Whether you want to break up the monotony of long summer days or you seek to help your family connect in the midst of busy school-year schedules, you have many family-friendly game options from which to choose. You do not have to limit yourself to schoolyard standards such as tag and hide-and-seek. Instead, the whole family will enjoy many simple, engaging outside games designed for 5- to 8-year-old kids.
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Enjoy an energetic variation of Capture the Flag with the Hoopla game, suggested by Cary Pyle in “Indoor and Outdoor Games: Going Beyond Duck, Duck, Goose.” Place three to four hula hoops around a play area or create three to four large circles with ribbon or rope, and then put an equal number of beanbags into each hoop or circle. Divide the group accordingly into three or four equal teams and have each team choose a hoop or circle as its home base. Set a time limit and have each team, on the signal to begin, gather as many beanbags into its hoop or circle as possible. Players only move one beanbag at a time; at the end of the time limit, the team with the most collected beanbags wins.
Join in easy, rambunctious outdoor entertainment with the Swatball game, recommended by Bobbi Connor in “Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun.” Create two equal teams and hand out unused plastic flyswatters to each player. Choose a playing area that has a center net or divider of some sort, such as a picnic table. The two teams must keep two large beach balls in the air, passing the balls from player to player and from team to team, using only flyswatters to hit the balls. If a ball hits the ground, the nearest player should toss it back into play. Each game can last from five to 10 minutes, after which players should be mixed up to form new teams. A fast-moving game, Swatball can be played with or without keeping score.
Navigate an outdoor obstacle course in the Copycat game, described by Debra Wise and Sandra Forrest in the “Great Big Book of Children’s Games: Over 450 Indoor and Outdoor Games for Kids.” Choose a play area, such as a playground, with a number of obstacles that provide opportunities for physical activities such as jumping, crawling, swinging and running. Select a leader, and have each player follow the leader and seek to imitate her activities as much as possible. For example, the leader might hop on one foot, slip down a slide, walk backward and run around a tree trunk. Make sure that the leader does not choose complicated or dangerous activities. After a set period of time, choose a different leader for the group.