The warm breezes and sunny skies are calling us outside, and we … are sitting inside looking at our phones. It’s a disturbing trend that so many families spend more time indoors than they do out. Experts have called this “Nature Deficit Disorder” and predict that it will have dire consequences for both health and environmental-friendly behavior in the future. In a desire to combat this trend, I want to share with you 20 outdoor activities for the whole family to enjoy.
What better way to enjoy nature than to spend time with your own family having fun? These activities appeal to all ages – adults to toddlers – so that no one will feel left out or bored. Most of them are ones that my own family enjoys playing on Saturday afternoons at the park or on weekday evenings in our own front yard.
The rest, we just haven’t had a chance to try yet!
Simple Outdoor Activities for the Whole Family to Enjoy Together
Some of these games are classics that have been enjoyed by generations of people. Others are new twists on old favorites or even completely new ideas to keep everyone entertained. You’re sure to find several that your own family will love.
I’m all about simplicity and being able to do things on the spur-of-the-moment. So you won’t find any of the complicated Pinterest-worthy games here. There’s no complex DIY building required and no expensive equipment to buy.
Most of these activities either need no equipment at all or just use things you can grab from the house before heading out. A couple do require extra items that you may need to buy, but cheap things from the dollar store will be perfect.
This classic twist on the footrace typically leads to more laughter than speed. Each person finds a partner, and they are tied together at the ankles. You can use bandanas or rolled-up shirts. Just make sure that no long tails are hanging down to trip the players. (They’ll be tripping enough on their own.)
Set a start and end place for the race – and go! Pairing up kids with adults makes the race even more challenging and hilarious.
Frozen T-Shirt Race
This racing game sounds very enticing for those super hot summer days. The night before, wet one t-shirt for each player that you’ll have. Try to use a t-shirt that is one size bigger than the person normally wears. Fold the wet t-shirts and put them in the freezer overnight.
On race day, when everyone’s hot and sweaty, bring the t-shirts out in a cooler full of ice. As quickly as possible, hand each player her frozen t-shirt. As fast as they can, each one must try to thaw the shirt and put it on. Whoever gets their t-shirt on first wins!
The blanket race works best if you have a group of adults and small kids. You’ll need a sturdy blanket for each adult-child pair. Use blankets that you won’t mind finding grass stains on later.
Set a start and end point for the race. Adults line up at the starting point and spread their blankets out behind them. Each child then sits on their partner’s blanket, and the adults have to pull them – as fast as they can! – to the finish line. This is loads of fun for the little ones!
Here’s an alternate method that will work better if you have mostly older kids or adults: Assign 2-4 people to drag or even carry the blanket. And run…!
Water Balloon Spoon Race
This is a summertime twist on the typical egg-in-spoon race. Each player gets a spoon and a water balloon that is filled up just large enough to make it a bit wobbly when carried on the spoon.
Players line up and walk or run as quickly as they can to the finish line – without dropping the water balloon! If a player drops his water balloon, he needs to return to start and try again.
An obstacle course can be as easy or complicated as you want to make it. When we’re camping, we’ve often set up an impromptu course when the kids are getting bored and starting to wish they weren’t stuck at the campground. Some possible obstacles:
- Crawl under the picnic table.
- Run three times around the oak tree.
- Walk backward around the tent or flowerbed.
- If you’re at home, lay a ladder down in the grass and have players jump over each rung.
- Give Grandma a high five as you run by.
- At a playground,
- Go down the slide two times.
- Cross the monkey bars.
- Crawl under, over, or through the jungle gym.
Use your imagination! Nature offers so many potential obstacles, it should be easy to customize a course for the area and ages of your players. Whatever course you decide on, each player needs to complete it as fast as they can.
The official Frisbee has been delighting kids and adults alike since 1957, though “flying discs” were first sold as early as 1938. Whatever you call them, those lightweight discs that soar and hover in the air are great fun.
Tossing a Frisbee at the park has become one of my family’s favorite outdoor activities. In fact, that was my one requested activity on my birthday this year! There’s just something so relaxing and enjoyable about throwing the Frisbee back and forth with each other.
You can pick up a simple flying disc for as little as a dollar. If you have toddlers or preschoolers, I recommend buying three or four because the little one will definitely want to hoard them all for herself. (Check out this set of six or this set of 12.
Disc golf or Frisbee golf courses have popped up all over the place in the last few years. The idea is simple – a series of wire baskets are placed throughout a course, and players try to throw their discs into the baskets with as few throws as possible. The player with the lowest number of throws at the end of the game wins.
To set up your own disc golf course, use buckets or even laundry baskets. You could set up the buckets to give the adults more challenge while having the laundry baskets to make things easier (and more fun) for the kids.
DIY Ladder Toss
Okay, so here’s one DIY game, but it won’t be complicated or expensive, I promise. Set up a step ladder (six-foot size would work well) and create point cards for each rung. Attach the point cards to the rungs with the highest point values near the top and bottom and the lower point values in the middle.
Give each player three beans bags. (If you don’t have bean bags, you could fill zipper bags with beans or use sponges.) Each player takes turns tossing their bean bags between the rungs and scoring the points shown on the cards. If someone manages to get a bean bag to land on a rung, she gets double the points shown.
Sponge Water Bombs
Here’s another glorious game for a super hot day. Fill several buckets with water and put them in various places around the yard or park. Drop 5-10 cheap sponges in each bucket.
Now go! It’s a free for all of running around and throwing those water-soaked sponges at one another.
And the great advantage of sponges over water balloons is that the sponges just need to be dunked in the water again. They can be used and reused as long as Mom and Dad can stand the fun.
Circle Target Toss
In this game, players test their tossing and aiming skills. It’s similar to lawn darts but is modified a bit to make it more kid-friendly.
Use various lengths of rope to create four nested circles on the ground. The inner circle should be about six inches in diameter. The next circle should be about six inches larger and so on.
Designate a spot two or more feet away from the circle – closer for the youngest players, further away for the older crowd. Players take turns throwing bean bags, sponges, or other objects into the circles.
If the player’s bean bag lands in the inner circle, score 100 points. In the first ring, 75 points; second ring, 50 points, and outer ring, 25 points.
The player who earns the most points wins.
Partner Water Balloon Toss
Combine a tossing-and-catching challenge with the risk of getting soaked, and you’ve got the perfect activity for a sunny day. Players pair up, and each pair gets a pre-filled water balloon.
Partners face one another and stand about two feet apart to begin (closer if one partner is very young). One partner tosses the water balloon, and the other catches it. Then one partner takes a step backward.
The tossing and stepping backward continues until the water balloon bursts – and someone ends up all wet!
The last team left dry wins.
We first learned about this game several years ago when my oldest son wanted an Inuit-themed birthday party. In searching for traditional Inuit games, I discovered the blanket toss, an activity that is absolutely thrilling for kids.
It works best if you have several adults and small kids. Spread a very sturdy blanket on the ground and have one child sit in the middle. Adults grab the edges of the blanket and raise the child into the air.
Now comes the fun part. Begin to toss the child into the air, gently at first but then a little higher. You will hear the most raucous squeals of joy!
Toss him as high as your bravery can stand. Apparently, the Inuit would toss adults 20 feet into the air! (I am not responsible for any injuries or torn blankets. Use your wise judgment!)
Fishing for Marbles
This game is for the very hot-natured among you. Fill a wading pool with water and pour in a couple dozen marbles (depending on the number of people playing). If you think you can stand it, throw some ice cubes in the water too.
Set one cup for each player beside the pool. Each player dips a foot into the pool and tries to fish out a marble with her toes. She then drops the marble into her cup. Whoever fishes out the most marbles wins.
Kick the Can
I’m including this game because I completely misunderstood how it was played before I started researching for this article. I had always envisioned kids literally kicking can down a city street, and I couldn’t understand how that would have ever been fun … even in 1910.
In reality, kick the can is a variation of classic hide and seek. Place a can upright in a central area, and designate another area nearby – but not too close – as the “prison.”
One player is “It” and stands near the can with eyes closed while all the other players go hide. It’s job is to find the other players while trying to guard the can. As It finds each player, the found person must go stand in the prison.
If one of the hiders can get to the can and kick it over without being tagged by It, then all the players in the prison can go free.
Play ends when It manages to imprison all the other players (or everyone gets tired of playing).
In this game of tag, one player is designated It and has to try to tag the other players. When a player is tagged, she must freeze and stand with her legs apart. Any other player can then crawl through her leg-tunnel to “unfreeze” her.
There’s no clear way to declare a winner, but the kids will love running around and being tunnels for one another.
Capture the Flag
Apparently, Capture the Flag is a pretty well-known game, but I had never heard of it until about five years ago when my kids started playing it at their annual homeschool field day.
This game works best with at least eight players – the more, the better. It can be played in wooded areas, around playgrounds, in a yard, basically anywhere. It does seem to work best if there is cover, though, so an open field won’t be as much fun.
The players split into two teams and designate an area of the playing field for each team. In each area, a small area at the far edge (away from the other team’s area) is designated the jail. Each team hides its flag (any object will do) somewhere within their designated area.
Now the play begins. Players from opposing teams sneak into the enemy’s territory and try to find the enemy’s flag. But if someone gets caught by the home team, they get thrown in jail and have to stay there until one of their own teammates can tag them.
A team wins when they find the enemy’s flag or manage to imprison everyone on the enemy team.
My kids and their friends absolutely love this game. I bet it will become a favorite for your family too.
Most of these games end up being pretty funny, but these two in particular deserve the title Funny Games.
Blind Man’s Bluff
This is one of my family’s favorite games to play outside in the evening. I can even remember playing it with my parents and siblings when I was little too. We played in our living room! I’m too scared someone will break something, so we play outside now.
You’ll need an open area without obstructions that might trip someone up. Decide on boundaries ahead of time … and kindly warn the “Blind man” if he’s about to cross a boundary.
To play, one player is blindfolded – we use a bandana or rolled-up shirt. The blind man then tries to tag the other players … while they poke, tickle, and generally tease and confuse him while keeping out of his reach.
This game is so funny and really reveals each person’s personality. You’ll quickly see who is super cautious and who is absolutely fearless.
Lawn Twister puts all the fun and hilarity of classic Twister outside … where even the neighbors will get to see you falling flat on your face!
The original instructions call for using spray paint to mark the colored circles on the ground, but I prefer to avoid spray paint whenever possible. All of those airborne chemicals can’t be good for anyone.
Instead, use chalk in red, blue, yellow, and green to mark circles in the grass (or on a driveway if you’re not worried about people face-planting too hard). You’ll need four rows with five circles each, spaced out like a traditional Twister mat.
Have some kind soul call out the turns (i.e. Left foot – green!) and watch everyone streeeettttch … and tumble. Just don’t serve beans at the picnic beforehand.
My family loves to play charades on dark winter evenings, but it would be a great game to play outside as well. One person silently acts out a phrase, event, activity, book, song, or film title, while the other players try to guess it.
Here’s where your family’s uniqueness gets to shine! You’ll be acting out lines from books you all love, favorite scenes from movies, and the inside jokes that make your family one-of-a-kind.
Tell a Story Part-by-Part
This activity is perfect for after everyone is all worn out from running around playing Tunnel Tag and Capture the Flag. One person starts to tell a story but then stops mid-sentence. The next person finishes the sentence and tells a bit of the story, again stopping mid-sentence. The story continues in this way and invariably will become sillier and sillier.
A few sample story starters:
- Once up a time, a man named Al took the bus home from work. As the bus trundled down the highway, Al looked out the window and saw a red…
- Margie lowered her helmet onto her head and fastened her safety belt. She flipped the orange switch in front of her, then the blue one above her. Taking a deep breath, she spoke into the microphone…
- Joe and Floyd hoisted their backpacks and trudged up the hill. As they passed towering trees and feathery ferns, Floyd thought he heard…
Whether you’re getting together for a big cookout, family reunion, or just spending the afternoon with the kids or grandkids, these outdoor activities for the whole family will have everyone laughing and enjoying their time together. Have fun!
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