Best Outdoor Games with Kids for Autumn and Winter
As the days grow shorter and the temperature falls, outdoor play becomes less and less enticing – not least for parents, who tend to feel the cold more because they’re often not running around. In fact, children are usually just as happy larking around in the wind, rain and snow as they are in the sunshine, not least when there’s some conker-hunting, puddle-jumping or snowball-fighting to be done.
We’ve rounded up the best outdoor games to battle cabin fever with children of various ages during the chillier months – ones so fun that hopefully you’ll be tempted to join in too (if not, then go prepared for the cold, with hand-warmers to slip into your gloves and a flask of coffee or hot chocolate…).
Most of the following are suitable for the garden or the park; some require snow…
Create a winter-themed scavenger hunt around your garden, neighbourhood and/or park. For instance, who can collect the most pine cones in five minutes (tip: pretend to be squirrels gathering nuts)? Alternatively, what animal tracks can you spot and identify?
Reflector Hunt/Hide & Seek
This game is popular in Scandinavia with its long hours of darkness. Either hide reflectors around an outdoor space in the dark and let kids hunt them with torches, or get the kids to hide in bushes and behind trees with reflectors as one player seeks them out with a flashlight.
Leaf, Leaf, Pine Cone
In this nature-based version of the classic ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’, players sit in a circle and whoever is ‘it’ runs around it touching the heads of the other players while saying ‘Leaf, leaf, leaf’. They then drop a pine cone into someone's lap and try to run back around the circle without being tagged.
Gather together fallen leaves and place them in the middle of a sheet. Get the kids to lift the sheet slowly and then at different speeds to see what happens to the leaves.
Line up relay teams at each end of a long stretch of snow- or ice-covered ground, wearing snowsuits. Each player lays on their belly and pulls themselves along using only their arms, ‘passing the baton’ to the next person in their team when they get to the end.
Cut up newspaper to resemble ice floes then line players up in relay teams at the end of a row of them. Make short steps between some floes and longer ones between others. Players have to race across the floes to reach 'shore', then turn and wave at the next person in their team to start. Any player who touches the ‘water’ has to go back and start again.
Make tracks in the snow using various objects such as toy vehicles, cutlery and shoes with different soles, then challenge kids to match the tracks to the objects.
The Hunt for the Abominable Snowman
Build a large snowman in an out-of-the-way spot, then make two big footprints out of plywood or very thick cardboard, strap them to your feet and walk about in the snow to create a route to the snowman – but zigzag around to make the hunt more challenging.
The player chosen to play snowman gets hold of a foam baseball bat or similar, then closing their eyes and chanting, ‘Snowman, snowman, all in white, blinding everyone in sight', moves around trying to tag one of the other players. A player who is tagged becomes the blind snowman.
In the Pond!
Make a 'pond' by trampling down a circular patch of snow, then get players to stand around it. When you shout ‘In the pond!’, they have to jump into the circle. When you shout, ‘On the bank!’, they have to jump back. After repeating these a few times, slip in, ‘On the pond!’ or ‘In the bank!’ – any player who moves is out.
This is for slightly older kids and is best done in the woods. Lay a trail using brightly coloured wool, and along the way leave cards with survival conundrums players have to solve before continuing. For example, one of your team has tried to cross a frozen river but there's a terrible cracking sound after 10 steps: How do you save them? At the end of the trail, get together round a campfire to discuss your solutions.
Snow & Spoon Race
In this winter version of the classic egg and spoon race, kids pit themselves against one another while balancing a snowball on a spoon.
Read more about family activities at Luxury Family Hotels.