10 great outdoor games to play with your kids | summer 2016 | Family photo shoot Hampshire

How much fun will you have playing outside with your children, in the sunshine this summer?

Here is a selection of my favourite games I played as a child. I've played some of these with my kids and added a few new ones that sparked my imagination. I can't wait to try the new ones with the little and big kids I know. 

Children playing tag, kids playing outside.

Children playing tag, kids playing outside.

1.   Tag

An old favourite, most people know how to play tag, but just in case it wasn’t in your childhood game playing repertoire, here is how you play. A group of kids decides who will start out as being “it.” That person chases the other people around, trying to tag one of them with their hand. The newly tagged person is now “it.” There is often the rule of “no tag-backs” where you can’t tag the person who just tagged you. The game ends when everyone is tired of playing. A great way to teach taking turns, sportsmanship and fair play.

Number of Players: Any size group.

Equipment: None.

Shadow Tag:

In this fun version of Tag, you tag each other’s shadow with your feet instead of tagging their body. Play on a sunny day. The closer to noon, when the shadows are shorter, the greater the difficulty.

Number of Players: A small group.

Equipment: A sunny day.

Enjoying the outdoors with a photo treasure hunt. How many insects, flowers, plants etc can you find? Give your kids a list of flowers, insects to find and they'll be happy for ages.

Enjoying the outdoors with a photo treasure hunt. How many insects, flowers, plants etc can you find? Give your kids a list of flowers, insects to find and they'll be happy for ages.

2. Photo nature hunt.

This is such a great idea and something we did with our kids when they were smaller. We are all outdoors in the fresh air, observing nature, being curious and developing the kids problem-solving skills. Following a plan, thinking things through and checking off a list, can be done independently or with help from a brother/sister or parent.

Adding a photo challenge brings an extra element to the fabulous nature-hunt-fun. Kids love taking photos at any time, but a list gives their photography purpose and direction. A good photo hunt will encourage them to take shots of their found object from different angles and points of view, so they start to develop their creativity and photo skills. A photo hunt also means you don’t have that awkward moment that tends to happen at the end of a standard nature hunt: what do we do with all this found stuff?

Whether kids are playing on their own or in groups, this really helps to develop keen observational and photography skills.

3.  Monkey in the middle.

The aim of Monkey in the Middle -- throwing a ball between players to prevent one player from catching it, the Monkey can block, catch, chase after and secure the ball, then he\she gets to swap with the last person who threw the ball -- can seem a little unfair, but is a fun game for all ages. Originally a game for young children, we found it a great drill for ball sports. To play, all you'll need is at least three players and any ball-like object. Fabulous for teaching hand eye co-ordination and improving gross motor skills.

Number of Players: At least 3

Equipment: Any ball-like object, on hot days try a wet sponge ball.

Children playing hide and seek outside. 

Children playing hide and seek outside. 

4.  Hide and seek.

Everyone has played this one. Most parents have played with their kids, since hiding and finding is a particular skill of small children. I’ve heard of all kinds of variations on this game. Sometimes you count to twenty, sometimes ten, sometimes one hundred. Sometimes there is a home base that you can run to and tag, becoming “safe,” sometimes you just wait to be found. The general idea is that one person is “it,” that person closes his or her eyes and counts to a certain number without looking and then he or she tries to find the others.

Great for teaching kids to focus on remaining quiet and still for a short time.

Number of Players: Ideally at least three

Equipment: None

5.  Simon Says.

This game can be played anywhere, even in a car or other small space. One person is Simon and starts by saying, “Simon says, ‘<insert action here>.'” Everyone must then do the action. However, if Simon makes an action request without saying, “Simon says” to begin the request, anyone who does that action is out. The last person still playing in the end will be Simon for the next round.

This is a great game for teaching listening skills and following instructions.

Number of Players: A small group.

Equipment: None.

6.  Capture the flag.

This game is most fun when played with a large group. Split the group into two teams, each team having a flag or other marker at the team’s base. The object of the game is to run into the other team’s territory, capture their flag and make it safely back to your own territory. You can tag “enemy” players in your territory, sending them to your jail. They can be sprung from jail by a member of their own team running into your territory, tagging them and running back, with one freed person allowed per jail break. It is sometimes played that all the people in jail could hold hands and make a chain back toward their own territory, making it easier for members of their team to tag them. We also played a similar game called Steal the Sticks. It had almost the same rules, but several sticks were used instead of one flag.

This is a great game for teaching problem solving and co-operation in teams.

Number of Players: A large group.

Equipment: Two flags or other markers.

7.  Freeze tag.

Freeze Tag: This is a variation of Tag where if the person who is “it” tags you, you have to freeze where you are. Another participant can tag you to unfreeze you.

Number of Players: A small group.

Equipment: None.

8. Fishing for marbles.

Basically, a small kiddie-sized plastic pool is filled with water AND ice AND marbles. The players have to stand in the freezing cold water &, with their toes, fish out the marbles & drop them in their bowl/bucket. Whoever collects the most marbles in their container in 2 minutes, wins!

We played again in equal teams, each team member took their turn to get one marble, the first team to finish wins!

Fabulous game for helping develop fine and gross motor skills and balance.

Number of players: 2 or more

Equipment: small paddling pool, at least 20 marbles, water, ice cubes and a bucket for each player or team.

9.  Drip, drip, dunk!

Instead of going around in a circle innocently tapping people on the head and saying “duck, duck, goose,” you go around in a circle dribbling water on everyone’s heads until you finally choose someone to “dunk” and completely dump the cup (or jug) of water on. Try an alternative by putting an ice cube down the back of their t-shirt. NB. Remove flip flops before running!

This game is great for developing listening skills and following instructions.

Number of players: 4 or more

Equipment: large bucket to hold water, small bucket to use or ice cubes for the game.

10. What's the time Mr Wolf?

One child is chosen to be Mr Wolf, who then stands at one end of the playing area. The other players stand in a line at the other end. Mr Wolf turns his back to commence play. The players call out, "What's the time Mr Wolf?" and Mr Wolf turns and answers with a time (i.e. 3 o'clock). He then turns his back again while the children advance again chanting "What's the time Mr Wolf?" To which Mr Wolf will continue to respond until the players come very close. Once the line of players is close to Mr Wolf, he can respond to the chant with "It's dinner time!" at which point, he will chase the players back to the starting line with the aim to catch one of the them, who will then become Mr Wolf for the next round of the game. A great game for learning how to take turns and follow instructions through listening well. 

Number of players: A small group

Equipment: clock

I hope you enjoy playing and teaching these great games to your children. It seems that these days, much of their time is spent on interactive games played via the internet, whilst absorbing and somewhat helpful on a rainy day, seldom do you hear the laugh out loud reaction that you get when they are active outdoors playing with friends and family.

Not to mention the great skills they are learning through listening, developing great hand-eye co-ordination and fabulous motor skills and a great attitude around fair play, taking turns and great sportsmanship.

Have a wonderful summer! Michelle xx