Outdoor play is one of the best ways to encourage kids to get active and bond with their peers. And — let’s be real — it’s also one of the best ways to keep them engaged so you can focus on other things and not have a big mess to clean up in their wake. A fun-filled backyard is a win-win for everyone, as far as we’re concerned! But not all outdoor activities are as engaging as others, so you’ve got to try a few to figure out what sticks.
1. CROSSNET • Ages 8+
A cross between volleyball and four square with a height-adjustable net to suit kids and grown-ups of all ages.
This thrilling backyard game is a whole-family fave that delights kids and grown-ups alike. Described as a cross between four square and volleyball, CROSSNET sets up in minutes and is height-adjustable so it suits participants of any age and stature, even the little ones. The best part is that it’s ideal for big groups, so it’s a real winner for birthday parties, neighborhood gatherings, camping trips, camp and more.
2. Tag in the Dark • Ages 5+
A glow-in-the-dark tag game that involves hiding, seeking and doing it all while wearing lots of neon-colored glow sticks.
Take tag, but do it after dusk. and add some brightly colored glow sticks to the mix. Glow sticks are great because they add a vibrant, electric flair, but also because they make teamplay all the more fun. Have the taggers wear a certain colored glow bracelet or necklace to signal to the other kids which players they need to avoid.
3. Geocaching • Ages 7+
Billed as “the world’s largest treasure hunt,” geocaching involves using an app and traditional navigation techniques to discover hidden treasures all around us.
If you don’t mind accompanying your youngsters on a thrilling adventure — and, trust us, with this one, you won’t — then geocaching is the perfect game for you. Since there are over three million active geocaches in 191 different countries on all seven continents, it can be played virtually anywhere in the world. Plus, with the exception of some premium membership options, it’s completely free!
4. SPUD • Ages 8+
An action-packed showdown reminiscent of dodgeball, SPUD is the perfect game for bigger kids at birthday parties, camp and more.
Also known as ball tag, SPUD is a classic backyard game that was a hallmark for kids of the ’90s. Today’s little ones will love it, too! To play, gather at least three kids — but as many as you like — in a large, open area, and assign each one a secret number from one to however many people are playing (so if there are five players, assign numbers one through five). Gameplay involves tossing an inflatable bouncy ball into the air, with the person who catches it yelling “SPUD!” and taking three steps in any direction until they tag someone out by tossing the ball at them.
5. Red Rover • Ages 5+
A classic playground game ideal for large groups of kids, red rover involves forming two lines of players and creating a bond so strong the other team can’t break it.
Remember this classic recess game? To play, kids create two equal-sized barriers facing one another, usually positioned about 30 feet apart, with their hands linked together. After one team yells, “Red rover, red rover, let (player) come over,” that player must run into the other line and attempt to break the chain. It’s a great bonding activity that also encourages team-building and active play.
6. Capture the Flag • Ages 7+
This legendary outdoor game encourages team-building and strategy, so it’s great for entertaining mixed-age for hours on a summer afternoon.
This traditional backyard game is excellent for large-group play, ideally with more than six players per team. Each team has a marker — typically a flag — within a home territory that the other team must capture in order to win. If players enter their enemy’s territory and get “tagged,” they’re either out, frozen in place or forced to join the other team, depending on the version of the game you’re playing.
Happy, engaged kids equals happy, relaxed parents, and you’re sure to get both with these super-fun outdoor games. From the endlessly entertaining CROSSNET volleyball to old-school classics like tag and red rover, these activities are sure to keep even the most hard-to-amuse kids occupied for hours.