10 Games Children Can Play Outdoors

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We now live in a world with internet, widescreen TV’s, X-box’s, and cell phones. Although these are wonderful and entertaining bits of technology, they do come at a cost. The latest generation is growing up with a serious lack of social skills. There is a very noticeable drop in physical activity as well. As a result, our children are fighting obesity and many social issues, not to mention they are just downright pale looking compared to my generation.

Many of these games I played very frequently myself as a child growing up. Because these games are very regional, you may not recognize all the names or all the rules, but chances are that if you are around 40 years old, you will recognize most of the elements as similar to the games you played as a child.

Read this list thoroughly. I have tried to include games for all ages and both boys and girls. As the list progress’s I will begin to add more physically challenging games that may cause some minor scrapes and bruises in special cases.
This list is for adults. The reason I don’t recommend children just look at this list and pick out a game to play is because some of these games have a very physical and sometimes downright violent element to them.

As a father to 3 girls, I fully appreciate how easy it is to be a squeamish, over-protective parent. But I also recognize that my kids are missing out on some important life lessons I learned as a child. Some of these lessons sometimes come with a bloody nose and a scraped up knee. Nobody wants their child to get hurt in any way, but do any of us want our children to grow up socially stunted? I firmly believe that social skills are as important as the ability to read and write. Human interaction is simply a part of life, and these games will enhance our children’s social abilities.

10. Ambush


Preferably in a wooded area, the group of children agrees on the boundaries of a large area. The group then splits into two teams. Team “A” gets a 10 minute head start to run into the wooded area while team “B” waits.
While team “A” is heading into the play area, they must leave clues behind that will lead team “B” to them. Once at the ambush area that team “A” chooses all the kids hide and wait for team “B” to find their way there.

When team “B” hits just the right spot, all the kids from team “A” scream “AMBUSH” and 1 of 3 things can happen:
1. The kids simulate battle by Indian wrestling to determine winners.
2. All kids are wearing ‘flags’ which are removed and the team with the most flags wins.
3. When “Ambush” is screamed, the kids race back to the home area and the last person there is the representative of the losing team.
The winners start over as the ambushers while the losers are the ambushee’s.

9. Blind Volleyball


Same as regular volleyball only you add sheets over the net. This way you cannot see when or where the ball is coming from.

This not only makes it infinitely more difficult, but it will actually give a lot of people a fright when that ball suddenly appears!

Be extra careful of teammate collisions in this version of the game.

8. Bombardment


This one is like a cross between Dodge ball and Bowling.

In an area about the size of a tennis court, define a center line. Divide the kids into two equal groups. At the back of each team’s area, line up 5 pop cans or some type of “Pins”.

Each team takes turn throwing a ball at the other team’s pins as hard as they can.

As the defending team, you must block the ball in any way possible. Get in front of the ball or catch the ball. If the ball bounces off of a player and rebounds across the center line, the throwing team throws again, so watch your rebounds.
The smaller the ball, the harder the game. In most cases a volleyball is used, but the game gets a little more brutal with a tennis ball. The first team to knock down all of the opposing teams pins wins.

7. Catch, Don’t Catch


This one is simple and playful for little kids but painful for older kids.

All children form a circle with their arms crossed. One person is chosen as the thrower and stands in the middle. The thrower says either “Catch” or “Don’t Catch” and throws the ball at the torso of someone in the circle. If the thrower says “Don’t Catch” you are supposed to catch the ball, and if he says “Catch” you let the ball bounce off of you.

For smaller children, the thrower just tosses the ball. For bigger kids they can throw it harder.

Whoever catches the ball becomes the thrower.

6. Poison


This one is simple but very physical. Be careful.

A group forms a circle locking arms. In the center is a cup of water. A leader is determined and proceeds to push and pull the circle around until someone is forced into kicking over the cup of water. Whoever kicks the cup over is ‘Poison’. Everyone then runs from the poisoned person.

The poisoned person chases all of the runners until he or she catches one and that person becomes the new leader in the next round.

5. Frisbee 500


This is a very simple game really. You may have grown up playing a version of this game with a baseball and a bat and everyone has a baseball glove.

Get a group of kids (Ideally 5 or more) and take them and a Frisbee to a field. Determine who the first Frisbee chucker is. Eenie-meeny-miney-moe is generally used.

That person throws the Frisbee as hard as he can out to the field of other players. The first person to retrieve the Frisbee off the ground gets 25 points. If the Frisbee is rolling and someone catches it before it stops, it is worth 50 points. If someone catches it after it “Skips” off the ground but before it hits again it is worth 100 points. If you are lucky enough to snatch the Frisbee out of the air before it touches the ground at all, you get 150 points.

The first person to reach 500 points becomes the ‘Frisbee Chucker’ and the game starts over with everyone resetting to zero points.

4. Capture the Flag


This one is one of those games that you can teach a bunch of 5 year old children to play and they will have a blast playing it, but as they get older, the game seems to grow with them getting harder and more challenging to play.
There are of course several different variations on how this game is played. I am going to explain how I played it in my younger years growing up in Toronto Canada.

Most of the rules can be changed slightly in one way or another to better suit both the ages of kids, and the area in which you have to play.

In this game “The more the Merrier” truly applies. A good game will consist of at least 10 kids, but I have seen as many as 40 kids play.

First you must determine the play area. The boundaries are determined at the start of the game and are respected and adhered to by every player. Any variation on this rule causes a loss to the respective team. The overall area is then split into 2 separate areas, Opposing and Defending. Think of a football field with houses in it. The neutral line is the 50 yard line.

Split the kids into 2 equal teams. Each team places a flag (usually a bandana) in the back of their area in a way that every single kid playing can see it and grab it easily.

We would usually set a pre-determined time as to the game start. For example: Teams are chosen at the center or the neutral line of the area, then at the word “GO” you have exactly 10 minutes to get your team back from the dividing line to the back of your area and post the flag in a fair and visible place, determine where “Jail” is, and also huddle to discuss your strategy to capture the opposing teams flag.

The general objective is to cross from your defending area into the opposing team’s area, grab their flag and bring it back to your own area without getting ‘tagged’ by members of the opposing team.

If you are ‘tagged’ by the opposing team, you are escorted by the person that tagged you to the defending teams ‘jail’. You must stay in this area until another person from your team comes and touches you. At that point you must run across the neutral line into your team’s area before you can attempt to “Capture the Flag” again. However, the player that performs this ‘Jailbreak’ is allowed to then continue on and attempt to capture the opposing team’s flag.
This is a tough game to explain. But hopefully I have explained enough that you can get the concept down and get a game going in your neighborhood.

I like to think of it as real life chess with real life kids. The strategies are endless, and every game is different.

3. British Bulldog (Red Rover)


This game goes by several different names but the game itself has been played by several generations in several different cultures and countries.

I knew this game as “British Bulldog”. My wife remembers the game as “Red Rover”.
The basics are the same. Get a group of people together and split them into 2 teams fairly. This game is best played by at least 10 kids.

Each team links arms together the best they can at least 50 feet from the opposing team that is facing them.
Team ‘A’ calls for a member of team ‘B’ to come and get some. The kid that has been called must run as fast and hard as he can to break through the human chain of the team that called him. If the kid succeeds in his mission of breaking through the human chain, he then gets to choose any member of that team to join his own. If that kid fails to break through the chain, he then becomes a member of that team.

2. Salad


This game is brutal. It hurts no matter how good you are at it. I played this at every lunch break in my junior high school with a lot of young men and women that were far more athletic than me. The better you get at this game, the better your chances are to get your ass kicked…Literally! My school outlawed this game, but we played it every day anyway. We were like a bunch of adrenaline junkie inmates craving our next hit. We went to great lengths to hide the fact that we were playing this inherently dangerous game.

The rules are simple. Get a bunch of people together in a concrete or paved area with one tennis ball and a nearby wall. The game starts with everyone at least 10 feet from the wall.

Drop the ball and the game is on! Everyone kicks the tennis ball at everyone else with one goal in mind…Get it between open legs. If you are able to kick the ball through the opening of two legs of any player, you scream “Salad!” at the top of your lungs and every player gets to kick that player in the butt until they can make their way to the wall and yell “Home!” as loud as they can.

We would make the game incredibly tougher by altering the rules so that if you got “Salad” called on you, you had to make it to your locker to get everyone to stop kicking you in the butt. My locker from 7th through the 9th grade was always on the 3rd floor of my junior high school…I still have bruises on my rear today.
It is a tough game. And you have to be tough to play it. If not, you will become tough while you play it. In the end, I believe it helps to make a teenage boy a man by playing ‘Salad’.

1. Red Ass (Jackass)


This is the most painful and most satisfying game I ever had the pleasure to play with my peers. It is brutal and barbaric, but leaves every young man with a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie that most other activities could never hope to accomplish.

You need a tennis ball, a tall wall and preferably a half pavement and half grassy area to play in.
This is another game where the more kids that participate the better. You will need at least 5 kids.
You establish “The Line” approximately 20 feet away from the playing “wall”. This is best served by a 20 foot high wall that has about 20 feet of concrete or paved ground from its base out to a dirt or grassy area, that way you have a definable ‘line’.

The person that has the ball throws it as hard as they can at the wall with the objective of the ball bouncing off of the wall and past ‘the line’ without touching the ground. If your throw hits the ground inside ‘the line’, every kid will run towards the wall and you get a letter and the last kid to touch the wall gets a letter and has to be the next ‘thrower’.
If you are not the person throwing the ball you have two choices. Catch the ball, or run towards the wall.

If you catch the ball, you get to throw the ball as hard as you can at the other kids running towards the wall. If you hit a kid, they get a ‘letter’ and are the next ‘thrower’. If you miss, the last kid to reach the wall gets a letter and is the next thrower.

If you are not in an area where you can catch the ball simply don’t be the last kid to touch the wall once the race towards the wall starts. The race always starts when the ball lands (past the line) after it bounces off the wall. False starters are given a ‘letter’ and are next to throw.

If nobody catches the rebound from the ‘thrower’, every kid must run towards and touch the wall after the ball has rebounded off of the wall and lands past ‘the line’. The last one to reach the wall gets a ‘letter’ and also retrieves the tennis ball and become the next thrower.

Remember, every throw at the wall starts with every kid behind ‘the line’. Sometimes the thrower may “fake” a throw and cause someone to cross the line prematurely. In this case the ‘false starter kid’ is given a ‘letter’ and becomes the next thrower.

By ‘letter’ I mean you are issued the letters required to spell “Red Ass” or in other regions “Jackass”. Once you have received enough ‘letters’ to spell out either “Red ass, or Jackass” you then go up to the wall, bend over and grab your ankles exposing your rear end to every other player who stands at ‘the line’ and gets one free throw at your butt! When this happens, your letters reset to zero but nobody else’s does. That way everyone eventually gets to grab their ankles and experience “Red ass”!