Fun Games to Play Outside

Sports are not for everyone. We encourage people to be physically active but it doesn’t always have to be through sports and exercise. Sometimes, and especially with kids. The best way to get moving is through these Fun Games you can play outside.

We compiled a list of 12 engaging games that are not too competitive, require very minimal equipment and can be played almost anywhere.

These games are not entirely new. Sports and Exercise Dev SA did not invent them. In fact, you may already know some of these games by a different name. If that’s the case, please let us know in the comment section below. There are different versions of these games across the world.  If you know any of them or even similar games. We would really like to know the name of the games as they are played universally.

1. Touch

Touch A circular sprinting fun game that can be played outside by 10 or more players at a time.

Player’s seat around in a circle facing each other.

One player walks around the circle behind the seating players and taps any player of the seating players on their shoulder and immediately starts running around the circle.

The player whose shoulder is tapped stands up and immediately runs after the first player in an attempt to catch that player. The two players chase after each other around the circle.

The goal of the Runner is to get to where the chaser was seated. The goal of the chaser is to catch the runner before he gets there.

If the runner is caught he goes around again to tap another player. If not, the chaser has to go around and tap another player on their shoulder. And the game continues.

2. Three Sticks

Another fun game that can be played outside by teens and adults is three sticks.

What you will need:

•          Three sticks of similar length or anything that might surface;

•          Any number of players is acceptable (provided order is maintained).

•          An open field the size of a basketball court or bigger.

•          How to Play

Each player gets a chance to run and jump over each of the three sticks individually in one swift run. How they jump over the sticks depends on the age of the players.

Toddlers, for example may pause before a jump over each stick. Adults are likely not to.  

How far a player lands after jumping the last stick marks the position the stick will be moved. The players will each jump over the sticks in one direction, then again in the opposing direction. The only sticks that are moved are the two outer sticks.

A player who cannot jump as far as where the last tick was moved gets eliminated. This way the number of players will decrease until one player remains. This last player remaining wins the game.

A player gets eliminated if they step on any of the three sticks. The players should ideally be of the same age group.

3. Hop Scotch (Hoping over scotched (scored) lines)

This is a fun game played outside in which a player, hopping on one foot, drives a stone from one compartment to another of a figure traced or scotched on the ground.

What you need
  • A stick or
  • Chalk to mark or draw the hopscotch.

How we play it

Using a stick or chalk, scratch a numbered hopscotch pattern of 10 compartments on a 3-5m length of bare ground or chalk it in a pavement.

Standing in front of space one, toss a stone into it. Hop on one foot into space 1, pick up the stone and hop back to the starting point.

Now toss the stone into space 2, hop into space 1 then 2; retrieve the stone and hop back to the starting point, one space at a time. Continue this routine until you reach space 10; from there hop back, one space at a time, to space 1.

You lose your turn to an opponent if the stone doesn’t land on the proper compartment when tossed; if you put both feet down; or if your foot or the stone lands on a line.

After your opponents have all had their turns, pick up where you left of.

The first player to make a round trip wins.

Worldwide there are many variations of this game and the scotch is drawn differently. This is how we play it.

4. Sack race

A race in which competitors stand inside of large sacks or similar items and try to be the first to jump to the finish line.

Participants place both of their legs inside a sack or pillowcase that reaches their waist or neck and hop forward from a starting point toward a finish line. The first person to cross the finish line is the winner of the race [1].

Sack racing is traditionally seen as an activity for children, but people of any age can compete. In schools, the sack race often takes place on a Sports Day, alongside numerous other events such as the egg and spoon race [1].

5. Egg race

Speaking of the egg and spoon race. This fun outdoor game is also simply known as an Egg race and as the name suggests. This too is a racing game.

An egg-and-spoon race is a game in which participants must balance an egg or similarly shaped item upon a spoon and race with it to the finishing line.

It’s a delicate game of balancing and running. Or sometimes walking and turning around in circles when toddlers play the game as they focus their attention on the egg trying not to drop it.  If the egg falls from the spoon then competitors may be required to stop, retrieve, and reposition their egg; or to start again, or may even be disqualified.

For an extra challenge, contestants might carry the spoon with both hands, with their teeth, or have their hands tied behind their backs. A variant of this sport played in India uses lemon instead of an egg and often has the participant hold the spoon in the mouth [2].

6. Limbo

This is a fun game played by taking turns crossing under a horizontal bar, stick or rope. The rope is lowered with each round, and the game is won by the player who passes under the rope or bar in the lowest position.

Limbo is actually defined as a dance in most parts of the world. The dance is said to have originated as an event that took place at wakes in Trinidad and Tobago, and was popularized by dance pioneer Julia Edwards.

We have adopted this dance and turned it into game. This game is very popular among young people who say that they do like high jump.

A horizontal bar, known as the limbo bar, is placed atop two vertical bars. All contestants must attempt to go under the bar with their backs facing toward the floor. Whoever knocks the bar off or falls is eliminated from the contest [3]. When passing under the bar, players must bend backward. No part of their bodies is allowed to touch the bar and no part other than their feet may touch the ground. After everyone has completed their turns, the bar is lowered slightly and the contest continues. The contest ends when only one person can get under. When there is one person left the game is over [3].

7. Skipping

What you’ll need
  • Skipping rope

This is a “Jumping over a rope” game played by a minimum of three people with no defined limit. Provided order is maintained during the game.

You might know a simpler version of the game. In this version, two players, referred to as swingers henceforth tend the rope on each end. A third player, referred to as the skipper going forward stands in between the swingers and skips as the swingers swing the rope. This is the basics of how this game is played.

There are variations of this game across the world. The most popular, while I was growing up, was the “Calendar of the Year” skipping game.

How to Play

To play the game all the players sing while taking turns jumping past the rope.

The song as I remember it was “The month of the year, Calendar 2000, are January, February, March and so on. With each month a player runs into the center of the rope, Jumps over the rope and exits the other side. Another player follows that player and another and another.

This is ideal if you have a large crowd of players.

A player who is hit by the by the rope has to relieve one of the swingers while the relieved player is given an opportunity to skip.

The game can go on for as long as the players want is to go. At the end of that year another year begins. I’ve seen players play this game from the year 2000 until 2030.

Another variation of this game, for a smaller crowd this time, is “Name Spelling”. During this variation, the player skipping in the middle has to perform different styles of skipping over the rope while they spell names. Initially, that player spells their own name.

The swingers take turns to give the spelling instructions to the skipper.  

A style of skipping may not be repeated unless that player comes around for the second time. At that point they are given a different name to spell. At times the player is not a name but something else that relates to them, like their birth month or mothers name.

A player who is hit by the rope or gets any spelling wrong has to relieve one of the swingers.

8. Eggy

What you’ll need
  • A softball (we used a tennis ball)
  • An open playing field

Eggy is a running and aiming game played by more than two players at a time.

Each player is assigned a number. These numbers are successive starting from zero. This means that if there are 10 players the last number will be 10. Each player’s number is known to the rest of the players.

At the beginning of the game, the players choose numbers. Usually, the player who initiates the game is number one. The other players pick their numbers by shouting them out to the rest of the crowd. A player cannot pick a number that has already been picked. The last player to pick a number, in our example, player 10, becomes the thrower.

How to play

All the players stand inside a drawn circle big enough to fit all the players. Number 10 has the position of the ball. To initiate the game number 10 throws the ball up vertically above the circle as high as possible while calling out a number assigned to any of the other players (let’s say the number 7 is called). 

Number 7 has to catch the ball while the other players flee off the circle as far as they can run.

If Player 7 catches the ball before it hits the ground. S/he can immediately throw the ball up and call out a different number, then flee off the circle.

If player 7 does not catch the ball immediately. S/he should shout as STOP as soon as they gain the position of the ball. 

All players should immediately stop when player 7 touches the ball. They will know this because player 7 will shout STOP once s/he gains the position of the ball.

Now in the position of the ball player 7 will attempt to hit any of the other players with the ball. Who should still be in still?

None of the players are allowed to dark the ball.

A player who is hit becomes the thrower

If player 7 misses at first. S/he still has an opportunity to track the ball and attempt to hit any player before they enter the circle.

If no player is hit. Player 7 becomes a thrower.

The players can play the game for as long as they wish. Any new joining player becomes a thrower.

9. Hide and seek

What you will need
  • Willing players

We call this game “black mampatile”. It is a hide and seek game perfect for the hours towards dusk. The game is even more exciting when played outdoor but can also be played indoors.

The game can be played by a minimum of 2 players but ideally there should be more than 10 at a time. The more players there are the more fun the game will be.

The game

One player becomes the seeker and is usually assigned a structure (wall, street light, or the kitchen door) depending on the environment.

The seeker will stand against that structure covering their eyes while the other players run out to hide. Again there are variations of this game.

Most of the time we played this game outdoors. The seeker would stand against a structure and continuously communicate with the players hiding by shouting “Mkuku” and the hiding players would respond by shouting “mayi” (which translates to eggs).

As the sound of the hiding players slowly fades, the seeker will ask “tsekai” (How many? In Sotho) and the hiding players would shout back a number. Usually less than 20. Then the seeker will count to that specified number and before he or she goes out and seek the other players. 

Once the seeker has spotted someone. S/he has to go back to the structure, if not there already and shout the name of the person they have spotted as well as where that person is hiding. For example, “I’ve spotted Thando at the back of the room”

A player caught first becomes the seeker.

Players can immunize themselves from becoming seekers by touching the structure before they are spotted.

This game usually has a lot of shouting and running.

You might also want to read about How Schools can Fund-raise for Physical Education and Sport

10. Mississipi

What you’ll need

•          Old panty hose or

•          Light long string

I have always known this game to be played with old pantyhose because of their elasticity and how safe pantyhose are to the skin.

The pantyhose is made into a long string by tying together its pieces. Once the players feel that the string is long enough they join the two ends. Generally the more players there are, the longer the “Umgusha” will be.

How to play

Two players tend the string on opposite ends. These two players, let’s call them tenders, stand inside the string and will have the string on different parts of their body as the game progresses.

This one is a bit complicated. It will make sense towards the end.

The tenders first have the string around their ankles. Then the knees. Then thighs, waist and higher. These are different stages. Once a player gets past the head level. The game gets even more challenging.

At that point, a combination of levels is then introduced. For example, one side of the string could be at the shoulder level and the other held at the hip. This would mean that the two ends of the rope are no longer at the same height. One side would be higher.

Each player has to perform their jumps without tearing the string or missing a jump. The jumps are as follows:

One leg in between the strings then back out;

Then both legs and then back out;

Then a “fish” cross jump. The player has to cross the ropes by hooking one string over to the other string. At the end of this jump the player should be standing in the middle of the two now crossed strings;

The last jump is a jump over the strings and a jump back.

A player has to perform these jumps to progress the different stages.

If a player misses a jump they forfeit their turn and give other players a chance. A player who has progressed the furthest at the end of the game wins the game.  

11. Chicago (Thin and ball game)

What you’ll need

•          A soft ball fitting comfortably in one hand or a tennis ball;

•          Six or more tins or buckets, one bigger than the other;

•          A lime marker to mark the running end line;

•          Two teams of equal sides

How to Play
The offending team

The offending team attempts to pile up the tins or buckets while avoiding getting hit with the ball by the defending team. If the offending team is able to pile up the six tins without getting hit by the defending team, the whole team runs to the end line and attempts to hit the six tins with the ball to get a team point.

If they are successful they get a team point, then turn over the ball to the other team. If they are not successful they turn the ball over to the defending team.

The defending team

The defending team attempts to eliminate the offending team by trying to hit each of them with the ball. They can pass the ball to each other at any time during the game. Each time a team member is hit with the ball they are eliminated. If the defending team is able to eliminate all the offending team players they get a chance to offend and attempt to get a team point.

Do not hit too hard with the ball. The defending team must keep the ball in circulation at all times. The offending team must not take too long to stack up the tins or buckets. Otherwise, they forfeit their turn. The tins should be stacked at the center each time. A player who runs too far from the playing field is eliminated.

12. Cat cradle

•          (1.8) meters of string

•          Or Yarn tied at the ends

How to Play

The basic cat’s cradle is made by passing the string behind the backs of both thumbs and little fingers (but in front of your other fingers) while holding palms parallel.

Draw your hands apart so that the string is taut, then bring your palms back together so that the string loosens. Insert your right index finger under your left palmar string (the string lying in front of your left palm). Do the same with your left index finger and your right palmar string.

Finally draw your palms apart, tightening the string, and there you have it.

Working with the same string, you can make endless variations of this basic design. Use your imagination and experiment. It can be lots of fun.

Try to preserve the string without tearing it throughout the game.

In some part of the world, some of these games are defined as indigenous games. How many of them are indigenous to where you are in the world? Which game does like most?

We work with young people and need feedback to improve their experiences with physical activity. If you’re older, do you think that today’s generation would be fond of these games just as you were at some point in your life? Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section below. Don’t forget that sharing is caring. Subscribe for more content. Until next time. Keep Moving.

Now Read about Exercising Outdoors in Jozi

References
[1] Wikipedia Contributors, “Sack race,” 7 February 2018. [Online]. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sack_race.
[2] Wikipedia Contributers, “Egg-and-spoon race,” Wikipedia, 4 March 2019. [Online]. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg-and-spoon_race. [Accessed 04 May 2019].
[3] Wikipedia Contributers, “Limbo (dance),” Wikipedia, 27 February 2019. [Online]. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limbo_(dance). [Accessed 04 May 2019].
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Thando W. Dlamini, BA

Sport Development and Exercise Science Practitioner

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