Some basic pointers
Vacation Bible School Outdoor Games time is an important part of VBS. Of course, VBS Outdoor Games give the children a chance to “get the wiggles out” and have some fun together. But above that, the fresh air helps everyone to think more clearly, making it easier to soak up those spiritual lessons during Classroom Time.
Keep the games simple. Don’t be afraid to adjust rules a bit for safety or to lessen the emphasis on competition. You will also want to adjust the rules to keep it fun for the various ages and abilities of your specific group. (For more tips, see 3 Mistakes to avoid in your VBS Outdoor Games Time.)
Many (most?) of the ideas I have for you here are at least based on classic outdoor games for children. They are now also tried and true favorites at VBS. You might have a childhood favorite that would work well for VBS, too!
Some of the ideas work great with the usual rules. Some I tweaked a fair bit. Some of the ideas I made up completely.
All of these outdoor games are either part of an existing Vacation Bible School curriculum that Hasten Home offers or are in the queue to be used one day. 🙂 When you purchase our VBS curriculum, you will receive an Outdoor Leader’s Handbook. The Outdoor Leader’s Handbook gives suggestions for an appropriate outdoor game for each day, including specific VBS-adapted and age-appropriate instructions.
Here, I will give you an explanation of each of a dozen favorite VBS Outdoor Games you can use in your next Vacation Bible School.
I always like to leave Fridays as “Favorite Friday”. On Favorite Friday, we play a game that the children chose the day before as their favorite from this year’s VBS.
Okay – the list….
12 Favorite VBS Outdoor Games Ideas
- Red Rover.
- Whiffle ball.
- Frisbee Relay.
- Circle Bounce-Ball.
- Hop/skip/jump/run Pairs Relay.
- Rope ChooChoo.
- Simple Obstacle Course.
- B-Ball Tag.
- Red Light, Green Light.
- Team Freeze Tag.
- In the River, On the Bank.
- Catch the Dragon’s Tail.
This has got to be my all-time favorite. One child (the “Rover”) stands in the middle of a playing field. All the others stand on either end (in no particular number).
Rover takes turns calling somebody over to the other side of the field. He may call an individual by name, or he may call a group by characteristic. For example, he might say, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Carol right over!” Carol must run, doing her best to reach the other end of the field without being tagged by Rover. Or Rover might say, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send blue shirts right over!” Everyone wearing a blue shirt must run across to the other end.
There is the very likely possibility when calling a group that players will be running from/to both sides of the field. It just adds to the fun.
When a person gets tagged, he stops in his tracks and becomes a frozen Rover’s helper. He can now tag runners – but he cannot move his feet.
Last runner left becomes the next Rover (or pick someone if you end up with the same last person more than once).
Hint: Let a teacher be the first Rover to get everyone started. Oh, by the way – always, always join in the children’s games if you possibly (safely) can! They love it (and you will, too!) 😉
One of the children’s favorites in my experience. Play according to the basic rules of baseball, but with a plastic bat and whiffle ball (one of those hollow, plastic baseball-sized balls with all the holes in them).
Don’t bother emphasizing score.
Work together with the children whose skills are below the others.
Older children (or more skilled groups) may enjoy an all-out, friendly game; younger children (like Primaries) might have more fun practicing batting. Whiffle ball is not generally the best choice for your Kindies.
Frisbee is a lot of fun – and it has lots of variations. This original, fun relay from VBS—Superstars for Jesus [newly updated version coming soon!] was definitely in the running for Favorite Friday!
Children stand around the yard in a large, rough “circle”. The first child has a Frisbee. He is the “thrower”, and tosses the Frisbee to the next child. When the Frisbee is caught, the thrower runs around the circle back to his original place.
Meanwhile, the next child becomes thrower. Once the Frisbee is caught by the third child, the second child runs around the circle to line up behind the first child (only the first child goes all the way to his original place), and play continues in the same manner until the last child has tossed Frisbee to the first child and lined up at the back of the line.
Circle Bounce-Ball is a fun game suited to Kindies for a day when the older children are playing a more complicated outdoor game. It may take a bit of coaxing and instruction, but once the children get the hang of it, they tend to greatly enjoy this game.
Simply stand the children in a circle, all facing in. Show the children how to bounce a large playground ball across the circle to another classmate. Try to keep the ball in the circle and moving around so all the children get to play.
Another good outdoor game for the younger children.
Line up the children in two single-file lines. Stand twenty feet or so from the front of the line for a turnaround point.
Tell the children they will take turns, and that the two children at the front of the line will go together each time. They will go all the way to you and then back to the back of their lines. You will tell them how to go.
Give the children a simple command as to how they are to get from one point to the other. For example, “hop on two feet” or “run”.
If more time remains, go through the lines again with a new command.
Total favorite for the Kindies – especially if you have an enthusiastic conductor! Line the children up along a rope. (Take care to notice that the rope does not “splinter” as some do. You don’t want any hurt hands!) Everyone hold on.
Person at the front is the conductor/engine. Person at the back is the caboose. Take a winding walk around the church yard. “Toot” your “horns” for good measure – “Choo! Choo!”
Important: Keep an adult at the front to make sure the ChooChoo takes an appropriate path. Keep an adult at the back to catch any stragglers. 😉
Some ideas for supplies: hula hoop(s) to hula – or hop in, or crawl through; balls to bounce, roll, or kick; 2x4s to walk across; big tires to climb over or through or around; cones or buckets to weave in and out of; etc, etc. Use what you’ve got. Keep it safe. Keep it fun.
The name is almost self-explanatory: B-Ball Tag is Tag, but “It” has to keep their basketball dribbling in order to move. When someone is tagged, they get the ball. The larger the group, the more children you should choose to be “It” at once.
This classic children’s game works pretty well as-is. You can always give one final “green light” at the end to allow everyone a chance across the finish line.
If you’ve ever attended a Restoration International Family Camp, there’s a good chance you’ve seen this one in joyful action (moms and dads and all join in)! It’s Freeze Tag, but split the children into groups: number off; boys and girls; teachers and students; 11-year-olds and 12-year-olds; etc, etc. One group is “It”.
This game works well as an indoor game, too. We actually use a fun variation of it for ClassTime Review one day in VBS—The Land of Milk & Honey. Mark two long, parallel lines a couple feet apart (a comfortable distance for a child to jump sideways) on flat ground. Outside the lines are the “banks”; inside the lines is the “river”. All of the children should be able to line up single-file along one line.
Now you need a caller. You might want to use a teacher to get started and help the children get the idea.
The rules are pretty simple. The Caller randomly calls out either “In the River” or “On the Bank”. The children must jump sideways to the corresponding place along the lines. Jumping up or standing still are both acceptable if the Caller calls out the same place the child is already standing on. Jumping over the “river” to the opposite “bank” is also acceptable when the Caller calls out “On the Bank.”
If someone jumps to the wrong place, though (or manages to lose their balance and ends up in the wrong place), that person is out and sits on the side to watch the fun until the next round. Last person “out” is the next Caller.
Move quickly, especially for the older children. For the youngers, go a little easier on them. Slow down a bit; skip the “outs” altogether, if you think that would be better for your group. (Just trade Callers every couple minutes.)
As always, keep the game fun; that’s the point.
This is a new one (to me) that I learned about over on The Source for Youth Ministry. I have since found that it is actually a fairly well-known game – maybe you have even played it. Either way, it sounds super fun!
While there are many variations of Catch the Dragon’s Tail, I will share how I thought it would work well for VBS.
Have all the children line up single-file. Then everybody “connects” by one of the following methods (choose what you think is most appropriate for your group and instruct all the children to do it that way): hold hands, place your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you, or place your hands on the waist of the person in front of you. This forms the “dragon”.
If you have two brother-sister pairs in the group, you could use them to be the connectors between the boys and the girls of the group. Or if your group is very large, you might even want to have two “dragons” – a boys’ dragon and a girls’. (If neither of those is possible, I personally feel the shoulders connection is probably the best; but use your best judgment.)
Now give the child at the back of the line a scarf (or similar lightweight piece of cloth) to tuck loosely into the back of their clothing (somewhere appropriate, of course – pay attention to your group!). You could even use a flag football waistband if you have those available.
That took a lot of words to say, but you see basically it is just lining up the children. 🙂
Now to play, the dragon’s “head” (the child at the front of the line) tries to catch the dragon’s “tail” (the scarf from the child at the back of the line). You can see how silly it could get with the head and tail of the same line having different motives!
Once the tail is caught, the second child in line becomes the new head and the previous head becomes the new tail (so the order of the line is essentially never changed; only rotated). If a chase goes on too long, of course, Teacher might want to call a change anyway.
Note: Always stress to the children safety above “winning”. Especially with a game like this where everyone must work together, point out that we are trying not to break the dragon, but if it does break, just get connected again and go on. Tell the children “Let’s watch out for anyone who is having troubles. If you are the fastest runner, you will have to slow down some so the other students can have fun, too! Get the idea?” 🙂
They are usually very cooperative if expectations are made very clear up front – and promptly enforced if need be.
This would probably be a fun game for Kindies, too, if you walk the dragon with them.
Once you have a few favorite Vacation Bible School Outdoor Games Ideas, don’t be afraid to use them year after year. The children will look forward to those favorites. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to throw in some new games you learn, too!
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. (3 John 1:2)