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Fall Backyard Games for Kids

Let’s Move! Getting kids to be physically active is not as hard as you might think; just join in the fun. Backyard games are a great way to spend crisp fall days; jumping into piles of leaves, running races, playing tag and just generally fooling around. Top it off with a snack of apples and a thermos of cocoa, and it’s hard to go wrong.

Very active games

Get your heart rate up and teach your kids that running and hollering are great fun with these simple backyard games.

Sharks and fish

Use hula hoops or beach towels to designate “caves” where the fish take refuge. Each fish has a cave; choose 1 child to be the shark. The shark stands a fair distance from the caves (depending on the age and ability of the players) and shouts, “Fishie, fishie, cross my ocean!” All of the fish must then move to another cave. When tagged, fish become sharks. The last fish left is the winner. For Halloween, vary the game by calling it Monsters and movers. Makeup and costumes can add to the fun.

Mouse tails

Tuck pieces of string or yarn about a foot long into the backs of the players’ shoes. Form a circle with everyone holding hands. At a signal, drop hands; participants try to capture strings by stepping on the tails. If the tail pulls out, the winner keeps it. When all but one has lost a tail, start over. If you want, paint mouse whiskers on faces and add ears.

Blob tag

This variation on an old favorite requires that the person tagged join hands with the tagger. A rather large blob can form quickly with new people being added as tagged. You could also play shadow tag by having the person who is “it” step on the shadows of other players.

Looking, answering and art games

Bet on bugs

Give each child a sketch pad and pencil and set a time limit. This can be only 5 minutes for younger players and stretch to 15 for older children. Participants look for bugs to draw. The person who finds the most different types of bugs wins a medium size gourd to paint. Have smaller gourds for other kids to paint. Display the gourds with corn shucks for autumn.

Paint with found objects

Attach an old plastic tablecloth or tarp to a fence for protection. On top of this, attach an old sheet or a very large piece of paper. Divide the sheet into sections if the kids are older and provide pots of tempera paint in autumn colors (red, yellow, orange.) Challenge the young artists to find natural objects (sticks, grass, weeds, feathers, stones, etc.) and create a picture by using these instead of brushes to apply the paint.

Balloon questions and consequences

With a permanent marker, write A on one group of balloons and B on another. Write numbered questions about fall (Why do leaves turn color? What season comes next?) on small strips of paper. Prepare an answer sheet for the questions. Insert the strips of paper into the A balloons. On a second set of paper strips, write consequences such as; Hop on 1 foot 5 times, rub your tummy and nod your head 5 times, take two laps around the yard. Vary questions and consequences according to the age and abilities of the participants.

Blow up the balloons and place A’s in 1 basket and B’s in another. Players take turns drawing out balloons, popping them and giving the answer. If they get it wrong, the perform a consequence.


There’s a reason why some games have been around for generations. They’re just plain fun. Here are a few of the tried and true:

Freeze tag

One player is “it,” everyone else follows directions. “It” calls out an activity such as “Jump across the yard on both feet.” At some point in the action, “It” yells, “Freeze!” When everyone stops, ask a question about fall and give a piece of apple to the first person with the right answer. A player who moves after the freeze joins “it” as a spotter. Continue until 1 player is left, or until kids tire of the activity.

Balloon bust relay

Form 2 lines. Set a basket of balloons across the yard from each line. Beginning with the front players, each child runs, hops or skips across, chooses a balloon, pops it, and returns to the line, tagging the next team member. The first team to pop all of their balloons wins.

Simon says

The player designated “it” gives instructions to the group, such as “Simon says stand on one foot.” “Simon says run in place.” “Sit down.” Players should only respond to instructions that begin with “Simon says.” Those who make a mistake become spotters.


This can be played with as few as 2 children. One child gently swings the other in a circle and suddenly lets go. The other child becomes a statue in whatever position he or she falls into. If more than one pair is involved, be sure to space them widely enough to avoid collisions.

Enjoy the days before the onset of winter by getting outdoors with the kids. Running around a lot, yelling and laughing and generally being silly are good for your body, your soul and your relationships. You’ll be cooped up waiting for the cold snap or storms to pass soon enough. Get moving now.

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