Few things encapsulate the feeling of pure joy more than a child blissfully running around, laughing and playing. It often seems like kids have boundless energy and creativity when it comes to devising games to play.
But, we tend to lose this instinct as we grow up, and coming up with physical activities and outdoor PE games for kids to play can be difficult for physical education teachers, sports coaches, and parents alike.
Outdoor PE games for kids are a great way to get kids exercising, burning off energy, building muscle, improving kinesthetic and spatial awareness, increasing coordination, overcoming fears, learning to follow rules, developing social skills, problem solving, cooperating with others, and enjoying the fresh air away from technology and screens.
Whether you’re a PE teacher, a coach for a youth sports team, or a parent looking for ideas for activities for birthday parties or get togethers, keep reading our guide to outdoor PE games for kids for a bunch of ideas and inspiration to get kids moving.
We have focused on running-based outdoor PE games that require little to no equipment.
16 outdoor PE games for Kids
#1: Last One There…
This outdoor PE game will get kids sprinting, yet it’s ultimately a game of endurance.
Set up two lines marked by cones or painted on the grass. The distance between the two cones can be determined based on the age of the kids and the number of kids in the PE class. The younger and the more numerous the kids, the closer the lines should be.
A good starting distance is 20-30 meters.
Have the students line up along one of the lines facing the other line. Call out “ready, set, go!“ And then have the students take off sprinting to the other line. The last student to reach the line is eliminated.Then have the students lineup on that line and face the original starting line. Call out the same commands and have the kids sprint back, again eliminating the last runner to cross the line.
Continue instructing the kids to run back and forth between the two lines, eliminating the final finisher each round until only one runner remains.
You can’t go wrong with this classic outdoor PE game. With tag, you have one person who’s “It,” and runs around chasing and trying to tag the other players.
#3: Blob Tag
There are many different versions of tag, and it’s also fun to invent your own or encourage the kids in your PE class to make up new rules and themes.
In blob tag, two students start together as the “It blob” by linking arms or holding hands. They run around in tandem chasing the rest of the students trying to tag them.
When the blob tags another person, the tagged person joins the blob and links up. The blob continues to grow as they tag more students. Once the blob is made up of four students, the blob bursts and is split into two, two-person blobs, which means there are now more chasers and it’s harder to escape getting tagged.
Keep splitting up blobs after 4-6 kids are linked up, depending on the size of your PE class.
#4: Leap Frog Tag
In this version of tag, any time someone is tagged, they must crouch down on all fours. To get “unstuck” and back in the game, another player must run over and leap frog over the tagged player to bring them back to life.
#5: Calisthenics Tag
Depending on the number of kids playing, select 3-5 “It” members. Each of these players represents a type of exercise. For example, you can dub one child the Push-Up Pusher, another player can be the Squat Sargent, another can be a Plank Patroller, etc.
Then, play tag as usual. However, whenever one of these “It” players tags a runner, the tagged player has to complete a certain number of that exercise (for example, 20 squats).
You can even get creative with these “penalties.” For instance, the first time you get tagged by the Squat Sargent, you have to do 20 squats, but you have to do 10 more each time you get tagged by that player (so 30 next time, 40 after that, etc.).
After you finish your exercises, you’re back in the game.
Other good exercises to include are burpees, jump squats, sit-ups, jumping jacks, and lunges.
#6: Freeze Tag
In freeze tag, once you are tagged, you have to stand still with your legs spread. To get back in the game, another player has to crawl through your legs without getting tagged.
#7: Sharks and Minnows
Although this game was originally designed to be played in the water, it’s one of the great running outdoor PE games, too.
Players, or “minnows”, are lined up on one line and face another line 30-60 meters or so away. One or two “sharks” stand in the “ocean” between the two lines.
When the sharks yell, “Fishy, fishy, cross my ocean!”, the minnows try to run to the opposite line without getting tagged by a shark.
If they are tagged, they become seaweed that are stuck in place, wiggling and waving their arms.
They can then tag other minnows when they run by, making it harder for the minnows to get to safety without getting tagged.
#8: Relay Races
Any sort of relay race makes a great outdoor PE game, from simple running and passing a baton to running while dribbling a soccer ball, running backwards, or skipping, you can get really creative with the structure while fostering teamwork with the relay format.
#9: Find the Destination
If you have a playground or outdoor area with different landmarks (basketball court, swing set, bike rack, statue, etc.), you can create a destination running PE game.
Divide the kids into small teams. Teams are given a starting clue that describes a location in the play area. For example, a clue might be, “This is where you can rehydrate after running,” referring to the water fountain.
The team has to solve the clue and run to the water fountain, where they will find a clue for their next destination.
The first team to find all their destinations wins.
#10: Capture the Flag
This is a classic outdoor PE game that involves two teams facing off, trying to capture the other team’s hidden “flag” without getting caught and landing in “jail.”
The flag must be brought back to your own safety zone. To be released from jail, a player on your team must come and “unlock” the jail without getting tagged by an opponent.
#11: Captain’s Orders
Captain’s Orders is like Simon Says, except the instructor or one student is the captain. The captain gives orders like “The Captain says, ‘Do 15 jumping jacks.’”
If the captain gives a command without saying “The captain says…” beforehand, any players who do the activity are eliminated.
The activities should be various calisthenics and other exercises like running, push-ups, jumping jacks, and walking lunges to give a full-body workout, along with ship-based activities like “scrub the deck”, “run to port”, and “walk the plank.”
#12: Circuit Stations
Set up an exercise circuit with different stations. Kids cycle though the stations, performing the exercises for 60 seconds.
Examples include jumping rope, crunches, sprinting in place, burpees, mountain climbers, wheelbarrow races, cartwheels, and leg lifts.
#13: Follow the Leader
Follow the Leader is always a fun game, but you can make it especially active by focusing on running and other challenges exercises like bear crawls, walking lunges, wheelbarrows with partners, crab walks, skipping, running backwards, etc.
The leader gets to choose when, what, and for how long each exercise happens.
#14: Playground Olympics
If you have a few pieces of equipment, you can set up playground Olympics with inventive and “real” events like hurdles, high jump, long jump, sprints, relays, crab walk races, frisbee discus throws, etc.
#15: Scavenger Hunts
Kids love scavenger hunts and they can easily be designed for outdoor PE classes by choosing items found outdoors like twigs, clovers, flowers, bottle caps, flat rocks, etc.
Divide the class into different teams and have them run around as a group, trying to find all the items on the list before the other teams.
#16: Rattlesnake Runs
In this game, the kids run in a long line, forming a snake. The student who is first is the “head of the snake,” and sets the jogging pace for the entire snake. They can choose to run fast, slow, or anywhere in between and the rest of the snake has to try to keep up.
The student at the very end of the line, the “rattle tail”, must shed themselves and then sprint up to the front of the line and take over as the head of the snake.
Each student is eventually in the tail, and has to peel off one by one and sprint to the front. This is a great PE game for a running workout, as essentially, it’s a fartlek run in disguise.
What outdoor PE games do you recommend?
If you are confined to the inside of a gymnasium due to winter weather, check out our indoor PE games for kids!