Fun Summer Games For Kids

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School’s out, the days are long and the weather is warm. Don’t let your kids waste away their summer sitting inside with a video game controller in their hand. You don’t need a special occasion as an excuse, once you get them outdoors laughing and playing, they’ll be begging, “Just a little while longer!” once it’s time to come inside. No problem, they can take up right where they left off tomorrow!

You don’t need anything elaborate for fun outdoor games. Many need nothing more than an open space and a group of kids.


Relay races provide friendly competition along with laughs and exercise.

Dinner Dash

You will need two large plastic plates and two Ping-Pong balls.

Have all players divide into two even teams. Each team lines up on the starting point, and the first player on each team is handed a dinner plate with a Ping-Pong ball on top. At the “Go!”, the first players race across the yard, holding their plates aloft with one hand, waiter style. If the Ping-Pong ball falls from the plate, the player must stop and restore it to its position before racing on. The players race across the yard and back to their waiting team. They hand the plate and ball to the next player, who repeats the circuit. Whichever team finishes first is the winner.

Hula Hoop Relay

You will need a hula-hoop for each team.

Divide the kids into two teams. Loop a hula-hoop over the arm of one player on each team, and then have each team join hands to form a circle. Without letting go of the other player’s hands, the child with the hula-hoop must step through the hoop to transfer it to his other arm, then pass it to the next player. That player performs the same maneuver, and so on around the circle. Whichever team passes the hula-hoop all the way around first without unlinking hands is the winner.

fun summer games for kids fun summer games for kids

Water Balloons

A hot summer’s day is the perfect time for games that involve water. Most kids love getting wet, and they will dry off long before it’s time to go inside.

Water Balloon Football

You will need water balloons, and colored cloth or ribbons to mark teams.

Divide the kids into two teams. One team can tie a ribbon or cloth around their waist for identification. A water balloon is handed to one team, and they try to make a touchdown before being tackled by the opposing team. If the balloon bursts, a new balloon enters the game. Each time a team makes a touchdown with an intact balloon, they get a point. Continue playing until the balloons are gone, or the kids are tired.

Balloon Dash

You will need several water balloons.

Have players split into pairs. Each pair stands back-to-back, with their arms interlocked. Slip a water balloon between their backs. When you call out “Go!” the teams race towards the finish line without letting their balloon drop or pop. The first team to make the finish line with an intact balloon wins.


Everyone knows tag, and there are many variations to keep things interesting.

Shadow Tag

In this variation of tag, instead of touching the player with a hand to create an “It”, the players must run over another player’s shadow. This is best played mid-day, when the sun is highest in the sky.

Freeze Tag

When the “It” tags a player, that player must freeze in place until tagged by another player. Play continues until everyone is tagged and frozen. The players then choose a new “It”, and start a new game.

Octopus Tag

One player is chosen to be the octopus, and stands in the middle of the playing field. The octopus calls out, “Come swim in my ocean!” The players run across the playing field, trying to avoid the octopus. Any player who is tagged becomes seaweed, and must remain in the spot they were tagged. Now they help the octopus by trying to tag any player who runs within arm’s reach. Play continues until all players are seaweed, then they choose a new octopus.


Many classic outdoor games are played with two large teams. Most need little beyond enthusiastic kids and an hour or two for play.

Capture the Flag

Each team needs a flag or marker for their base.

The kids divide into two teams. Each team has a base with their flag, which they must protect. The object of the game is to get into the opposite team’s base, grab their flag and make it back safely to home base. Each team has a jail, where any enemy players that are tagged on the other team’s territory are sent. Once there, they remain a prisoner until one of their own team members makes it through to tag them. Play continues until one team captures the other team’s flag and makes it back to their base without being tagged.

Red Rover

The kids divide into two teams. Each team joins hands to form a long chain, and stand facing each other. The players on one side choose an opposing player to join them, using the game’s chant to call out, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Alex right over!” Alex would then break free from his own group, run towards the opposite team, and try to break through their linked hands. If he succeeds, he picks a player from the opposing team, and both return to Alex’s team. If he is unsuccessful, he joins the opposing team. Play continues until all players are on the same team. Stress to the players that they should only link hands, not hold onto each other’s wrists or arms, and that they should be gentle when running through the opposing team members.

Make sure you have snacks and drinks on hand, as the kids are sure to work up an appetite and thirst. There’s nothing like a summer’s day spent having fun outdoors to guarantee a good night of sleep, and a summer of treasured memories.

Last Updated: June 7, 2012
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening and home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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