Fun Games to Play at the Park
Everyone’s got their favorite game to play 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, extracurricular activities and more — not to mention all of the enticing television shows, video games and social media apps beckoning for their attention. But 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 good for everyone’s health, and playtime helps children develop important social skills, problem-solving skills, motor skills, self-regulation and more.
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 ahead for fun 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 games from your childhood to your kids, or if you’re ready for some fresh park activities ideas, check out this list of fun games to try. Your family might just find some new favorites!
Hide and Seek
One of the oldest and most classic games 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 is great for small children practicing counting their numbers and can 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 hide and seek, to keep the game interesting:
- Sardines: In this fun twist that reverses the roles of the hide and seek players, only one player hides 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: A great animal-based version that’s ideal for younger kids, in sheep and wolf, one person is selected to be the wolf and hides, while all of the sheep close their eyes. Once the wolf is ready, they let out a howl, and the sheep can then open their eyes. If any of the sheep spot the wolf, they can call out and alert the other sheep. All sheep must make it to a pre-determined home base without being tagged by the wolf. If a sheep is tagged, they become the wolf in the next round of play.
- Messenger: This version combines basic hide and seek with another childhood classic game — telephone. In messenger, the person designated as “it” comes up with a short message while the others hide. When the time is up, the seeker goes looking for other players and when one is found, whispers the 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 games with the kids. 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 get 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 that 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 that 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 as singles, doubles or teams, 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 wind can carry the lightweight birdies easily and affect the gameplay.
Bring all the fun of the bowling alley outside to the park! There are many different outdoor bowling sets that you can purchase and bring with you to the park to play, or you can go the DIY route and make an easy set yourself. Use tall cans or bottles and fill with sand or water to weigh them down a bit. Get creative and make it a craft project for the kids — use colored water inside the bottles or paint to decorate the outside to make the game more interesting.
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.
Tug of War
An old, classic park game, tug of war is great 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 outsides, 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.
Follow the Leader
Follow the leader is another easy park activity that requires no planning ahead or extra supplies. It’s a great game for younger kids and mixed-age groups. 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. Encourage 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 turn.
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 towards 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 green light for added excitement.
If any of the players are caught 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 with for this classic park game! To play the original version of hopscotch, draw a simple grid of squares on the sidewalk with your chalk, and number your squares 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 are out of the round. The goal is to complete the whole course with the marker on each number. This is a great game to play with kids of all ages — keep the game simple for younger kids, and adjust the challenges for older kids. 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.
You can make endless variations of hopscotch courses, designing spiral shapes instead of the usual linear course of square shapes, or extra-long courses too. 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.
This idea takes a little more prep work but is so worth it for the fun experiences. You can either visit the site beforehand to plan out your clues or decide what items the kids should look for, or you can create lists of more generic items to find, adjusted for 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 — for example, “tree” instead of “oak tree” or “bird” instead of “robin.” Include nature items like common local animals, flowers and insects, and playground and park items like benches, slides, swings and more. Use simple, large words for early readers or pictures for toddlers. 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, providing more specific items to find, like certain types of trees, flowers or birds. You could also write up clues for each item instead of providing a list for an added challenge. Have kids write about or draw their found objects, or make crayon rubbings of items like 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 much more challenging lists of harder-to-find items like more rare plants and animals or more advanced concepts like evidence of animal tracks, burrows, camouflage, animal relationships and more. 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 to not 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.
Parks and Recreation Playgrounds
Fresh air and nature play are critical to childhood development, so it’s important 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 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 all 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.