fitness · fun · kids and exercise · play

Ranking Outdoor Kid Games (for Adults)

Recently some adult folks and I celebrated a friend’s birthday outside at a park in the snow. We simple played kid outdoor games: a team tossing game, a ball relay, and a good ol’ fashioned snowball fight. We ran around, egging on members of the other team, getting soaked. It was hilarious and silly and fun.

A woman describes rules to a game while people stand in a line behind her. A park in the daytime with snow
Marnie gives instructions to the adults for the next kid game.

Playing outdoor kid games can bring a swell of nostalgia for games in the school yard, the backyard, the park, the lot, the court, or the field. Those games taught us important lessons (good and bad) that we remember throughout our adult lives.

I decided to describe and rank various types of kids outdoor games that can be and still are played by adults. Inter-rater reliability (i.e. with my partner) for the aspects of each game type (e.g., high, medium, or low) was about 92%.

What is your favourite outdoor kid game or game type, and why? Reply in comments below!

Accuracy Games 

CriteriaLevel
Energylow
Skillmed
Teamworklow
Inclusivenessmed
Sillinesslow

Examples: Ladder toss, horseshoes, washer toss, catch/HORSE, hopscotch

These games that pay attention to detail and precision. They have rules and specialized equipment, and may be played individually or in teams. It’s usually the accuracy games that adults want to play to show kids that they’ve still “got it.”

Snowball/Water Balloon Fights

CriteriaLevel
Energymed
Skilllow
Teamworklow
Inclusivenessmed
Sillinesshigh

Snowball and water balloon fights have few rules and are generally a free-for-all of silliness. Often, one need not be the strongest or fastest participant: those who create their own strategy (or find good hiding places) can fare well.

Be careful in these games around those who wear glasses. In northern or southern climates, less popular in Spring/Fall.

Imagination Games

CriteriaLevel
Energylow
Skilllow
Teamworkmed
Inclusivenesshigh
Sillinessmed

Examples: Lost on an island, Cowboys, Fashion show, etc.

Imagination games (also known as “pretend” or “make believe”) are for those who want to escape rule-bound games with winners and losers that require equipment and physical skill or strength.

In imagination games, anyone with creativity and a playful attitude can participate.

"Adults Playing" by eekim is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Adults Playing” by eekim is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Strength Games 

CriteriaLevel
Energyhigh
Skilllow
Teamworkmed
Inclusivenessmed
Sillinessmed

Examples: Red rover, tug of war

Simple, straightforward us-vs-them team games, where the most important rule is…be the strongest and win! Expect the occasional skin burn or scratch.

Sometimes these games can get violent–it was this aspect of tug of war that was emphasized by Netflix’s Squid Game (2021).

"Tug of War" by joshwept is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Tug of War” by joshwept is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Organized Sports Games

CriteriaLevel
Energyhigh
Skillmed
Teamworkhigh
Inclusivenesslow
Sillinesslow

Examples: Flag football, baseball, dodgeball, kickball, soccer

Organized sports build skill, stamina, and teamwork. They create opportunities for life-long bonding. But being group-based, rule-bound, and equipment-heavy, these serious games can separate casual from competitive players.

Also, no one likes to be picked last for a team.

Speed Relay Games

Examples: Relays (e.g., egg and spoon race), potato sack racing

CriteriaLevel
Energymed
Skilllow
Teamworkhigh
Inclusivenesslow
Sillinesshigh

Individual or team-based–and often requiring nothing more than a ball, a baton, or a sack–speed relay games can bring the best of a group of people working together.

These games can be not so fun for folks who may struggle to keep up or who take relays too seriously.

"Sack race" by badjonni is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Sack race” by badjonni is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Tag and Strategy Games 

CriteriaLevel
Energymed
Skillmed
Teamworkmed
Inclusivenessmed
Sillinessmed

Examples: Tag, Capture the Flag, Musical Chairs, Red Light-Green Light, Hide and Seek

Combining the skill of accuracy games, the endurance of strength games, and the creativity of imagination games, tag and strategy games can utilize diverse talents. These games attract those who enjoy being the last one standing.

2 thoughts on “Ranking Outdoor Kid Games (for Adults)

  1. Hmm. Strategy, Strength, and Organized sports are three I like now. Hated team sports as a kid and love them as an adult. For awhile I thought that meant that I would have liked them as a kid, if only I’d given them a chance, but that’s probably not too true. Kids can be so mean to one another. The only one I liked as a kid was the strategy category.

    Liked by 1 person

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.