15 “old-school” outdoor games for kids

The games we played: 15 old-school outdoor games for kids straight from YOUR OWN childhood!

Remember the good old days when we used to play outside all day and night? Tag, red rover, mother-may-I…. all those outdoor games for kids that didn’t require toys. Reminiscing about all of those fun summer night is such a great way to bond with your kids and tell them old stories about your childhood. You can even get out in the yard and teach them some of the games kids have been playing for generations!


outdoor games for kids

As a kid, I can recall playing outside from breakfast until well after sundown. It took at least four warnings of “you’re grounded if you don’t get in this house NOW” before my siblings and I would begrudgingly go inside.

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I remember moving into a new house when I was about five and on move-in day all the neighborhood kids came to play in our yard. I though it was the best day of my life. It felt like 100 kids came to run and play with just me. (In reality it was more like 10 kids and I was really young so they were probably playing “around” me rather than “with” me- but I felt like a celebrity!).

In elementary school, I pedaled my bike for miles pretending to run from the Fratelli’s with (the imaginary) Goonies. Outdoor games for kids were LIFE. Oh, to be young again! Today kids go outside and have no idea what to do. Even my two year old is lost without her iPad.

Let’s reclaim the lost art of outdoor fun! No $5,000 swing set or $500 iPad needed!

I always complain that I never have time to exercise so here is my chance! I need to get off the porch and into the yard WITH my kids.  We often hear people say that kids don’t go out and play anymore. They spend too much time on electronic devices and should get out and run. Well, guess who else needs to put down the phone/iPad/remote control- us parents!  Let’s skip the expensive gym membership and play some free, old-fashioned tag!


outdoor games for kids straight from your own childhood!


15 “old-school” outdoor games for kids

  1. Red Rover (Maybe a softer version- Red Rover could get pretty ugly!)
  2. Hide and Seek- the old stand-by
  3. Tag (freeze tag, TV tag, cereal tag)- If you aren’t familiar, when you are tagged in TV tag, you must name a television show to be released. We modified it to “Cartoon tag” when we played. Cereal tag apparently works the same way. Maybe this generation can play “App tag”…
  4. Spotlight- Be sure to only play in the yards of neighbors who approve. We have had the police called on us. Seriously. The last time I had to explain to an officer why I was running through the neighbor’s yard with a flashlight I was 26- no kidding
  5. Mother, May I?- You always let your best friend win.
  6. Red-light, green-light- (great for smaller children)
  7. Simon Says- Kids will love to see their parents acting silly!
  8. Colored Eggs- The dialogue is the BEST part of this game. If you’ve never had the pleasure, here’s how we played: Someone is the wolf, someone is the hen, and everyone else is a colored egg (each egg thinks of a color in his/her head but doesn’t tell the wolf). The wolf comes knocking on the door and mother hen answers asking what he wants. He responds “Colored eggs”. She says “I don’t have any colored eggs”- then the eggs make peeping sounds. The wolf asks “What’s that then?” Hen: “Just pots and pans rolling down the steps”. The wolf says “Let me see” then (gently) pushes mother hen aside and starts guessing colors. When he guesses your egg color, you have to run around a designated area and back to mother hen without being tagged. The last person who isn’t tagged is now the wolf. Best. game. ever.
  9. Duck, duck, goose
  10. Kick ball
  11. Dodge Ball- again, a tame, supervised version may be preferable
  12. Jump Rope/Double Dutch- I’m not even going to pretend I am coordinated enough for double dutch. It’s more of a spectator sport…
  13. Hop Scotch- Hours and hours of fun
  14. Monkey in the Middle- There was always that one kid who got stuck in the middle forever!
  15. Swing the Statue- Silly, fun game. One person is “it” and takes each player by the hand/arm and swings them around. However the second player lands, he/she must freeze in that position (like a statue) and hold it for the remainder of the game. Whoever falls first is now “it”.

Wait! What about tug-of-war, capture the flag… 15 MORE “Old-School” Outdoor Games for kids

I’m in my 30’s so recalling those old outdoor games for my kids is harder than I want to admit. I had to poll family & friends to gather a list.

How’d I do? Did I miss anything? Our childhoods were defined by these games. Let’s teach our kids and keep these games alive! I’m printing this list and keeping it on my porch. With all the variations, I bet we could keep busy all summer!

15 Games to Play Outside printable

Get the printable version below!!!

Then go check out Part 2: 15 MORE “Old-School” Outdoor Games for kids

What yard games did I miss? What games did you play outside? Be sure to share this on Facebook and “tag” all those old friends you used to play with! Add your favorite outdoor games for kids!





Outdoor Games for Kids Printable List!

"15 Outdoor Games" list sent to you via email so you print it out and keep the kids playing all summer long!

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  1. Those were the best games to play when my children were young. My kids played outside with friends. Instead of being on some electronic thing. I wish more kids would play those games and see how much fun they are

  2. Freeze tag! Cops and robbers! Tunnel Tag!

    This is a great list. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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