Fun and Educational Playground Games for Kids

Unstructured, outdoor play is a great form of exercise and fun for kids. It promotes their well-being and aids their overall physical development. Being outside allows children to explore their environment, learn about nature, foster fine and gross motor skills and develop strength and coordination. When many adults think back to their childhood, they remember the good old days of playing at a local playground for hours on end.

At Playworld, we understand that play is essential for learning. We want children to grow up with the same nostalgia and have fond memories of playing outdoors with their friends, seeing who can swing the highest or hang on to the monkey bars the longest. Through play, children learn valuable life lessons including problem-solving, sportsmanship and getting along with others. They can also develop leadership skills and enhance their creativity. Language development is also strengthened as children interact and play with others. This is especially important for young children as they develop their skills to climb, balance, run, reach, crawl and grasp.

Check out our list of popular and fun playground games and team-building activities below.

How Outdoor Playground Games Benefit Young Children

In today’s society, playing outdoors is as essential as learning new technologies. Parents and educators must find a balance so one doesn’t overshadow the other. The playground is the last sacred space where kids can play and parents can feel comfortable.

We want your children to have as many opportunities to play as possible in our high-tech society, even though it sometimes seems easier to turn on a computer than put on a pair of tennis shoes and play at a playground. While unstructured play is vital to a child’s development, preschool-aged children can also benefit from having a little guidance on occasion while being outdoors.

2-red-rover-gameBesides providing exercise and fresh air, play — both structured and unstructured play — can also:

  • Builds on basic social and academic skills
  • Allows children to gain a sense of self as they conquer new skills such as climbing a rock wall or navigating through a log tube
  • Aid in the successful development of the body, brain and intellect
  • Promotes brain development and physical success
  • Gives children a chance to test, explore and expand the boundaries of a growing body

In fact, early childhood playground games are one of the best ways to develop executive function skills — including the ability to handle multiple streams of information simultaneously, revise tasks when needed and control impulses. Hop Scotch, Red Rover and Red Light-Green Light are classic early childhood games that help kids develop the skills they need to succeed in school and life.

Fun Playground Games for Kids

Playground and outdoor games for kids include activities for a small group of children as well as games meant for an entire class. Some games don’t require any equipment at all, while others can be played on playground structures.

Independent Play

Independent play can be just as important as social play. An excellent way to promote this is to first involve your child in a playground activity that he or she loves. Once fully engaged, it’s OK to step a few feet away. A child will let you know when they are bored or uncomfortable. Increase your mental and physical distance over a few days or weeks. Some great solo outside playground games for kids to play are:

Word Games and Creative Activities

Play is crucial in the development of imagination, intelligence and language. As kids explore different types of play on the playground with their peers, they develop social and communication skills. Examples of creative or word-focused games you may want to try include:

  • Rhyming games: Classic childhood songs like “Ring-Around-the-Rosie” and “Eeny, Meenie, Minie, Moe” help children learn about the patterns and structures of spoken and written words — even if they can’t read yet. Rhyming can also teach kids about word families and breaking words down into more recognizable parts.
  • Games promoting fine motor skills: Build motor skills like grasping by encouraging children to color with chalk. Games with jumping, balancing, throwing and catching can also help build kids’ motor skills and physical abilities.
  • Vocabulary games: Playtime is a good time to introduce new words to kids and increase their vocabulary. Point out different actions they’re doing, such as swinging, flipping or climbing so they can associate the action with this new word.

Math Games

Kids are natural mathematicians. They push, pull, stack, knock down, fill and empty their toys all the time. These activities allow children to experience the math concepts of spatial awareness, measurement and problem-solving. Some fun yet educational math playground games for kids include:

  • Learning shapes: Encourage kids to find shapes on the playground or in the clouds in the sky. You could also use sidewalk chalk to have kids draw different shapes or pictures.
  • Counting: Use playground equipment like jump-ropes to practice counting, or explore the playground area and count different objects such as flowers, trees, animals and more.
  • Measuring: For kids who understand and can identify numbers, practice measuring on the playground. Measure the distance between different pieces of playground equipment, or use measuring cups to measure sand, water or dirt nearby.
  • Timing: Timing can become a fun playground game as kids can take turns in a challenge and see who can do it the longest or fastest. For example, count along out loud as kids try various activities like hanging from the monkey bars or running from one point to another.
  • Sorting and categorizing: Sorting and categorizing tasks like finding several of the same flower or leaves and organizing playground toys by size, color or shape are great for teaching kids about grouping and sorting.

Classic Playground Games

When encouraging kids to play on a playground, don’t forget the classics. After all, some of the best playground games are the ones that have been around for decades. Suggest the following games to play on the playground:

  • Four square: Four square is a fun game with relatively simple rules. Kids can enjoy friendly competition and try to maintain their spot in the game. This game is better suited for smaller groups since only four kids can play at a time.
  • Red light green light: Red light green light is perfect for a larger group. One kid keeps their back to the group and calls out “green light” while the rest of the kids begin to move. The caller can then quickly turn around and yell “red light,” and any kid that is still moving must start at the beginning. The first person to reach the caller then gets to become the caller and the game restarts.

Teamwork Games for Kids

Teamwork is a valuable lesson and an essential skill for kids to learn. Fun team-building activities for kids make learning communication skills and ways to support peers feel like play instead of a lesson. Students will be excited to engage in school playground games and not even realize they are developing valuable life skills.

Find playground games to build teamwork below and introduce them to kids as activities that develop useful skills.

Hopscotch Relay

Put a teamwork twist on traditional hopscotch. Split kids into two or more teams depending on the size of your group. Make sure each group has its own hopscotch court.

You’ll start by giving each group a beanbag to toss. One by one, kids will throw the beanbag to a spot on the hopscotch court. They then have to hop down the course and back, landing on every spot except the one the beanbag landed on. On their way back, they must also pick up the beanbag while still skipping the number it landed on. When they get back to start, they pass the beanbag to someone else and head to the back of the line. The team that has all its members go through the course first wins.

If you need to, you can add more rules to make the game challenging. For example, if a child accidentally jumps on the spot where they threw their beanbag, they have to start over. A hopscotch relay shows kids the importance of trying their hardest when they’re on a team to help their group members be successful.

Red Rover

Red Rover is a group game fitting for a single class or two classes playing against each other. With this game, kids will learn the importance of working together to win or accomplish a common goal. To play, you need a large area, such as a sports field.

Team 1 lines up on one side of the field, with Team 2 on the opposite side. Everyone holds hands while in the line. The first team yells, “Red Rover, Red Rover send (child’s name) over!” The named child needs to get across the field and attempt to break through the line of the other team. If they break through, they can return to their team. If not, they are now part of the other team.

Group Jump-Rope

Outdoor team-building games for kids get them moving and working together — much like jumping rope does. This simple activity works either as a fun way to get moving or as a friendly competition.

Have two adults or older kids hold the ends of a long rope. A group of a few kids then line up between them, ready to jump. The rope holders will swing the rope at a decent pace, and each team will jump for as long as they can. Once a team messes up, it’s the next team’s turn. Teams will take turns trying to achieve the highest score, beating the other teams.

This game inspires kids to encourage each other to try their best as they jump. It also teaches children that teamwork helps everyone succeed, as they can only continue jumping rope if everyone on their team clears it.

Hula-Hoop Challenge

With this challenge, kids need to get a Hula-Hoop from one end of a line to another or around a circle. Have each child hold hands with the kids on either side of them to create the line or circle. The first kid in line will take a Hula-Hoop on their arm.

From there, kids have to maneuver the Hula-Hoop around their bodies and get it to the arm of the child next to them. Encourage teamwork by telling kids to lift their arms and help the child next to them as they get through the Hula-Hoop. In this Hula-Hoop challenge, kids will need to work together physically as well as communicate with one another.

Over-Under Relay

For this fun team-building activity, kids stand in a line, all facing the same direction. Have a starting line and an endpoint for the group or competing teams to reach. Give the first child in line a ball to pass over their head behind them to the next kid in line. That kid passes the ball under their legs to the person behind them, who then passes the ball overhead behind them and so on.

Once the ball gets to the last child in line, they go to the front and restart the process. That activity motivates children to work quickly but accurately. This team-building activity teaches kids how essential it is to focus on a task when others rely on them.

Sports Hot Potato

Kids start in a small circle for this game. They toss or kick a ball across the circle to each other — whichever type of ball suits the age group and their abilities. If a child catches the ball, everyone takes a step back until the circle gets bigger and bigger.

This game is easy to modify to suit your group. Have kids call out the name of who they want to throw the ball to as an icebreaker exercise. You could also play a version where kids have to take a step in if someone drops the ball. This version of hot potato teaches kids the importance of every player on a team and the value of helping others as they try to throw or kick their best. Kids may also cheer words of encouragement and learn how to support their team members.

Agility Course

For team-building games that emphasize movement, use components of your facility’s playground to lay out an agility course for two teams. One by one, kids will complete the course as fast as possible. Once they reach the finish line that you set up, the next child on the team goes through the course. Whichever group has all its members across the finish line first is the winner.

Blindfolded Toss

Kids pair up in teams of two for this activity. One child will have to close their eyes or wear a blindfold and try to throw a ball into a hoop or at a target. Use foam balls to create a safer game since the kids will not be able to see where they are throwing.

The second kid on the team will not be blindfolded and will have to instruct the blindfolded child where to throw the ball. You and other adults can hold a Hula-Hoop for every team, draw chalk targets for kids to roll balls toward or use Toss-Up hoops.

With this activity, kids learn the importance of communication in teamwork. Enhance that experience with friendly competition. Make multiple teams of two and have them compete against their peers to see who can make it in the hoop or hit the target first.

Body Spellers

Split kids into equal teams for this game that you can play outside or indoors. Give the groups the same word to spell out, choosing a smaller word for younger kids in small teams or longer words for older kids in big teams. They then have a minute to use their fingers, hands, arms or bodies to spell the word. Whichever team spells the word correctly and in a readable way gets a point. Play to as many points as you have time for.

Spelling words in a group will reinforce classroom lessons and communication skills. Through this game, kids may naturally appoint a leader or rely on their group members for spelling knowledge, realizing that every individual has something to offer.

Team Simon Says

Most kids know how to play Simon Says, but adding teams can make the game more interesting. Create groups of equal sizes and have those teams stand together on the playground. Any child who breaks the rules of Simon Says is out, and the last team standing wins the game.

This game will be easier to play if you have a few adults or older kids be referees for each team, especially if you have a lot of kids playing. Simon Says teaches kids the importance of listening, and a team version of the game emphasizes that skill.

Limbo Relay

Turn limbo into a fun competition with two teams of kids. You will also need three additional adults or older kids to hold the rope or limbo bar for each group. Start at the same height and have everyone in the line pass under it.

As the bar becomes lower and lower with each round, if a kid stumbles or cannot make it under the bar, they are out. The last team standing or the team who gets their bar the lowest is the winner. Creating team-building games for kids out of familiar activities is a fantastic way to encourage students to work together and support each other as they play.

Birthday Line Up

If you’re looking for a game that doesn’t involve competition, try this birthday activity. Kids will work together to line up based on their birthdays, going in order from January 1 to December 31.

This game encourages communication and teamwork to achieve a goal. Make changes to the game to make it more challenging and encourage teamwork. For example, set a time limit or use a stopwatch to see if they can beat a certain time. To play another round, use new rules like lining up in alphabetical order based on first names.

Fingertip Hula-Hoop

To play this game, a team of four to six kids stands in a circle, points their index fingers and puts out their arms at the same height. You then place a Hula-Hoop so it rests on the team’s fingers. Make sure no one hooks their fingers around the hoop or tries to hold it throughout the activity.

The goal is for the team to work together and lower the hoop to the ground without it falling. They have to go at the same pace and adjust to meet the speed of their team members to keep the hoop on their fingers. If it falls, have the group start over from the top.

While completing this challenge, kids will learn the importance of working together and listening to one another.

Mingle Groups

In this game, kids will get to meet and interact with their classmates by working together to form groups and help kids who have not found a team yet.

To play, kids will walk around an area and wait for you to call a number. Once you say a number, kids will create groups with that many members. Challenge kids to not join a group with someone they’ve teamed up with before. Have adults or older kids be referees to keep track of who has grouped with who.

After a few rounds, change up the rules and have kids join groups with others wearing the same color or with a birthday in the same month, for instance.


To play unpretzel, have a group of six to 10 kids stand in a circle close to each other. They should then hold hands with those across from them, crossing arms with different kids in the circle to create the pretzel. The challenge is then to work together to unpretzel themselves back into a circle while still holding hands, which encourages communication and teamwork.

Be sure to watch if any kids are getting too tangled. If it looks like they cannot unpretzel themselves, have everyone stop holding hands and try again. Some kids may not want to or be able to play. They can observe the activity and help the students in the pretzel by problem-solving and suggesting ways to become untangled.


To play parachute, kids will need a large, nylon parachute. This game works particularly well for a large group, such as a full class. The parachute lies on the ground or floor, fully spread out. The kids stand around the edge of the parachute. On cue, they all pick up the fabric’s edges, lifting the parachute off the ground.

There are many ways to play with the parachute. The kids can work on lifting the fabric up so that it forms a bubble. Some can dive underneath the parachute while it’s up in the air. Another option is to toss items, such as tennis balls or beanbags, into the center of the parachute, then try to see how high they can get tossed into the air.

If the kids do not work together to follow the adult’s instructions on when to lift or lower the parachute, the parachute will not work. So, through this activity, kids will be able to visually see how listening, communicating and working together leads to success.

How Playworld Can Help Get Your Community on the Playground

Spending time on the playground is key to developing sensory, emotional and physical skills in children. On the playground, kids will learn the importance of teamwork, communication and more. When you partner with Playworld, we’ll provide the expert guidance needed to plan and raise funds for your inclusive outdoor play space.

We’ll help you design a playground capable of providing hours of fun and challenge for children of all ages and abilities. With resources like our Inclusive Play Design Guide, blog and grant guide, we help make the dream of building a playground for your community a reality.

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