Providing sufficient outdoor activities and exercise for our kids has become a challenge with today’s technological advances; kids would rather be inside on their phones and playing video games than playing outdoors. You can increase the time children spend outside playing by providing a variety of fun playground activities and games. In this article, we have a collection of playground games beginning with simple games for very young children and progressing to more challenging games for older kids. The playground activities we describe require some additional materials and frequently have more steps and directions. We also have a playground game list of those that require almost no directions and no additional materials.
Table of Contents
Playground games and activities provide many benefits, including the following:
- Mental, physical, and social stimulation
- Sharing, making friends, and teamwork
- Skills including counting, discipline, and organization
- Better health and wellness
- Building endurance, strength, and balance
- Socializing with peers
- Improvement of moods
- Increased confidence
The best playground games and activities provide organized play to get and maintain kids’ interest. We have provided a variety of games and activities to use for school recess, camps, and neighborhood playgrounds. Have fun!
Playground Games for Kids
Playgrounds provide exercise and fun, especially when a group of children get together to play playground games. Make sure children have adequate adult supervision and engage in age-appropriate activities. Adults should not assume all children are familiar with playground equipment and rules; some children will need to be taught how to safely use playground equipment. Before you have children begin playing, it is a good idea to cover a few playground rules to guarantee safety.
- Avoid overly aggressive play.
- In tag games, tag another player gently.
- Keep shoes on.
- Remove loose clothing and make sure shoelaces are securely tied.
A traditional playground game, this old favorite is probably the simplest playground game to play. One player is “it” runs after the other players. Advise players that tagging should be a slight tap. There are several fun versions of tag, among them:
- Freeze Tag
When a players gets tagged by “it,” they must freeze in place with their legs apart. They can be unfrozen by another player crawling between their legs. This version of tag can last a long time with a large group of children.
- Blob Tag
Every time someone is tagged by “it,” they must link hands to form a blob. Those players on the outside with a free had tag the other players. The last runner remaining free from the blob wins.
- Zombie Tag
“It” is a zombie whose tagging turns the other players into zombies. Players are to groan and shuffle around. The last person left who is not a zombie wins.
- Rainbow Tag
The player who is “it” watches the other players and calls out a color one or more players have on their clothes. The players wearing that color run from a starting point across the play area trying and avoid being tagged.
Although this game is designed for very young children, players of every age have fun with a game of “Mother May I?” Choose one player to be the Mother and give directions to the other players. Mother stands at one end of the playing area facing away from the other players. The children ask the Mother for permission to make a movement, beginning each question with, “Mother, May I?” If Mother answers yes, the player begins making the requested movement toward Mother. If Mother says no, she makes a suggestion prefacing it with, “No you may not, but you may _________.” The child that reaches the Mother first becomes the next player to be Mother. Since Mother’s back is turned, she does not know who is getting close or who is asking the question. Some movements that work well for this game are:
- Crabwalk for ____ seconds
- Hop like a frog ____ times
- Take ____ scissor steps
- Do ____ jumping jack steps
- Jump forward (backward) ____ steps.
- Run for ____ seconds
- Take ____ baby steps (a large number)
- Take ____ giant steps (a small number)
Duck, Duck, Goose
Have all the children sit or stand in a circle. One child is “it” and walks around the circle patting the heads of the other players saying “duck” or “goose.” If they tap a player and yell “goose,” the player tapped chases “it.” The goal is for “it” to reach the goose’s spot and steal it before they are caught.
A fun, active game for a large group of children, Red Rover starts by dividing a group of children into two equal teams. The teams face each other holding hands. Teams take turns calling out the name of a player on the other team by saying, “Red rover, red rover, send _________ over.” The child whose name is called attempts to break through the line of the opposing team. If they succeed, they choose a player to take with them and run back to their own team. If they fail to break through, they join the opposing team. The game ends when one team has only one player left.
Tips for playing Red Rover:
- Whoever is calling the name should choose a player that is smaller and weaker and may not be able to break the line.
- The player trying to run through the line should seek the weakest place attempt to break through.
- Adult supervision is suggested as this game is very active and physical.
Hens and Chicks
Designate two safe spots about twenty-five to thirty-five feet apart. Choose a hen to wander the area between the two safe spots. All the players – the chicks – start at one safe spot and run to the other when the hen calls for her chicks. The hen tries to tag her chicks, who then join the hen in the center to chase the chicks in the next round. The last chick left becomes the hen for the next game.
Playground activities require additional materials and frequently have more steps, directions, and even established rules. Additionally, most of the playground activities we have listed work best with large groups of children.
You will need a small- to medium-sized soft ball for this game. Number the children and have them all stand together in a group. One child is “it,” calls out a number, and throws the ball into the air above the group. The player whose number is called yells, “Spud!” and grabs the ball. Everyone else freezes. The player with the ball takes up to four steps towards another player and throws the ball at that player. If they miss or the player catches the ball instead of being hit, the thrower gets an “S.” If the thrower succeeds in hitting the other play, the player hit gets a “S.” Either way, the player who “it” was trying to hit becomes the next thrower. The game continues and anyone who spells out SPUD (because they have been hit four times, miss, or catch the ball) is out of the game. If “it” calls out a number nobody has by mistake, all the players rush to the ball and touch it. The last player touching the ball gets a letter. The winner is the player that last the longest in this fun game.
Create the game’s course by drawing squares with chalk on a concrete surface. Begin with three vertical squares numbered 1, 2, and 3. Next draw two horizontal squares and number them 4 and 5. Continue with 1 vertical square (6), two horizontal squares (7 and 8), and a vertical square (9). End with a slightly larger square and number it “10.”
Each player takes a turn throwing a small object (as a kid this writer used a pebble) to land on the first square. If the toss lands outside the square or touches the border, play passes to the next person in line. The goal is to jump through the course, jumping on one foot on the vertical squares and two feet on the horizontal squares. If a player misses a jump or jumps on the border, they lose their turn. Each time you jump the course, you move your marker to the next numbered square. The tenth square is where you turn around to come back. On the way back, the player picks up their marker by stopping on the square just before the square the marker is on. Once the marker is picked up, the player jumps over that square and continues back to where they started. They hand the marker to the next player who takes their turn. The first person to successfully complete the course is the winner.
Begin by gathering many playground balls of different sizes (soccer, volley, tennis, etc.) Draw a circle with playground chalk or use a rope placed in a circle large enough to hold all the balls spread out a bit. Players stand ten feet from the circle and take turns rolling a heavier ball, such as a basketball, into the circle and knocking as many balls as they can out of the circle. The player who has the most balls when the circle is empty wins the game.
Capture the Flag
You need at least ten players separated into two teams for a game of Capture the Flag. Each team has a territory in which they may move about freely. They also have a flag (or any other type of object). The goal of the game is to capture the other team’s flag and take it to your team’s territory without being tagged. If someone is tagged, they go to “jail,” a designated spot, such as a boulder or large tree. A player in jail must touch the jail at all times. A player may be released from jail by one of their own team members touching them.
Mark a large square on the ground or pavement divided into four, five-foot squares. Number the squares clockwise from 1 to 4. Play begins when the player in square 4 hits a rubber playground ball to the player in the next square (#1), who must hit the ball to the next square (#2) after only one bounce. Play continues clockwise. If a player misses the ball, serves it incorrectly, or the ball bounces more than once in a square, then that player is out and another child waiting to play replaces him. The players remaining move up one square. The goal is to get to square number four without missing the ball or making a mistake that takes one out of the game.
Tug of War
Divide your group into two equal teams. Try to make them relatively equal in size and strength. Each team takes the end of a long rope. Place a mark on the ground between the two teams right in the middle. The object of the game is to pull the other team past the marker in the middle. The team that manages to do so, wins the game.
Playground Games List
Sometimes one needs a quick and easy playground game that requires no additional equipment, can be played by any age, and takes little direction. Our playground games list has a selection of easy and fun games anyone will enjoy.
Hide and Seek
All the children hide while the seeker counts to 20. Then the seeker attempts to find all the other players before they can make it back to the base and safety without being caught.
Players line up on one side of the playground and one is the “caller” who yells out “Red light!” or Green light!” Players run towards the finish line, freezing when “Red light?” is called and moving when “Green light” is called. Anyone moving when they should not is out.
Create teams of two or three players. The teams race by getting on their hands and knees and leap frogging over each other to the end of a field.
One player is Simon and yells out commands, prefacing them with “Simon says”, such as hop on one foot, sit down, crawl, etc. Anyone who does not do what Simon says is out. Simon sometimes gives a command without saying “Simon says.” Anyone who obeys one of these commands is out.
The entire group stands in one long line with their legs apart and eyes shut. The person at the end of the line must crawl through the legs of the other players without touching them. Once they do so, they stay at the front of the line. Anyone who touches another player is out. The winner is the last player left.
All the players sit in a circle with their legs crossed and their arms around each other’s shoulders. When someone yells, “Go!” everyone tries to stand up together without letting go of each other.
Skin the Snake
All the players stand in line with their legs apart. Each player passes their right hand between their legs and holds the left hand of the person behind them. The last person in line starts to crawl through the legs of those in front of them and everyone follows, without letting go. The goal is to have everyone standing in a line when the last person crawls through. The larger the group, the more fun this game is!
Catch the Caterpillar
Players line up holding the waist of the person in front of them forming a caterpillar. The first player in the line pulls free and tries to run to and tag the back of the caterpillar while the other players try to stop the player from doing so.
Whether you choose a playground game for a large group, or a more complicated playground activity with equipment and rules, you will find the time flies when you play one of the games in this article. We have included tried-and-true playground favorites for both children and adults and some new games as well. Many of the games require teamwork, strategy, and lots of energy. And, of course, we have our list of quick and easy playground games. Whichever game you choose, play away and have fun!
Susan majored in English with a double minor in Humanities and Business at Arizona State University and earned a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Liberty University. She taught grades four through twelve in both public and private schools. Subjects included English, U.S. and world history and geography, math, earth and physical science, Bible, information technologies, and creative writing.
Susan has been freelance writing for over ten years, during which time she has written and edited books, newspaper articles, biographies, book reviews, guidelines, neighborhood descriptions for realtors, Power Point presentations, resumes, and numerous other projects.