5 Playground Games for Encouraging Children to be Active

playground games

Children don’t have long break times, usually between 20-30 minutes. So how can they be encouraged to use this time to do something active?

We’ve put together a list of traditional and engaging playground games, ideal for the schools and for helping children improve PE skills, make friends and be in the right mindset for learning afterwards!


Donkey is a classic game with many different names. It can be played with a minimum of two people, though we’d recommend no more than 7. 

  1. In a circle of against a wall, throw a ball.
  2. If anyone drops a ball they gain the letter ‘D’, if they drop it again, ‘O’ and so on until someone spells out the word ‘Donkey.’
  3. You can restart the game once a ‘Donkey’ has been formed or you can continue until a winner is found!
  4. This game also works with a tennis racket; line the children up in front of a wall and take it in turns to hit the ball. Same rules apply!

Banana Split

Skipping ropes have always been a great tool for break times. Not only can children progress at their own pace, while still feeling included in an activity, they can also improve their hand-eye coordination.

But skipping doesn’t have to be an individual activity, you can also organise a team game such as Banana Split.

  1. Use one long skipping rope with two children turning it from either end.
  2. Children form a line facing the turning rope.
  3. They then take it in turns to try and pass through the rope – without touching it!
  4. Once everyone makes it through, two children can then try to pass through together. If everyone succeeds, three children can try at the same time, and so on.
  5. If the rope ever touches someone, go back to the beginning with just one child attempting to cross.

Queenie Queenie

Queenie Queenie is a great game for a group of children to play, though probably no more than 12. The game itself is simple, and just requires something to throw that isn’t too heavy.

  1. One child is picked as ‘Queenie’ The ‘Queenie’ must then turn their back to the rest of the group.
  2. The ‘Queenie’ then throws a ball (or other object!) over their shoulder for one of the other children to pick up.
  3. The ‘Queenie’ then turns back around and the rest of the kids shout; “Queenie Queenie who’s got the ball? I haven’t got it, It isn’t in my pocket, Queenie Queenie who’s got the ball?
  4. ‘Queenie’ must then guess who’s got the ball. If the Queenie is struggling, you can make the game harder by asking the children to alternately show their left and right hands. The child with the ball must be careful not to drop it!
  5. If the child who has the ball is picked last, then they become the next ‘Queenie’!

What’s the Time Mr Wolf?

This classic playground game is a fantastic way to improve children’s counting, as well as getting lots of exercise! It’s also great for larger groups of children.

  1. One child is selected as the ‘Wolf’, who turns their back towards their classmates.
  2. The rest of the children then chant, ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’ who then responds with a time, e.g. ”4 o’ clock‘. The children must then walk forward 4 steps, counting aloud as they go.
  3. Eventually ‘Mr Wolf’ shouts ‘Dinner time!‘ and turns around to chase their classmates back towards the start point.
  4. If someone is caught before they reach safety, they then become the next Mr Wolf!

Piggy in the Middle

Out of all the playground games, this is one of the most popular! Also known as ‘Keep Away’, it’s a great way for children to use up some energy and get some exercise, as well as practising their throwing and catching skills.

  1. One child isnominated as the ‘Piggy’, and must stand in the middle of a circle made up of the rest of the children playing.
  2. A ball (or bean bag!) is then thrown across the circle, and must avoid the ‘Piggy’ in the middle.
  3. The ‘Piggy’ must try and either intercept the throw, or get the ball if a receiver drops it.
  4. If they win the ball, the person who either dropped, or threw badly replaces the ‘Piggy’.

More Playground Games…

There are so many playground games to choose from and we’ve only scratched the surface! One thing they all have in common is the ability to engage children to take part in a fun activity that helps them be more active in the day. Despite being ‘Games’, they undoubtedly help improve a range of PE Skills including running, throwing and catching. ‘Donkey’ and ‘What’s the Time Mr Wolf?’ even provide an opportunity to practice maths and literacy skills!For more inspiration for playground games, take a look at some essentials in our PE Category.

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