Memorial Day Games & Activities For Kids
Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May, originally started as a day of remembrance for Union soldiers who died during the Civil War. After World War I, the focus expanded to include fallen soldiers from all American conflicts. In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson established Memorial Day as an official federal holiday.
While Memorial Day has a somber and historical background, it is most often celebrated as the unofficial kick-off to summer. The weather is warm and clear almost everywhere during late May, and kids are getting ready to end their school year in June. It’s the perfect day to celebrate with the first backyard or park barbecue of the season.
Once you have your guest list planned, the food and drinks purchased, and plenty of briquettes on hand for the barbecue, it’s time to think about games to keep the kids entertained and active. Left to their own devices, many kids would spend the entire get-together inside, clustered around the videogame system. On a beautiful day with the grill fired up in the yard, kids should be outside getting fresh air and exercise. So plan for some active, outdoor games that are fun but simple to play, and get ready to create summertime memories.
Once everyone is outside, the kids will enjoy all of the traditional yard games. Be sure you have prizes on hand for the winners, and keep the kids hydrated with plenty of cold water or other drinks.
Red Light, Green Light: This classic game is still a lot of fun and sure to get kids laughing and doing their best to win.
- One person is selected to be the traffic light. He stands at the far end of the yard or playing area, with all the other players at a distance. The traffic light turns his back on the players, and calls out “Green Light!” The players take the opportunity to try to run forward to reach the traffic light. Quickly, the traffic light turns around, shouts out “Red Light!” and all players freeze. Any player caught moving is out, and must return to the original starting position. Play continues until a player tags the traffic light; this player then takes the traffic light position.
Shadow Tag: Everyone knows how to play tag, so make it a little bit more challenging with the addition of shadow play.
- One player is selected to be “It”. The other players run, while the It chases them. Instead of tagging by touching with her hand, the It must tag another player by running onto that person’s shadow. Once this happens, the person whose shadow was “tagged” becomes it, and chases the other players. The game can keep going until the kids are tired.
Freeze Dance: In honor of the holiday, download some patriotic songs to use in the game.
- When the music comes on, all players dance as wildly as possible. When the music switches off, everyone freezes in position. Any player caught moving is out. Continue until only one player is left.
Bucket Toss: For this game, you will need five buckets and a tennis ball, baseball or softball. Set up the five buckets so they are evenly spaced in a vertical row. The buckets should be at least two feet apart.
- Have all the players line up in front of the row of buckets, standing about three feet back. Each player takes the ball, and tries to toss it into bucket #1. A player who misses it is out; a player who succeeds goes to the end of the line. Once the entire line of players has tossed the ball to bucket #1, they try to get the ball into bucket #2. Again, those who succeed go to the back of the line, those who miss are out. Continue until the remaining players are aiming for bucket #5. Those who toss the ball successfully are the winners.
Name Toss: You will need a rubber ball for this game.
- The players form a large circle, and one player holds the ball. That player chooses a category, such as “animals”, “sports”, “vegetables” or any other broad category. The first player tosses the ball to any other player in the circle. That player must catch the ball, and quickly shout out an item that would fit into the chosen category, then immediately toss the ball to another player. Anyone who hesitates, repeats an item, or cannot think of an item is out. Continue until only one player is left.
Spud: For this game, you will need a soft, foam ball, such as a large Nerf ball.
- The players form a circle, with one player as “It” in the center. It throws the foam ball straight up into the air, and the other players run away. When the ball comes down, It catches it, and shouts “Spud!” All players must immediately freeze in position. It then tosses the foam ball to tag one of the other players. The player can bend her body to avoid being hit, but cannot move her feet. If the ball tags the player, she goes into the center of the ring and becomes the next It. If It misses, he takes another turn. Play continues until one player has been tagged four times, or until the kids get tired.
Memorial Day is the perfect barbecue celebration. With the grill smoking and the wonderful aroma of cooking burgers filling the air, kids should be outside and active, not huddled inside around a computer, videogame system or television. You don’t need anything elaborate for your guests to have a great time. Just set up a few classic yard games, and watch the memories being created. Even some of your adult guests will probably want to join the fun!
For Memorial Day BBQ party tips & ideas, see: