The best garden games for kids

(32 Posts)
HebeMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 08-Apr-20 14:14:22

Nothing quite beats some quality time outdoors - however big your garden. So we’ve pooled the wisdom of Mumsnet users and mixed this with some ideas of our own to bring you a compendium of the very best garden, patio and balcony games for kids.

Here are the best outdoor games for kids of all ages.

Games with ropes, elastic and more

1. Skipping

Jumping rope can be done in the tiniest of outdoor spaces and is a great aerobic exercise. It’s harder than you’ll remember and more fun than they’ll know, too.

If you have a large garden, encourage your child (or children) to try ‘double skipping’ - stand opposite one other and jump simultaneously. For families with more than two children, position one child at either end and have a third leaping in the middle.

The simplest of skipping ropes does the job nicely, but we think kids will enjoy this fancy skipping rope with a built-in skip counter.

2. French elastic

Remember ‘Inside, outside, inside, ON’? Yep, we’d forgotten too! French Elastic is making a comeback in the playground and is strangely addictive.

If you don’t have three people to play, one can play with a couple of chairs. Hook it round the legs then jump over each piece of elastic (while chanting horribly ear-wormy rhymes - look them up online).

Buy French Skipping Elastic here

3. Tightrope-walking competition

It's competitive, improves balance and gymnastic kids will almost certainly love a slackline.

If you don’t have two trees to tie it to for tightrope-walking competitions, you can buy kits to attach it to almost anything.

Buy a slackline kit here

4. Limbo

One of the easiest games to organise (and an absolute classic), all you’ll need for a Limbo contest is a length of rope and a couple of outdoor chairs to tie it to.

It works equally as well with a long broom.

5. Tug of war

You know the rules. Equal numbers either end, then attempt to pull the opposing team across a marker on the ground. Heeeeeaaave!

Related: Best family board games

Outdoor games with chalk

6. Hopscotch

A firm favourite that never gets old, if you’ve forgotten the layout for Hopscotch, you can soon look it up online.

Hours of fun to be had with outdoor chalk, eager children and either a patio or a balcony.

Buy assorted outdoor chalk here

7. Garden Twister

Use your coloured chalk to make the Twister blobs in red, yellow, green and blue on the floor and get spinning that dial.

This is one for the whole family too. If you already own a Twister mat, or have been meaning to invest in one, then you can just as easily use that as well.

Buy Twister here

8. Simple noughts and crosses

Who doesn’t love a game of noughts and crosses? Brilliant if you’ve got square paving slabs, but otherwise you can draw your own board on the ground with chalk.

Hide and seek games

9. Scavenger hunt or treasure hunt

If your children enjoy good old hide-and-seek but you don’t have hectares of outdoor space to play with, then this has a similar vibe.

Scavenger hunts are good for getting children running around. Just give them a list of things to find and bring back in a plastic tub - a daisy, a stone, a woodlouse etc - and they’ll be entertained for hours.

A simple treasure hunt will also work well with tiny paper clues folded up leading from one clue to the next.

You can even try this game on a small balcony. While that may seem challenging, you may be able to find enough corners, potted plants and stones in which to hide wrapped sweets or other goodies. Always a winner. Add a time limit into the mix for some added excitement.

Racquet games for the garden

10. Swingball

For budding Serena Williams types, try swingball. It’s a very fence-friendly garden game so you won’t be round the neighbours every three minutes asking for your ball back.

You don’t even need a lawn for a standalone swingball.

Buy a swingball set here

Related: Ideas for keeping primary school children entertained at home

11. Sticky tennis

A Velcro catch and throw set makes the throwing aspect of sticky tennis much easier.

Plus, it makes a very pleasing sound when you rip the ball off to hurl it back.

12. Table tennis

Table tennis sets can be set up just as easily on an outdoor table as an indoor one.

We promise you’ll still be at the ‘whiff whaff’ long after the kids have gone to bed.

Buy a table tennis set here

13. Badminton

For a slightly more genteel game, try badminton.

A little slower and a lot quieter than other racquet games, it’s virtually impossible to get a shuttlecock over a fence unless they get <really> good.

Buy badminton racquets here

Garden games with balls

14. Juggling and other circus skills

Aside from the obvious catch-and-throw games and kickarounds, the garden (or the tiniest of balconies) is a good place to practise your juggling.

If they get really good you could extend their circus skills with a diabolo or pair of stilts.

Buy juggling balls here

15. Simple catch and throw

Toddlers will enjoy getting ready for catching games by ‘catching’ a rolling ball and rolling it back to you or tossing bean bags (less ouchy when you accidentally catch one).

16. French cricket

If you have enough players you can recreate the thwack of willow on leather (a bit) with French cricket.

One bowler, one batsman and as many fielders as you have. The bowler’s out when someone catches the ball.

If you’re a large family, this is a good way to get the kids running around the garden while you retreat to the safety of an armchair with a cuppa.

17. Dodgeball

Good for working off energy (a polite way of saying ‘good for when they’ve gone feral’), teams should be six each but you can bend the rules to play with two.

Start with one ball per team and two balls in the middle of the playing area. The team to knock out all their opponents by throwing balls and hitting them on the back between the shoulder blades is the winner. Stand well back!

Target games to play outside

18. Quoits

Quoits (the fancy name for hoop-la) is fun for all ages but a few beanbags and a chalk mark on the ground is just as good.

19. Marbles

While you’ve got your chalk out, draw a circle on the ground and you can play marbles. One big one each and you take turns to try and knock as many marbles out of the circle as you can.

Buy marbles here

20. DIY crazy golf

Any old croquet mallets or kids’ golf clubs can be pressed into action. Make tunnels from loo rolls, send them up mounds of earth and down the other side.

You can even take your crazy golf course through the sand pit and the paddling pool if you’re feeling ambitious.

Water games for the garden

21. Waterslides

Run the hose down the garden slide and, for maximum squeals, point the end straight into the paddling pool.

22. Water painting

We’ve yet to meet a toddler who didn’t love being given a pot of water and a paintbrush to daub all over the fence or the side of the house.

Better still, it’s completely mess-free painting, and probably counts as developing their gross motor skills. You hear that, nursery?

Related: Easy craft ideas for toddlers

23. Water-cup racing

A perennial Mumsnet garden favourite. Set up two parallel lengths of string from one fence to another. Punch a hole in the bottom of two plastic cups. Thread them through the string. Take two water pistols and have a race to move the cups from one end of the string to the other using only the power of water!

See an example

24. Water balloon dodgeball

Dodgeball (see above) but with water balloons. What’s not to like?

25. Paddling pool hook-a-duck

All the fun of the fair…in your back garden. Fill your pool, release some rubber duckies and use a fishing net to scoop them out. Also works with plastic dinosaurs, cars or whatever catches their fancy.

Buy rubber ducks here

26. ‘That French Camping Game’

We don’t know the origins of this Mumsnet favourite but it’s always simply been known as ‘that French camping game’ here.

Take two children, two empty plastic bottles and one ball. Fill the bottles with water. Don’t screw the lids on. Stand one bottle by each child. They take turns to throw the ball to try and knock over the other’s bottle. If your bottle goes over you have to fetch the ball before you can right your bottle. The winner is the one whose water lasts longest.

Garden racing games

27. Blanket racing

Find old blankets. Sit children on blankets. Adults or bigger children drag them along the lawn on their blankets in a race to the finish. So much fun.

28. Obstacle courses

Let’s face it the ONLY good bit about sports day at school. But so much more fun with REAL hardboiled eggs on your spoons, pillowcases for the sack race part and lots of fun obstacles along the way from bean bags to balance on heads to hula hoops to hula to the finish!

Buy hula hoops here

29. Outdoor ‘board’ games

There’s a plethora of cool games that now have ‘outdoor’ versions from giant dominoes and Jenga to garden Connect Four. We particularly love the idea of giant pick-up sticks, for one the whole family can get involved with or outdoor Yahtzee for primary schoolers getting to grips with numbers.

Older children might well be tempted by giant chess (very Alice in Wonderland) or something slightly more complex and Scandi-cool like Kubb, a Viking game that involves throwing chunks of wood at other chunks of wood. Most satisfying.

Related: Ideas for keeping secondary school children entertained at home

Outdoor games that need no props at all

30. Grandmother’s Footsteps

A classic and with good reason. ‘Grandmother’ turns her back to the other players and they have to try and creep up on her and tap her on the shoulder without being heard. But Grandmother can turn round at any time and if she sees you move you’re out.

31. Captain’s Orders

One person (make it you!) is ‘Captain’ and gives out orders to which the relevant response must be given. Captain’s Coming: everyone salutes. Scrub the decks: they all ‘scrub the ground’. Port: run to the left. Starboard: run to the right. Man the lifeboats: 10 sit-ups each while pretending to row. Shark attack! Lie on your back with one leg in the air. We reckon you can make up a few of your own, too.

32. Shadow tig

You know the rules to tig (or ‘tag’, or ‘it’, depending on where in the country you grew up). It’s like that but you get people ‘out’ by treading on their shadow. A good one for a sunny day.

If you want to take the fun up a notch, try a game of vest tag using two Velcro vests and some soft balls.

Buy IKEA’s LUSTIGT tag game here

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OP’s posts: |
Brunelofbrio Wed 08-Apr-20 14:21:12

A string trail. Set up a course of string around the garden ( or could be indoors too). Kids take turns to be blindfolded and lead each other around the course. Makes a different way of exploring a familiar space. Can be made more difficult wit obstacles ( garden furniture etc) places along the route

JayTesto Thu 09-Apr-20 10:07:21

My son learnt how to use a diabolo and has documented his journey, with tips and tricks.... Some of his friends have followed and are now learning too!

emmasmith76 Thu 09-Apr-20 18:46:23

Try the Easter game challenge on and reinvent the Easter egg hunt!

Laughalot20 Fri 10-Apr-20 14:42:56

I’d say the best garden games for kids would be for them to challenge each other to stay inside and be quiet. Whoever holds out longest is the winner. grin

NeverTwerkNaked Fri 10-Apr-20 15:17:21

Our lot play blindmans buff on the trampoline so one person is blindfolded and wanders round the trampoline trying to find the others.... It's a big trampoline and they play it for ages grin

Maybe111 Fri 10-Apr-20 16:21:08

We play chase the old fart

dyscalculicgal96 Sat 11-Apr-20 23:03:04

This is a really great idea.
We play Mr Wolf. Since we live in a flat, we are kind of limited in our options. So we play games like Monopoly, Blokus, Pictionary, Battleships, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Hangman, Cluedo and Boggle. I tend to improvise. My two also love to play any fun game that makes you think as well. Does anyone have any other indoor game recommendations? I already have tried several games but need new ideas.

1Pinkfluffyelephant Mon 13-Apr-20 11:04:57

Anyone seen any where that has trampolines in stock? Might be a bit of a long shot

Maybe111 Mon 13-Apr-20 12:12:06

33. Chinese whisper

Maria858 Tue 21-Apr-20 10:26:12

I love all of them a!

juliajones Tue 21-Apr-20 15:03:49

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concernedforthefuture Tue 16-Jun-20 19:27:47

We've recently discovered Mölkky and love it. Great fun for all the family at home or on the beach / at picnics etc.

Frlrlrubert Tue 16-Jun-20 20:57:48

@concernedforthefuture beat me to it, Mölkky is awesome.

letsgomaths Tue 16-Jun-20 21:11:04

We love blindfolded string trail games! You can make them really sensory as well: pour some water on the ground to make mud, have them walk through a pile of boxes, or fallen leaves, spray from the hose.

We also swear by keeper of the keys as a garden game: one child is blindfolded and sits by some treasure, while another tries to sneak up and grab it, but they have to be silent, because the child who can't see will point in the direction of any sound they hear. You can make it really tricky by having them walk completely around the one guarding the treasure, or wearing bells round their neck.

EwwSprouts Tue 16-Jun-20 22:15:08

Sheet over the washing line to make a den.

m0jit0 Wed 17-Jun-20 08:19:29

Great ideas!
A quieter "game" which is good at occupying them for 5 minutes is "painting". Get cup of water and a paintbrush and they can paint pictures on the patio or fence!

MyMagicStars Wed 17-Jun-20 11:07:59

My girls are now early twenties but home for lockdown. French cricket is a major event each night now uni work is done for the summer, alongside slacklining.

GuiltyBark Thu 18-Jun-20 17:28:55

Velcro sticky tennis is good for social distancing ;) and low risk in a small garden as it's fairly easy to "catch"

partefeildo Thu 18-Jun-20 17:34:27

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stayathomer Thu 18-Jun-20 22:15:39

We do a kind of home version of the cube. So if you have tiles, someone walks a certain path on them and another has to try to do the same path, also someone walks a certain amount and the person has to count the number of squares. Also rolling a marble along eg a length of wood, then throwing balls into a basket. Aside from that, indoor volley ball with a balloon and for outside, nothing beats Donkey, tip the can or Mr Wolf

busywittymom Fri 19-Jun-20 14:44:30

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doowles Fri 19-Jun-20 15:16:25


Our lot play blindmans buff on the trampoline so one person is blindfolded and wanders round the trampoline trying to find the others.... It's a big trampoline and they play it for ages grin

Yes, my kids love this game! I always cringe though when they end up running and tripping over each other!

We got play equipment this year from Climbing Frames UK with swings, a slide and playhouse with a little kitchen for mud pies etc grin

They love it. They have been out in the garden so much this Spring!

wanderings Fri 19-Jun-20 17:02:53

I've written about this on another thread, here is a much-loved activity (usually in the garden) from when I was little, which could be turned into a game. Closing our eyes was considered insufficient for this: we children were very carefully blindfolded so we couldn't see at all, before being spun round and walked in circles so we wouldn't know where we were. A family member (who loved theatre) would then tell us a story to make us believe that we in a special place, with sound effects and feeling things.

The one I loved best was "going in a hot air balloon", where we each stood in a laundry basket, which was lifted up a short distance, while the tiny scenery below was described to us; it really felt like flying! Others we did were meeting the Easter Bunny who hid the eggs there and then; riding in Santa's sleigh (wheelbarrow with bells on); the jungle, where on a hot day, we walked barefoot through mud, dangling willow branches, spray from the hose, and picked up fruit on the ground. A memorable and scary one was walking the plank: we walked along an actual plank which was resting on bricks, with a hand on the shoulder of an adult, who walked on the ground beside us. Unknown to us, they crouched as they walked, so we felt higher than we really were. At the end of the plank, we had to jump into the sea if we were brave enough: actually the filled paddling pool, which we didn't know was there, and felt like jumping a very long way!

As we got older, we started devising things like these for each other, or brave adults! This could be turned into a game: make someone who is blindfolded believe they are on the beach, or have them work out where they are.

Infradoug Sat 20-Jun-20 10:32:08

Wanderings sounds like you had an amazing childhood!

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