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Every parent could use help encouraging more outdoor play with their kids, especially in the summertime when the days are long and the “I’m bored’s” pop up too frequently! Why not take a page from your own childhood – or even from your grandparents’? Classic outdoor games are a great way to get your own kids moving. They usually require very little equipment or preparation, can be played with a wide range of ages and numbers of kids, and might even tempt you to join in the fun! Here are 8 awesome classic outdoor games you may have forgotten about.
1. Capture the Flag
Best for tweens, teens and adults.
Equipment: Two pieces of fabric, about the size of a handkerchief.
Special Requirements: 6 people to play (one “guard” and two runners for each team), though more players makes it more interesting.
Play: Divide the players into (mostly) even teams. Agree on the boundaries of the play area and the two “camps”. Each team must decide upon a “jail” area (which could be a rock or tree that the prisoners must touch). Once these areas are set out, each team secretly hides their own flag, then decided upon which players will guard their flag and which will attack the enemy camp to capture the opposing team’s flag. If an opposing team member is tagged within enemy camp, they must go to “jail” until they are “rescued” (or tagged) by someone on their own team. Play continues until a player captures the enemy flag and returns to their own camp with it.
2. Kick the Can
Best for school-aged kids on up through adults.
Equipment: An empty can, any size.
Special Requirements: A large space for running and hiding. At least 3 people.
Play: The players decide on a “home base” and “jail” area and choose someone to be “it.” Place the can in the center of home base. “It” closes his eyes and counts to a designated number while the other players hide. He then goes to look for them. When he finds another player, he yells their name, and he and the player race to home base. If it gets there first, the other player must stay in jail. If the other player arrives first, they kick the can. While “it” retrieves the can, the other player (and any players in jail) find a different hiding spot. “It” returns the can to home base and closes his eyes to count again. Play continues until only one player is left in hiding – this player then becomes “it.”
3. Ghost in the Graveyard
Depending on the version, this is best for tweens, teens and adults.
Special Requirements: At least 3 people and a large space with hiding places. It’s best when played at night in the dark!
Play: The group decides on boundaries and a home base. One person is chosen to be “it.” “It” closes his eyes and counts while everyone else hides. He chants out the hours starting at one o’clock – “one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock – ROCK! four o’clock, five o’clock, six o’clock – ROCK! seven o’clock, eight o’clock, nine o’clock – ROCK! ten o’clock, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock, MIDNIGHT! Midnight, hope to see a ghost tonight!” Then “it” sneaks around, trying to find one of the hiding “ghosts”. When he spots a ghost, he yells out “ghost in the graveyard!” Everyone jumps out of their spots and races to the home base while the ghost that was spotted chases them and tries to tag someone. Whoever is tagged is the next “it.”
Note: There seems to be a lot of variation in this game and some debate! Here’s a version with only 1 ghost (and some other ideas), and here’s 3 completely different takes on the game.
4. Swing the Statue
Appropriate for any age.
Special Requirements: None.
Play: One person is designated as “it.” One at a time, “it” takes another player by the hand and spins them, then lets go. The players must hold their position however they stop spinning and moving. While the players are “frozen,” “it” watches to see who loses their balance or moves around first. That person is then “it” and play continues. This can also be called “statue maker” and here’s a different version that’s a bit more creative.
This game is good for any age, though young kids will need some help.
Special Requirements: None. All you need are at least two people and space to hide in.
Play: The players agree to boundaries and a home base. One player is designated as “it” and closes his eyes to count to a designated number while everyone else hides. It calls out “ready or not, here I come!” and begins to look for the other players. While “it” is looking for the other players, the other players are stealthily trying to make it back to home base without being seen. They constantly find new hiding spots. When “it” spots any of the players, he calls out the name and they race back to home base. If “it” tags the player before they reach home base, he is out. The game is restarted with him as the new “it.” If the player reaches home base without being tagged, they yell “Olly Olly Oxen Free!” and are safe, so “it” begins looking for other players. While this is happening, the other players are still trying to get back to home base without being spotted. Play continues until all players are either safe or someone is tagged by it.
Note: Unbelievably, I was unable to find any rules to this game on the internet. Apparently people are more concerned about the origin of the name!
This is appropriate for any age – though young toddlers will need some help.
Special Requirements: None. All you need is at least 3 people and places to hide!
Play: One person is designated at “it.” Everyone else closes their eyes and starts to count, while “it” finds a hiding spot. When those counting get to a designated number, they yell “ready or not, here we come!” and each try to find “it” on their own. Whenever someone finds it, they quietly squeeze into the hiding place with him. Play continues until the last person has found the hiding spot. The first person to find “it” is then “it.”
Ideal for older kids, tweens or teens (old enough to be without adult supervision for a bit).
Equipment: Small stones, corn kernels, or other easily discernible markers.
Special Requirements: At least 6 participants, plus a large playing area like a park.
Play: One player is designated at “it”. “It” is given a brief head start, along with two shadowers. After a few minutes, one shadower heads back to the rest of the group to start them in the right direction. The other shadower begins leaving markers for the group as he goes – such as small stones, marbles or kernels – as clues about the direction. The group tries to catch up to “it,” who wins the game if he is not found within a designated amount of time. There are several variations on this game as well.
8. Red Rover
Appropriate for school-aged children.
Special Requirements: A large group of kids makes this more fun, but at least 8 is needed. You’ll also need an open space in which to run.
Play: Divide the group into two teams. Each team lines up across from each other, facing each other and holding hands. The teams should be about 30-50 feet apart. The first team begins by calling for a player to run over – “Red Rover, Red Rover, send (so and so) on over!” The person who has been called then runs for the opposite line of players, aiming for a set of hands. If he is able to break through the hands, they choose a person from the opposing team to take back to their team with him, but if not, they must join the opposing team. The game is over when everyone has been moved into one team.
Here are more outdoor ideas for kids:
Kimberly Mueller is the “me” over at bugaboo, mini, mr & me, a blog that highlights her creative endeavors. She especially likes to share kid crafts, sewing attempts, recipes, upcycled projects, photography and free printable gift tags/cards. When she’s not enjoying being married to her best friend, chasing after the natives (AKA her three kids) and attempting to keep the house in one piece, you can find her with a glue gun in one hand and spray paint in the other. Aside from DIY pursuits, she also enjoys writing, reading, music, singing (mostly in the shower) and the color yellow. Kimberly recently published a craft book entitled Modern Mod Podge. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest,Bloglovin’ and Instagram. Email her at: bugabooblog(at)yahoo.com