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Leave the Couch Behind! 10 Classic Outdoor Games Your Child Will Love

Did you live in an active neighborhood growing up? I spent most of my early years living in military base housing which meant there were tons of kids my age to play with. I have many fond memories of hours spent riding bicycles or playing on a nearby playground with a large group of friends after school. But the real fun began when school ended.

Having a dozen kids to play with and three months of hot summer days stretched before you provides unending possibilities and opportunities for fun and we took full advantage. We would all meet up after breakfast and stay outdoors until heat or rumbling tummy drove us inside.

A ball, the perfect rock, a piece of sidewalk chalk, a jump rope, and each other were all we needed to entertain ourselves for an entire season. This was the short list of supplies that enabled us to lose an afternoon to game play and I don’t mean the kind that requires a console or a controller. These were the kind of games that got us running, jumping, and rolling in the dirt.

Each evening we’d retreat as the streetlights flickered on, the scent of sweat and sunshine on our skin, ready to fall exhausted into bed in order to rise and do it all again tomorrow.

Those summers are decades in the past, but the games are just as fun. This season I hope to introduce them to my own children and I hope you will, too.

Here are my top 10 favorite outdoor games to enjoy with your children this summer:


  • H-O-R-S-E 1 of 10
    H-O-R-S-E
    All you need for this game is a basketball and a goal. The first player takes a shot that the next player in line must repeat and sink as well or they are assigned a letter H. If they make the shot, the next player must do the same. If the first shooter misses their shot, control is given to the next player in line. Each shot missed earns that player another letter, eventually spelling out HORSE and eliminating them from the game. Everyone plays HORSE a little differently, so it's important to establish rules before beginning.
  • Four Square 2 of 10
    Four Square
    For this game you will need at least four players. With a piece of chalk, draw four squares on the sidewalk. Each player stands in a square. The person beginning bounces the ball in their square and then knocks it into the next square. That player must then hit the ball back to another player. The game continues until a player hits the ball out of a square or it bounces twice in a player's square. The offending player is then out and someone steps in to take their place.
  • Kick the Can 3 of 10
    Kick the Can
    Select a person to go first and place a can in the middle of the area in which you are playing. All the other players must run and hide while the person who is "it" counts. Then "it" searches for the hidden players. Players that are tagged are out unless a player who has not been caught manages to kick the can. If this happens, all players previously tagged are free. The game continues until all players are tagged out.
  • Red Light, Green Light 4 of 10
    Red Light, Green Light
    Decide which player will be the human "traffic light." This person will stand at one end of the play area with everyone else gathered at the other end. The "traffic light" will stand with their back facing the other players and yell "Green light!" at which point all players will race forward. Then the "traffic light" will face forward and yell "Red light!" Players must stop and any person caught moving will be sent back to the beginning. The process is repeated until a player gets close enough to tag the person acting as "traffic light" for the win.
  • Hop Scotch 5 of 10
    Hop Scotch
    This game can be enjoyed by one or many, but only one person can go at a time. All you need to get started is a little real estate on the sidewalk, a good rock, and a piece of chalk. Draw a hopscotch grid and number it from one to nine. Begin by tossing the rock onto square one. Hop over the rock with one or two feet, depending upon the grid, and continue until the end. Turn around and hop back, stopping on square two. Pick up the rock and hop over square one to the start. Repeat the process, tossing the rock onto square two, until you miss the square at which point the turn is over.
  • Tag 6 of 10
    Tag
    There are many variations of this game: freeze tag, T.V. tag, flashlight tag. All are as fun to play as they are simple. Gather a group of kids and decide who will be "it" first. That person then chases the other members in the group around until they catch someone at which point that person becomes "it." This is a great one for making sure your children get a little exercise and are good and tired by bedtime.
  • Red Rover 7 of 10
    Red Rover
    Gather the neighborhood kids and divide them into two equal teams. Have each team form a line, join hands, and stand opposite each other. Pick a team to go first. That team will collectively decide who they will call upon and then chant together "Red Rover! Red Rover! Send (child's name) right over!" The player called will then run as fast as they can at the other team in an attempt to break through their line. If the player is successful, they will pick one of the two people in the link they managed to break back to their team. If they fail, they will then join the opposing team. The game continues until one team has all of the members.
  • Jump Rope 8 of 10
    Jump Rope
    Who doesn't love this classic toy? Pick up an extra rope and play double dutch with the kids. Even better, teach them the jump rope rhymes you sang as a child. This game never gets old.
  • Spud 9 of 10
    Spud
    This game requires a playground ball and at least three players. Before beginning, each player is assigned a number. A person is selected to be "it" and all other players gather around this person. "It" throws the ball into the air and yells a number. The player with the number that is called must catch the ball while the other players run as far as possible from them. Once they catch the ball they yell "Spud!" and the other players must freeze. The player with the ball then throws the ball in an attempt to hit another player. If they miss, they are assigned an S. If they hit them, that player is given a letter. Once a player receives all four letters they are out of the game.
  • Hide and Seek 10 of 10
    Hide and Seek
    Who hasn't played hide and seek? This game is a staple of childhood, but for anyone who has missed out, the rules are simple. Gather a group of children and decide who will be "it." The person who is "it" then counts to ten while all other players hide. There are many variations on the game. Some say you are out once you are found and others have a home base players must make their way to without being spotted.

What am I missing? Do you have a favorite childhood game?

All photos courtesy of iStock

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