Types of Outdoor Play

By Kathy Adams

Updated September 22, 2017

Unorganized playtime provides relaxation and fresh air for all ages.
i Maria Teijeiro/Digital Vision/Getty Images

While outdoor play was once as natural as being a child, options for some children may be somewhat limited when it comes to fresh-air activities. Inspire others to enjoy the outdoors with creative or cardio-based playtime suited to the group at hand.

On-the-Go Games

Simple childhood games may be played virtually anywhere space allows. Hide and seek, or its variant ghosts in the graveyard, requires no particular athletic ability and may be enjoyed by all ages as one person or group is designated as the seeker while everyone else hides. Freeze tag features one player as "it," while the others try their best to avoid being tagged by "it." If tagged, they freeze in place. Other players may unfreeze frozen players by tagging them or crawling between their legs. The game ends when all players are frozen. Red light, green light is a simple game for even young children. One person acts as the light, standing a distance away from the others. The "light" turns away from the players and calls "green light," allowing other players to move toward her. If she turns around and yells "red light," the players must stop moving. Anyone caught moving must go back to the beginning. The winner is the first person to tag the "light."

Nature Exploration

Exploring nature inspires the curious mind while providing a break from electronics, indoor activities and standard games with rules. Take a group of children on a field trip to a nature park, children's garden or natural area nearby with plenty of interest for those involved, such as small streams to hop across, aquatic life, or wooded environments complete with small mammals, plenty of birds and plant life. As far as play is concerned, tailor the game or playtime to the environment; for instance, if a narrow stream is slightly too wide to jump across, encourage the group to come up with a way to cross it while staying dry. Nearby stones, placed strategically, become a stepping-stone path across shallow water. Ask the group to collect as many different types of fallen tree leaves as possible, then provide a chart for a scavenger-hunt-style game so each can check off the items as they are found.

Cooperative Action Games

Kickball, flag football and relay races are all games that require a bit of physical activity and team cooperation. Red rover, a classic game for groups of six or more, separates participants into teams, each standing at opposite ends of a soft play area such as a grassy field. While holding hands, one person calls a member of the other team over; the called player must try to break through the arms. If caught, they become a member of the team with linked hands, then the other team gains a turn. The game ends when one team ends up with all the players.

Unstructured Activities

Playing outside may be as simple as having a space outdoors to safely play, alone or with others. A sandbox and a few toys encourages imaginative play as children build roads, castles and imaginary environments. Bubble soap and wands provide entertainment and excitement for young children. Construction toys allow kids to pretend they're on the work site, moving dirt from one location to another, traveling over all kinds of terrain. Water-powered rockets, toy kites and slingshot-powered toy paratroopers provide air-based enjoyment, ideal for areas with plenty of open-air space above.