Try these all-time faves to keep your kids happy, busy, and in shape.
1. Name of the game: Horse
Best for: Competitive kids’ hoop skills and imagination
Number of players: Two or more
What you need: Basketball and a flat surface
Where to play: Your driveway (or a public court)
How to play: Kids take turns matching the exact shot and location of the starting previous player. If Player 1 creates (and sinks) a shot the opponent can’t replicate, Player 1 wins the round and the opponent (Player 2) earns the letter “H.” If Player 1 misses his own shot, Player 2 can attempt any shot from any location, and if he sinks that shot, Player 1 must duplicate it. The game continues until one player accumulates all the letters H-O-R-S-E.
Game is over when: One player is left standing
Good to know: You can flip a coin to determine the starting player.
2. Name of the game: Double Dutch
Best for: Skilled jumpers with timing and coordination
Number of players: 3 (2 to hold the ropes, 1 to jump)
What you need: Two 16” double-dutch jump ropes
Where to play: A driveway, large patio, blacktop, or other flat surface
How to play: Two children stand face-to-face, several feet apart, holding one end of a jump rope in each hand. They start by turning the ropes in opposite directions as a third child jumps in. Kids can decide beforehand whether to jump for fun, add a speed round (the most jumps per minute), or go for a freestyle round with tricks. Kids take turns once the jumper misses a jump.
Game is over when: One player becomes the first to reach a pre-set number of points, based on the number of jumps or tricks achieved. (Or kids can quit when fatigue sets in.)
Good to know: Adding rhymes helps keep the rhythm going. Try this motivator to start:
Cinderella, dressed in yellow
Went upstairs to kiss her fellow
Made a mistake
And kissed a snake
How many doctors
Did it take?
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . . .
3. Name of the game: Kick the Can
Best for: Competitive older kids
Number of players: 4 to 6
What you need: An empty metal soda, soup, or paint can
Where to play: A large outdoor space with places to hide
How to play: The kid who’s “it” places a can in an obstruction-free location, closes her eyes, and counts to a pre-designated number while other players hide. The “it” then seeks the other players. If she spots a kid who’s hiding, she calls out that name and the two race back to the can. If the “it” gets there first, the captured player goes to jail. If the captured player prevails, he kicks the can, finds a new place to hide, and the “it” resets the can. (A kicked can also frees previously captured players.)
Game is over when: Only one person is left hiding
Good to know: Jailed players can stand off to the side of the play area, on a porch, or at some other visible location.
4. Name of the game: Foursquare
Best for: Kids with balance and coordination
Number of players: 4 or more
What you need: A rubber playground ball, chalk (to make the court)
Where to play: A blacktop or other flat surface
How to play: Kids draw a large square, divide it in quarters, and number the boxes from one to four, representing a king, queen, jack, and ace. One player stands in each quadrant. The player in quadrant one (the king) serves the ball to another player. The receiver then hits the ball (after a single bounce) to another player of her choosing. If the ball heads out of bounds, or a player misses the ball, the at-fault player is out. Players advance to higher-ranked squares, in what is, essentially, a knockout competition. New players take a spot on the lowest-ranking square.
Game is over when: One kid is the supreme ruler, but play can continue indefinitely
Good to know: The king can customize the game by adding rules, such as single-handed or one-legged hits.
5. Name of the game: Tug of War
Best for: Teamwork, and kids with a competitive edge
Number of players: An even number for two balanced teams. (An extra kid can serve as judge.)
What you need: A long, sturdy rope; tape; chalk or flour
Where to play: A large grassy field or lawn
How to play: In teams, kids divide the field in two (using flour or chalk) and mark the center of the rope with tape or chalk. Each team holds one end of the rope; players pull to drag the opposing team over the line to their side.
Game is over when: Most of the rope crosses over the divider
Good to know: Put the strongest kids at the end of the line.
6. Name of the game: Ghost in the Graveyard
Best for: Responsible tweens who respect curfews
Number of players: Unlimited
What you need: Moonlight and places to hide
Where to play: On a field or around the neighborhood within a set number of blocks
How to play: The “ghost” hides while the remaining players stay at home base and count: one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, four o’clock…up until midnight. At midnight, ghost hunters spread out and start their search. The first to spot the ghost yells, “Ghost in the Graveyard!” The ghost bolts out of hiding to chase the other players. Players race to home base before the ghost tags them. The tagged ghost hunter is the ghost for the next round.
Game is over: At curfew
Good to know: The ghost can emerge from hiding to tag another player before he himself is seen.