Backyard Games for Tots, Preschoolers and Kids

by Teresa J Mitchell

Backyard GamesIn the U.S., Memorial Day unofficially marks the beginning of summer and its many barbecues and outdoor activities.

Can't wait to get started? You don't have to! National Backyard Games Week starts the Monday before Memorial Day and runs through the entire week. This week is your chance share your favorite games from your childhood or learn a whole new set.

If your game-playing days are a distant memory, you might want to try an activity from our list below and get your kid outside and moving.

Wild Water Games

Start a game of "dodge the sprinklers," a water obstacle course or challenge the kids to create a cooling game. While they're thinking, suggest a game of your own.

Water Fight! The weather's heating up. The kids are anxiously waiting for the end of school to arrive. What's better than a water balloon fight to work off that energy and cool down?

For a more structured water game, try water balloon volleyball or badminton.

Tug of War: Set a wading pool or a sprinkler at the center of your rope. Divide into teams and start tugging. Depending on the temperature, your strongest team might choose to lose!

"Tag, You're It!" and Other "Gotcha!" Games

Run, chase and dodge each other! Tag games remain popular and get kids (and adults) moving, thinking and laughing together. Here's a few to try out:

"Pickle in the Middle": Decide which player will be the "pickle in the middle." Divide the other players into two teams. Set boundaries depending on the age of your players and the size of your yard. One team lines up on each end boundary and the "pickle" starts in the middle.

On "go," the teams start running to the opposite end, keeping within the boundaries. The "pickle in the middle" tries to tag as many players as possible before they cross the end line. All tagged players join "pickle in the middle" and help tag players on the next round. The last untagged player is the winner -- if you can remember who hasn't been tagged yet.

Glow Stick Tag: The day's over and you still want to play. That's not a problem with this game. Break out the glow-sticks! You'll need one for each player. Only "it" carries a red one. Other plays can have a variety of colors. When the person with the red glow-stick tags another player, they become it and carry the red glow-stick. No fair hiding your glow stick to avoid being tagged!

Bouncing or Kick Ball Games

Bottle Bash Soccer: Have two teams and one soccer ball. Make two lines of five 2-liter plastic bottles partially filled with water. Space the bottles a couple feet apart and the lines 15 to 30 feet apart, depending on age and skill of the players. Toddlers can enjoy trying to kick the ball into a bottle or between.

Encourage older teams to dribble, pass and knock over the other team's bottles (who will be guarding and attempting to steal the ball). The game has no boundaries, so the attack can come from any side. Each time a bottle tips over, the ball changes possession. The first team to knock out all the opponent's bottles is this round's winner.

Mega Marbles: You know how sports balls tend to multiply? Here's the perfect use for them! Rope off a large circle. Add a bunch of soccer, playground, beach and basketballs. Each player keeps a shooter. A heavier ball works best.

Standing about ten feet away, a player rolls the shooter into the pile, trying to knock balls out of the ring, while leaving the "shooter" in the ring. Those knocked out are "keepers" or "keepsies." The player gets another shot. If no balls are knocked out or the "shooter" flies out of the circle, the turn's over.

Games for Tiny Tots

Many 2- and 3-year-olds aren't ready for games with definite rules and teams. They often have other ideas and rules of their own. Hand-Eye and gross-motor activities work well with this group. See if a game of chase the bubbles floats your tot's boat.

Toss and Kick: Play a game of catch with a large ball. Alternatively toss or kick the ball at a target. Can they tip over a plastic 2-liter bottle or throw the ball through a hoop?

Follow the Leader: Take turns leading the group tumbling, skipping, hopping, galloping, jumping, running backwards or pretending to walk like a crab or a bear.

There is no limit to the fun you can all have together. Take a moment to sit back and remember all wonderful times you had as a kid playing "Red Light, Green Light," "Mother, May I," "Hide-n-Seek," "freeze tag" and "monkey in the middle." Which games get you out and moving? Which were and still are your favorites?