Kids outdoors | NZ DadsAh, the holidays – family time, share time, quality time, the time you spend together to have the better chance of quality experiences, that special time devoted exclusively to nurturing cherished family members, time to…oh, forget it! If you’re like me, you’re tired and fed up being chief entertainment officer and just want the kids to go… outside to play. So how can you keep them busy enough for you to just sit for 5 minutes for a cup of coffee that’s hot, one you actually get all the way to the bottom of the cup!? Here are some harmless distracters, not likely to hurt anyone. Remember play is all about the experience, it doesn’t need to have any point or accomplishing any goal or having a winner every time. Have fun and enjoying yourself.

Sponge fights.

Give each child a bucket and 2 sponges. Let the kids toss at each other, collecting sponges as they go.

Rule 1. If someone is touching their bucket you can’t throw at them till you count to 5, even after they’ve let go.

Rule 2. No wet kids or sponges near or in the house. No winner. Just wet kids.

Bonus: it waters your garden and wears them out.

Scavenger hunt

Write a list of items kids have to find – a different one for each child (a bit of extra work but then you can swap them and have them look all over again . it can be as easy or elaborate as you like. If you want to be all “politically correct” (discouraging competitiveness) or have a hoard of kids, have the children work in team to find all the items. Use some puzzles to stump the older kids.

Sample hints

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Chalk drawingBonus: keeps them busy for hours and you can swap the clues around.

Have you a budding Michelangelo? Or Picasso? Have your kids draw on the driveway, while the older kids can draw in hop scotch or tic-tac-toe. Keep them busy for just the cost of a box of chalk.

Bonus: keeps little ones busy for ages!!!

Obstacle course

Making sure that the course is age appropriate and safe, it goes without question. Have the older kids design it. Suggestions for activities include tightrope walking along a garden hose; walking with a ball between knees; jumping through hula hoops; crawling under ropes; dodging water filled sponges – just let them go crazy!

Bonus: gets the kids fit, uses their imagination and best of all, wears them out. 

Bird watching

Grab some binoculars (or make their own with two toilet rolls joined together) and have them find as many birds they can in an hour. The race is on!! For older kids – have them identify birds or take photos of them to identify.

Bonus: gets the kids outside, if you’re really keen, take them to the local park, you lazy under a tree and they do all the running around.

Talking heads

Write the name of a well-known person dead or alive on a Post-It note and stick to another child’s forehead. Then they have to guess who they are by asking only ‘yes/no’ type questions. “Yes” means they can ask another question and “No” means the next person has a go. Great for rainy or super hot days.

Bonus: gets the kids to use their imagination and lots of fun.

Watery Karaoke

Fill a glass with water, take ½ a mouthful without swallowing then sing a song. The other kids must try to guess what song it is. Great for older kids and best played outside!

Bonus: gets the kids outside and laughing – loads of fun.

Fashion show

Fill and then pass a bag of dressing-up clothes around a circle of kids with music playing. When the music stops, the bag holder has to take an item and put it on. Continue until everyone is wearing something.

Bonus: Make it more fun by having a rule they can’t wear that item where it’s traditionally worn. Eg, undies on the head, hat on an elbow – you get the idea.

“Tower of flour”

Fill a mixing bowl with flour, pat down then turn upside down on a plate. Put a jelly baby or other lolly on middle of the top of the flour. Everyone has to cut a slice from the mound without “dropping” the jelly baby. Whoever makes the flour mound collapse has to pick up the lolly in their mouth and get a floury face.

Bonus: great images for youtube videos or facebook!!!

Detective time

Kids are divided with half the number leaving the room for 30 seconds (count out loud). While they are out, five objects are moved or hidden from the room. Then the outside players come back in and have to list the missing/moved items in 3 minutes. (Tiny items like remotes or a book don’t count.) Points for those items found in that time. Reduce the time the older the kids are.

Bonus: good game for wet or super hot days.

Glowing toss game

Something for older kids allowed to stay up late – glowing toss game! Use four long thin glow sticks stuck together in a circle shape. Then have the players alternating tossing over a throwing target/ stakes which are placed an appropriate distance away. For older kids blow up and fill balloons with a glow stick and make a glowing balloon dart board.

Bonus: gets the teenagers outside, waters your garden and nice evening game to kids with too much energy before bed.


10 more backyard games:

  1. Noodle ball: Use a pool noodle like a bat and use a soft toy ball. Suitable for young children but fun for older kids too – not as easy as it looks!
  2. Hula Hoop disco – put the music one the winner is the one who hula that hoop until the end of the song.
  3. Bowling with empty plastic bottles and a ball. For young kids use a basket ball or beach ball. For older kids, weigh the bottles with water or sand.
  4. Sponge throw art: Hang a large piece of butchers paper on the clothes line and throw a sponge with watered down food colouring.
  5. Blow bubbles.
  6. Play parachute with a sheet – kids run under a sheet held by 4 people by the corners. The purpose to get to the other side without having the being dropped on the runner.
  7. Balloon volleyball – remember the birds might eat the balloon remains so collect the left over balloon bits please.
  8. Frisbee – use ice cream contain lids.
  9. Paper plane competition
  10. Steal the tail. Tuck a piece of material in the back of an older child belt. The children run after them to catch a tail, (but not in the house).

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