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The List: 8 Outdoor Games That Don’t Need Equipment

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With these games, you can have fun outdoors without a single prop.


When I was shopping for supplies for a recent camping weekend with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop, I wandered down the aisle with all the outdoor activities, looking for some fun stuff to take along for the girls to play with. But after one quick perusal I headed the other way, dissuaded by visions of all the cheap plastic play equipment littering our campground or filling up the landfill when it inevitably breaks.

As it turned out, we didn’t need any of that equipment and were plenty busy without it. For the next time I plan a picnic, camping trip, or other outdoor gathering where kids and active adults are involved, I’ve been compiling a list of games and activities that can be played with no equipment whatsoever. Try these out instead of purchasing new playthings:

  1. Races: Choose a starting place and a finish line — they could be a tree or a picnic shelter or the edge of the parking lot — and pick your pace. You could run, skip, hop, walk backwards, or do a relay.
  2. Red Rover: You’ll need at least six people (more is better!) to play this old-fashioned schoolyard game. Two teams are formed and each team takes turns calling a member of the opposite team to try to break through the other team’s chain of linked arms. Read more detailed rules for the setup.
  3. Duck Duck Goose: This game is a favorite among little kids (if it’s been awhile since you played, review the rules) and is a good way to focus a group of young kids, since all but one or two of them will be sitting for most of the game.
  4. Blob Tag: A fun variation of classic tag where when you’re tagged, you join hands with “it” and have to try to tag the others as a group. The more people who are tagged, the more unwieldy the chain of “it” becomes!
  5. Silly Symphony: Silly Symphony is fun to play in the woods or other areas where there are plenty of natural materials like sticks, rocks, and leaves. Players are given some time to find natural objects that can make a noise, such as two rocks that can be struck together or a blade of grass used as a whistle. One person is the “conductor” and conducts the orchestra of sounds by waving at each person to play their “instrument.”
  6. Sharks and Minnows: In this variation of tag, the person who is it is the shark, and everyone else is a minnow. The minnows walk slowly to the shark, who at any point can yell “shark attack!” and try to catch a minnow before they reach “base”. If caught, the minnow becomes the next shark.
  7. Poison Frog: In this circle game, one person is chosen (by someone not playing the game) to be the frog, and another to be the detective, who sits in the middle of the circle. The chosen poison frog “kills” off the players one by one by making eye contact and sticking their tongue out at the person (dramatic “deaths” by the players make the game more fun), while the detective tries to decide who the killer is.
  8. Sardines: In this inversion of hide and seek, only one person hides and everyone else tries to find him. When someone finds the hider, that person joins him in the hiding spot. The last person to find everyone is the next person to hide.

What no-equipment-needed games would you add to the list? Add your suggestions in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

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  • tommy b. 1 year ago
    Today
  • Dona E. 1 year ago
    Red Rover was a great game to learn tactical game theory and very hard on the wrists. Funny how a medicare insurance ad popped up when I looked at the proper instructions for Red Rover! We just played it by trying to break into the opposite chain.
    One, 2, 3, red light was nursery school and kindergarten. Friends advanced and frienemies did not. But I like all these mentioned and will give them a try.
    Does anyone remember "button, button, who has the button?"
  • joanna l. 1 year ago
    I liked crafts made from found natural items like leaf impressions made with crayons and paper or using small seashells or fragments to decorate a cigar box,
  • m Mc G. 2 years ago
    How refreshing.
  • Emma D. 2 years ago
    Since it was girl scouts, collect an identify the leaf? Intellectual game.
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