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Classic Kids Outdoor Games Still Have Appeal

Try These Games That Parents and Grandparents Used to Play


In a simpler time, kids played outdoors all the time. As Adair Lara says, they "were set out in the yard in the morning and brought in at night, like cats." To stave off boredom, they played every game they had ever heard of, and invented hundreds of variations. Today, children tend to get more screen time and less scream time. Concern about physical fitness has led to a myriad of experts recommending more outdoor play. These classic kids outdoor games are just what the doctor ordered, and besides that, they're a lot of fun. If the weather isn't suitable for outdoor play, try these other old-fashioned games.

1. Capture the Flag

Capture the Flag
Photo © Laurence Monneret | Getty

Although it's probably been played for a century, Capture the Flag is still a favorite at camp and family reunions. For an updated version, play it with Nerf guns.

Rules for Capture the Flag

2. Hopscotch

When teaching the grandchildren those classic outdoor games, don't forget hopscotch.
Photo © Susan Adcox

Hopscotch may be the oldest of these classic kids outdoor games, as tradition has it that Roman soldiers played it in ancient Britain. Medieval hopscotch courts courts could be a hundred feet long, but a lot of fun can be had with a course a tenth of that.

Playing hopscotch

3. Swing the Statue

Swing the Statue
Photo © Hallgerd / Dreamstime

A favorite game of the fifties and sixties, Swing the Statue will still be enjoyed by children today. It's fun to try to hold a pose, but even more fun to watch others in their strange positions.

How to play.

4. Sneaky Sprinkler

Sneaky Sprinkler
Photo © Melonesa / Dreamstime

Kids and water are a dynamite duo. Put the kids in their swimsuits or old clothes, and let the good times begin. Even toddlers can enjoy this game, in which you never know when that Sneaky Sprinkler is going to go off!

More about Sneaky Sprinkler.

5. Horse Basketball

Horse basketball
Photo © Maszas / Dreamstime

If there's a basketball goal and basketball in the vicinity, you have everything you need for a game of Horse. A game of shooting skill, Horse is fun for young and old.

Rules for Horse

6. Red Light, Green Light

red light, green light
Photo © GBH / Dreamstime

Kids of all ages can enjoy Red Light, Green Light, a classic kids game that is played all over the globe, in slightly different variations.

How to play

7. Shadowing

Photo © hsandler / Dreamstime

A tracking game played by Boy Scouts for many years, Shadowing can be played by groups both large and small. Powers of observation are important for successful shadowing.

More about Shadowing

8. Hide-and-Seek

hide-and-seek variations
Photo © Liunian / Dreamstime

Who doesn't know how to play hide-and-seek? Ah, but have you ever played Chain Hide-and-Seek or Sardines? Why be content with the classic kids game when you can give it a new twist? Preschoolers and up will enjoy this game.

Ways to play

9. Flashlight Tag

flashlight tag
Photo © David Hernandez / Dreamstime

What kid doesn't love a flashlight? And if it can be used in a lively game of Flashlight Tag, so much the better! It's like hide-and-seek but played at night, when the darkness lends an air of mystery and suspense.

How to play

10. Red Rover

red rover
Photo © Andersen Ross / Getty Images

There's hardly an adult alive who doesn't have fond memories of playing Red Rover. Although banned in some areas for being too rough, with proper supervision Red Rover can still supply hours of fun.

Directions for play

11. Kickball

Photo © Stockbyte / Getty Images

A playground ball, an open space, and eight or more kids, and you have the makings of a classic neighborhood game of kickball. All ages can play, with a few accommodations, and the neighborhood windows are safe.

Rules for kickball

12. Four Square Ball

four square
Photo © Cheryl Casey / Dreamstime

Just follow the bouncing ball to play the game of Four Square. With quick reactions and a little strategy, players can work their way up from being a peasant to being the king! This game will be a favorite of school-age grandchildren.

How to play Four Square

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