This list of equipment free outdoor games is intended as an ideas prompt to help you over the long summer break. None of these games are new and some might bring back childhood memories.
Going outside to play games boosts our energy levels and gets children away from screens. It’s brilliant for children’s social skills and it improves their concentration spans. Playing games also fosters creativity especially when children make up their own versions and adapt the rules.
Most games here can be easily adapted for two players, so you can still have fun if there is just you and one child at home.
One person (‘Person A’) faces a wall or fence so they have their back to the other players. The other players stand some distance away from them on a designated start line.
The object of the game is for the players to sneak up to Person A, tap them on the shoulder and shout ‘Hot Chocolate’, without being seen.
As the players creep up, Person A turns around at intervals and if he/she sees a player moving then that player must go back to the start. The person who successfully makes it to Person A and shouts ‘Hot Chocolate!’ is the winner and becomes Person A in the next game.
What’s the Time Mr Wolf?
This is similar to Hot Chocolate. One person – Mr Wolf – stands facing a wall and stays facing the wall for the duration of the game.
The other players stand a few metres away from Mr Wolf on an agreed start line. The players call out together, ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’ and the Mr Wolf gives a time e.g. ‘1 o’clock’ and the players take that many steps towards Mr Wolf.
When Mr Wolf thinks the players are getting close to him, he shouts ‘Dinner time!’ He then tries to catch one of the players before they get back to safety. ‘Safety’ is the start line. If a player is caught, they become Mr Wolf in the next game.
Draw a Hopscotch grid on a patio/pavement/driveway with chalk if you have it or scratch the grid out with a stone. Type ‘Hopscotch grid’ into Google Images to see an example.
For instructions to play, see this Hopscotch video.
We have cheated a little bit by including this game on the list as you do need some equipment, but you can improvise with what you have at home.
One idea is to make a ring toss set from 12 empty glass or plastic bottles, a length of rope and some masking tape. Bottles with narrow necks work best.
Fill the bottles with water (or a dried ingredient like flour or rice) to weigh them down so they don’t easily fall over. Use a funnel or a measuring jug to help you fill the bottles. Make 6 rings from rope. To make a rope ring simply join two ends of a length of rope securely with masking tape.
To play, arrange the bottles (now ‘skittles’) closely together. The first player stands a few metres from the bottles. The player takes the 6 rings and tosses them one at a time, trying to get them over the necks of the bottles. The winner is the person who gets the most rings on bottles.
If you don’t have bottles and rope look at what you’ve got in the recycle bin or toybox. Could you make skittles from empty kitchen roll tubes and rings from an old cardboard box? See what your children suggest.
One person is ‘it’. They chase the other people and when they catch somebody that person becomes ‘it’. You might need some ground rules, depending upon how children play (light touches only, no tagging on the head etc.)
You can adapt the game to make it even more fun especially if you have a few players:
- Torch Tag. The person who is ‘it’ tags someone with the light of a torch. This is a brilliant game to play at night!
- Freeze Tag. The person who is caught freezes on the spot instead of becoming ‘it’. Play carries on until only one person is left unfrozen.
Hide and Seek
This is great for children’s counting skills, observation skills and patience. One child counts to a reasonable number (say, 50) while the others hide. The last person to be found is the winner.
Make sure children hide in safe places where they cannot get stuck or trapped and that they only hide within a designated area.
This is an adaptation of Hide and Seek that works if you have a group of players. In this game one person hides (‘the hider’) while all the others count. When the players have finished counting, they go off in their own directions to find the hider.
When someone finds the hider they quietly join them. Everybody hides together until just one person is left. The person left becomes the hider in the next game.
One person is Simon. Simon gives the other players one instruction at a time to follow. However, the players only have to follow the instruction if Simon says ‘Simon says’ first. For example, ‘Simon says pat your head’. If Simon doesn’t say ‘Simon says’ then the other players should not follow the instruction, eg. ‘Pat your head!’
If anybody accidentally follows an instruction when they shouldn’t or fails to follow an instruction when they should, they are out. The last person in becomes Simon on the next game.
Here are some Simon Says ideas:
- Jump as high as you can
- Twirl around
- Play air guitar
- Do five star jumps
- Roar like a dinosaur
- Waddle like a duck
- Clap your hands
- Act like a monkey
- Put your hands on your knees
- Shake like a jelly
- Stand on one leg
- Sing in a silly voice
- Skip around the garden
- Do a forward roll.
How many ideas can your children suggest?
Follow the leader
One child is the leader and the others follow them in a line. Whatever the leader does, the others must copy. They might march, spin around, crawl, move up and down, flap their arms. Ask your children to think of as many ideas as they can before they play.
Hold events in the garden or park using any equipment available – or no equipment at all. Encourage children to think of ideas perhaps inspired by school sports days past. How about:
- Throwing and catching a ball
- Jumping on the trampoline
- Skipping with a rope
- Going down the slide
- Doing star jumps, rolly-pollies, forward rolls (see Simon Says for ideas)
- Balancing a ball on a spoon
- Creeping like a cat.
Award 10 points for each event. Make a chart of events on paper and record each person’s points next to each event. Children could add up total scores at the end to find a winner.
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