16 fun backyard games for kids

Sometimes just spending time outside is all you and your kids need. Soak up the sun with this list of fun backyard games that require little to no setup.

By Montana Murle

16 fun backyard games for kids


1. Sly Fox

Choose one of the players to be the fox and have them face away from the rest of the group. The players make a start zone and slowly creep forward toward the fox with the goal of touching them. The fox then has to count to 10 out loud or softly; when they reach 10 they turn around and everyone must freeze. If you get caught moving, you go back to the start. If you reach the fox and touch them, you become the new fox.

2. Pass the Water

Players separate into teams, giving each team member a cup. Fill the first team’s cup up with water. The team stands in a line and each person passes the water behind them to the next person by pouring the water into their cup over their head. Once the water reaches the last person they crawl through all the team member’s legs to front. Repeat until everyone has crawled through, then sit down as fast as you can to win.

3. Shadow Tag

Players decide one person to be “it.” The “it” person must run around and jump on another player’s shadow, making them the new “it.”

4. Spud

Players each get a number depending on how many are playing. Players form a circle around the “it” person. The “it” person throws a ball in the air and calls out one of the players' numbers. That player must run and grab the ball; in the meantime, everyone spreads out. Once the player grabs the ball, everyone including them must freeze; they must then throw the ball and try to hit someone. If they miss, they're now “it.” If they hit someone, that person is “it.”  Once you are “it” you gain the letter S. If you already have an S you get the letter P, and so on. Once you reach SPUD, you are out of the game. To spice up the game, try calling two numbers at once.

5. Blob Tag

One person is “it” and must run around and tag someone. Once tagged, they join hands and try to tag someone else. Everyone tagged has to join hands in the blob until all are part of the blob.

6. Nature to Nature

This game was created by a nine-year-old from Wisconsin. Pick someone to be the nature guide; they then pick up an item (something found naturally outside) and show it to the group. The group has 100 seconds to find a similar-looking item. The person with the most similar item is the new nature guide.

7. Come a Little Closer

Create a home plate and a boundary for the game. The “it” person closes their eyes and lets people hide. The “it” person has three tries to guess where someone is hiding. If they get none, they close their eyes and yell “come a little closer” and count to five out loud. Keep repeating until the “it” person finds everyone or a player touches the home base before they are found.

8. Duck Duck Goose

Duck Duck Goose is a go-to classic. Players form a sitting circle choosing one person to be “it.” The “it” person walks around the circle, touching people’s heads and saying "duck" each time.  When the “it” person says "goose," the “it” person and the goose must run around the circle to make it back to their spot and sit down. If they’re not fast enough and the “it” person sits down before them, that player is the new “it.”

9. Stuck in Mud

Players pick someone to be “it.” They get five seconds to run away from whoever is “it.”  The “it” person must run and tag everyone to win the game. When the “it” person tags a player, the player gets stuck in the mud and can't move. To save players who are stuck, other players can crawl through their legs to free them.

10. Island and Sharks

Place pieces of newspaper on the ground as islands. People walk around and when “Shark!” is called by the "it" person, they must race to an island (the piece of paper). They have to have one foot on the paper to live. If they are caught off the paper by the "it" person, they are out. Papers are slowly taken away as time goes on, or ripped into smaller pieces, until there is only one player remaining, who wins the game.

11. Octopus

Get your kid’s blood pumping with this one. Players start in a safe zone and ask the person who is “it” if they can take steps. The person who is “it” gets to decide yes or no. At any moment, the “it” person can yell "octopus," meaning everyone must run to the safe zone. If touched by “it,” you must sit and are now the seaweed, and you have to try to touch other players as they run by, who will have to sit too if they’re touched. Last one standing wins!

12. ABC Scavenger Hunt

Players get a list with the ABCs on it. Players run around the backyard and find one thing that starts with every letter. First to find them all wins. Easy tip: Try cutting 26 tabs into a paper plate and write the alphabet on it, and players can rip off each lettered tab as they find the items.

13. Water Transfer

This game is perfect for those really hot summer days. Players take water from a large bucket and transfer it across the lawn to their smaller personal bucket. However, players must use a spoon, measuring cup or mouth to transfer the water. First personal bucket filled wins.

14. Oversized Memory

This game is a huge brain tester. Take bristol board and cut it in half, then draw a number, letter or symbol on both sides. Repeat this to make a big stack, then flip them upside down and mix around in backyard—now you have huge game of Memory. Whoever finds the most couples wins.

15. Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light

This is a nice and simple game for your little ones. The person who is “it” controls the traffic lights. Red light means freeze, yellow light means walk, green light means run. Get caught moving during a red light and it's back to the start. The goal is to touch whoever’s “it.” Whoever does that becomes the new “it.”

16. Water Balloon Toss (backyard Skee-Ball)

Fill up water balloons and place them in a bucket. Then lay out four to six baskets in a line and make them worth different numbers of points. You can either label the baskets or have a sheet with their value off to the side. Toss the balloons into the baskets; the player with the most points wins.