with their friends, enjoying the sun, some fresh air, and getting lots of exercise. Your kids will have as much fun with these games as you did when you were a kid!

1. SPUD

The object of this game is to run as far and as fast as possible from the person who is throwing the ball, and to dodge the ball when it’s thrown at you without moving your feet. (Be sure to use a very soft ball, such as a foam ball, which can be thrown at people without hurting them.)

How to play: Start with a person in the middle. That person is the thrower. Everyone else should stand within an arm’s reach of the thrower.

The thrower tosses the ball straight up into the air. As soon as the ball goes into the air, the players can all begin to run away from the thrower. When the thrower catches the ball, he yells, "Spud!" at which point the players must stop immediately where they are.

The thrower then tries to tag someone who is in reach with the soft ball. The frozen player can try to dodge the ball but is not allowed to move his or her feet. If the player is hit, he or she will get the letter "S" and move to the middle to be the next thrower. If the thrower misses, he or she gets the letter "S" and stays in the middle.

When a player gets all four letters "S-P-U-D," she is out of the game. The game continues until there is only one player left. That player is the winner.


2. Red Light, Green Light

This is a simple and fun outdoor game that doesn’t require any setup or accessories. It’s great for a small or larger group of kids.

How to play: One person is designated as the "stoplight." The stoplight stand with his back toward the others. The rest of the players stand about 15 to 20 feet away from him.

The stoplight calls out "green light!" which signals the players to begin moving toward him. Then the stoplight yells, "red light!" and turns around. If any player is caught moving when the stoplight turns around, that player is out.

The game is over if all the players are out before anyone reaches the stoplight or if someone tags the stoplight. If a player reaches the stoplight, that person gets to be the stoplight in the next game.


3. Sardines

This game is essentially a reverse version of hide and seek.

How to play: One person who is "it" hides and everyone else looks for him. When each player find the person, that player joins the person who is "it" in the hiding place. As the players all crowd into the hiding place, everyone gets packed together like sardines in a can (hence the name of the game). The last person to find the hiding place is the next one to be "it."


4. Four Square

You don’t need much to play this popular game -- a ball that's good for catching and bouncing (such as a soccer ball or volleyball), some sidewalk chalk, and some space on asphalt or another hard surface on which you can draw lines and bounce a ball. The concept and rules are simple: First, draw a large square, about 8 to 10 feet long on each side. Then, divide the square evenly so that you have 4 equal-sized squares and label each square from 1 to 4 in clockwise order. The first square is "king," the second is "queen," the third is "jack" and the fourth is "ace."

How to play: Each child stands in a square. The child in square 1 is the server, and bounces the ball to any of the other squares. The child in that square must then hit the ball into another square without letting it bounce more than once in his own square. If he misses, or if the ball bounces more than once, that player is out (which is a good way to rotate in other kids if there are more than four children playing). If there are only four players in the game, then the child who missed the ball has to go to the fourth, or "ace" place. The object of the game is to be in the “king” spot the longest.


5. Freeze Tag

Here’s an oldie but a goodie. Kids love the thrill of chasing and being chased, which is why variations of tag are so popular.

How to play: Have two kids be "it" for a party of 10 to 12 kids. (For larger groups, assign three or more kids to be "it.") Set up boundaries if you are not in an enclosed yard (use trees or park benches, or other objects as markers).

When the people who are "it" call out "Go!" the other kids will scatter in different directions. The people who are "it" will try to tag the players. Any player who is tagged will freeze, and can only be unfrozen and run again by another player who has not yet been tagged. The last people who are not frozen become "it" in the next game.

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