FUN AND BENEFICIAL PARK ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS
Everyone has their favorite games to play and activities to do at the park, and active nature play is vital for so many aspects of a child’s development. However, in today’s busy society, kids are occupied with school, homework, and extracurricular activities — not to mention all of the enticing television shows, video games, and social media apps beckoning for their attention.
Taking a moment away from all of this and going to the park gets the whole family outside and away from distractions. The fresh air, physical activity, and bonding time are beneficial for the health of entire communities, and playtime helps children develop important social skills, problem-solving skills, motor skills, self-regulation, and more.
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Fun Game and Activity Ideas for Kids & Their Friends to Enjoy at the Park
Free play at the park is crucial to children’s physical, mental, social and emotional development, and it’s an essential part of childhood fun. Plan different types of fun playground games the whole family can play at the park together to bust boredom, keep everyone involved, and create a more memorable and fun outing. Try introducing park games from your childhood to your kids, or if you’re ready for some fresh park activity ideas, check out this list of fun games and things to do at the playground. You might just find some new favorite things to do at the park with kids!
10 PARK ACTIVITIES AND GAMES FOR KIDS AND THEIR FRIENDS
Enjoying outdoor free play has numerous health benefits and is crucial to children’s physical, mental, social, and emotional development. Kids who have the opportunity to participate in various outdoor activities can develop crucial knowledge and abilities, including curiosity, social skills, agility and emotional regulation. By organizing things to do at the park throughout the week or on the weekend, you can foster growth in multiple areas for your child and their friends.
It’s also an essential part of childhood fun! Plan different types of fun playground games the whole family can play at the park together to bust boredom, keep everyone involved, and create a more memorable and fun outing. Whether you have free time one afternoon or need to set up a week’s worth of playground activities, getting out to the park to participate in some classic games is a fantastic way to create lasting memories.
Try introducing park games from your childhood to your kids, or if you’re ready for some fresh park activity ideas, check out this list of fun games and things to do at the playground. You might just find some new favorite things to do at the park with kids!
1. Hide and Seek
A classic game to play at the park is hide and seek. This simple game needs no preparation or supplies, so you can play just about anywhere and anytime. All players except for one must quickly find a place to hide. The remaining person is “it” and counts to a number all players have determined ahead of time. When the person who is “it” finishes counting, they loudly declare, “Ready or not, here I come!” and start looking for the rest of the players.
The game helps your children and their friends practice counting their numbers, and the game can also be adjusted for all ages and abilities. If you’re playing with young children, set some boundaries for acceptable hiding places and avoid venturing off too far, or the game can become too difficult for little ones.
There are also lots of fun twists to this basic childhood game to add variety. Here are just some of the fun variations on this classic playground activity to keep the game interesting:
- Sardines: This fun twist reverses the roles of the hide and seek players, with only one player hiding in the beginning. All the other players then go seeking this hiding spot, but instead of announcing the hiding spot, they must quietly join the hider and wait for everyone to find them. Play continues until the last person finds the group, packed like sardines in a can, in their hiding spot. This version works best in a large area, with lots of hiding spots big enough for multiple kids.
- Sheep and wolf: In sheep and wolf, the person selected to hide is the wolf, while all of the other players are sheep. The sheep close their eyes — once the wolf is ready, they let out a howl, and the sheep can open their eyes. Any sheep who spot the wolf can call out and alert the other sheep. All sheep must make it to a pre-determined home base without being tagged. If a sheep is tagged, they become the wolf in the next round of play.
- Messenger: This version combines basic hide and seek with the classic childhood game telephone. When the seeker finds a player, they whisper a short message to the hider. The original seeker then returns to home base to wait while the next player finds another to pass on the message to. Play continues until everyone returns to home base, and the last player whispers the message to see if it matches the original statement.
Most parks have a basketball court or hoop, and you can use it in a variety of ways to play fun games with the kids and their friends. If there’s a full court, and you have a larger group of older kids, divide up into two teams and play a game of basketball.
For smaller groups and younger kids, try a game of H-O-R-S-E. This is a versatile and fun version of basketball that can be adapted to different ages and abilities. Players take turns trying to get a basket from five different locations near the hoop, or with five different creative shots. If someone makes the shot, and the rest of the players miss, each of the other players gets a letter toward the word “horse.” Spell the whole word, and you’re out of the game.
In a simpler version of H-O-R-S-E that’s great for little kids, you can spell out the word “horse” — or any other word you choose — in large chalk letters on the pavement around a basketball hoop. Try writing out your child’s name or using numbers or shapes for variety. Each player takes turns trying to get a basket standing on each of the chalk letters.
Badminton is a fun game the whole family can enjoy at the park. While you’ll have to bring your own equipment and set it up, it’s relatively easy to set up and play in a large grassy area of the park. Each player has a racquet they use to hit the badminton shuttle, or birdie, across the net to the other players. If the shuttle hits the ground on the other side, the opposing team gets a point. The first team to get to 21 points wins.
You can play badminton in singles, doubles, trios, or squads and adjust the rules for different age groups and abilities. It’s best to play the game on a day that’s not too windy, as the wind can carry the lightweight birdies easily and affect the gameplay.
4. Outdoor Bowling
Bring all the fun of the bowling alley outside to the park! This park game can be a fun activity that gets you moving between throwing the ball, resetting the “pins,” and (inevitably) chasing after the ball.
There are many different outdoor bowling sets that you can purchase and bring with you to the park to play, or you can make an easy set yourself. Fill tall bottles with sand or water to weigh them down a bit. Feel free to be creative and make it a park craft activity — use colored water inside the bottles or paint to decorate the outside to make the game more interesting. Just make sure to clean things up properly!
At the park, set up the cans or bottles as the bowling pins, and take turns trying to knock the pins down with a ball. Try a tennis ball, small basketball, or any other type of ball to find what works best for your bowling setup. Take turns keeping score and helping to set up the pins after each round. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
5. Tug of War
An old, classic park game, tug of war is excellent for large groups of any age. All you need for this game is a long rope and a large, grassy area. Mark an area on the ground that will be the middle line and divide your group evenly into two teams. If you have a mix of ages and abilities, put the stronger, older kids on the outside, and younger kids towards the middle.
Once the game begins, everyone pulls as hard as they can on the rope to try to pull the other team across the middle line. A team wins if they can pull the whole other team across.
6. FOLLOW THE LEADER
Follow the leader is another easy park activity for kids that requires no planning ahead or extra supplies. It’s a great game for younger kids and mixed-age groups of friends.
Start by walking around the park with all the children following you. Instruct the participants to copy your every move as you wander the park. Try running, hopping, skipping, or spinning in circles as you walk so that the kids will copy these moves. If you find something interesting to look at, stop to observe, and everyone else will do the same.
Make sure each person gets a chance to be the leader in this fun game, as kids will delight in coming up with their own creative movements that everyone else must do. Be sure to leave room for imaginative play and allow the leader to wander the park while imitating their favorite animal, vehicle, or whatever they want to be. Everyone must copy their movements.
Instead of a long stroll through the park, you can also play “follow the leader” across a field or open area. Everyone stands on one side of the field, and the leader chooses one type of movement to get to the other side. Once across the field, a new leader is chosen, and a new movement gets the group back to the starting side. Continue as many times as necessary to give each leader a tu
7. RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT
Also called traffic lights, in this fun game, one person is chosen to be the traffic light and stands on one side of a field or play area. The rest of the group starts on the other side and watches the traffic light for directions.
When the traffic light calls out “Green light,” all the other players can move toward the other side. Players must stop moving and freeze in place when the traffic light calls out “Red light!” The traffic light can also face the players during a red light and turn their back on the other players during the green light for added excitement.
If anyone is seen moving during a red light, they must go back to the starting point. The first player to reach the other side by the traffic light wins the round and becomes the traffic light for the next round of play. This game is great for younger kids learning to follow directions.
If your favorite park has a large area of pavement or sidewalks, bring some chalk for this classic park game for kids! For the original version of hopscotch, use the chalk to draw a grid of squares on the sidewalk and number them one through nine.
To start the game, toss a small marker — like a rock, beanbag, or small toy — into square one and hop over it, continuing to hop on the rest of the numbers. Turn around and hop back towards the start, picking up your marker on your way back. Hand the marker off to the next player, and on your next turn, throw the marker to the next number.
If a player throws the marker to the wrong number or loses their balance and falls, they’re out of the round. The goal is to complete the whole course with the marker on each number. This is a perfect game to play with kids of all ages — keep the game simple for younger kids, and adjust the challenges for older kids.
You can make endless variations of hopscotch courses, designing spiral shapes instead of the usual linear course of square shapes or creating extra-long courses. Encourage colorful chalk courses or decorate with your own designs instead of numbers. You can adjust the shape and size of the course for younger children and use numbers, letters, shapes, and more to encourage learning as you play.
This makes the classic game more fun for older children. You can also draw a series of squares in a path with directions written inside like “hop on one foot,” “do a little dance,” or “do five jumping jacks.” Set a timer or use a stopwatch, and see who can read and follow all the directions in the fastest time.
9. NATURE-INSPIRED SCAVENGER HUNT
This playground activity takes a little more prep work but is so worth it for the fun kids and their friends will experience. A scavenger hunt is one of the best things to do at the park because it can be an amazing learning exercise for your group.
You can visit the site beforehand to plan out your clues, decide what items the kids should look for, or create lists of more generic items to find, adjusted for the ages and skill levels of your group. Before your park outing, print off your clues or your park scavenger hunt list to hand out to each participant.
Here’s how to make age-appropriate adjustments for a playground scavenger hunt that’s fun for everyone:
- Toddlers and pre-school: For the youngest children, keep your scavenger hunt list and directions simple and easy to follow. Keep list items as generic as possible and include nature items like common local animals, flowers, and playground and park items. Use simple, large words or pictures and have the kids check off their list as they go or mark each found item with a sticker. Alternatively, you can make a list of things the kids can collect and bring back — like rocks, sticks, leaves, flowers, feathers, and more.
- School-age kids: For this age group, you can make your park scavenger list a little more challenging. You can write up clues for each item or list specific items to find, like certain types of trees, flowers, or birds. Have kids write about or draw their found objects or make crayon rubbings of tree bark, leaves, or rocks. For other variations, make an alphabet hunt to find something for each letter of the alphabet, or have children find items beginning with the same letter as their name.
- Tweens and teens: Older children and teens can handle more challenging lists of harder-to-find items like rare plants and animals or more advanced concepts like evidence of animal tracks, burrows, camouflage, and animal relationships. Send teens with digital cameras or smartphones to capture photographic evidence of their findings to share with the group at the end. Alternatively, you can also go ahead of time and hide coins or small objects along a park path and then give clues as to the locations.
Whatever age group you have for your scavenger hunt, be sure to remind everyone not to disturb nature by touching animals, getting in the way of animal families or dangerous animals, touching dangerous plants like poison ivy, or picking or digging up important plant species.
There are many versions of tag, making it the perfect staple for a fun playground activity. This classic game involves one person being “it.” The other participants’ objective is to avoid being tagged by that person. The standard version of tag is generally open-ended, so it can last until the kids get tired or bored and want to move on to another activity.
If you want to make it more of a challenge, you can try other types of tag. Just remember that before you play any version of tag, you should be off and away from all playground equipment to ensure everyone stays safe — an open, flat space free of obstacles is best.
Here are a few tag variations:
- Freeze tag: In freeze tag, the player who’s “it” works to tag the other players, causing them to freeze in place. The frozen players must wait for their teammates to tag them before they can move again. The game ends when everyone is frozen. Make more than one player “it” if you have a large group.
- Chain tag: This version starts with two “it” players. The duo holds hands or links arms to form a chain and stays together as they tag other players and add them to their chain. Once everyone is part of the chain, the game ends.
- Category tag: If you have older children, a game of category show tag can be a fun option. Similar to freeze tag, the “it” player tags the others to freeze them. The player has five seconds to name something in a category to unfreeze and move away from the “it” player. If they fail, they’re frozen and have to wait for a teammate to un-freeze them. Kids can choose any category they want, from animals to movies and TV shows.
- Cops and robbers: This tag variety is ideal for bigger groups. The kids split into two teams — one cops and one robbers. Designate an area of the park to represent the jail. When a cop tags a robber, the robber must wait in the jail until a fellow robber can tag them out. This version ends when all of the robbers end up in jail.
Improve Your Parks and Recreation Playgrounds
Experiencing fresh air and outdoor natural play areas is critical to childhood development, so it’s essential for communities to have usable, versatile green spaces for families to use. A playground can make a community park even more enticing to young families and keep them coming back again and again. Adding to or updating the playground equipment in your park will encourage more visitors to your park and provide many benefits for children and families.
The playground equipment from Little Tikes Commercial blends seamlessly with the natural surroundings of your park and encourages a curiosity and appreciation of nature in little ones. Our playgrounds are inclusive to kids of all abilities and ages and can be designed to meet the needs and budget of any community.
Our designs go beyond simple swings and slides and are designed to spark imagination and creative play. To add our wow factor to your park, check out some of our amazing designs and park ideas, and request a quote for your community. We can transform your park into a destination any family will want to visit.