Outdoor Lawn Games

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Here, you’ll discover outdoor lawn games that help children and families with development and play. These outdoor yard games build gross motor skills and are great for summer activities for kids, getting them outside and off screens. Playing in the yard is beneficial for so many reasons.

Getting kids outdoors and moving is a great for so many reasons: added physical activity, a break from screen time, adding heavy work movement, a chance to connect with others, and benefit from the outdoors. Whether the kids just need to get out of the house, or you have a birthday party to plan this summer, outdoor yard games are the way to go to add much-needed movement for kids of all ages.

Outdoor Lawn Games

There is much research on the sensory benefits of outdoor play. Just a few of those benefits include:

  • Outdoor play offers an alerting or calming environment.
  • Outdoor play fosters listening skills.
  • Outdoor play provides an environment that encourages a calming and alert state of being. 
  • Outdoor play encourages risk-taking and self-confidence.
  • Outdoor play supports executive functioning skills.
  • Outdoor play encourages participation in the sense of touch.
  • Outdoor play promotes heavy work proprioceptive input and movement in a variety of planes, offering vestibular input.

There are so many other reasons to get outside and play. Let’s get started on some of the outdoor lawn games for kids:

Running Games

  1. Tag- There are so many benefits to playing tag with kids. Try these tag games (and read up on the therapeutic benefits of playing tag, too).
  2. Wolf Wolf- One person is the wolf and stands across the yard. The others call out “Wolf, wolf: What time is it?” The wolf then says a time “It’s 3:00” and the other players take 3 steps across the lawn toward the wolf. When the players are close, the wolf yells out, “It’s lunch time!” and turns around and chases after the players.
  3. Red Rover- Players split into two teams and hold hands across the lawn from the other team. One at a time, the team yells, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send (child’s name) over. That child runs across the lawn and tries to break through the line of the other team. If they succeed, that child returns to their own team. If they can not break through the arms of the other team, they then join the new team.
  4. Relay Races- Split everyone into two teams. The two teams can run, jump, move, or do a variety of actions, one at a time. The first team to complete all of the tasks, one by one is the winner. Relay races can involve water balloons, carrying items, adding clothing materials, etc.
  5. Hide and Seek- One person is “it”. The person who is “it” counts to a specified number while all of the other players hide. They then go out and look for the others.
  6. Sardines- Just like hide and seek, sardines is a hiding and finding game. But, one person hides and the others are the seekers. When someone finds the hiding person, they join the person that is hiding. Then, everyone continues to hide with the person who is “it” until there is only one person left.
  7. Monkey in the middle
  8. 4 Square

More Outdoor Lawn Activities

This massive list of outdoor lawn activities inspire movement, creativity, eye-hand coordination, motor planning, sensory input,

  1. Climb trees
  2. Animal walks
  3. Make a creative balance beam.
  4. Go hiking.
  5. Hang a sensory swing.
  6. Go for a walk or run.
  7. Bounce balls.
  8. Play kickball or wiffleball.
  9. Go on a nature sensory walk.
  10. Stress ball or fidget toys outdoors.
  11. Running games like races.
  12. Play with rocks.
  13. “I Spy” scavenger hunts for colors or shapes
  14. Obstacle courses
  15. Have a sound scavenger hunt in the backyard.
  16. Tug of war activities
  17. Play in the woods.
  18. Carry equipment, buckets, or bins.
  19. Cardboard races: Slide down a hill on cardboard
  20. Grass, flowers, and leaves sensory bin.
  21. Use a magnifying glass to inspect the grass and dirt
  22. Cartwheels and tumbling on the grass (barefoot or with shoes!)
  23. Water Table with nature
  24. Cartwheel or tumbling 
  25. Target games
  26. Bean bag games
  27. Hide and seek games
  28. Simon Says games
  29. Mud kitchen
  30. Roll down hills
  31. Animal walks with bare feet
  32. Create nature “soup” with grass, flower petals, sticks, etc.
  33. Pick flowers
  34. Bell parade
  35. Kazoo sound hunt
  36. Outdoor pretend play.
  37. Listening for birds or animals
  38. Record backyard sounds and playback the recording. Try to recognize and name the sound and where it was located in the yard.
  39. Fill containers with items from the backyard.  Shake plastic containers or even paper bags with the items and see if your child can name the objects.
  40. Play Marco Polo in the yard!
  41. Create a lawn maze with sticks, snow, or leaves.
  42. Auditory backyard games like: Neighborhood Listening Scavenger Hunt, Auditory Hide and Seek, Listening Tag, Noisy Toy Positioning Game
  43. Create with recycled materials and make arts, crafts, and activities.
  44. Pull plasticware out of the cupboards and sort the lids onto the containers.
  45. Mix colors with food coloring in water.
  46. Blow bubbles
  47. Explore how water evaporates.
  48. Jump rope
  49. Throw a book picnic: grab snacks, a blanket, and a pile of books and head outside.
  50. Poke holes in a cardboard box and push pipe cleaners through the holes
  51. Bowl with recycled plastic water bottles
  52. Act out a favorite nursery rhyme or story.
  53. Put dollhouses or play sets into a bin of shredded paper.
  54. Play hide and seek.
  55. Watch and draw clouds
  56. Tell stories where one person starts a story and each person adds a sentence to continue the story.  Write it down and illustrate your story!
  57. Make and deliver lemonade to neighbors.
  58. Go birdwatching.
  59. Make creative firefly catchers and then catch the fireflies that night.
  60. Play charades.
  61. Create with finger paints (make your own with flour, water, and food coloring or washable paint!)
  62. Wash a car.
  63. Rainbow Outdoor Game
  64. Sing songs.
  65. Turn on music and dance.
  66. Pick flowers and give them to neighbors.
  67. Make crafts. Have an art show and invite friends.
  68. Create a spatial concepts map.
  69. Spin in circles.
  70. Swing side to side on a swing set.
  71. Create a water sensory bin.
  72. Hang upside down from swing set equipment.
  73. Swing on a hammock.
  74. Have a sight word scavenger hunt.
  75. Backyard dance party.  Encourage lots of whole body movements and spinning.
  76. Cartwheels
  77. Tumble
  78. Hopscotch
  79. Play Leapfrog
  80. Mini trampoline (or the big sized-trampoline).
  81. Catch a ball while standing, sitting, swinging, rolling a ball, catching between legs, etc.
  82. Hit a tennis racket at a target including bubbles, falling leaves, large balls, small rubber balls, and balloons.
  83. Catch butterflies in a net.
  84. Bubble pop, including popping bubbles with a toe, knee, foot, head, finger, or elbows.
  85. Have a backyard messy play date.
  86. Animal Sound Obstacle Course
  87. Outdoor Math Game for Preschoolers: Exploring Very Big and Very Small
  88. Pool Noodle Train Tracks 
  89. Steam Streamers Active Train Play
  90. Water Balloon Letter Learning
  91. Spray Bottle Target Practice
  92. Water Balloon Games for Kids
  93. Dandelion Games
  94. Water Games
  95. Pom Pom Games
  96. Bubble Science and Make Your Own Bubble Solution
  97. Get Up and Move Dice Homemade Toddler Game
  98. Water Balloon Towel Toss
  99. Super Simple 5 Minute Backyard Teepee
  100. Games With Pool Noodles

BACKYARD SENSORY DIET EQUIPMENT

Make a bin of outdoor toys that are readily available in your garage or storage area so that sensory play experiences are at your family’s fingertips. 

  • Hoola Hoops
  • Jump Ropes
  • Balls
  • Bat
  • Tennis Racket
  • Butterfly Net
  • Baby Swimming Pool
  • Tarp or Slip and Slide
  • Water Hose
  • Scoops and cups
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Bike
  • Scooter
  • Skateboard
  • Cardboard
  • Target or net
  • Shovels
  • Buckets
  • Play wheelbarrow
  • Swingset
  • Climbing structure
  • Flashlight
  • Magnifying glass
  • Cones
  • Bubbles
  • Bean bags

For more outdoor play ideas that inspire movement and encourage development of motor skills, try these resources:

Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards

Heavy Work Movement Cards

Sensory Lifestyle Handbook

 

 

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

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