A study by Aarhus University in Denmark has shown that children who spend time outdoors in nature will experience better mental health as they grow.
Even the world health organization vouches for outdoor play and has provided recommendations on the hours children should spend outside.
But if your kids (or even you!) don’t like running around, it can be tough to think of fun games for them to play outside.
Plus, playing games with no running can prevent injuries and can (sometimes) keep kids from getting too sweaty or dirty.
But don’t worry, if you’re here, you’re in lucky!
Some of the best games to play outside without running are:
- Freeze Dance
- Blind Man’s Bluff
- Four square
- Jump rope or double dutch
- Hand-clapping games
Let’s take a look at the rules, equipment, and what makes each game so fun for kids and parents alike!
Marbles is a simple game that has been played for centuries, even if your kids have never heard of it.
You can play with two or more players of almost any age.
Requirements: A hand-drawn ring and a set of marbles
How to Play Marbles
- First, draw a circle on the sidewalk with chalk or even a rock
- Place 5 to 10 smaller marbles inside the ring
- Each player squats around the ring and takes turns flicking their “shooter” marble (larger marbles), trying to knock the smaller ones out
- When you knock a smaller marble out, you get to keep it as a prize!
- Whoever collects the most smaller marbles wins
There are a lot of different ways to play marbles, but for young kids, it’s best to stick with the basics.
It’s an old school game they’ll be glad they learned, plus collecting the marbles is fun on its own.
2. Freeze Dance
EVERY kid these days knows how to play freeze dance.
But they might not realize that it can be played outside.
You can play freeze dance with an unlimited number of players, but one person (maybe you, as the parent) will be in charge of the music while everyone else will be dancing.
Requirements: Any music player, like a smartphone
How to Play Freeze Dance
- One person will play the music
- Once the music starts playing, the rest of the players will start dancing
- In this game, the crazier the dance, the better!
- When the music player stops the music, everybody has to freeze in place
- Anyone who moves will be out of the game
- The player continues playing and pausing the music as they wish
- The play will go on until only one person remains, who will be the winner
This one is a blast!
For younger kids, though, watch out for hurt feelings when kids get “out.”
With little ones, play a low-stakes version of the game where no one gets out and you just keep freezing for fun.
3. Blind Man’s Bluff
Blind man’s bluff is a favorite game for many children.
There are plenty of variations for this game (which is similar to Marco Polo) and it can be played with two or more player.
Requirements: A blindfold and open area, free from obstacles
How to Play Blind Man’s Bluff
- To play this simple game, only one player, referred to as “It” or the “Blind Man” will wear a blindfold
- The Blind Man will be spun around a number of times so that they’re disoriented
- The Blind Man counts to 50, and the other players scatter — stopping in place when the Blind Man gets to 50 (or a smaller number you choose)
- With the blindfold on, the It player will try to tag the rest of the players in the group
- He or she calls out “Blind Man” and the other players answer “Bluff” to give audio clues to where they are
- The player with the blindfold wins when they manage to find and tag someone
- The person tagged will take over the game until everyone participates or the cycle continues
In some games, the other players are allowed to evade or run from the Blind Man — but to keep things safe and avoid running or injuries, make everyone stay frozen in place during this game.
4. Four Square
Four square is a ball game played on a square court that is further divided into four squares that are a bit smaller.
It is played by four people unless there are many players to take turns.
Requirements: To play Four Square, you need a playground ball, sidewalk chalk, and an open hard surface (like a dead end road or driveway)
How to Play Four Square
- Draw a large square with chalk and divide it into 4 smaller squares, labeling one of them King (or Queen or Royalty)
- Players will stand in each of the squares. The player in the Royalty square begins the game by serving the ball
- He or she bounces the ball into another player’s square on the serve
- That player must hit the ball, after the first bounce in their square, into another player’s square
- If a player can not hit the ball after it bounces in their square, they are out (and they rotate back to Square 1)
For a more detailed visual explanation, check out this helpful video:
5. Jump Rope and Double Dutch
What kid doesn’t love jump rope?!
It’s a fun challenge for kids to simply practice their jump rope skills, but the jump rope can actually be turned into a fun game with no running.
Requirements: One rope for single-player rope jump or a longer rope for double dutch
How to Play Jump Rope and Double Dutch
- In this game, players can perform with a single rope jump or engage in double dutch
- Two players stand at either end of the rope and swing it round
- The player or players in the middle jump the rope! If their foot touches the rope during a jump, they’re out — and one of the other players gets a turn in the middle
- For double dutch, use two jump ropes simultaneously rotating in opposite directions — it’s a fun and intense challenge!
6. Rhythmic Hand Clapping Games
Remember those “patty cake, patty cake” hand clapping games when you were a kid?
If you want to play outside without running, it’s time to bring them back!
And there are tons of options outside of patty cake.
Requirements: Two or three players
How to Play the Hand-Clap Game
- This game involves two people who will be exchanging a series of hand clap patterns as they sing or chant rhythmic songs
- Different handclaps may have different rhymes. And the clapping rhythm may be different too.
- Some of the notable clap games include “Say, Say, My Playmate” and “Miss Mary Mack”
Some of these versions are quite long — just check out the full lyrics for Miss Mary Mack!
Jacks, like marbles, is an oldie but a goodie — your kids will find it weird, fascinating, and hopefully, a lot of fun!
The rules of Jacks are varied, including things like double bounces and pigs in the pen, but it’s best to start simple with younger kids.
Requirements: A small rubber ball, a set of jacks, and two or more players who’ll be taking turns.
How to Play Jacks
- To play jacks, one player will scatter the jacks on the surface by tossing them out on a surface
- A player tosses the ball into the air
- It can only bounce once and has to be caught by that player before bouncing the second time
- The player will then try to scoop up one Jack and catch the ball with the other hand before its second bounce
- Repeat this process until that player has successfully picked up all the Jacks
- After both players have a turn, start the game over but try to pick up two Jacks at a time!
- Repeat this process until someone is able to pick up all of the Jacks on a single ball throw — if you dare
You might not think of Jacks as an outside game, but it’s best played outdoors because, trust me, that ball will go everywhere!
Running outside can be dangerous for kids, and especially for adults.
(Let’s face it — it hurts more when we fall down!)
Plus, all that running gets kids sweaty and risks messing up their clothes, which isn’t always ideal.
Try some of the games above for outdoor fun without running — but this list is only the beginning!
For more, check out:
- Games to play outside with 3 players
- Games to play in the kitchen
- Games to play outside without contact
Hope this helps!