Games nights are a great way to bring kids together in neighbourhood parks. One or more leaders organize simple games, and kids get to burn off excess energy. If you’re looking for a regular event to engage young people, kick off a games night in your local park.
Many kids still have energy to burn after a long day at school. Let kids work off some of that energy, and keep them away from screens, by hosting a weekly or monthly games night in your local park. Many of us have memories of playing hide and seek or tag in the park. This is more or less the same idea, it’s just scheduled in advance at a set time.
A games night in the park allows you to host active games that often require few supplies. Best of all, games nights allow for neighbourhood kids from different age groups, backgrounds, and school systems to come together to play in a shared space. It’s a good way to get kids outside for some fresh air and social time and doesn’t require an aptitude for sports.
Here’s how you can make one happen in your park.
Timing is everythingChoose a weeknight to host your weekly games night and keep it consistent each week or month so the kids can remember when it’s happening. The best months to host games nights are warmer months with longer days. Also, keep in mind the sunset times so kids don’t need to be out after dark.
Get paperwork in orderTalk to your park supervisor as they will be able to help you with permits. You will most likely not need a permit for the games night if you have under 25 participants.
Tell the childrenLet people know about your games nights with enough notice. A good way to tell people about your games nights is through flyers at school, posts on community boards, and word-of-mouth at the park a few days before your event. Future games nights will be easier to advertise than the first one because the kids will tell their friends at school how much fun they had. Make a fridge-friendly calendar so parents can keep track of when the games night is happening.
The host with the mostBefore the night begins, you’ll need volunteers to plan the games for the evening. There are lots of great resources online for outdoor games that kids may enjoy, including rules and an overview of how to play. Choose one or two and be sure to note down the proper supplies (eg. a ball, flags, coloured wristbands so kids can see who is on which team, etc.) Each parent volunteer may have a different style of leading the games night so keep an open mind when attending. Be sure to choose games that all age groups will enjoy. If a game is particularly complicated, you can come up with important jobs for the younger participants so they can contribute and have fun. Stick with the K.I.S.S. rule (Keep It Simple, Silly).
ShowtimeBefore you start each game, make sure the participants understand the rules. Kids games often have rule variations so make sure everyone is on the same page to avoid tears. Some games will go really well and some might not. Listen to the kids, they will let you know if they are having fun. You can use each night as a way to inform what games work best for your group. Consider taking time to debrief with parent volunteers to ensure your games nights are meeting the needs of participants.
Game to playHere's a list of some great games you can host on your games night.
- Capture the flag
- Red Rover
- Cat and Mouse
- Hide and Seek
- Red Light, Green Light
- Kick the Can
Tips & Bonus Ideas
Break the RulesAdd a wacky rule to make the game extra silly for kids like, only crab walking, no knee bending, etc.
Let Kids RuleLet kids pick and run the games. That way they'll stay more engaged.
Hosting a games night in your neighbourhood park harkens back to our own childhood and helps kids from diverse backgrounds meet and playChris Nolan Friends of Dempsey Park