7 Old-School Outside Games for Kids

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Old-school outside games for kids are just as fun now as they were back in the day! However, they are easily forgotten in the modern fast-paced world where children are often glued to screens for hours on end.

It’s time to go back in time to a refreshing change of pace and revisit the outdoor games your grandparents and possibly even your parents enjoyed playing as a child!

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Whether you’re looking for something to do on a sunny afternoon or want to add some excitement to your playtime with friends, these classic games are the perfect solution, and once you try them out, I think you will find they’re still as fun as ever!

Not only do they provide a way to get kids moving and active, but they also encourage social interaction, creativity, and imagination.

Looking for something fun to do with a yard full of kids at a birthday party? This is the list you need!

So, put down those screens and get ready to have some old-fashioned fun!

This list of outdoor activities for kids gives you a new activity for each day of the week plus a couple of extra days!

My best bet is your little people are going to be asking you why you didn’t teach them how to play sooner!

And the next best part? Not only are they big on fun, but they are small on money and most don’t need any equipment at all to play!

Favorite Old School Outside Games for Kids

1. Hide and Seek


Minimum number to play: 2
Equipment needed: None

Hide and Go Seek is a kids’ favorite that has survived the test of time! Make it more fun by hiding in groups and challenging each other who can be the quietest so as not to be found!

How to play:

Start by deciding who will be ‘it’ by drawing straws or playing rock-paper-scissors.

The person who is ‘it’ counts to a designated number (usually 10 or 20) with their eyes closed or covered, while everyone else hides.

When the person who is “it” finishes counting, they shout, “Ready or not, here I come!” and start searching for the other players who are hiding.

The other players can move from their hiding spots to avoid being found or can try to stay hidden.

The first person found becomes “it” for the next round. Keep playing until everyone has had a turn being “it” or until you get tired.

2. Capture the Flag

Minimum number to play: 6
Equipment needed: None

This game is played in teams. If there are a few neighborhood kids to play with or family visiting it is a perfect choice.

How to play:

The goal is to capture the other team’s flag, which is located at the ‘home base.’
Where is the ‘home base?’ It is at the opposite end of the playing area.

Players try to get to the opposing team’s flag, but if they are tagged by the other team’s players they get put in jail.

To get out of jail teammates must cross into ‘enemy territory’ and tag (touch) each one without getting caught themselves.

The first team to capture the opposite team’s flag wins!

3. Tug of War

kids playing tug of war oldschool games for kids outside in yard

If you have kids that love to be in a competition, Tug of War is a great option!

Minimum number to play: 6
Equipment needed: Heavy Rope

How to play:

  1. First, gather a group of friends and find a long rope that is strong enough to hold everyone.
  2. Divide the group into two teams and have each team stand on opposite sides of the rope.
  3. Each player should grab onto the rope with both hands, making sure to leave enough space between themselves and the other players on their team.
  4. When everyone is ready, someone can shout “Go!” or blow a whistle to start the game.
  5. Each team should try to pull the rope towards their side, while the other team tries to pull it towards their side. The goal is to try and get the other team to cross over a line in the middle of the playing area.

The game continues until one team successfully pulls the other team over the line and wins the game.

4. Simon Says

Minimum number to play: 2
Equipment needed: None

Do your kids ever get bossy with each other? If this sounds familiar, head outside for the perfect outside game of Simon Says!

How to play:

One child is chosen as ‘Simon’ and stands up in front of the other players. ‘Simon’ gives commands to the other players, with each command starting with “Simon says …” such as:

  • “Simon says touch your nose.”
  • “Simon says lift your right foot.”
  • “Simon says raise your left arm over your head.”
  • “Simon says sit down on your knees.”

Players are eliminated when they follow a command that does not start with “Simon says ….”

For example, ‘Simon’ says, “Raise your right hand” without the “Simon says” in front of it.

The purpose of the game is to see who can stay in it the longest.

The player that is the last to be eliminated is the winner and gets to be ‘Simon’ next!

5. Red Rover

child running outside playing red rover for oldschool outdoor games for kids

Minimum number to play: 6
Equipment needed: None

This is a game almost everyone probably remembers! I recall playing it almost every day during school recess.

How to play:

It takes a minimum of 4 or 5 kids on each team. Each team intertwines its arms together and the teams stand far apart facing each other. They need to be a distance apart which allows plenty of space for running in between.

One team calls out to the other team, “Red rover, red rover send [child’s name] right over!”

The child that has been called runs toward the opposing team and tries to break through the line. If able to break through, a person on that team is picked and taken back to their team with them.

If they don’t break through, they have to stay on that side and be part of that team.

When there aren’t any arms left to intertwine on one team, the other team wins!

6. Sly Fox

Minimum number to play: 2
Equipment needed: None

Sly Fox is a favorite for younger kids. They get the giggles trying to keep from getting ‘caught.’

How to play:

One child is chosen to be the Fox, and faces away from the rest of the kids by a wall or imaginary line. The other players stand in a line at a distance.

When the Fox isn’t looking, the other kids gradually inch forward to get closer to the Fox. They are trying to get to the Fox without getting caught moving.

The Fox counts to 10 either to themself or out loud at whatever speed they want.

They cannot turn around until after they get to 10. Once the counting gets to 10, they can turn around at any time. When the Fox turns around all the other players must ‘freeze’ – staying completely still in whatever position they were in.

If any of the kids behind them are caught moving, they must go back to the starting place

The first child that tags the Fox without being seen moving wins and gets to be the Fox in the next round!

7. Mother May I

Minimum number to play: 2
Equipment needed: None

If you have a child that loves to be in charge, this could turn into their favorite outside game for kids!

How to play:

One child is chosen to be ‘mother,’ ‘father,’ or ‘captain.’

The other children stand in a line at a distance. Each child takes a turn asking the mother if they make a certain movement, starting with “Mother (or father or captain) may I ….”

For example:

  • “Mother, may I take 5 steps forward?”
  • “Mother, may I hop 6 times?”
  • “Mother, may I hop on my right foot 5 times?”

The mother, father, or captain replies with “Yes, you may,” or “No, you may not, but you may ____________ instead.”

If the child making the request forgets to start with the words “Mother may I ….?” they must return to the starting line.

The first child that reaches the mother wins and gets to be the mother, father, or captain in the next round.

8. Monkey in the Middle

Minimum number to play: 3
Equipment needed: Ball

Monkey in the Middle is a super simple game that comes in many versions. You can also try it with other objects besides a ball.

How to play:

One player stands in the middle while the other two throw the ball back and forth to each other.

The player in the middle tries to intercept the ball or object.

When the middle child gets the ball, they get to move to one of the outside positions and the person that threw the ball moves to the middle position.

9. Gunny Sack Race

The gunny sack race is a fun game that kids can play with each other for a silly competition!

Minimum number to play: 2
Equipment needed: Large Burlap Bags

This game requires balance and coordination, as well as lots of energy and enthusiasm. It’s a popular game to play at birthday parties or picnics, and kids love the challenge of trying to hop as fast as they can to win the race.

How to play:

Each player climbs inside a large, empty sack, like a burlap sack, with only their head sticking out.

Then, they hop or jump from a starting point to a finish line, while still inside the sack.

The first player to cross the finish line wins the race.

Final Thoughts on Outside Games for Kids

Getting outside for some fun competition is a great way to step away from the typical online games and create new memories!

This time spent together will be cherished forever.

I still remember playing outside from sunup to sundown as a child, and my boys did the same growing up on our 1,000-acre ranch.

Author – Dr. Tawna Schmidt

Founder of Smart Mom HQ, Dr. Schmidt has been working with moms, kids, and families as an educator and consultant since 1990. Her mission is to keep daily life simple so moms can enjoy each milestone with their children and appreciate all the special moments each new day brings.

Dr. Tawna Schmidt b and w

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