The weather is getting nicer and of course, kids love to play outside. Whether it's on playgrounds, in backyards, a field, or anywhere they can find space, kids' games around the world is something all children have in common.
One of the things my kids always look for when we travel to other countries is what games and sports kids in that country like to play. They are often curious to see if it is similar or different, and they often bring home a new game to share with their friends.
Playing childhood games popular in other countries is a great way for kids to connect with children around the world. Whether you are planning a staycation or just looking for something new to play in your backyard, or during homeschooling recess, here are 15 backyard kids games from around the world.
This post contains affiliate links for which I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link at no additional cost to you. See my disclaimer.
Backyard Kids Games From Around The World
Many of my fellow travel bloggers live all over the world, and some travel full time. I recently asked them to share playground or backyard kids' games from around the world popular in their country or a country they have visited. Some of these are cultural games from around the world. Here are their best picks your kids will love.
Sports Games From Around The World For Kids
New Zealand: Touch Rugby
Touch Rugby, or touch as it is known, is a common backyard or school ground game in New Zealand. The organized version of the game has seven players on each side, but backyard style, you just split the numbers in half. It is similar to the game Rugby, but there is no tackling.
In a nutshell, here are the rules:
- Have a try line (a play to score your try (points) by placing the ball on the ground over this line)
- Played with a rugby ball (oval ball)
- Players pass the ball backwards, then run forwards without being “touched”
- Teams have 6 “touches” before the ball is turned over the other team
- Once touched, you reset where you were touched and the play starts again
- The ball is turned over anytime the ball is passed forward, is dropped or there are 6 touches
- Players use quick passing, dodging and plays to make it through the defenders
It's a common game because it requires nothing more than a ball to play and kids will adapt the game to include as many, or as few, players as they need.
Contributed by Jennifer from Backyard Travel Family: Active Family Travel Specialists in New Zealand
Australia: Backyard Cricket
One of the first backyard game kids learn in Australia is backyard cricket. While this game may look like your typical game of cricket, its basically a more simple version.
You’ll also need at least two to three people to have a basic game, but this works much better with more people so you can have two teams – the batting team and the fielding team.
The rules are as follows:
- The batsman stands in front of a set of wickets (sometimes even a bin or some sticks will do the trick).
- The ball (often a tennis ball is used) is bowled to the batsman who attempts to hit the ball with a cricket bat (sometimes any bat around is used such as a baseball bat).
- If the ball is hit, the batsman runs to where the bowler stood and back to their original position. This is repeated as many times as possible while the ball is being fielded. The aim is to get in as many runs as possible until the ball is returned to the wickets. Someone else is required to keep the score of the runs.
- If the ball is returned to the wickets and the batsman is still running, the batsman is out and it’s another batsman’s turn.
- If the batsman, however, returns safely, then they have another go.
- Apart from that, most families make up their own rules, such as not being able to get out the first time or if you hit the ball over the neighbor's fence you’re automatically out.
Contributed by Melissa of Camp Essentials blog.
England: Kwik Cricket
Our kids like playing Kwik Cricket in our garden and when we go traveling as a family. Kwik Cricket is adapted from the traditional English game of cricket; it requires less equipment, less space, and can be played with only two players if needed.
Thankfully it also uses a much softer plastic bat and plastic ball!
- All you need to play is a bat, ball and stumps (which we often cobble together with driftwood)!
- Despite the differences to a full game of cricket, the children are still getting to practice essential cricket skills such as bowling, fielding, and batting.
- The basic rules of cricket apply.
- You are ‘out' if your hit ball is caught in the air or if the bowled ball hits the stumps.
- Variations in this child-friendly game include bowling underarm and timed batting time for teams and individuals.
It is a fast-paced, inclusive game that is great fun to play.
Contributed by Sinead of Map Made Memories blog.
Badminton is a court or lawn game played with a lightweight racket and shuttlecock (a ball with cone-shaped “feathers” attached). The game’s origins can be traced back over 2000 years to ancient Europe, China, and India.
Today badminton is played right around the world. It is particularly popular throughout Asia and, indeed, is an almost daily pastime for children in Vientiane, Laos.
The basic rules of badminton are as follows:
- You must hit the shuttlecock only once, taking turns with your opponent.
- Every time the shuttlecock hits the ground (or the net) there is a point to the person who last hit it.
- A game is played to 21 points.
- The winner is the best of three games.
- The side winning a game serves first in the next game.
While competitive badminton is played indoors on a clearly defined court, it can easily be played outdoors for fun with very little equipment. The game is usually played with just two players and all that is required are two rackets, one shuttlecock, and a net.
If you do not have a net, you can simply draw a line on the ground with chalk or mark with a piece of string. The aim of badminton is to hit the shuttlecock with your racket so that it travels over the net to land in your opponent’s half of the court. If the shuttlecock lands on the ground, you win a point.
Contributed by Marie of A Life Without Borders blog.
Australia: Australian Rules Football
Australian Rules Football is played with gusto in backyards across Australia. While the sport is more popular in the state of Victoria, there are die-hard fans, young and old, throughout the country.
Kids from a young age are raised to know how to kick a football, mark a “footy” and most importantly – kick the ball between the big white posts!
- To play a game of backyard “Aussie Rules”, you simply need a football and four goalposts (or something of resemblance).
- Kids try to kick the football through the goalposts (the center is worth six points and the end goals are worth one point.)
- Kids practice their goal kick on their own, tackle a sibling for possession, play kick-to-kick, or set up their own family match.
- Whoever gets the most points wins!
Contributed by Erin of Love To Travel, Stay-Eat-Do blog.
United Kingdom: Rounders
Britain’s answer to baseball is the popular game of rounders. Although mostly played at school and during long summer days at the park, this is a fun bat and ball game that anyone can play.
- Two teams play against each other to try and score as many ‘rounders’ as they can *and* to get the other team out.
- Each team should have nine players on the field at any one time. But you can play with as few as six people and a maximum of 15.
- Teams take turns to bat while the other team fields and bowls.
- The batter needs to try and hit the ball far enough so that they can get all around the pitch, making contact with each post.
- Like with baseball, they can stop on a post and wait until the next teammate has batted before completing the round.
A rounders’ bat and ball. The regulation size bat is 18 inches.
Contributed by Katja of Globetotting blog.
Playground And Backyard Games From Around The World For Kids
Ireland: Sly Fox
Sly Fox is an easy backyard game my kids learned in Ireland. Here's how to play:
- You need a minimum of two players but it is more fun with a slightly bigger group.
- One of them is the fox!
- At the start of the games, all the players line up and the fox stands on their own ahead of them, looking away (so the other players are behind him).
- The game starts with the fox counting out loud up to 10, as fast or as quickly as they want.
- While they count, the others try to get as close as they can to him/her and touch their back before the fox arrives at 10.
- The fun happens because when the fox gets to 10, they turn around very quickly and if they see you moving, you have to go back to the start.
So you need to be fast when you move, but be able to freeze and stay still like a statue too! It is a fun game for younger kids especially and not too physical. It's a good game when you need entertainment but energy is low!
Contributed by Marta of Mama Loves Ireland blog.
Italy: Guardie e Ladri (Guards and Thieves)
In Italy, we have a game called ‘guardie e ladri' (guards and thieves). Here's how to play:
- It is a chasing game and you need a minimum of four players, although the more the better.
- Two players are the guards and two are the thieves.
- At the start of the game, the thieves scatter around the and the guards have to chase them.
- If they catch them, they put them in prison, a designated location in the yard.
- But there is a twist! If a thieve hasn't been caught yet, they can free all the others in prison by running by them and touching them.
Contributed by Marta of Mama Loves Rome blog.
United Kingdom: Stuck In The Mud
English children love to play Stuck In The Mud. It can be played by three or more people, and is perfect for a backyard activity. Here's how it works:
- One person is the ‘tagger'.
- They have to chase everyone else.
- When they tap someone, that person has to stand still with legs apart and arms out, like a starfish.
- They only become unstuck if someone crawls between their legs.
- If there's a big group, it's more fun with more taggers.
Contributed by Jenny of Peak District Kids blog.
United Kingdom and United States: Hopscotch
Another great game for beloved in both the United Kingdom and the United Staes for kids to play outside is Hopscotch. Here's how to play:
- Draw a hopscotch grid on the ground and add in the numbers to follow.
- Usually, the boxes alternate between a single box and a double box with numbers written inside in order.
- You will need a stone, or flat object to throw onto the grid to land in a square.
- The first person does this and then hops into the first square, straddles the next coping the flow of the grid.
- If they come to their marker, they jump over it and continue to the end of the grid. They then turn around and do the same on the way back but pick up their marker and carry on back to the beginning.
- Once complete, they pass the marker to the next person.
Contributed by Anna of Twins and Travels blog.
Mexico: La Gallinita Ciega (The Blind Hen)
La Gallinita Ciega (The Blind Hen) is a popular children’s game in Mexico. Here's how to play:
- To play you need three players or more.
- One child is chosen to be the blind hen and is blindfolded.
- The other players spin him or her around and then they have to try and find the other players and catch them.
- When the “blind hen” catches another child they take off the blindfold and the captured player becomes the blind hen.
It's a really fun game for kids to play outside.
Contributed by Katja of Globetotting blog.
England: What's The Time, Mr. Wolf?
What’s the time, Mr. Wolf? is a fun game kids play outside in England. Here's how to play:
- The ‘wolf’ turns their back to the rest of the children and stands at a distance away in front of a line of children.
- The children stand behind the wolf and ask, “What’s the time Mr. Wolf?”
- And the Wolf replies with 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock or another time.
- The children behind take the same number of steps forward as the time shouted out by the Wolf.
- When the Wolf feels they are close, and a child asks the same question, he/ she replies with “Dinner Time” and rushes to catch another child who becomes the Wolf.
It's a great activity to play outside and get some exercise.
Contributed by Carrie of Flying With A Baby blog.
United States: Four Square
A favorite playground game kids in the United States love to play is Four Square. To play, you just need a sidewalk or a place you can draw a square with chalk, a ball, and four people. Then, draw a large square on the ground and divide the square into four equal parts and number the squares one through four. Then, here's how you play:
- Player in square four goes first and bounces the ball one time to one of the other players.
- The player that receives the ball then bounces the ball one time to another player in another square.
- The ball has to bounce inside the other player's square and the receiving player has to bounce it to someone else before it bounces twice.
- If the serving player hits the ball so that it doesn't bounce into another player's square or the receiving player lets ball bounce more than once, the player is out.
- Once a player is out, they move to the end of the line. The players remaining move up and waiting players move into the open spot.
- You can play so that the players try to move and hold onto the serving spot (in square four) or until all the players are out.
Contributed by Lisa of Mom On The Side blog.
United States: Red Rover
Another great backyard game kids love to play outside is Red Rover. Here is how to play:
- Gather a group of kids and divide evenly into two teams.
- Form two lines across from each other, a good distance apart. The players hold hands
- One person calls out the name from the other team and shouts “Red Rover, Red Rover, Send the name of the person Right Over!”
- The person whose name was called runs to the other line and tries to break through the line by breaking through the hands of two of the players.
- If they break through the chain, they go back to their team. If they don't break the chain, they have to join the new team.
- This goes on until one team has all the players.
Red Rover is a great backyard game kids love to play.
Contributed by Lisa of Mom On The Side blog.
The Last Thing You Need To Know About Backyard Kids' Games From Around The World
As kids are spending a lot of time at home and staycations looking more likely, you can cure your kids' boredom and teach them about different cultures with outdoor kids games from around the world. Playing fun activities popular with children around the world connects kids to little ones just like them, and is a great way to get outside and get active. They are also a great way to spend family time together.