young children waving a large colorful parachute up in the air outdoors

12 Fun Outdoor Games and Activities

  • Be sure every day includes playtime, which offers many developmental benefits for children to learn key skills.

    • Communication: Keep your eyes and ears open to play like a winner!

    • Creative: Let imagination take the lead!

    • Cognitive: Find a trail and explore!

    • Social: Group play helps friendships flourish!

    • Emotional: Make up real-life scenarios and pretend play!

    • Physical: Outdoor play is active play at its best!

Across the country, the weather is finally getting warmer and families are starting to emerge from stay-home orders. The sun is shining, beaches are opening, and, although kids have been stuck inside for quite a while, they can finally close their schoolbooks for summer. Although summertime has so many traditional play activities, families are turning to their own backyards to create new summer memories.

The Genius of Play team has put together a list of some of our favorite outdoor activities, perfect for sparking backyard fun.

  • Grab the Bacon
    This game is for ages 6 and up. Break into two teams and assign each player per side a number (1, 2, 3, etc.). Teams line up on opposite sides of the yard with the “bacon” (ball, book, shirt, etc.) in the center. A non-player calls out a number. If your number is called, race to get the bacon first and return it to your side without being tagged by the other player. A point is earned for each successful bacon retrieval. If players are tagged after touching the bacon but before reaching their side, the other team earns a point.

  • Marco Polo
    Inspired by the explorer Marco Polo’s own adventurous spirit of traversing the unknown, this is a classic game to play in or out of the pool (shallow end only). One player is Marco Polo for a round and uses call-and-response and keen listening skills to locate and tag their fellow players. Not only does this game put kids’ senses to the test, but it also lets them work on their communication and social skills. Just be sure to set time limits to a round to avoid frustration!

  • Scavenger Hunt
    Go on a backyard adventure to find some hidden, or not-so-hidden, treasures. Provide children with a list of 12 or so things to look for (less for younger children) and let the hunt begin! This is a game that can easily be modified to meet a child’s abilities as well as played indoors or outside.

  • Nature’s Color Match
    Learning color basics? Try matching nature’s colors to paint chips. This activity is perfect for ages 3 and up. Take some old paint chips (available at any paint store), punch a hole at the top of each, and slide them onto a binder ring. Then it’s off to match and explore. Note: If you don’t have access to paint chips, you can also color your own sheets or print them off a computer.

  • Action Figure Float
    This is a game that teaches trial-and-error and density, as kids take their favorite toys (of different sizes and weights) and predict and test “will this toy float?” Play this game solo or go head-to-head. To extend playtime, try using other household items (and toys) to see if they will float and/or hold the weight of their favorite action figures. If their idea doesn’t float, urge them to try again using different objects.

  • Magic T-Shirt
    Secure a section of fabric on the front of a T-shirt with an embroidery hoop, glass, or bowl. Using permanent markers, have kids use their imagination and draw whatever they’d like inside the hoop. When they are finished drawing, place a plate inside the shirt, under the hoop. Have an adult pour rubbing alcohol into a small bowl. Then, with a little help, let kids use an eyedropper to add droplets of alcohol onto their T-shirt design until it becomes saturated. Watch as new colors appear! Let the shirt dry, remove the hoop, and iron the shirt as needed. Let kids sport their stylish new design!

  • Dinosaur Garden
    Creating a miniature landscape lets imaginations run wild. Give each child some plants, rocks, twigs, plastic dinosaurs, and other props to make their own dinosaur garden. Once complete, kids can have their dinosaur figurines, or other figures, roam free. Pro Tip: select plants that resemble larger plants and cover little bowls with moss or dirt to mimic the appearance of big hills.

  • Pretend Pet Salon
    Some real-world hair salons and pet groomers may still be closed but not when it comes to a child’s imagination. Call up your child’s imaginary pet salon to schedule their stuffed pups for some pampering. Parents can also incorporate the exchange of play money to help kids practice counting and basic calculations.

  • Shadow Tag
    This is a screen-free game that will get kids up and off their devices, while keeping their social distance from friends as they play. It plays a lot like a traditional game of tag, only instead of touching other players to tag them, the goal of the person who is “It” is to tag the other players’ shadows.

  • Harvest Dash
    Put leftover birdfeed or flower seeds from your garden to another use! In this relay race, start by filling two containers filled with feed or seed and leave two smaller, empty containers several feet away. Have kids (or families) break into two teams of even size and line up by the full container. At the start of the race, the first player fills up a cup with seeds, races to dump them into the empty bin, sprints back, and hands the cup off to the next teammate. The first team to fill their container with seeds wins.

  • Duck Duck Drench
    This is Duck Duck Goose with a wet twist. A chosen player for a round walks around the circle with the cup of water, dripping a small bit onto the head of each person they pass, saying “Drip” aloud each time. When he/she selects a new chosen player for a round, they yell “Drench!” and dump the cup of water onto that player’s head. The drenched player must jump up and race to tag the other player before he/she takes a seat. If they do, the drenched kid becomes the new leader for the round.

  • Parachute Games
    You don’t need to look to the skies to experience the wonder of a parachute, and there are plenty of games kids can do right in their own backyards with this fun device. From watching it magically float in the air to seeing how the colors of light passing through it, and working together for cooperative play, read on for a fill list of parachute game ideas.

 


  • Be sure every day includes playtime, which offers many developmental benefits for children to learn key skills.

    • Communication: Keep your eyes and ears open to play like a winner!

    • Creative: Let imagination take the lead!

    • Cognitive: Find a trail and explore!

    • Social: Group play helps friendships flourish!

    • Emotional: Make up real-life scenarios and pretend play!

    • Physical: Outdoor play is active play at its best!

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