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Before the days of tablets and smartphones, kids spent most of the day outside, especially in the summer. If they ran inside for a drink of water or a quick snack, they heard the refrain, "Go outside and play!" Classic playground games gave kids plenty to do during recess and on long summer afternoons, and they're still fun to play today.



Hide and Seek

You can play Hide and Seek inside or outside. To play, one person closes their eyes and counts while everyone else hides. When the counter reaches the number the players agreed on, they open their eyes and search for the other players. The first person who's found is the person who is the seeker for the next round. The last person who's found is the winner of the round. If the seeker gives up, they can end the round by calling out, "Come out, come out, wherever you are!"

Four Square

Four square is a playground game that requires a ball and a large square on the ground that's divided into four smaller squares, labeled from one to four. The game starts with one player standing in each square. The goal is to reach square four and stay there as long as possible. To begin, the person in square four serves the ball by bouncing it in their square and bumping it, underhanded, to the diagonal square. If the ball bounces outside the square, the person who passed it is out. But if the ball bounces in the square and that player can't hit it back or hits it into their own square, they're out. Everyone else moves up, and someone else who wants to play goes into square one.


Hopscotch is a fun, active game that requires agility. You can make a hopscotch court with chalk on the playground or sidewalk or with tape if you're inside. Nine squares lead up to a tenth spot, a large half-circle. The first three squares are in a straight line pointing toward the tenth space. Four and five are side-by-side, six is alone, seven and eight are side-by-side, and nine is alone, beneath ten. To play, toss an object, like a beanbag, into the first square, then leap over it to the second square, landing on one foot, and jump on up to ten. You may use both feet when the numbers are side-by-side. At ten, turn around and hop back, scooping up the beanbag as you pass. When it's your turn again, toss the beanbag to the second square and skip it, continuing the pattern to ten. You're out if your bag doesn't land on the correct square or you miss a step.


child jump roping



Jump Rope and Double Dutch

To jump rope, two people face one another and rhythmically spin a long rope. The rope should touch the ground in the center, so the jumper or jumpers can jump over it. If the rope hits a jumper, they're out. In double Dutch, the people on the ends spin two ropes in opposite directions. Jump rope works best on a playground or in a driveway with lots of space.


To play Jacks, you need a ball and a set of jacks. Several people can play together, or one person can play alone. To play, you toss the ball in the air, grab one jack, and catch the ball with the same hand before it bounces twice. Then, it's another person's turn. In round two, you grab two jacks, and so on.

Red Light, Green Light

Red Light, Green Light requires one person to be the traffic light and the rest of the players to stand in a line facing them. The traffic light turns so their back is to the other players. Then, the traffic light calls "Green light!" The other players can now move forward, until the traffic light turns to face them and calls "Red light!" On this command, the other players must freeze in place. Anyone who moves has to go back to the starting line. Then, the traffic light turns back around and calls "Green light!" again. The game goes on like this until someone reaches the traffic light: That person becomes the traffic light for the next round.

Mother, May I

In Mother, May I, one child is the Mother, while the rest of the kids go to the end of the field, driveway, or playground and face the Mother. They each ask to take a certain number of steps, jumps, or leaps forward. For instance, you might say, "Mother, may I take three giant steps?" If the Mother agrees, you move three giant steps closer to the Mother. The Mother can also say no. The person to reach the Mother first is the winner and the next Mother.

Simon Says

Simon Says is a great game to help you practice your listening skills. The person who is Simon suggests a series of things that everyone else has to do, like touch your ear, stand on your right foot, sit down, spin around, or walk like an elephant. But if Simon doesn't say "Simon says" before giving the order, anyone who follows the direction is out.


The game Tag dates back to ancient Greece. One person is It, and they chase the other players until they tap one of them. The person they tapped becomes It. This game has lots of fun variations, like Freeze Tag and Dead Ant Tag.

Marco Polo

Named after the famous explorer, Marco Polo is a version of Tag played in the water. One person plays the role of Marco Polo. They count to ten, sometimes underwater, but always with their eyes shut. Still with their eyes closed, they try to tag someone. To help them find someone to tag, they yell "Marco!" Then, they listen carefully while everyone else yells "Polo!" This continues until the person who's Marco catches someone, and that person then becomes the new Marco.


Spud requires a ball and a large open space. All of the players count off so that everyone has a number. Then, one person throws the ball up into the air and shouts a number. Whoever is that number rushes to catch the ball, while everyone else runs away from it. When the person catches the ball, they shout "Spud!" and everyone must freeze. The person with the ball then chooses another player, takes three steps closer to them, and tries to hit them with the ball. If they miss or the person they threw the ball at catches it, they get the letter "S" in "spud." If they hit the target, that person gets the letter "S." Either way, the person who just threw the ball now throws it up into the air and shouts a different number to continue the game. When you have all four letters in "spud," you're out. The last person who hasn't spelled "spud" is the winner.

Red Rover

This classic game is best played with a big group. First, you split up into two groups. The two groups stand facing each other, and they each hold hands and form a line. Then, one team calls for a player from the other team to come over by saying, "Red Rover, Red Rover, send [name] over." When you're called, you run toward the other chain and try to break through it. If you break through the chain, you get to bring one of the two players you broke apart back to your line with you. If the chain doesn't break, you become part of it. Then, it's the other team's turn to call someone over. The game ends when there's only one chain left.


To play Marbles, start by drawing a large circle on the ground, about 3 feet across. Grab your shooter marble (which is larger than the others), and then put five to ten of the smaller marbles in the center of the circle. When it's your turn, kneel outside of the circle and flick your shooter marble toward the marbles in the circle to knock them out. If you knock one out, you keep it and get another turn. If you don't, you leave your shooter marble in the ring and it's another player's turn. The winner is the person with the most marbles at the end of the game.

Edited by: Ben Thompson