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Unique Outdoor Games To Keep Kids Active This Summer

Summer is synonymous with carnivals. Why wait for the carnival to come to your town when you can set one up in your own backyard using items you probably already have around the house. Don't forget to stock up on prizes for the winners.

Face Painting Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt

Kick off your backyard carnival with a little fun and creative face painting. But it's not that easy. First the kids have to find their supplies. Place different colored face paints, stickers, glitter and temporary tattoos in Easter eggs. Hide the eggs around the yard, then the search can begin. They may use what items they've collected to make their own carnival face. Adults may want to help with some of the temporary tattoos and glitter applications depending on the ages and skills of the children.

Goldfish Toss

Goldfish Toss

Using jars, vases and any other clear objects around the house, assemble a group of them in an area and fill a quarter of the vessel with water. Using ping pong balls, have the children stand at a distance and try to land a ball in one of the jars. If they do, they win a prize. Prizes can be real goldfish, stuffed fish toys or even individual packets of goldfish crackers. For added fun, place plastic fish in the jars so that it looks like a goldfish carnival toss.

Can Knock Down

Can Knock Down

Using empty soda cans and a bouncy ball, assemble the cans in a pyramid and toss the ball at the cans to knock them down. For an added challenge, fill the cans half way with water to make them more difficult to knock down. Give them three balls to try to knock down all the cans. If they get them all down, they win a prize.

Guess Your ________________

Guess Your

In a new spin on the guess your weight/age carnival game, this activity incorporates memory, physical fitness and social skills into one timed challenge. One challenger will have to run from the start line to a box containing facts about each of the other kids. They must then run back and match the fact on the card with the individual they think it belongs to. If they get it right, they can grab another card. If they get it wrong, they'll need to run that card back to the box before trying again. This is a timed challenge that ends when each card is correctly matched with each of the other kids. Facts should be a mixture of things they probably know and things they may not know, like favorite color, favorite school subject, best vacation trip, the cartoon or superhero you'd most want to be, favorite teacher or food you wish mom never made you eat. Each child will take turns running the challenge and the best time wins.

This game can also be played relay style with kids versus adults where the kids would have to match adult facts and vice versa with each person taking a turn to go grab a card and the team that completes the challenge first wins.

Build Your Own Carnival Tent

Carnival tent

This group activity can be done in teams. Grab a bunch of cardboard boxes, bags, string, tape, sticks and whatever else you can get your hands on and have the teams erect their own carnival tents. Then have one person from each group tell a story about their particular carnival theme. You can assign points for structure, overall design, creativity and story.

Talent Showcase

Talent Show

Once the tents are built and each team has a theme, it's time for a talent showcase of imaginary carnival people. Each kid comes up with their own showcase using a mixture of props. It can be carnival themed like the world's strongest man or a bearded lady, or something different entirely, made of their favorite superheroes or villains. It's up to them how they want their carnival to be themed, but each child should get the chance to showcase their talent.

Weirdest Bug Challenge

Weirdest Bugs

Each kid will go collect a bug that they find in the backyard. They can search on the ground, in the bushes or look on trees. The goal is to find the weirdest bug in the yard. This can be done on an individual level and then compared in the end, or the kids may search together. Once the weird bugs are collected, do a little research to find out what bug it is, what it eats and its lifecycle for an added educational component.

Learn to Juggle


Add to the carnival fun by teaching kids how to juggle. Trying a variety of different items to juggle will help with learners of all ages. These include rings, which are easier to grip, or scarves, which move more slowly. Then you can work your way up to bean bags and even juggling balls.

Jamie Hardin is the counter-culture Washingtonian in the know. Inspired by food, sustainability issues, and public health, she prides herself on finding DC's off-the-beaten path treasures. When she isnt enjoying organic food or reducing her carbon footprint, Jamie's traveling on her scooter or walking her two pit bulls. Her work can be found at

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