One of the best outdoor games we played growing up was called Flashlight Tag. Of course, the darkest evenings were the best - when you couldn't even see the moon. Our neighbor's yard had at least a dozen big, old trees surrounding it, several bushes, some yard ornaments including a big kettle of flowers, a picnic table and a few other good hiding places.
One kid was "It" and got to use the flashlight. Everybody else hid somewhere in the dark. The child who was "It" would walk around the yard and try to "catch" everyone by shining the light on them and saying their name. Everyone else would try to get to the safe spot (for us it was always the tree with the tire swing).
The game would continue till everyone either made it to the tire swing tree or else had been caught. The first person who was caught then became "It". We played until we ran out of good hiding places or the flashlight ran out of battery!
Fox and Geese
Fox and Geese is usually played in the snow. You stomp or shovel out the path in an open area. We made different designs -- sometimes a Peace Sign, sometimes a wheel with spokes, sometimes a circle with an X inside...whatever we felt like. Actually, the fun of making the course was better than the game itself!
The "Fox" would chase the "geese" around the path and try to tag one of them. The tagged child would then become the Fox. Everyone had to stay on the path, or else they would have to be the Fox again.
Variations would include a safe zone for the Geese. Or set patterns such as the Geese could only move clockwise, while the Fox could go either way around the circle.
The game could be played in the summer by spray painting the grass and everyone staying on the lines.
You can also play this game indoors with two people. We would draw the game on a sheet of paper: a cross of boxes with lines. Then we used buttons as the markers to move around. Small buttons were the Geese, and a big button was the Fox. The Fox had to try to "eat" the Geese by jumping over them. The Geese had to try to trap the Fox.
You can only move one point at a time. The Geese cannot jump. There were 13 Geese. Sometimes, we made the rule that the Geese could not go kiddie corner (move diagonally) either.
7 Steps Around the House
A few times we played this game where you marked two spots on either side of the house, such as the front steps and the picnic table out back. One person was "It". Everyone else had to run and touch both spots without being seen by "It". You had to go around the house successfully 7 times to win. "It" was not allowed to camp out in view of either of the two spots.
You can tell by these games, that we did a lot of running!
We played this game that we called Spy with either 2 or 4 players. It could be played in the daylight or evening. We would start out on opposite sides of the house. Then we would all scatter and hide. For about 15 minutes, we would crawl, climb, run, or sneak around and "spy" on each other. We used an old timer that would go ding dong when our time was up. We'd meet at the designated spot and give our spy reports.
Sometimes, one of us would find everyone. Sometimes, no one found anybody. It was always fun to find out where each other hid. A fun variation was to spy in teams. That required some collaboration and secret codes or whistles to make it more interesting.
If we were really lucky, Dad would let us use his binoculars. We'd take turns with them, really feeling like we were involved with espionage.
Backyard Games = Fun Memories
Playing these backyard activities was fun and good exercise and yes, we got dirty or wet or grass-stained. Our yards were huge, growing up in the country, so the games were challenging. Nothing could top our excitement and joy when our parents would be visiting with the neighbors while we kids were out playing in the yard, and they would come out of the house to get us in the car to go home, but say, "Okay, you can play one more game. Just one more!"