Garden Games

An outdoor space offers a great place for children to play, and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. You don’t have to have a huge, sprawling garden, as even the smallest of spaces can be put to good use, or you can take advantage of parks and public gardens. So whether you’ve got a tiny courtyard or a massive garden, here are some ideas for fun garden games to play!

Treasure Hunt

Every child loves the thrill of finding hidden treasure and gardens can offer great hiding places. On special occasions, like birthdays or Easter, you could use items of value, but for fun hunts at other times small items work just as well. For example, I have fond memories as a child of regular treasure hunts in my Grandad’s garden, trying to find a funny shiny silver thing that he used to keep on top of a beanpole – not a valuable item by any means, but as children we loved discovering where he’d hidden it each time.

Be creative and hide items in a variety of places – easy-to-find areas for younger children, building up in severity for older children. Ideas for hiding places include:

  • Under plants.
  • In low hanging branches of trees.
  • Under a pebble or stone.
  • Under a garden table.
  • On a garden chair.
  • In a wheelbarrow.
  • Behind a garden statue.
  • Hanging from a garden bird feeder.
  • In plant pots.
  • Behind plant pots.

You can also set clues, or simply use phrases like, ‘You’re getting hotter,’ or, ‘You’re ice cold,’ to indicate whether children are close or far away from finding the item.


The ever faithful sandpit can keep young ones occupied for hours. If you’re ever concerned about beach safety and whether dogs have been on the sand, having your own pit at home takes away all those worries.

As well as playing on their own in the sandpit, sandpit competitions in your garden are great for keeping several kids (and even adults!) amused. Provide buckets and spades, things for decorating castles, and get creative.

Make a Den

Cosy small places where they can play to their hearts content and make it ‘their own’ are popular with children and making a den is a real hit. If your garden already has lots of hidden nooks and crannies, behind bushes, hedges or by trees, you may be able to craft a den within what’s already available. But in smaller gardens it’s equally possible to make a great den.

For example, use a blanket propped over a garden table and chairs, a step ladder or even a clothes line. They can be secured loosely to a fence or just draped, then add some comfy bits inside, like a rug to sit on. Games can be played inside the den – don’t despair if adults are banned – and children could eat their meals out there for the day.

The Matchbox Game

This game can fill many an idle moment, and all you need are empty matchboxes and a garden. Give your children a matchbox each and ask them to fill it with as many tiny things from the garden as they can – or alternatively, to find 10 different things from the garden to fit in it. For example, a leaf, a twig, a small stone or pebble, a flower petal, a piece of soil or a piece of grass.

You set a timer or a time limit, then count up who’s got the most and see who wins (and maybe have a small prize up your sleeve). It’s also got an educational element, as you can discuss the items they’ve come up with and find out what they all are.

Hide and Seek

In a large garden, this can be great fun. But if your garden is space challenged, then it may be best only with little ones, who can hide more easily in smaller places. Children can hide behind trees, in sheds, in the garage, crouching behind a large flower pot or behind a hedge, and your job is to try and find them!

(Note: if you do allow children to hide in a garage or shed, ensure it’s not an area where you keep dangerous garden tools or chemicals).

If you’re still stuck for ideas, or have exhausted all of these, you can always buy some inexpensive garden games, such as bats and balls to play with, swingball to practice tennis or skipping. Or, for something a bit different, large size garden games, such as giant chess, giant pick-up sticks, Connect 4, or Ludo are available in the shops.