A collection of 20 fun playground games for kids. These playground game ideas include modern and classic games. The kids will enjoy getting outside and having fun.

20 Fun Playgrounds Games for Kids

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Playground Games List

A collection of 9 fun playground games for kids. These playground game ideas include classic playground games capture the Flag, Hand-Clap-Games, and Shadow Tag.

Finding ways to keep the kids busy on the playground isn’t always easy, especially when you have mixed ages with different interests. Some kids would rather play ball games while others enjoy a more subtle challenge. With enough different games on hand, you can create stations on the playground just as you would in the classroom. The following playground games list doesn’t just include games of today, but you will also find some of the best playground games from the past. With all these choices you will no longer have those who feel left out lingering on the other side of the playground. 

1. Capture the Flag

 

Materials Needed:

  • A flag for each team
  • A base for each team

Number of Players

A large group split up into two teams

Object:

Each team tries to capture the flag of the opposite team and get it back to their home base safely without being tagged and put into “jail.” 

How to Play:

Play begins with each team lining up at their home base. When play begins, the players run as fast as they can toward the flag at the other end without getting captured by the opposing team. If they get tagged by a member of the opposing team they will then be put into a “jail” located on that teams’ side until a member of their own team makes it to them safely, grabbing them and getting them back to their own side once again. The first team to capture the flag and get it back to their side safely wins the game. The players should create a strategy that will keep them from getting tagged by running around or hiding behind obstacles. This game will not only allow the kids to exercise, but they can practice strategic thinking and team building. 

2. Four Square

 


Materials Needed

  • A court made up of four squares (You can draw one using sidewalk chalk if one isn’t available)
  • A handball

Number of Players

Four

Object

To bounce the ball and catch it in the other’s square

How to Play

Each player stands in a square that is numbered from one to four, with one being the highest and four being the lowest. Each player must serve the ball to the opposite square and the ball must bounce once before the player can catch it. The person who stands in square one gets to make up additional rules and anyone who violates the rules must be eliminated from the game. This is another game to practice strategic thinking along with following instructions and eye-hand coordination. 

 

3. Shadow Tag

Materials Needed

  • None

Number of Players

Small groups of three or more

Object

To tag the other player’s shadow

How to Play

This game will only work when played on a sunny day. Just like in tag, one person is appointed to be “it” while the other players try to get away before their shadow is tagged. Once the player’s shadow is caught, that player then takes over the role of “it”. The game continues until each player has been “it” at least once or until the time allowed has expired. This is the perfect game for exercise. 

4. TV Tag

Materials Needed

  • None

Number of Players

Small groups of three or more

Object

To try and tag the other players

How to Play

Just like playing freeze tag, the player who is “it” must tag the other players causing them to freeze in a still position until another player calls out a tv show and tags a frozen player at the same time. The frozen player will then be allowed back into the game and the game will continue until everyone has had a turn or there are no more tv shows left to name. Each tv show can only be used once per game. This is a great game to assure plenty of exercise and following directions.

5. Hand-Clap Games

 

Materials Needed

  • None

Number of Players

Two

Object

To keep a rhythm while clapping to the words

How to Play

Hand-clap games are ones you learn to do with rhyme early on in life. Ones like Pat-a-Cake, Miss Mary Mack, and Miss Susie are just a few of the many common games kids in every age group like to play. They’re easy to do indoors or out and you will often find groups of two on the playground chanting similar tunes. By clapping their hands together and then slapping them on their legs they will keep their rhythm going, but when one person messes up, another will cut right in. This is a good way for them to develop hand-eye coordination, sharpen their memory skills, and learn to develop their love of music and rhyme.   

6. Treasure Hunt

Materials Needed

  • Several age-appropriate items to hide
  • Strips of paper with clues or items listed on them
  • Brown bags to hold the treasures

Number of Players

Large or small groups

Object

To be the first to find all the hidden treasures

How to Play

This game is played much like a scavenger hunt and can be structured to any age group. One person will hide all the items ahead of time for the other players to find. You can write clues on strips of paper for older kids or write down each item that has been hidden for the younger kids to find. When you are playing with children of various ages, consider pairing up the players so the older kids can help the younger kids when you are using clues. When the kids have found all their items, they should go back to a “home” place to count them. The player or players who find the most items or finds them all first wins the game. This is a great game to exercise critical thinking.

7. Doggy, Doggy, Where’s Your Bone?

Materials Needed

  • A toy dog bone

Number of Players

Large or small groups of at least three people

Object

To guess who stole the bone

How to Play

This is a simple game for children of all ages and can be played indoors or out. One player is chosen to be the “doggy.” The doggy must turn and hide their eyes while another player steals the bone. After the bone is stolen and hidden out of sight, the doggy must then turn around and guess who stole the bone. Younger children will enjoy guessing until they guess the right person, but older children should have a limit to their number of guesses. When the “doggy” guesses who took the bone, the two players will switch places and the game will begin again. The game should continue until each person had a chance to be the doggy or until the allowed time is up. This is another game that is perfect for critical thinking. 

8. Octopus


Materials Needed

  • A start and finish line

Number of Players

Larger groups work best with this game

Object

To tag the “fish” before they get to the other side of the field

How to Play

In this variation of tag, one person is appointed to be the “octopus” and the other players will be the “fish”. All the “fish” should line up at the starting line and when the game begins they should run to the finish line. The problem is that while they are trying to get to the other end, the “octopus” can tag them. When the “fish” get tagged they must then stand in the place they were tagged and try to tag the other “fish” as they run by. Once the “fish” get to the finish line without getting tagged they are safe. The game ends when all the “fish” are safe or have been tagged. This is a great game for exercise and can be played by kids of all age groups.

9. Mother/ Father Says

Materials Needed

  • None

Number of Players

Large or small groups

Object

To be the first to get to the “mother” or “father”

How to Play

Much like Mother May I but with a twist. In this game, one person will be appointed as the mother or father. The game begins with the mother or father’s back toward the group. “Mother” or “Father” will then say something like, take two steps forward if you have long hair or take two steps back if you have shoes with ties. This variation of the game makes it a little fairer in that the kids won’t be playing favorites. If you want it to be even fairer, you can prepare a list of questions ahead of time and the mother or father can draw them from a hat. This game will help with attention skills, especially in smaller children. 

10. Horse

Materials Needed

  • A playground ball
  • A basketball hoop

Number of Players

Large or small groups

Object

To make the most shots and get the least amount of letters

How to Play

Basketball is fun, but why not put a fun twist on the game? Each player will take turns making a shot in the basket. When a shot is made the next person must make the same shot from the same spot as the previous player. When a shot is missed, the player gets a letter. The game continues until the first person gets all the letters to spell H-O-R-S-E. For a shorter version of the game, you could use a three- or four-letter word instead. This game will not only give the kids plenty of exercise, but they can practice their spelling words and how to follow directions. 

Playground Games from the Past

11. Hopscotch

Materials Needed

  • Sidewalk chalk to draw the hopscotch squares
  • A marker (stone, coin or any small flat object)

Number of Players

One or more

Object

To go all the way through to number ten and back without losing a turn

How to Play

A classic game of hopscotch can be played and even loved by children of all ages. Each player will take a turn by first tossing the marker onto the number one square. The player must then start out with one foot skipping over the number one and hopping all the way through to the number ten. When the player gets to the number ten, they must then pivot their foot and hop all the way back down to the number two square and then while balancing on one foot, they must bend over, pick up the marker from the one square, and then hop onto number one and to the end. The player must get the marker inside the square without it touching the sides, if the marker does not land inside the square then the player must forfeit their turn and hand the marker over to the next player. The player must also forfeit a turn when they lose their balance and other parts of their body touch the ground. If they successfully make it all the way to the top and back, the player will then proceed to toss the marker to the number two square and so on until they lose their balance or the marker lands outside of the square. When a player is out, they will continue on their next turn with the number they left off with on their previous turn. This is a great game to test their balance skills and to exercise their arms and legs. 

12. Marbles

Materials Needed

  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Marbles, large and small

Number of Players

Two or more

Object

To be the player with the most marbles at the end of the game

How to Play

Marbles are one of the most popular playground games from the past and should be taught to more children today, so the tradition will continue. You will first need to draw a circle three-feet wide onto the pavement. Next, you will want to place five to ten smaller marbles in the center of the circle. Using the larger marbles as shooters, each player should take a turn kneeling and shooting as many of the smaller marbles as they can to the outside of the circle. When the shot is over, the player should keep all the marbles from the outside of the circle and then take another shot. When the player can no longer shoot marbles to the outside of the circle the turn is passed on to the next player. The game continues until there are no more marbles left inside the square and the person who collects the most marbles wins the game. Back in the day of this popular game, kids would collect marbles with their allowance or they would simply gain more for their collection by keeping the ones they collected throughout the game. Sometimes, they would use their marbles for trading tools with other kids. This is a great game for hand-eye coordination.

13. Monkey in the Middle

Materials Needed

  • A standard playground ball

Number of Players

Three

Object

To keep the player in the middle from catching the ball

How to Play

This classic playground game from the past is also known as piggy in the middle and is simple enough for anyone to play. One person should be at the opposite end of the playing field as the other player with the third person in the middle of them both. One person at either end should start by throwing the ball to the player at the other end keeping the ball high enough so the player in the middle doesn’t catch it. Be careful not to drop the ball because if you do it will become fair gain and the monkey in the middle will have a chance to grab it before you do. Play should continue until the player in the middle catches the ball. When the player in the middle gets the ball, that player should trade places with the one who threw it. The game can be played freely or timed. This is a great game for exercise and team building.  

14. Duck, Duck, Goose

Materials Needed

  • None

Number of Players

Four or more

Object

The “goose” must tag the player who is “it” before “it” sits down.

How to Play

Before play begins all the kids should sit down in a circle facing each other. One player is chosen to be the first “it.” “It” must walk around the circle gently tapping each player on the head chanting “duck” with each tap. As the suspense builds up, “it” will finally choose and tap a player saying “goose” with the tap. The “goose” will then chase “it” around the circle hoping to tag “it” before “it” reaches the “gooses” empty nest on the ground. If “it” safely sits down before getting tagged by the “goose” the “goose will then become “it” and the round will begin again. If the goose tags “it” before reaching the nest, “goose” will be safe and can take a seat in its nest once again while the same “it” begins another round. Play continues until everyone has had a chance to be “it” or the time allotted runs out. This is a great playground game for exercise and practicing attention skills. 

15. Red Light, Green Light

Materials Needed

  • Rope, chalk, or cones to make a starting line and a finish line

Number of Players

Large or small groups

Object

To be the first to get to the finish line without getting sent back to start

How to Play

All players should begin by standing on the starting line. One person should be appointed as the traffic cop. The traffic cop should stand near the finish line, with his/her back facing the remainder of the players. When the traffic cop says, “green light” the players should hurry toward the finish line, but when the traffic cop says, “red light,” everyone must freeze in place. The traffic cop must then turn around and if a player gets caught moving after calling out “red light,” the traffic cop can send that player back to start. If nobody makes it to the finish line the traffic cop should turn around and repeat the play. If a player makes it to the finish line, that player should then trade places with the traffic cop and the play will start all over again. This is an excellent game full of exercise, reflex building, and strengthening attention span.  

16. Red Rover

Materials Needed

None

Number of Players

A minimum of six, but the more players the better

Object

To break through the opposite team’s chain

How to Play

Two people should be appointed as team captains. Each captain should take turns choosing members of their team. Once the teams are formed, each team should line up facing the opposite team. Standing approximately six to ten yards away from the opposite team, each team player should hold hands to form on a chain. The team who is chosen to go first must decide which player from the other side they should call on. Chanting “Red Rover, Red Rover, let (Player Name) come over.” When the player’s name is called, he/she should run toward the team and try to break through the hands of two players. If the runner breaks through, he/she gets to go back to their team’s side and choose a player from the opposite team to go with them. If they don’t break through the chain, he/she will be forced to join the opposite team. The first team to gain all the players wins the game. A good strategy would be to call the weaker players first who may not be able to break through the chain. When you’re the runner, choose the two players who may not be the strongest to break through. This game prompts a great way of exercising along with team building skills and strategic thinking. 

17. Jump Rope

Materials Needed

One or two jump ropes

Number of Players

One or more

Object

To skip the rope without tripping or stepping on the rope

How to Play

There are many ways to jump rope and many games you can play. You can jump alone or with a friend, but no matter how you choose to jump, you will want to practice so that you don’t get tripped up and fall. Games such as Double Dutch with two ropes can be just as much fun as playing Helicopter where one person will hold one end of the rope by the handle spinning it around like a helicopter for the other person to jump over without touching the rope. Snake is a fun game that requires a person holding the rope at each end to wiggle it around on the ground like a snake while the other players take turns jumping over it without touching it. There are many rhymes and songs that can be sung while keeping the rhythm and jumping rope at the same time as well. A good old-fashioned game of jump rope is a great form of exercise for people of all ages and can serve as a perfect and inexpensive cardio workout too!

18. Jacks


Materials Needed

A standard set of Jacks with a bouncing ball

Number of Players

Can be played alone but is best played one on one. 

Object

To be the first person to make it through to all ten rounds

How to Play

The player who goes first should scatter the jacks onto the hard ground. Jacks must be scattered evenly; not too far apart, not too close together, and never touching. Once the jacks are scattered, the first round begins. The player must bounce the ball high enough that he/she can pick up one jack before the ball bounces. The ball must bounce, but only once before it is picked up with the same hand as the jack. Once the play is complete, the player should move the caught jack to the opposite hand and continue the play again. Play continues until the ball is missed, bounced more than once, or the improper number of jacks are collected. Once the player has made a mistake all the jacks should be scattered again, and play will continue with the next player. Once a player has made it all the way without a foul, he/she will begin the next round by collecting two jacks per ball bounce. Play continues all the way to the tenth round where the players will then compete to pick up ten jacks at the same time. It’s important to keep track of the round you’re on because you must make it all the way through one round before moving onto the next round, therefore your opponent might already be collecting two jacks at a time while you are still on one at a time. To become a great player in this game you can practice playing alone so that you can be the winner against your friends. This game is great for critical thinking and eye-hand coordination.

19. Simon Says

Materials Needed

None

Number of Players

A minimum of three

Object

To be the last person standing at the end of the game

How to Play

Simon Says is one of the oldest playground games from the past that can be played with a few players or an entire group. It’s great for kids of all ages and teaches smaller children a lesson in following directions. One person is appointed the position of Simon and the others are simply the players. Simon must stand in front facing the players. It is the job of Simon to give commands and try to get the players out. Simon should give a command with “Simon Says” before the task. When a command is given in this form all the players must complete the task, but when Simon fails to say, “Simon Says” the players cannot move. If a player does the task when it isn’t given in the form of “Simon Says,” that player is out of the game. The last person standing is the winner and trades places with Simon. This can be a great form of exercise when the commands call for it, and it’s an excellent way to practice following directions.

20. Hula Hoop

Materials Needed

At least one hula hoop

Number of Players

One or more

Object

To see who can keep the hoop spinning the longest

How to Play

There are many variations to hula hoop but the most traditional and challenging way to play is to have all the players take turns twisting the hula hoop on their waist for as long as they can. Someone should be designated to keep the time for each player and the one who keeps it going for the longest amount of time is the winner. You can tweak these rules or use the hula hoops for different challenges within the group. 

Now that you have this playground games list you should have no problem when it comes to keeping things moving outside of the classroom.

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