When kids are home – whether it’s for the weekend or during a school break – odds are they’ll be looking for things to do. Build up your arsenal of fun games to play with kids to keep them active and entertained year-round.
Rather than heading out to overcrowded public spaces, staying home and playing games with your kids is a great way to bond and save money. From lawn games to board games and other classics, there are a plethora of indoor and outdoor games perfect for family fun.
There’s a reason certain games have stood the test of time. Whether you’re looking to get your kids moving or engage their brains, classic games are a reliable choice.
Verbal games like Mother May I, Simon Says and red light, green light require no supplies and keep little ones entertained. More active games like tag (or freeze tag), hide-and-seek (or sardines, the reverse hide-and-seek where the “it” person hides) and duck, duck goose also encourage movement and laughs.
You’ll need a few items for classic games like capture the flag, hot potato and kick the can. For the latter two, you can easily use a ball or hacky sack in place of the potato or can. Similarly, avoid messy eggs and use a golf or Ping-Pong ball for spoon races. Games like marbles and jacks require some supplies, but are true classics.
Keeping your mind active is just as important as moving your body. Games like chess and checkers are thought-provoking, fun games to play with kids. Dominoes and puzzles never get old; you just need plenty of space.
A simple deck of cards lends itself to many different games, from easy, kid-friendly ones like go fish and old maid to more strategic games like crazy eights and rummy.
Get your kids outside by taking advantage of your own backyard and driveway. They’ll enjoy some fresh air and sunshine while playing sports, creating their own adventures and exploring.
Play catch with a baseball, Frisbee or football, or kick around a soccer ball. You could also set up a net for basketball, badminton, volleyball or tennis. Don’t forget hula-hooping, jumping rope and limbo; make them extra fun by setting them to music or turning them into a competition.
For something a bit different, make your own mini-golf course. If you don’t want to dig holes in your yard or do heavy-duty building, you can craft a golf course using household items. Use halved paper towel rolls, spare pieces of PVC pipe, strips of cardboard and books for ramps and tunnels. Sturdy toys make good barriers and a cup can act as the hole.
If your kids aren’t fond of sports, lots of other outdoor activities can keep them moving. Try building something together, like an obstacle course, tree house or a fort. Not only will they be memorable to create, they’ll be fun to use afterword.
Plan a scavenger hunt by writing a list of objects for your child to find. This could be as simple as “something blue” and “something round” or more specific items you hide ahead of time. Or bury some toy dinosaurs and let your little ones become archaeologists.
Lawn and Driveway Games
Classic lawn games such as cornhole, croquet and horseshoes – as well as newer additions like Spikeball – are all fun games to play with both kids and groups of all ages. A safe driveway is a prime location for activities, too. Make art with chalk or play hopscotch or four square. Use a basketball to play games like horse or around the world.
The good times don’t have to stop when the sun goes down. Manhunt (hide-and-seek in the dark) is a good family game at night, as well as activities like stargazing and catching fireflies.
Have a blast while staying cool in the summer. Start a water battle with water balloons or water guns, or incorporate them into other games like hide-and-seek, hot potato and tag. Turn on the sprinklers and bring them into your game of limbo, make them part of your obstacle course or simply let the kiddos run around. If you have a pool, initiate games like sharks and minnows, swimming races and Marco Polo.
Indoor games are great for rainy days, snow days, when it’s just too hot outside and lazy weekends with the family.
Young kids will enjoy board games like Candy Land and Left Right Center (make it interesting for an older crowd by replacing the chips with dollars). For tweens/preteens there are games like Apples to Apples and Yahtzee. Teens and young adults will like more mature games like The Game of Things, Quelf and Risk. And Jenga and Twister always get the party started.
See our full list of favorite board games for the whole family here.
If your kids are a little too energetic for board games, go for games that make them move. Try indoor bowling with some masking tape and/or strips of cardboard for lanes, a soft ball and empty bottles for pins.
Games like freeze and musical chairs will have the kiddos moving until the music stops. Blow up balloons and tell your little ones not to let them touch the ground; make the game more challenging by setting rules: only use your head, no hands, etc. Engage your kids’ sense of imagination by pretending the floor is lava and using blankets and cardboard shapes as safe zones.
Another way to keep children young and old entertained and using their minds? Get creative! Draw, color, paint or make crafts. Turn plain shirts, socks and pillowcases into works of art with tie-dye.
Make a fort with little ones using blankets and pillows. Older kids and teens with a bit more patience will enjoy making a Rube Goldberg machine and sharing the results on social media; you can use dominoes, marbles, cups and other everyday items to set off a chain reaction that’s as fun to create as it is to watch unfold.
Some of the best bonding experiences come from simple play and using imagination. This kind of free-spirited fun isn’t just for children, either.
Craft some characters or use toys to put on a puppet show with or for your kids. Make reading to your kids into a game by acting out the story together, either in person or with toys. Or put on your kid’s favorite musical movie, set up the closed captions/subtitles and have a sing along.
Kids of all ages can have fun playing charades. Choose categories and/or writing prompts ahead of time to keep things interesting. For tweens and young adults, consider Catchphrase, which is essentially verbal charades.
Sometimes you may need to lean on technology to keep your kids entertained. There are plenty of fun and educational apps for children. For older kids, check out this list of the best video games for escaping reality.
What’s your favorite game to play with kids? Tell us in the comments below!
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