For your kids, summer is reason enough for a celebration. But you’ve got your sights set on bigger events to come. Whether you’re planning your kid’s birthday bash, rocking a 4th of July BBQ or arranging the neighborhood block party, you know epic outdoor games will do more than get your party started … they’ll keep it going. Read on for our favorites!
photo: woodleywonderworks via Flickr
1. Devour the Donut
Have you heard? Donuts are the new cake. That’s why we love this sweet twist on the typical way to end a party. Part game, part speed-eating contest, everyone at your party will want in on the action. Simply hang a length of string across a deck or between two trees (make sure to have a clean or covered surface underneath). Then loop a donut for each player onto the string so it hangs at “mouth level.” When you say go, each player scarfs the donut in front of them as fast as they can. The twist? No hands allowed. First one to finish wins!
2. Balloon Relay
Turn your party decorations into props for this easy-to-run game. Line up your tots Madeline-style (that’s two straight lines), before handing each line leader a balloon and having them place it securely between their knees. Then it’s time to start the game! Players pass the balloon, knees-to-knees, down the row until it reaches the finish. It doesn’t get easier than that!
photo: ewan traveler via Flickr
3. Rainbow Hunt
Who needs to go on a bear hunt when you can hunt for rainbows instead? This one is especially exciting for toddlers because rainbows and face paint are totally their jam. To play, hide craft sticks dipped in different rainbow colors around the yard (make sure you’ve got all the rainbow colors represented). Alongside them, place a face paint crayon that matches the stick’s color. When a player finds a stick, they use the crayon to draw a colorful rainbow smear on their face. First one to complete the rainbow wins!
4. Don’t Step on the…
Let kids lead the blind(folded) in this easy-to-set-up game that requires at least four kids. To start, you’ll need to set up a “minefield” for the players to navigate. We suggest designating Frisbees or sports cones as the “mines” that get scattered around your play space. Then comes the skill. Split the kids into two teams, each with one player blindfolded. It’s up to the blindfolded players’ teammates to shout out directions (take three steps forward! One step to the right!), helping her make it safely from one side of the field to the next, without stepping on a mine. Whoever makes it to the far end of the course first (and without blowing up) is on the winning team. If you’re looking for an extra challenge, play it in reverse (have the kids walk backward) for the return trip.
5. Shaving Cream Race
Who needs a canvas when the kids can paint each other with shaving cream? Pit two teams against each other in this race to completely cover lucky human “canvases” in white foamy fluff. Setting up this silly competition is easy. Empty tons of shaving cream into kiddie pools and then hand each kidlet a brush. The game runs itself from there. A word to the wise—bathing suits and a hose on hand are total “musts” for this one.
6. Popcorn Relay
Little party-goers will get a kick out of this relay race that’s all about running popcorn from one bucket to another. To play, you’ll need to strap plastic cups to each runner’s foot (psst … gluing the rubber band to the bottom of the cup works best). When the whistle blows, each runner’s teammate fills up the cup with popcorn and sends it dashing very carefully down the yard to a waiting bucket. Then it’s dump and run (no hands allowed) before heading back and passing the cup to the next player. Work your way through each line to determine a winner in this pop-ular game!
photo: All For The Boys
7. Cup Race
Think NCAA tourney when you whip out this fun cup race. All the tiny guests will get a chance to work their way through the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight for a shot at the big time—the Final Four—as they compete head-to-head, racing plastic cups down a string, propelled by squirt guns. Allison spells out the setup and racing deets on her blog, All for the Boys, so you can run the races like a pro.
8. Balloon Stomp Romp
This one’s a blast no matter what your age. Blow up a few balloons, tie them around kids’ ankles with string and send them off to pop each others’ air-filled companions. The game ends with the last balloon standing. Want to make it more challenging for the big kids? Forget playing in the whole yard—just set boundaries with cones or string to keep them penned in while they play. The smaller the space, the bigger the challenge and the faster the game gets played!
photo: Valentina Powers via Flickr
9. Ice Pool Challenge
Chill out with this simple-to-stage game that kids of (almost) any age can play. To set it up, fill your kiddie pool with water and dump in a bag of party ice. Then divide kids into two teams, each with a bucket. Their goal is to fill the bucket with as many of the submerged ice cubes as they can, using only their feet to move those little rascals from one place to the next.
10. Bandana Tag
Transform the typical game of tag into a free-for-all (this one works best with older kiddos). The twist? They’re all “it.” To play, hand out bandanas to your crew to tuck in along their waistline. Then let the great chase begin! Players tag each other by snagging bandanas, while simultaneously guarding their own until one player is left standing. It’s a wild romp they’ll want to play over and over again.
photo: Caleb Zahnb via Flickr
11. Bob for Apples
You know how this one is played, parents. Apples. Barrel. Then sit back and watch as the kids take turns trying to grab a crispy piece of fruit using only their teeth. It’s the perfect way to cool off on a hot day!
12. Water Balloon Pop
The tot lot will log plenty of giggle mileage when they play this fast-paced game. Break your group into two teams, each with a heaping bucket of fully loaded water balloons. When you say go, one member of each team grabs a balloon, races down the yard, and tries to pop it with his or her body (think: stomping or sitting on it!). Guarantee a dousing by making guests break balloons on a chair, or let the ground take the brunt of the splash. Once the balloon is popped, it’s back to the start to tag the next kid. On your mark, get set, go!
photo: Mike Gifford via Flickr
13. What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf?
If this classic game doesn’t ring any bells for you parents, think Red Light, Green Light with a lot more shrieking and mad dashing. A total blast, even for young kids, this is a must-try at your next kiddie-bash. Want to know how to play? We love the simple instructions offered up by Childhood 101.
14. Ninja Attack
In this game, ninjas-in-training test their skills by quietly sneaking up on a ninja master. Intrigued? Start by setting up a ninja course (think: paintball course) using oversized moving boxes, play tunnels, and other objects kids can quickly duck behind (or into). This is where the little ninjas will try to hide as the ninja master scans the yard for tiny foes. Then, have the master stand at one end of the yard, opposite her ninja attackers. When you say go, the ninja master turns her back on her opponents, while they stealthily make their way toward her. When you say stop, little ninjas duck behind whatever’s closest in the hopes the master ninja won’t spy them. If she does, they’re out. But if you’ve got the skill, and can reach her first, you become the master!
photo: Michael Smith via Flickr
15. Mushroom Tag
This new look for an old fave works best with school-aged kids and a huge play space. It’s a game where everyone’s “it” and kids drop in and out of play quickly so the number of players is as on the move as the players themselves. Here’s how it (usually) works… since everyone is “it,” when a player gets tagged, she’s also (probably) tagging back. So the two tagged players stop and Rochambeau (that’s rock, paper, scissors) to see who sits down and who keeps playing. The winner goes off to tag more players, while the loser sits and waits to return to the game. Players get back into the game when the person who tagged them sits down. Put this one in the play till they can’t play anymore category. It’s a riot!
— Allison Sutcliffe
Feature photo: jona263d via Pixaby