21 Backyard Games for Kids That Are a Breath of Fresh Air

Published January 18, 2022
children having fun playing games outside

No matter the season, no matter the weather, get the kids outside and get them moving. Let your backyard be your personal playground! With fun family, friends, and creative, cost-effective backyard games for kids, no one will be sitting in the sunshine complaining they are bored!

Backyard Games for Young Children

Send little kids outdoors so they can burn off some energy! These games will provide young children with plenty of fun and a bit of structure. They can also help kids work on essential social skills like taking turns, listening, following directions, and crucial gross motor skills.

Red Light, Green Light

children playing red light green light game

Red Light, Green Light is a classic game that involves no extra items or materials to play, emphasizes listening skills, and gets little bodies in motion. Kids line up in a horizontal line. One person moves away from the group, standing roughly 20 feet in front of the players in the game, and turns around, so their back is facing the group. This person yells, "green light," and kids then race to the designated finish line. The single person then yells "red light" and turns around quickly, so they are now facing the runners. Anyone moving a muscle is out of the round. This continues until one racer reaches the finish line without being caught moving on a red light.

Simon Says

Simon Says can be played inside, but it is more fun in the sunshine. Extra space in the backyard can also provide game players with more directives and movement options. One person is Simon. They give directions, requiring players to engage in a motion that Simon has requested.

The players can ONLY perform the movement if Simon says the words, "Simon Says," before giving the direction. If Simon gives a directive without first speaking those keywords, and a player does the action, then they are out.

Melt the Ice

melt the ice game

Melt the Ice takes some preparation on behalf of an adult, but it is such a fun game for little kids to play come summertime. In a Tupperware, freeze a layer of ice containing small, hard toys and objects. Once the first layer of toys and ice is completely solid, add another layer of water and objects and freeze that layer, as well. Continue layering water and objects until you have a giant block of ice with all sorts of items stuck inside of the frozen prison.

Rinse the Tupperware with hot water to loosen the ice block and bring it outdoors. Kids must figure out how to break and melt the ice, getting all the objects out of the block. The person to get everything out of the block of ice first wins the game.

Lawn Memory

Memory is an excellent game for young kids, and you can play it outdoors with a bit of creativity. You need to create large, sturdy cards with images on them. There must be two cards with the same image so that kids can make a match. Kids can get in on the game's creative aspect, making simple designs for every two cards. Items that young children might choose to draw can include:

  • Simple shapes
  • Smiley faces
  • Sun
  • Moon
  • Flower
  • House
  • Spider
  • Other images that young kids can draw and color on cards.

Set all cards out into rows and columns, image side down, as you would with classic Memory. Kids then take turns trying to make a match by flipping over two cards. If they make a match, they get to keep the cards. If they do not make a match, they turn the cards back over, and it is someone else's turn.

Duck, Duck, Goose

children playing duck duck goose game

Sit young kids in a small circle. One person in the circle is selected to be the tagger. They walk around the circle of seated kids, gently tapping each child's head and saying, "duck." One child gets tapped and called a goose at random instead of a duck. The goose hops up and chases the tagger as the tagger races around the circle in an attempt to sit back in the goose's spot. If the tagger makes it back to the spot, the goose becomes the new tagger.

Playing this game outside gives kids a wider berth to run around a larger circle. This is a great game to play with large groups of young children at a church group, daycare, or at birthday parties and playdates.

Backyard Games Perfect For Small Spaces

If your backyard is small or only contains a patch of patio, there are still plenty of games you can introduce to inquisitive kids who enjoy fresh air and sunshine.

Cornhole

You can play countless rounds of Cornhole with kids even if you only have a small strip of yard space. Cornhole boards can be packed up and stored away when the game is completed and then taken out later. Crafty families can even work together to fashion their own Cornhole boards!

Marbles

Marbles is a timeless game parents can teach their children outdoors. Draw a circle on your back patio with chalk. Kids take turns trying to knock each other's marbles out of the circle using a large shooter marble. Once all of the marbles are hit outside the circle, the game is over. The person with the most marbles in their possession is the game's winner.

Quarter Bounce

In the crack of the backyard patio, set a quarter on its side. Kids take turns bouncing a bouncy ball onto the quarter. The person who frees the quarter from the crevice first is the winner of the round.

Jacks

If you have a small patio space in your yard, you can teach your kids the classic game of Jacks. The game's goal is to bounce a ball, pick a jack up, and then snag the ball before it falls to a second bounce. On the next turn, you repeat the process but try to pick up two jacks this time. Each round gets progressively more challenging, requiring kids to snag more jacks each time.

Sidewalk Chalk Games

girl playing hopscotch

Using a patio slab in the backyard and chalk, introduce your kids to countless games easily played outside in small, concrete spaces. Hopscotch, Four Square, tracing a person, tossing a rock in the circles, and maze building are a few fun games that kids can play using their minds and a few pieces of chalk.

Bean Bag Ladder Toss

Drag a ladder and a few beanbags to your small backyard space for a fun bean bag toss game. If kids can get their bag to land on the lowest step of a ladder, they earn a certain number of points. The points go up in number as the ladder steps do. Older kids can play with larger point amounts, and young children can play with small number amounts. Be sure to supervise kids around ladders, as it takes only a moment for a curious child to crawl onto one and take a scary tumble.

Games for Nature-esque Backyards

Does your backyard include trees, bushes, and plenty of natural spaces to roam? If so, you can work a few fun and interesting nature-inspired games into the day.

I Spy

children playing I spy game

If your backyard is full of colorful trees, flowers and birds, play a round of I Spy. This classic game helps to build up children's vocabulary and turn-taking skills.

Minute To Build It

game minute to build it

In your foresty backyard, challenge your family to a round of Minute To Build It. In truth, the kids will need more than a minute to carry out the task you are asking of them. Give the kids a set amount of time to gather natural materials in the backyard. Then, set a second round of time for kids to build something assigned. You could have them create a house, a boat, an animal, or anything else they can construct with leaves, sticks, rocks, flowers, grass, and other backyard objects.

Nature Scavenger Hunt or Treasure Hunt

girl with notebook on nature scavenger hunt

Hold a backyard nature scavenger hunt for kids. See who manages to seek out all the items on their scavenger list first. You can also bury treasure in the yard and pass a map of clues for children who must follow the map and the clues to arrive at where the treasure is sunk.

Nature Checkers

game nature checkers

Checkers is an educational game that can be played just about anywhere, including in your backyard. Small sets are perfect for travel, and large sets can be played in open outdoor spaces. You can make a do-it-yourself checkerboard with natural objects in your yard. First, create an eight-by-eight board using spray paint in the grass or chalk on the patio. Next, gather materials to be the checkers. You will need 24 materials total for the checkers; 12 of one kind and 12 of another. Leaves and acorns both make for fun game pieces, but truly, the sky is the limit here.

Backyard Games Even the Teens Will Love

Getting groups of teenagers outside and playing is no small feat. Introduce them to these backyard games, and they might just forget all about their busy day of hanging out in the basement on electronic devices.

Water Balloon Wars

boy throwing water balloon

Fill up water balloons and create two teams of teens. Give each team a bucket full of balloons and let the kids loose. They will have a blast racing around the yard, soaking their pals.

Really Fun Relay Races

two people racing with legs tied together

Relay races are fun games that get teens off of the couch and into the outdoors. You can try any number of silly races, including:

  • Potato sack races
  • Three-legged races
  • Wheelbarrow races
  • Crabwalk races

Kick the Can

In this game from yesteryear, everyone hides, sans one seeker. A can is set up in the center of the yard. If a hider is found, both the seeker and the hider race to the can with the goal of kicking it over. Whoever kicks the can over first wins.

Sharks and Minnows

children running in a line sharks and minnows game

Sharks and Minnows is usually played in a pool, but you can create a variation of the game so it can be played in a backyard with plenty of space. In this game, one person is the shark. Everyone else is a minnow. The minnows line up horizontally, ready to race to a finish line past the shark. When the shark yells, "Swim!" the minnows take off. If a shark tags one minnow, they sit down where they were tagged, becoming "seaweed." The newly minted seaweeds can then help tag minnows still in the game, but only from their seated position.

Variations of Floor is Lava

The Floor is Lava is an indoor game frequently played using the living room furniture. Still, you can modify it to fit your backyard, as well (because honestly, who wants giant teenagers bouncing on the armchairs?) Set rules for the game like:

  • Players can only be on the ground or grass for five seconds at a time.
  • "Safe" spaces can only be occupied for 30 seconds at a time.

Designate a starting spot and a finishing spot and see who can get through the backyard Floor is Lava course the quickest.

Kubb

Your kids have likely never even heard of Kubb! Ironically, this game is one of the oldest backyard games around, coming into existence during the Middle Ages. The game's goal is to knock the blocks down, including the King block, with wooden batons. Kubb is simple, fun, and you can work a historical lesson on the Kubb-loving Vikings if you are really feeling saucy.

The Benefits To Playing Outside

There are so many benefits to getting kids into the backyard. Playing outdoors exposes children to the natural elements, gets them away from electronics, and allows them to run free, working on those gross motor skills. Backyard games are an excellent way to work on family bonds, practice social and listening skills, and get that daily dose of vitamin D. Use these backyard games for kids when you have free time and inspire everyone to head outside and play.

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21 Backyard Games for Kids That Are a Breath of Fresh Air