Outdoor Activities to Spark Imagination & Active Lifestyles

A generation ago, kids spent most of their time playing outdoors. In today’s world, children spend much more time indoors, and it’s having a negative effect on their health and development.


Part of the problem is the allure of television and computer games, but technology alone isn’t to blame. Today’s busy schedules also take their toll: both kids and adults tend to have their time heavily scheduled—after a week of school, piano lessons, karate classes, soccer lessons, and dance lessons, there’s relatively little time left for outdoor play. There’s also the fear of strangers and the danger they pose to kids: even if the media tends to exaggerate such perils, no parent wants to their child put at risk.


Even so, staying indoors isn’t the answer. Outdoor play offers too many advantages to ignore, including:


  • A stronger immune system
  • Better health and fitness
  • Better relationships with playmates
  • Greater resilience to stress
  • Improved ability to assess risks
  • More opportunities for imaginative play.


Active Games for Kids Outside

Choosing games for kids outside isn’t difficult. Think of the types of games you played outside as a child, and teach them to your own kids. Outdoor games don’t have to be complicated. They just have to be fun.


Kick, Throw, and Catch

Go into the backyard or the local park and teach your little one how to kick, throw, or catch a ball. Don’t focus on game rules, just on teaching the fundamentals and having fun.



Tag is one of those timeless games for kids outside and one that never gets old. Organize a game of family tag and get everyone moving, including Mom and Dad. For added fun, you can play freeze tag, where everyone who’s tagged must freeze in place until an untagged player frees them.


Red Light Green Light

Another popular outdoor game, Red Light Green Light is easy to play. One person (the traffic cop) stands with her back to the other players. When she says Green Light, players move towards her. If she says, “Red Light,” she spins around, and any players she sees still moving must go back to the starting line. The game ends when a player gets close enough to touch the traffic cop.


Jump Rope

Jump rope lets children improve their motor skills and reaction times. Learn a few silly jump rope rhymes, or teach kids the rhymes you used as a kid. As kids get older and more skilled, you can try double Dutch rope-skipping, which uses two ropes.


Outdoor Obstacle Courses

Are your kids fans of American Ninja Warrior? Create your own outdoor obstacle course using door mats, hula hoops, chairs, and other items and challenge them to run your course. Use a timer if you like, but otherwise just have fun.


Treasure Hunts

Does your child dream of sailing the seven seas as a treasure-hunting pirate? If so, hide some pirate’s booty in the back yard and draw up your own treasure map. You can include clues for kids to figure out, or help them practice counting and directions with instructions like “Take ten steps forward, turn right, and take five steps backwards.” Kids love the thrill of figuring out clues and uncovering the treasure.


Unstructured Play

Active games for kids outdoors are great, but allow them time for unstructured play as well. Keep an eye in them, but let them create and play their own games as well. Unstructured play encourages creativity and imagination. If kids are playing together, the little conflicts that emerge also teach them how to negotiate with each other and other important social skills. So let your kids play their own active games outside. After all, kids have been doing so for centuries!