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The Top 40 Simple, Classic Games for Kids of All Ages

Playing games is a great way for children to learn and pick up new skills while having fun, both at home and at school.

Here are 40 of the best games for kids in preschool and kindergarten. Older kids will also enjoy some of these favourite childhood games with simple rules.

There’s a handy printable of fun game ideas in the Free Activity Pack below, so don’t forget to sign up for that too!

1. Simon Says

Simon Says is a personal favourite that is quick and easy to play with young children. It can also be used as a transition game, to quickly grab the attention of a group of kids.

Call out a series of instructions, beginning with the words Simon says and kids must follow the actions:

  • Simon says clap your hands
  • Simon says run and touch the wall

 If you start an instruction without the words Simon says, children must not follow it:

  • Clap your hands
  • Run and touch the wall

This game usually has the children in fits of giggles, as they get caught out following the actions when they shouldn’t.

2. Telephone Game

The Telephone Game, also called Broken Telephone, is a game the whole family can play, and it’s also a fun carpet game for the classroom. 

Everyone sits in a circle or round a table and the first player thinks of a word or phrase and whispers it into the next person’s ear. The message gets passed around until the last person calls out the phrase. The person who started confirms if it’s correct. 

Expect more fits of laughter when the message gets jumbled.

When playing with younger children, it’s better if an adult starts the round, using very simple phrases. 

3. Hide and Seek

A classic childhood game, Hide and Seek can be played outside or inside on rainy days.

It’s a cooperative game that requires children to follow simple rules.

Young boys and girls playing hide and seek in park

One child faces the wall and counts aloud to 10 (or a higher number) while the rest of the children find places to hide. The child then calls out “ready or not, here I come” and proceeds to look for all the other children. 

The first person to be found will be the seeker in the next round and the last person to be found wins the round.

4. Tag

Also called catchers, Tag is the simplest of the chasing games and can be played with a small or large number of players.

There are many benefits of outdoor games and Tag is also a good social skills game.

In this game, one person is “it” and chases the other players, attempting to tag someone by touching them. Once someone is tagged, that person then becomes the chaser and tries to tag someone else.

5. I Spy With My Little Eye

For some more indoor fun and a game that builds vocabulary, play I Spy with My Little Eye.

One person spots something in the room or classroom and describes it, as in the following example:

“I spy with my little eye something round that helps us tell the time.”

You can describe something based on colour, shape, function, a word that it rhymes with, the first letter that the word starts with, etc. You can actually practise multiple skills with this game.

The first person to guess the answer becomes the next person to describe something they “spy”.

Make the clues as easy or challenging as necessary, to match the age and maturity of the players. This is a game you can easily play with one child.

6. Duck, Duck, Goose

Duck, Duck, Goose is one of the most fun outdoor group games and is also a chasing game. It develops gross motor, listening and social skills, as well as the ability to determine one’s position in space.

Children sit in a large circle. One child is chosen to be “it” and walks around the circle, tapping each child on the head as they call out “duck” on each tap. When the person eventually taps someone and calls “goose,” the person who is the goose must quickly get up and try to catch the child who is “it,” before they make it round the circle to sit in the “goose’s” place. 

If caught, the child who is “it” must sit in the middle of the circle and can only be freed when another child is caught and they can then swap out. The “goose” is then “it.” If “it” is not caught and manages to sit in the “goose’s” spot, the goose becomes the new “it.”

7. Red Light, Green Light

Red Light, Green Light is an active outdoor game that can build gross motor skills like speed, balance and body control, as well as the ability to focus and follow instructions.

To play this game, have children line up against a wall while you stand at a distance from them. When you shout green light, they can run towards you, but when you shout red light, they have to stop and freeze. If anyone moves when they should be freezing, they must go back to the starting point and start over again.

8. Pass the Parcel

Pass the Parcel is a classic party game. Children sit in a circle and pass a wrapped parcel around from player to player, until the music stops. Whoever is holding the parcel when the music stops, can take off one layer of wrapping. When the music starts again, the parcel continues to go around the circle, until the last layer of wrapping is taken off.

The person to take off the last layer gets the gift hidden inside, but if playing with young children, it may be better to wrap a bag of small party favours for everyone.

9. Freeze Dance

Also called Musical Statues, freeze dance is one of the most fun music games to play.

Kids dance to the music and have to freeze and try not to move at all, every time the music stops. If they move they are out and have to wait for the next round to join in again. 

10. Do This, Do That

Do This, Do That is a similar game to Simon Says and makes a great quiet game to calm children down.

Act out a series of simple actions to be followed – such as putting your hands on your head or wriggling your nose – beginning each with either “do this” or “do that”. If you call out “do this”, the children must copy the action, but if you call out “do that”, children must freeze and not follow the action.

This game takes a lot of concentration and builds listening skills

11. Odd One Out

The Odd One Out Game can either be played as a word game or with objects. With younger children, it is better to play with physical objects.

Explain to kids that they must look at the group of items that you’ve chosen and tell you which one of the things is not like the others.

Show, for example, a set of four fruits and one vegetable, or three toy cars and one toy train. With older children, you can simply call out a string of a few words and ask which is the odd one out.

This game teaches children cognitive skills such as grouping according to common properties, and categorizing.

12. Hopscotch

Hopscotch is a traditional game that involves drawing out large numbered squares on the ground with chalk and hopping through them. It’s a game that can help build number recognition, as well as balance and gross motor coordination.

Children playing hopscotch

There is a traditional layout of the hopscotch court and rules that may be slightly complex for younger children, so feel free to make up simpler rules for preschoolers. Children can hop on one or two legs along the squares and call out the numbers as they go. They can also use beanbags.

Traditionally, they throw a stone into the first square, hop over onto the next empty square, and then hop to the end, on one leg on a single square and landing on two feet when there are side-by-side squares. 

They then turn around and hop back to the start, picking up the stone and throwing it into the second square on the next round, then the third square on the next round, and so forth. The player must not touch the lines at any point, or they lose the round.

13. Categories Game

The Category Game is a great cognitive game that can help children develop the ability to identify common properties, build memory and develop vocabulary.

Pick a category and go around the group, having each child add a new word that belongs in the category. It could be a list of examples of a certain thing, such as vehicles (car, truck, bus), or it could just be words you’d associate with the category, such as the doctor (injection, stethoscope, medicine).

There are many variations of category games to try, for both younger and older children.

14. Kim’s Game

This is a great game for building visual memory. To play Kim’s Game, show children a few objects placed onto a tray, then cover the tray and remove one item, asking them to identify the missing object.

This will develop memory and concentration as children try to commit the four or five items to memory, and then try to spot the missing object each time.

Here are more visual memory games for young children.

15. Blind Man’s Bluff

Blind Man’s Bluff is another common party game that improves kids’ sense of direction, position in space and auditory perception.

One player is blindfolded and spun around a few times by the other players. They then move around the area, calling out to, dodging and trying not to get touched by the blindfolded player. Anyone who is touched then has a turn to be blindfolded.

16. I Wrote a Letter to my Love

I Wrote A Letter to My Love is played much the same as Duck, Duck, Goose.

Children sit in a circle and one child walks around the outside of the circle, holding a piece of material or paper, while saying “I wrote a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it. Someone must have picked it up and put it in their pocket. It wasn’t you, It wasn’t you, It wasn’t you…”

That child must then choose someone by saying “It was you” while tapping them on the head. The chosen child must pick up the material or paper and chase the other child, attempting to catch them before they sit in their vacant place.

17. Follow the Leader

Follow the Leader is a simple game that is a great exercise in following directions and concentrating.

An adult or child is the leader and all the children must line up behind the leader. They must copy all the leader’s actions and movements. 

If playing with older children, they can be called out if they don’t successfully copy the actions, and the last person standing becomes the new leader.

18. Stuck in the Mud

Stuck in the Mud is a chasing game that is a variation of the popular game Tag.

One child is “on” and must chase and tag as many players as possible. The tagged players are then “stuck in the mud” and must stand with their legs apart. They cannot move until someone frees them, by crawling through their legs.

The game ends when all the players are stuck. Make the game more challenging by having two children chase and tag.

19. Rock, Paper, Scissors

Rock, Paper, Scissors is a hand game played between two people and is usually used as a choosing method (for example, when deciding who can play first, or who must do the chore). It can also be played just for fun.

Boy and girl playing rock, paper, scissors

Players hold their fists closed and tap down three times, on the third count simultaneously choosing a hand formation of either rock (closed fist), paper (hand opened flat) or scissors (index and middle finger form a V like a pair of scissors, with the rest of the fingers closed into a fist.)

The winner is determined by who has chosen the superior shape (scissors cuts paper, paper covers rock, rock crushes scissors).

20. Balloon Toss

Balloon Toss is a classic balloon game that is best played in pairs. Have a balloon rally by hitting the balloon back and forth with a partner, using your hands to hit the ball. 

Children could also stand in a circle and throw the balloon to others, trying not to let it drop.

If the weather permits, fill the balloons with water and play outdoors, trying not to drop the balloons and let them explode.  

21. Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs is one of my favourite games to play with kids of all ages because it is active and fun. It makes a good outdoor or indoor game.

Have enough chairs for all the children. They dance freely around the room or area while you play music and when the music stops, they must all run and find an open chair to sit on. 

On each round, remove a chair so that one child will be out of the game. Play until there is one child left.

22. Egg and Spoon Race

This is a fun game I remember from my own childhood school sports days. It is wonderful for practising eye-hand coordination.

Children line up with an egg balancing on their spoon, with the ultimate goal being to cross the finish line without dropping the egg. If an egg falls off a spoon, the child can pick it up but must start again. The first person to cross the finish line is the winner.

Use larger spoons for younger children and don’t forget to boil the eggs! You could also improvise and use small balls, beanbags or other objects.

If you’re feeling brave and in the mood for some messy fun, challenge older children to an Egg and Spoon Race with raw eggs!

23. Catch

Catch is the simplest of the ball games and can be played with two players or many. It simply involves passing a ball back and forth to each other. With multiple players, either pair them up or form a circle and let them throw and catch the ball across the circle.

While catch is a simple game, it is important as it teaches children a vital skill that they will use in future ball games and team sports.

24. Charades

Playing Charades with kids is so much fun and is a good way to build thinking skills.

If playing with younger children, an adult can start the game by acting out a word or phrase, such as brushing your hair or a lion roaring. Whoever guesses correctly, acts out something in the next round.

25. Bean Bag Toss

Bean Bag Toss – also called Cornhole – can be played using a cornhole board, which has a hole in it for aiming and throwing beanbags into, or you can improvise with a box or laundry basket.

Simply aim and toss the beanbags into the target, to develop aim, strength and hand-eye coordination.

26. Who’s Got the Button?

Who’s Got the Button? is an indoor circle game that can be used as a calming activity and can teach children about reading body language.

The children are all seated in a circle with their eyes closed and the teacher walks around the circle, pretending to place the button into each child’s hand but only placing it into one child’s hand.

The kids then open their eyes and take turns guessing who is holding the button. The child who guesses correctly then starts a new round and places the button in someone else’s hands.

27. Copycat

Copycat is a fun variation of Follow the Leader but requires that children guess who the leader is.

Children sit in a circle and one child is sent out of the room. That child will have to guess who the leader is. Choose one child in the circle to be the leader and call the “guesser” back inside.

The leader then performs actions that the whole group copies, while the guesser tries to figure out who is leading all the actions.

If the guesser gets it right, the leader then becomes the guesser in the next round and a new leader is chosen.

28. Would You Rather?

Would You Rather is a cognitive game that teaches children thinking skills and decision-making skills.

Children are presented with a question involving two options – such as whether they would rather be a superhero or a villain – and they must choose an option, explaining in detail why they made that choice.

Here is a list of Would You Rather Questions for kids.

29. Keep It Up

Keep it Up is another balloon game that challenges children’s hand-eye coordination and teaches them to move quickly. 

Each child has their own balloon and must attempt to keep it in the air by tapping it up for as long as possible without letting it fall to the ground. The winner is the last child whose balloon is still in the air.

30. Hot Potato

Hot Potato can be played with a beanbag, ball or other object that represents a potato. It’s a good exercise for crossing the midline.

Children sit in a circle, passing the “hot” potato around as quickly as possible to avoid being burnt, while the music is playing. They must take care not to drop it or they’ll be out. When the music stops, the person holding the potato is out. The last person is the winner.

31. Jump Rope

Learning to skip is great for strengthening motor skills, balance and coordination. 

Children can skip on their own, with a friend, with two friends holding the ends of the rope while they jump, or even play in a group.

Kids playing jump rope

Here are some popular jump rope games.

32. Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders is one of those classic board games that all kids should learn to play. 

It is fun for a family game night or can be played in small groups with friends. It teaches kids counting, one-to-one correspondence and social skills like waiting for your turn. 

33. Double Double

This clapping game is suitable for older kids but you can still try the actions with younger kids. It is played with a partner and the goal is to go as fast as possible (once you have mastered the actions).

Here are the lyrics:

Double, double, this, this,
Double, double, that, that,
Double this, double that,
Double, double, this, that.

And here are the actions:

Double: fists bump together
This: clap front of the hands together
That: clap back of the hands together

Partners face each other and repeat the motions each time the words appear.

34. Tic Tac Toe

Tic-Tac-Toe  – also called Noughts and Crosses – can be played in pairs on a special board, on a piece of paper or even on the paving with chalk. It’s a fun decision-making game.

One person plays with the symbol O and the other plays with X. The object of the game is to make a row of three Os or Xs – horizontally, vertically or diagonally, whilst attempting to block the other person’s attempts to make a row.

35. Dominoes

Dominoes is an old classic game played with small rectangular tiles that have a dividing line, with a set of numbered dots on each side, ranging from 0 dots to 6 dots. 

A game is played with two to four people. The players take turns laying down tiles with matching number sets on them until all the tiles are placed down.

Keep the rules simple if playing with young kids and if you’d like to use this as a counting game to practise one-to-one correspondence.

36. Magic Cup Game

The Magic Cup Game is a great choice for calming kids and getting them to concentrate. Kids love this game.

Turn over three cups on a table and place a small coin or object under one of the cups. Shuffle the cups around on the table, and then see if the child can point out which cup the object is under. 

37. Slap Jack

Slap Jack is a classic two-player card game.

Shuffle a deck of cards and split it equally, giving one half to each player. Don’t look at the cards in your hand. Take turns flipping them over one card at a time, onto the same pile. When a Jack is turned over, the first person to slap it wins the pile. When you run out of cards, you are out of the game.

38. Pick Up Sticks

Pick Up Sticks is a fine motor game that requires a steady hand and a lot of concentration.

Hold all the sticks upright in your hand, and release them, letting them fall naturally onto a flat surface or table. Take turns to lift a stick from the pile. You can only keep the stick if you did not move or touch any of the other sticks while lifting it. The person with the most sticks at the end wins.

39. Leapfrog

Kids will have a great time playing Leapfrog outdoors. There are several ways to play it, but here is one way: 

The children crouch down like frogs in a long line, tucking in their heads and feet, and take turns hopping from the back of the line, over each child until they reach the front of the line and crouch down there. Continue until all kids have had a turn to hop over all the children.

Here are more active animal games for preschoolers.

40. Memory Card Game

Develop kids’ visual memory skills with a picture memory game. 

Place matching picture sets face down and shuffled, and take turns turning over two cards at a time. If you reveal a matching set, you keep it, if the set doesn’t match, turn them back over and try again on the next turn, taking care to memorize the position of those pictures already revealed. 

(Get your own set of printable memory card games here!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this collection of classic games for kids.

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