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20 Nostalgic Playground Games To Introduce To Your Kids

You loved playing them, and now your kids can too! Here’s a collection of fantastic games and what you need to play them!

Matt Harvey


Photo: Getty

The season for being outside is upon us, so it’s the perfect time to dust off some of those games we all played as kids, develop your house rules, and magically melt away the hours before dinner time. Sure video games rock, but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as the “peng” sound of a well-struck rubber playground ball. Here are some super fun games to play outside that are worth being in weather that makes your teeth sweat!

1. Kickball


Photo: Getty

Kickball is like baseball, but instead of using a bat to strike the ball into the outfield, you use your foot! Another big difference is that you can get people out by throwing the ball at them if they aren’t safe on a base.

How to Play Kickball:

  • Set up four bases in a diamond shape. To make the bases, you can use anything you have around — pizza boxes, fabric pieces, random trash; it’s up to you. 

    Each team gets 3 outs per inning (or whatever you decide). The defensive team can achieve an out through pitching strike-outs (kicker fails to kick the ball into the outfield 3 times), catching a kicked ball before it hits the ground, throwing the ball to a base defender before the runner is safely touching the base, tagging a runner directly, or throwing the ball at a runner. 

    Decide how many innings you want to play (each team has a chance at offense), and the team with the highest score of home runs at the end wins.

What you need to play:

Four bases and a rubber playground ball.

2. Four Square


Photo: J F/CC BY-NC 2.0

Four Square is a fast-paced game of ball-bouncing delightfulness.

How to Play Four Square:

  • Draw a 12-by-12-foot square onto your driveway with chalk and divide it into four equal smaller squares, numbered 1-4.

    The main objective of the game is to take the highest-ranked square (number 1) by eliminating the other players. 

    The person in square 4 serves the ball onto the court by bouncing the ball into another player’s square, who has to tap the ball into another player’s square in any order that they want. 

    If a player fails to knock the ball into another player’s square, they are out. If a player strikes the ball into their own square or bounces the ball onto a boundary line, they are out. If a player is out, they exit the court and join the line of folks waiting to play until it’s their turn again. 

    When one player exits, a new player from the line joins the game, taking the position of square 4 — all remaining players rotate to the next numbered square. 

    You can set up house rules like “no hands,” “only feet,” etc. This game is an infinite play game, so everyone's a winner.

What you need to play:

Chalk (or something to mark out the court) and a rubber playground ball.

3. Hide and Seek


Photo: Getty

It’s Hide and Seek! All you need for this is someone to play with and a great place to hide.

How to Play Hide and Seek:

  • Choose a player as “it” and that player counts to 100 with their eyes closed.

    You can decide ahead of time if there is a home base for hiders to run to for safety once they’re discovered by the seeker or if being discovered means you’re out. 

    The objective of the game is for the seeker to find all of the hiders. 

    Once all of those in hiding are found, the game starts again with a new seeker (usually the first person found in the previous round).

4. Sardines


Photo: Getty

Sardines turns Hide and Seek on its head by making “it” the hider and everyone else the seeker. 

How to Play Sardines:

  • One person designated as “it” hides, while all of the other players close their eyes and count to 100. 

    When a seeking player finds a hiding player, they join them in their hiding spot. 

    Once all of the players are packed into the hiding spot, the game is done.

5. Monster


Photo: Getty

Monster is the monstrously fun variation of Hide and Seek where the person that is designated “it” is the monster. 

How to Play Monster:

  • The Monster counts to 100 with their eyes closed and tries to find the hiding players.

    Once the hiding player is discovered, they join the seeker in trying to find the other players.

    The last player to be found is the winner.

6. Tag


Photo: Getty

Tag is basically the most viral game ever. Somebody can start a game by touching you and saying, “You’re ‘it.’” 

How to Play Tag:

  • Tag starts by designating a player to be “it.”

    Once the game has an “it,” the players scatter and run away. Once “it” tags you, you’re “it”!

7. Freeze Tag


Photo: Getty

A variant of Tag that involves freezing in place.

How to Play Freeze Tag:

  • A player is designated as “it.”

    Unlike regular Tag, when you are tagged in this game, you become frozen instead of becoming “it.”

    If you are tagged, you must stand still in place until another player tags you to release you from your freeze.

8. Zombie Tag


Photo: Getty

Zombie Tag is the zombified variation of tag, and it’s really fun!

How to Play Zombie Tag:

  • To play Zombie Tag, a player is designated as “it.”

    The “it” player must move slowly like a zombie as they try to tag the other players.

    Once a player is tagged by the zombie, they become a zombie and join forces with them until all of the players are zombified.

    This is more fun if you go full zombie.

9. Hopscotch


Photo: Getty

Hopscotch is the kind of universally appealing game that makes strangers hop their way through the course if it’s on the sidewalk. 

How to Play Hopscotch:

  • Draw a Hopscotch board on your driveway with chalk. A Hopscotch board consists of 10 numbered squares as in the image above.

    Take a bean bag (or a rock) and toss it onto square 1. If you miss the square, or it lands on the line, you’ve lost your turn.

    Hop over the bean bag on one foot to square 2.

    Hop your way to square 10 alternating between 1 foot hops for single squares and both feet for double squares and the “home” square (square 10).

    Once you make it to square 10, turn around to hop back to square 2 and pick up the bean bag while standing on one foot, then drop it bag on square 3. Repeat the previous pattern eliminating a square at a time.

What you need to play:

Sidewalk chalk and something to toss (bean bag, rock, etc.).

10. Keepy Uppie

This one is super easy to play and more fun than it should be for how simple it is. All you need is a ball or a balloon, and people to play with.

How to Play Keepy Uppie:

  • Toss the ball in the air and don’t let it hit the ground — that’s it.

    The game is more fun if your ball has a more unpredictable flight pattern. I recommend a beach ball, balloon, or an Olly Ball.

What you need to play:

A ball, and people to help you keep it in the air!

11. SPUD


Photo: Getty

Get ready to hear the high pitched “peng” of dominance — it’s time to play SPUD!

How to Play SPUD:

  • The numbered players crowd around “it,” who tosses a ball straight up in the air, while the other players scurry away from the crowd.

    As the tossed ball hits its peak, “it” calls out the number of a scattering player.

    The player whose number is called out has to run back and catch the ball before it hits the ground.

    Once the catcher has caught the ball, they shout “SPUD!” and the other players must freeze in place.

    The player with the ball has to try and hit one of the frozen players with the ball.

    If a player is successfully hit, that player gets a letter (S, P, U, D), and becomes “it” for the next round.

    If the catching player misses their throw, or their target catches it, they become “it” for the next round.

    Once a player gets hit enough times to spell out SPUD — that player is eliminated.

What you need to play:

People and a playground ball.

12. Ghost in the Graveyard


Photo: Getty

Ghost in the graveyard is super fun to play and doesn’t require a graveyard … or an actual ghost.

How to Play Ghost in the Graveyard:

  • Designate your playing field, establish a home base, and select one player to be the “ghost.”

    Everyone except the ghost waits at home base while the ghost runs off to hide within the boundaries of the playing field.

    While the ghost runs off, the remaining players chant together “1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock” and so on, until they reach 12 o’clock, and call out “midnight! I hope I don’t see a ghost tonight!” Then they set out to find the ghost.

    With all of the other players now in the field, it’s the ghost’s job to jump out from their hiding spot and tag an unsuspecting player.

    If a player sees the ghost before they jump out, that player shouts, “Ghost in the graveyard,” and tries to run to home base.

    The ghost then chases after the players and attempts to tag them.

    The player who gets tagged first is the ghost for round 2. If nobody is tagged, then the last player to make it safely home is the ghost.

13. Carnival Can Toss


Photo: Getty

Put your recyclable soup cans to work and play a carnival style “knock-em-down” game.

How to Play Carnival Can Toss

  • Set up your cans (or cups) in a pyramid shape and throw something at them to knock them down. That’s it; that’s the game. 

What you need to play:

Cans, cups or something to knock down and something to knock them down with.

14. Monkey in the Middle


Photo: Getty

Nobody puts Monkey in the middle! Well, actually, to play the game, we’re going have to. 

How to Play Monkey in the Middle:

  • This requires three people — two people for the outside and one person in the middle.

    The players on the outside toss a ball over the head of the player in the middle.

    The player in the middle tries to catch the ball — if they succeed, the person who tossed the ball last becomes the monkey in the middle.

What you need to play:

Three people and one ball.

15. Kick the Can


Photo: Getty

Kick the Can is the ultimate hybrid game of Hide and Seek and Tag. Plus, a can!

How to Play Kick the Can:

  • Define your playing space, decide on a place as a holding area for captured players, and place an empty can in the middle of your field.

    Decide a player or players to be “it.”

    The players designated as “it” will then close their eyes and count to 100 as the other players scatter and hide.

    If a hiding player is discovered and tagged, they will go into the holding area specified at the top of the game.

    If an uncaptured hiding player kicks the can, the captured players are released from holding to hide again.

16. Simon Says


Photo: Stephen Depolo/CC BY 2.0

Simon says — play Simon Says!

How to Play Simon Says:

  • Choose a player to be your “Simon.”

    The chosen “Simon” will command the field to action by saying “Simon says — [action].”

    Once Simon has declared their will, the players must do as Simon says.

    If Simon does not say “Simon says” before they command an action, the action should not be taken.

    If a player completes an action that doesn’t begin with “Simon says,” they are out.

    The game continues until all players are out.

17. Freeze Dance


Photo: Getty

Freeze Dance is super fun, and nobody ever gets “out”!

How to Play Freeze Dance:

  • All you need is a playlist suitable for dancing and something to play it on.

    All of the players dance to the music until the DJ pauses it.

    When the DJ pauses the music, the players must freeze in place.

    If a player fails to freeze in place, they have to do 10 jumping jacks (or whatever fun penalty you choose).

What you need to play:

A playlist of dance jams and something to play it on.

18. Musical Chairs


Photo: Getty

A classic party game of dancing and furniture rearranging!

How to Play Musical Chairs:

  • Start with the same amount of chairs as you have players. Place the chairs back to back in the center of the room.

    Designate a DJ to play a song for a bit while the players circle the chairs. The DJ should pause the music intermittently.

    When the music is paused, the players rush to sit in the chairs. Each time the music is paused, a chair is removed from the game.

    Whoever is unable to sit in a chair when the music stops is out.

    The one seated player when there’s only one chair left is the winner!

What you need to play:

Something to play music, people, and the same amount of chairs as you have people.

19. Marbles

Oh no, I’ve lost my marbles — and you will too!

How to Play Marbles:

  • First, draw a circle in the dirt or with chalk in the driveway.

    Set up your marbles in the shape of a plus sign in the center of your playing circle.

    Decide who’s going to shoot first and that person will place their knuckle on the ground and shoot their “shooter” marble at the smaller marbles, attempting to knock them outside of the circle, whilst trying to keep their “shooter” marble inside the circle.

    The knocked out marbles are then collected by the shooter for one point each, and it’s the next player’s turn.

    Play until all smaller marbles have been knocked out of the circle — the person with the most marbles at the end, wins.

    Decide ahead of time if you’re just playing for points or for keepsies. If you’re playing for keepsies, the winner of the game gets to keep all of the marbles that they knocked out. That’s where the saying “this one’s for all the marbles” came from!

What you need to play:

Marbles, two larger sized “shooter” marbles and at least two people.

20. Hand-Clap Games

Finally, these games are super fun and will instantly give you those summer camp nostalgia vibes. Hand-Clap games involve patterns of claps paired with songs like Pat-a-Cake or Miss Mary Mack. When I was a kid, we played one called “rum macaroni” and I remember loving it.