You’re It! Outdoor Games for Kids

Summer is in full swing. School is a distant memory. Pants are buried in the bottom of the drawer in favor of shorts and bathing suits. My family consists on a diet of primarily hot dogs and ice cream. We have been to a few parties which end up with a large group of multi-age kids in a grassy area, crying out for some kind of organized activity. My goal is always to have kid-only activity – I typically don’t want to be the all-time pitcher or rule police. I find it works much more smoothly if the kids are left to regulate their own games.

Anyway, a few times this summer I have found myself suggesting games to the kids – Kick the Can, Spud, etc. and get halfway through explaining, when my memory fails me. When do you get a letter?  How do you win? Who’s out? This is when the troops get restless and I am back to being all-time pitcher. My kids are tired of Red Light Green Light, so I thought I would do some research and find out how exactly you play all of those games I remember so fondly from childhood. Here are a few:


Every player gets a number. Someone throws the ball up and calls a number. Whoever has that number has to run to the ball, catch it and say “Spud,” while everyone else runs as far away as they can. The person who’s “it” (whose number was called) takes 3 giant steps towards any direction, and tries to hit someone with the ball (Note – use a soft ball. I have memories of day camp and getting slammed with a red rubber dodge ball).The person can try to dodge the ball but can’t move their feet. If they get hit, they get a letter – S (P. U. D. etc.). If they catch the ball, or the “it” person misses, the “it” person gets the letter. Whoever didn’t ge tthe letter throws the ball up and calls a different number. The first person to get SPUD loses.

Sharks and Minnows

1-3 people are the sharks. The sharks line up at one end of the field, yard, etc. Everyone else (the minnows) lines up shoulder to shoulder across from the sharks, at the other end. At “go,” everyone starts running – the non-sharks want to make it to the other end without the sharks catching them. (Yet another note – proper footwear recommended – especially when played on a hard surface. Definitely don’t try it on a tennis court in flip flops like my son who regularly tore up his knees last summer.) If you’re caught you either become seaweed (you sit down and try to catch people during the next round), and if you are a shark, you try and tag people with them during the next round. The shark who catches you calls out “seaweed” or “shark” when they catch you. The last person wins and they are the shark for the next round, and they can pick one or two others to be sharks with them. The game then starts over.

Red Rover

Two teams line up opposite each other and each team holds hands. One team starts and calls someone over from the other team – “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Jimmy over.” Jimmy then runs as fast as he can and tries to break through the linked arms of the other team. If he breaks through, he goes back to his old team, if he doesn’t, he stays with the other team. When all the people are in one team, the game ends.

Kick the Can (this looks complex initially, but read it through a few times and it can easily be explained to kids – worth it – totally fun):

You get an old coffee can (who has this anymore? a Starbucks cup will not work)  or ball and put it in the middle of a large area because this is base. One person is it. The rest of the crowd must go and hide. The object of the game is for the “it” person to SEE you, not necessarily tag you. He/she must call your name and say; “I see Susie behind the tree.” At that point, Susie must run to base. But, if it isn’t Susie, and maybe it is Joe, then Joe does not have to come out of hiding and the “it” person must assume they guessed the name wrong. If Susie is captured, she must stay near the base in the designated “prison.” (Don’t you love these old games? So NOT-PC.)

Now the crowd is not allowed to stay in one spot…they must move around without being caught. The “it” person can venture away from the can as far as he/she wants, but he/she risks someone running to the can and kicking it which frees everyone that the “it” person has captured. But, if the “it” person tags the free-er before they reach the can then they are captured too. 

The object is to see or tag everyone without a free-er letting all the prisoners go. If someone kicks the can, the “it” person must count to 100 while everyone scatters and hides again. Everyone that is captured and standing around the can waiting to be freed can look for any remaining crowd members and guide him/her on when is a good time to come and free them. They can also make a chain in order for the free-er to reach them faster, but beware, because if the “it” person sees you making a chain, then usually he/she can see you and call out your name, thus ending the game. The first one captured is then “it.”  

Wink Murder (again, talk about not-PC – this however is my 8-year old’s current favorite game – she just explained it to me)

Someone is it – everyone else is sitting is a circle with their eyes closed. The “it” person person walks around the circle and taps two people on the head – one tap means you’re the detective, two taps means you’re the wink murderer. The “it” person says “up” when both people are picked. If you’re the detective, you stand up in the middle of the circle and guess who the wink murderer is. If you are the wink murderer, you try and wink at people without the detective seeing you. If you get winked at, you’re dead (lie down). The detective gets three guesses. If she/he runs out of guesses, the wink murderer wins.

Seven Up

(This is for a big group). Seven players stand in front of the group. The group must sit down and put their heads down with their eyes closed. The seven in front go around and each touch one person. That person would then stick his or her thumb up. After seven people have been touched, the seven choosers go back to the front of the room. Then the seven would say “Heads up seven up” and each “touched” person gets one chance to guess which of the seven touched him/her. If they guess right then they get to change places with that person. If they did not guess right, then the same person gets to stay up do it again.

 Four Corners

Pick a big space with four corners (you can mark the corners with something – a ball, box, paper plate, etc.) and designate Corner 1, Corner 2, Corner 3 and Corner 4. Four people are it – they cover their eyes and everyone else has 10 seconds to run to any corner. Anywone who hasn’t made it to a corner in those ten seconds is out. One of the it people (eyes still closed) then calls a Corner, ie “Corner 3!” All of the people at that corner are out. The next “it” person then calls another corner, and those people are out, etc. When there is one corner left, all of those people get to be it for the next game.

I think I want to have an adult party with some of these games – Red Rover anyone?

Did I miss any of your favorites? Let me know!

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Rachael Ray