37 Creative Outdoor Birthday Party Ideas to Keep Kids Entertained

kids enjoying outdoor scrabble
Photo: Joe Polillio

Give your child a party to remember with a host of fun, energetic outdoor games for kids. With a few household supplies and some ingenuity, we dreamed up an afternoon's worth of birthday party games that will have guests giggling until the party's end.

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Pool Painting

girl painting with pool and toys balls
Kim Lowe

Make art outside! Turn a kiddie pool into a fun outdoor game for kids with white paper, plastic balls, and tempera paint. Tape your paper to the bottom of a plastic kiddie pool. Dip balls in paint and drop them into the pool. Have each artist swirl the pool to create their design.

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Popcorn Drop

kids outdoors popcorn drop game
Douglas Merriam

This easy relay race game can work at a birthday party of any size. We think it's most fun with four to eight players.

First, you'll need to make two pairs of shoe cups. Use a pushpin to poke holes in the bottom of clear plastic cups. Push a wide rubber band through the holes to create a strap.

To play, split the birthday party guests into two teams. The first player straps cups on their shoes and fills them with popped popcorn from a bag at the starting line. Then the player hustles to a basket on the other end of the lawn. After the player dumps out the popcorn in the baskets and races back, the next player follows suit.

The race is over when one of the bags of popcorn is empty. Measure the popcorn in the baskets to see which team got the most in.

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Bubble Wrap Hopscotch

girl playing hopscotch with bubble wrap
David Roth

Save your bubble wrap and get hopping! Kids—and adults!—will love popping the bubbles and playing outside. Cut bubble wrap into nine rectangles. Use a permanent marker to give each a number from 1 to 9.

  1. One player tosses a small stone or object into one of the blocks. If the stone lies outside of a box, the turn is skipped.
  2. Once the stone is landed, the child is allowed to step in every available space except the one taken by the stone, being careful not to touch an outside line.
  3. Where two numbers are side-by-side—such as 5-6—the child must jump using both feet at the same time.
  4. Once the number 10 is reached, the child must turn around and return to start.
  5. The first one to finish the course 10 times wins hopscotch!
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Toppling Tug-of-War

outdoor toppling tug of war game
Kinzie Riehm

Put a birthday-worthy twist on tug-of-war by elevating the outdoor game for older kids. Players stand on upended milk cartons placed 6 to 12 feet apart. Then have players pull or relax a rope, attempting to force their opponent off of the crate. Add a few gym mats for safety.

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Outdoor Word Game

kids enjoying outdoor scrabble
Joe Polillio

This party game is F-U-N! Engage kids with this challenging outdoor spelling game.

  1. For a 72-piece game set, purchase a 4x8-foot sheet of Masonite from a home improvement store. At the store, have it cut into 8-inch squares.
  2. Apply a letter to each square—you'll repeat the alphabet twice except for letters Q and X.

To play, each player gets 10 letters. The first player spells a word on the ground. The next player must build off that word. The player with the fewest letters at the end wins!

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Frisbee Toss

kids tossing discs into ballot box
Laura Doss

Take aim and toss! This simple party game for kids starts with a repurposed cardboard box and gets all ages into the action.

Cut a rectangular hole on both sides of a cardboard box. You want the hole large enough to comfortably fit your Frisbee. Decorate the box with colorful tape, paper, or paint. Grab a bunch of Frisbees, and off you go! Get the most Frisbees to land inside the box by aiming for the hole.

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Silly Sack Race

kids playing silly sack race apple orchard
Helen Norman

Kids want to move! This fun game for kids will burn pent-up party energy and get lots of laughs along the way.

Decorate plain burlap potato sacks with felt cutouts to suit the party theme. Use fabric glue or fusible web and an iron to adhere the shapes to the sacks.

Give each child a potato sack. Line the kids up in a grassy area. At the starting signal, have kids hop down a marked path—include a few curves to add a challenge—to the finish line. Keep the path clear to prevent injuries.

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Clothespin Tag

young boy with yellow clothespin tag on shirt
Joe Polillio

Combine playground tag and flag football in this easy birthday party game. Let each child decorate a clothespin with markers, crafts foam, and googly eyes. Clip the decorated pin on the back of each child's shirt. When you say "go," the kids can try to snatch other clothespins without losing their own. The child with the most clothespins at the end wins that round.

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Disk Tic-Tac-Toe

kids playing disc tic-tac-toe outdoors
Kinzie Riehm

Supersize tic-tac-toe is perfect for an outdoor birthday party. Flying disks and a shower curtain transform into an easy party game for kids. Use duct tape to block out squares on a shower curtain liner. Use more tape to mark which disks are Xs, or use color to divide the teams. Players stand behind a throw line and follow the rules of tic-tac-toe. If the disk lands off the board or in an occupied square, the player can throw again.

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Wooden Block Stacking Game

kids playing jumbo jenga at lake
Tony Demin

A classic party game, this simple stacking set is perfect for older kids and small groups.

  1. Cut 2x4-foot boards into a total of 54 pieces that are 10 ½-inches inches long.
  2. After all the pieces are cut, sand the edges of each until smooth.
  3. Stack the blocks in alternating directions, and you're ready!

Be careful of tiny toes—the tower will fall at the end of the game.

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Pool Prize Search

kids pool prize search
Andy Lyons

On a hot summer day, the coolest party games involve water. This wet-and-wild game gives kids a great excuse to get soaked. Fill an inflatable pool with water. Hide a weighted ring or other treasures on the bottom of the pool. Fill the pool with inflatable balls and toys to make it difficult to see the bottom. Have a few kids wade around the pool looking for the hidden treasure. Provide them with goggles, or make it more challenging by allowing them to only use their feet.

Editor's Tip: Add a twist by blindfolding the contestants. Have kids wade through the pool using only their feet to discover the underwater treasures. Encourage the onlookers to shout out advice. Make sure to supervise so everyone stays safe.

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Star-Shape Bubble Wands

girl blowing bubbles star shape wand
David Tsay

Set up a star-spangled outdoor bubble station with these easy DIY bubble wands. Simply twist wire or wire hangers into desired shapes. We love the star. Next, fill shallow baking dishes with bubble solution and get blowing!

Editor's Tip: This fun game for kids doubles as a DIY party favor. Send each guest home with a wand and a small bottle of bubble solution.

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Build-Your-Own Boat Races

boys holding built boats to race in pool
Sabrina Helas

Create a fleet of fun sailboats with just a few simple supplies. Cut pool noodles into 13-inch sections with angled ends. Adhere two together with electrical tape. Create a mast and sail with a wooden skewer and a triangle of washi tape. Insert the ship's mast and sail between the pieces of tape. During a summer pool party, have each child sail their boat and see which goes the farthest.

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Nature Scavenger Hunt

boy holding box of scavenger hunt items
Peter Krumhardt

Bugs and bark, pinecones and pebbles, dandelions and dried leaves—kids adore the wonders found in the great outdoors. Set your child's birthday party outdoors, and organize a scavenger hunt. Arm each child or team with a list and a treasure box or bag. Offer tools such as binoculars, magnifying glasses, and disposable cameras to inspire close observation. Set a time limit, and let them explore. Display the kids' finds for the remainder of the party. Offer prizes for completing the list and finding unique or difficult items, or let the children select other award categories.

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Pickup Bottle Game

kids playing pickup bottle game
Laura Doss

Bring the carnival home! This classic game is perfect for small-space outdoor areas like a patio.

  1. First, fill two empty bottles with colored sand, available at most crafts stores. Next, tie a ring with a string long enough to reach the ground. Attach the other end of the string to a wooden dowel.
  2. Layout hula hoops and place a bottle on its side in the center of each one.
  3. The game is over when someone can stand the bottle up by slipping the small ring over the top of the bottle and gently tugging it upright.
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Sweet Scavenger Hunt

outdoors easter pale with pinecones
Carl Tremblay

The hunt is on during this outdoor game for kids! Ahead of party time, hide small toys and objects for kids to find. Arm each child with a galvanized pail and let them start searching. The first child to find 10 items wins—and gets to keep their prizes!

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Water Balloon Toss

kids playing water balloon toss game with hula hoops
Sabrina Helas

It's time to take aim! This competitive outdoor game for kids is perfect for teams of two. To play, give each child a bucket of filled water balloons. Set out hula hoops and assign each hoop a number of points. Let players take turns tossing the balloons and see who can make the most shots inside the hoops, collecting points as they go. The player with the highest score wins!

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Rocket Toss

rocket can toss outdoor game
David Roth

A rowdy game of rocket toss is easy and inexpensive to put together. Use colorful duct tape to decorate 15-ounce metal cans. Fill three small socks with about ½ cup of rice, and tie each sock closed with a ribbon. This will be the "rocket" that kids can toss at the cans. Give each birthday party guest three tries to knock down all the cans.

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Bottle Catch

kid playing bottle catch game outdoors
David Roth

Don't throw away those empty bleach bottles—transform them into an outdoor catching game for kids!

  1. Cut the end off a cleaned bleach bottle and remove the label.
  2. Wrap the bottle with colorful washi tape and you're ready to play catch!
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Yard Maze

yard leaves outdoor maze
Andrew Greto

Make a mazelike pathway through fallen leaves, and birthday party attendees can race through it. Rake a curving path through fallen leaves. No leaves in sight? Use rope or grass clippings and sticks to form the maze. Have kids race together through the maze, or use a stopwatch to time each child.

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Water Gun Game

water gun outdoors game
Andy Lyons

Make a splash at your child's summer birthday party with a fun water game. For each team, string a plastic bucket on a length of clothesline; make the lines the same length to be fair. With the buckets at one end of the clothesline, arm each team with a hose or large squirt guns. Using only water, the teams must race to move their bucket to the other end of the line.

Editor's Tip: Make this fun game for kids even wilder. Arm a team with water balloons to use as obstacles and distractions while the other team tries to push its bucket across the finish line.

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Foam Racket Game

mother son playing foam racket game
Ronald Andren

Little ones will enjoy this fun twist on badminton. Use homemade foam rackets to keep the colorful balloon off the ground.

  1. Cover paint stirrers or rulers with tape.
  2. Cut crafts foam into desired shapes—ours are about 8-inches across.
  3. Tape foam circles to handles.
  4. Blow up a balloon and go!
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Flower Tic-Tac-Toe Game

girls playing tic tac toe with flowers
Peter Krumhardt

Nature is calling for a game of tic-tac-toe. Set up simple tic-tac-toe boards on your lawn with small twigs or wooden dowels. Provide flower heads from your garden, or let children explore your yard for flower heads, stones, leaves, or other bits of nature to use as game pieces.

Editor's Tip: Alert parents about your plans for an outdoor party and ask about their children's allergies. Make sure to have silk flowers on hand, just in case.

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Outdoor Checkerboard Game

kids playing yard checkers
Greg Scheidemann

You may not have a built-in checkerboard in your backyard, but it's easy to set one up for a birthday party. Cut large squares from sturdy poster board, and tack them to the ground in a checkerboard pattern. To keep the poster board squares in place, use plant stakes or other stakes with rounded tops for safety. Or chalk up your driveway to create the board. Make big beanbags or use two colors of Frisbee disks for the checkers. Have kids take turns moving their pieces across the board using the same rules as a game of checkers. Set up teams to involve everyone in the fun.

Editor's Tip: You can also use large square flooring tiles to make the board. Inexpensive tiles are available at home improvement stores.

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Flashlight Tag

kids playing flashlight tag outdoors
David Tsay

Tag, you're it! Keep kids entertained with an evening birthday party game of flashlight tag.

  1. At dusk, find a safe place for kids to run around.
  2. Give each child a handheld flashlight—we added a ribbon necktie to each for easy access.
  3. Allow the kids to tag each other by turning their flashlights on and off.
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Wild Wheels Obstacle Course

girl playing wild wheels obstacle course
Andy Lyons

On-the-go kids will love wheeling and squealing on this obstacle course. Ask each child to bring his or her favorite set of wheels. It's a good idea to have a few extra vehicles available. To create the course, arrange orange cones or other soft items in your yard or a nearby park. Include curves, turns, and small hills, depending on the ages and abilities of your racers. Fuel the kids' excitement by timing each racer as they pedal to the finish line. To make the course more challenging, set up stations along the way where children must stop to perform a task, such as blowing bubbles.

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Pumpkin Tic-Tac-Toe

kids playing pumpkin tic tac toe
Ray Kachatorian

Pumpkins aren't just for the porch! Make the most of the season's harvest with this easy outdoor game of tic-tac-toe.

  1. Spread a layer of hay in a square.
  2. Lay sticks to form the tic-tac-toe board.
  3. Set out a total of 10 pumpkins: five white and five orange.
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Cone Run

kid playing outdoors cone run
David Roth

Who's the fastest of them all? Set up an outdoor course and find out! This birthday party game couldn't be easier—simply set up numbered plastic cones in a zig-zag patterns and it's off to the races. The player who completes the obstacle race course the fastest wins the game.

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Icy Art

kids painting ice using feet
Kim Lowe

Beat the summer heat with this cool kids birthday party game. Freeze water in containers of different shapes and sizes to create an assortment of ice blocks. Supply kids with washable tempera paint and paint brushes (or finger-painting gear if you're prepared for a little extra mess) and have them paint the frozen ice shapes with their brushes, fingers, or even toes. The ice will melt as they paint (and as it sits out), creating cool paint designs and changing the color and texture of the paint. This sensory activity is a great option for younger kids, but older ones will still enjoy getting a little messy.

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Pumpkin Ball Toss

outdoor ball toss pumpkin game
Adam Albright

Got leftover jack-o'-lanterns? Put them to good use with our pumpkin toss game!

  1. Stack hay bales in a two-tier square.
  2. Place pumpkins on each level. We used cardstock to create point labels for each.
  3. Get a tennis ball and start tossing! The player who knocks off the most pumpkins wins.
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Oversize Pickup Sticks

oversize pickup sticks leaning against tree
Adam Albright

An old-fashioned favorite, pickup sticks gets a gigantic twist when the sticks are as big as the kids.

Start with 30 wooden dowels; ½-inch-diameter dowels in a standard length, such as 48 inches, work well. Paint the ends with bright colors: red, blue, green, yellow, orange, and purple, for example.

To start the game, drop the sticks on the ground in a big messy pile, and let the kids take turns picking up a stick. If a stick other than the one the child is removing wiggles, the child must return the stick and forgo his or her turn. At the end, the player with the most sticks wins.

Editor's Tip: Add a challenge to the game by assigning each player a color. The first player to successfully remove all the sticks of the assigned color wins the party game.

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Outdoor Dice Game

kids playing yard dice games
Ray Kachatorian

All it takes is a few dice to get the party started! You can make these outdoor dice with wood, but we chose small cardboard boxes—perfect for younger children.

  1. Paint one small cardboard box white and one black.
  2. After the paint has dried, decorate each with dots of the opposite color. For a six-sided dice, opposite faces are arranged to always add up to seven, so the six face will be directly opposite the one face, the five opposite the two, and so on.
  3. To play, select a number between one and six and have kids vigorously roll the dice—the farther they have to run to retrieve them, the more fun. The first child to get the designated number wins the round.

Dice are a dynamic yard toy, so come up with your own variations on common dice games to keep the fun going.

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Outdoor Art Class

kids drawing outdoors near flowers
Michael Partenio

Have a little Picasso on your hands? Get painting outside! Set up all the materials kids will need to paint or draw outside in a space surrounded by nature. Let each child create their own work of art inspired by flowers, plants, and nature. Try making homemade sidewalk chalk paint and letting the kids decorate your driveway.

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Flying Disc Toss

kids playing flying disc toss outdoors
William Geddes

Set up a fun game of DIY disc golf right in your backyard! To create this outdoor game for kids, hang an oversized hula hoop from a branch or clothesline. Try a fun take on the classic game of catch. Have each player throw the disc through the hoop. The first one to complete ten shots wins!

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Squirt Bottle Tag

kids playing squirt bottle tag
Robert Holland

Beat the summer heat with a game of squirt bottle tag. The object of this outdoor game is to "tag" the other players with a stream of water from your plastic squirt bottle. The child who stays dry the longest wins.

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Paper Airplane Toss

kids playing paper plan toss outdoors
Robert Holland

This summer craft for kids doubles as a fun outdoor game! Have each child create their own paper airplane using construction paper and tape or glue. Once the planes are completed, head outside and see which ones take flight. The paper plane that goes the furthest wins.

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Pool Noodle Croquet

kids playing croquet with pool toys
Sabrina Helas

Keep the kids entertained with the cheap outdoor activity idea. Create an oversized version of one of our favorite classic summer games—croquet. To make, use wooden dowels to stake pool noodle arches into the ground. Be sure to make the arch tall enough that an inflated beach ball can pass under it. To play, give each child their own pool noodle and see who can get the ball through the arches first.

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