Are you looking for great outdoor games to play with the kids? This list of fabulous nature games has 35 great ideas to inspire your outdoor fun.
Inspiration for fun outdoor games
You’ll also find a whole host of our favourite outdoor games and nature fun in *A Year of Nature Walks and Games.
This lively book has a nature activity for every week of the year, and makes the perfect accompaniment to your outdoor adventures. Find out more about it *here.
6 brilliant reasons to try some outdoor nature games
- They’re perfect for older children and younger children.
- There’s something for every group size, from one child to a whole gang!
- They’re low-cost and don’t need much planning.
- They will help kids to get active in the fresh air – and off the screens and video games 😉
- They’re a super-fun way to encourage children to explore nature and learn about the natural environment around them.
- They could even help to boost mood and combat levels of anxiety and stress – spending time in nature really is that powerful!
The best nature games and outdoor activities
We’ve done the hard work for you and rounded up 35 awesome nature-themed games and outdoor activities to enjoy with the kids. Kids of all ages can join in – even the adults!
1. Stick trail
Sticks really do make for the best nature games; they’re in plentiful supply all year round and you can use them for all sorts of fun activities.
To make a stick trail, kids collect sticks and use them to make arrows on the ground. The arrows indicate what direction you walk on the trail. Children can make a trail for the adults to follow, or challenge each other with a route. You can also think about what you might find at the end of the trail – is it treasure?
2. Blob tag
- Two players link elbows to become the ‘blob’.
- The object of the game is for all other players to avoid being tagged by the blob. The blob must keep elbows linked at all times.
- When the blob tags someone, that player joins the blob by linking elbows.
- Every time the blob grows to include four players, it splits into two blobs (two players in each).
- The game ends when all players are part of a blob. The last two players to get tagged become the first blob in the next game.
3. Puddle jumping
Make the most of a rainy day with some competitive puddle jumping. You could see who can jump in the most puddles, or who can jump over the biggest puddle without getting wet. Wellies are a good option for this one!
4. Nature scavenger hunt
How about testing their observation skills with a nature scavenger hunt? You could make your own list of nature treasures to spot, or find one online (we’ve got a brilliant Christmas nature scavenger hunt for the festive season).
Do remind children that they should protect nature by only collecting fallen items, and not picking anything from trees or plants.
5. Noughts and crosses
To play this classic nature game, you just need a stick. Use it to draw a noughts and crosses grid in the dirt, then kids can take turns with the stick to add their nought or cross. The first player to make a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line of three noughts or crosses is the winner.
You can combine this great game with a nature hunt to make it last longer. The group of children can hunt for twigs and use them to make the crosses, then find small stones, conkers or fallen flower heads to make the noughts.
6. 40-40 outdoor game
This nature game is basically a group version of hide and seek, and works well with a large group.
- Choose a base as the starting point; for example, a tree stump.
- The person who is ‘spotter’ counts to 40 with their eyes shut, while everyone else hides.
- The spotter then looks for the players, while the players try to make it back to base without being spotted. If they make it, they shout ’40-40 in’ and stay at base for the rest of the game.
- If the spotter sees a player who isn’t on base, they must run back to base and shout ’40-40 I see’ plus the player’s name. The player who has been caught returns to base.
- The last person to be caught becomes the spotter in the next game.
7. Journey sticks
This is a great way to prevent little ones getting bored on a walk, and all you need is a piece of string.
Ask each child to find a stick, then collect fallen nature treasures as you walk. Use the string to tie each item to the stick, building up a picture of your journey. You can find out more about the origins of this nature game and a step-by-step guide in our journey sticks article.
8. Garden obstacle course
You can keep the fun games close to home with a garden obstacle course challenge. Kids can use things they find in the garden to create their own unique obstacle course.
Outdoor toys, play equipment, buckets, cardboard boxes, a sprinkler, or even a sweeping brush can all be turned into brilliant obstacles. An adult should always supervise, making sure the setup is safe.
Once the course is built, children can agree on the rules for completing the course and maybe set themselves some challenges, for example, complete the course in under a minute. Keep things simple for little kids, but an older group of kids can have a go at making things more tricky.
9. You Can’t See Me
Choose a spotter; all other children pretend to be an animal and hide from the spotter. They can use any natural resources to camouflage themselves, just like an animal would in the wild. The spotter then has to see if they can find the hidden ‘animals’.
10. Nature art
Nature provides the most amazing (and free) resources for an art project. You could make a mandala, collect things to make a collage at home, hide painted rocks in your local parks, press some flowers, make a feather mobile, or create some fab leaf prints.
11. Predict the weather
Challenge kids to become a weather forecaster by observing nature and natural elements:
- High, white clouds usually mean good weather; low, dark clouds are a sign that rain is on the way.
- A red sky in the morning means bad weather is coming, while a red sky in the evening means you can expect good weather.
- Flowers are said to smell stronger before it rains.
- Bees and butterflies take shelter when bad weather is on the way.
Can anyone see any other signs from nature that reveal something about the weather?
12. Sellers, smugglers, police
- Players divide into three teams: sellers, smugglers, and police, plus a leader.
- The sellers stand at one end of an open area, the smugglers stand at the other end with the leader, and the police stand in the middle.
- The leader gives each smuggler a piece of paper with a low number on it. They have to smuggle their number to a seller without being stopped by the police.
- If the police stop a smuggler, they take their card. The smuggler returns to the leader for a new, lower number.
- If a smuggler managers to give their card to a seller, they are given a receipt and return to the leader for a new, higher number. Police can’t take receipts.
- At the end of the game, smugglers add up the total score of the numbers they have successfully smuggled. The score of any cards taken by police is deducted. The teams then swap jobs.
This is a cool treasure hunt that you play on a smartphone via the geocaching app.
The app shows the locations of geocaches in your local area, so you can hunt them down. Will they contain ‘treasure’. a log book, or some other surprise?
14. Nature colour bingo games
Make a list of different colours, then head outside to see where you can spot each one in nature.
You can play this nature game in teams or individually. Add up all the items you spot at the end to see who is the winner.
15. Cut the cake
- Players hold hands in a circle to form the ‘cake’.
- Two players hold hands and walk around the outside of the circle. They choose a spot to ‘cut’ the ‘cake’, using their joined arms to gently separate two held hands (like you would slice a cake).
- The two players whose hands have been separated leave the circle to become a second pair. Both pairs run in opposite directions and try to reach the open spot in the circle first. The pair who is left are the cake cutters for the next round.
16. Target practice
Use a stick to draw a circle in the earth; this is your target. Players take it in turns to throw a stone or a pine cone into the circle (they can hunt for these first).
You can make this awesome game more challenging by increasing the distance players stand from the circle, or drawing a smaller circle.
17. Make a mud kitchen
We think this is one of the best nature games, because it’s such a great way to get imaginations firing.
Plastic beach toys and old kitchen utensils are perfect for creating a brilliant mud kitchen. Kids can make potions, mud pies, or whatever takes their fancy. They do need to wear old clothes, as things will invariably get messy!
18. Charades tag
- Split players into two teams.
- Each team of people agrees on their charade, and tells the leader what it is. It could be an action, a thing, a film, etc.
- The teams face each other in a line. The first team acts out their charade, and the other team members try to guess what it is.
- When a player guesses correctly, the leader says ‘correct’. The guessing team then chases the other team back to their starting line.
- Any player who is caught joins the opposite team.
- The other team then acts our their charade and the game continues.
19. Daisy chains
Making daisy chains is a great nature game for summer months. Make a small slit in the stem of a stalk, then thread another stalk through the slit and repeat until your chain is the desired length. This method works really well with dandelions too; just make sure you leave some for the bees.
20. Jail break
- Two players are cops, one player is jailor, and everyone else is a robber.
- Choose somewhere central to be ‘jail’.
- Robbers have a set amount of time to hide, then the cops start looking for them. The jailor guards the jail.
- When a robber is caught, they go to jail. Another robber can free any players in jail by tagging the jail without being caught themselves.
21. What’s missing?
- Children collect nature items while playing outside, then bring them back to the leader.
- The leader arranges the items on a piece of paper or a blanket, and lets the players study them.
- Players must then look away while the leader removes one or more items. Then they have to work out what is missing.
22. Bubble blowing contest
Sometimes the simple nature games end up being the best games. Take a bottle of bubbles outside, and challenge kids to blow the biggest one. You could even make your own bubble mixture, varying the concentration to see how it affects the results.
23. Follow the leader
The leader does an action, and the other players copy them. For example, marching, twirling, hopping, singing, frog jumping. All players have a turn at being the leader.
24. Bug hunt
How many minibeasts can you find in the garden, park or local woodland? A magnifying glass will come in handy for this nature game, and you could also find a bug ID chart online.
25. Elbow tag
- Choose a leader and a runner.
- Other players split into pairs, and link arms at the elbow with both hands on their hips.
- The leader has to try and tag the runner. The runner avoids this by linking elbows with a pair.
- When the runner links with a pair, the player on the other side of the pair has to let go and become the runner.
- If the leader manages to tag the runner, they swap roles.
26. Make a stick person or creature
Hunt for sticks in different lengths and thicknesses, then turn them into a stick person or creature. There are no rules; it doesn’t have to be a real living thing. Kids can also use other natural objects to make their stick creation; for example, conkers for eyes, seed pods for feet or claws.
27. Forest bathing
This is a lovely quiet activity to calm things down, using nature as your guide. It works particularly well in a wooded area, but you can also enjoy doing it in a park or your garden.
Ask kids to find a quiet place in nature, then sit down. They can then start to breathe more deeply, and use their senses to focus on the nature around them. What can they hear, see, smell, touch?
After a few minutes, kids can think or talk about how they feel.
28. Paint with mud
Mud is nature’s ready-made paint, so put it to good use! You can make your own mud in a small bucket, and use an old paintbrush to create pavement or patio art. For the adults, the best part of this messy play is that everything washes off when it rains!
- Choose a leader, then five players, giving each player a designated home base. Any other children wait in line for a turn.
- Each player starts on their base, and the leader stands in the middle.
- When the leader says ‘switch’, all players must move to a new base – including the leader.
- Inevitably, two players will go for the same base. The one who gets their first stays in, while the other player is out.
- The next player waiting in line becomes the leader, and the game starts again.
30. Leaf jumping
Leaf jumping is perfect for an impromptu outdoor game. A big pile of leaves is just asking to be jumped in! Obviously autumn is a great time for this, but you might find a pile of dry leaves at any time of year.
31. Water battle
It’s hard to beat a water fight on a hot day. Kids can play in teams, or individually. You can set a limit on time or where they are allowed to go, or just go with the flow.
32. Nature I Spy
Give I Spy a nature theme when you’re out with the kids. The spy says ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with [first letter of the thing]’. Other players take turns at guessing what the thing is. The player who gets it right becomes the next spy.
33. Make a nature garland
This outdoor activity combines a scavenger hunt with some simple crafting. Children collect fallen nature items, then tie them to a length of string. Once the string is full, make a hanging loop in each end and you’ve got a nature garland to decorate your home or garden.
34. Hot pine cone
This is hot potato with a nature twist.
Players sit in a circle. The leader plays music and players pass a pine cone around the circle. When the music stops, the player holding the pine cone is out. If a player drops the pine cone they are also out. The last child in is the winner.
Definitely one of the best outdoor games for physical activity and burning off energy! Get kids busy with a fun sequence of activities, which you can time with a stopwatch if you like. For example, they can do skipping, speed walking, frog jumps, hopping, or relay races.
More brilliant nature activities for outdoor play
Here are some more fab resources to help you have fun with the kids in the great outdoors:
This roundup of nature walking games is packed with easy ways to make family walks more exciting.
Nature fun abounds in this engaging book which is packed with a whole year’s worth of nature activities. Find out more *here.
Outdoor play bucket lists
Easy, cheap ideas for kids nature play. Download the free printable here.
We’ve got lots of nature-themed funnies to make your nature games even more enjoyable.
- Spring jokes, summer jokes and autumn jokes
- Flower jokes, plant jokes, tree jokes and garden jokes
- Bird jokes, bee jokes and cat jokes
- Fruit jokes and vegetable jokes
- Nature jokes