Games to Play in the Woods

I find that students of all ages love to play games in the woods.  Running around in the fresh air, working with a team, and playing novel games is a lot of fun – they are probably going to ask to play these games quite a few times in the future!

It is however important to talk to students about safety before you begin; whether it be what to do if they see a bear or cougar, or what plants they shouldn’t touch.  Explain that one whistle blast means that the game has started and that two whistle blasts means that the game is over – meet back at the predetermined location immediately.



This game is best played in a somewhat open area with forest around it.  Choose one student to be “it”.  They will stay in the open area and must to stay in a certain spot (ex. must keep one foot in the hula hoop).  The rest of the students hide, but they must ALWAYS be able to see the person who is it.  When “it” sees someone who is hiding they call out their name and that person now takes a place on the sideline.  If “it” raises fingers everyone has to call out how many fingers they are holding up.  “It” can also call out camouflage followed by a number and then close their eyes – ex “Camouflage 10!”  All students who are still hiding have to run up and touch “it” and then run to another hiding place, before “it” open their eyes and calls out their name.  It is important that students aren’t too far away from “it” or else they won’t have enough time to touch them and hide again.


What Time is it Mr. Wolf?

We usually play this game along a long wide trail in the woods.  One student is the wolf and stands with their back to the rest of the group a distance away.  Students yell “What time is it Mr. Wolf?”  The wolf will yell back at a time – six o’clock for example, and then count out loudly – “One, two, three, four, five, six”.  In the meantime, the rest of the students are running towards the wolf, finding a hiding spot before they count to six.  When the wolf gets to six, they turn around and name people that they can see.  Those people return to the starting point.  Continue until someone gets all the way to the wolf and tags them without being seen.  They become the next wolf.



Sardines is basically a big game of hide-and-seek.  Tell the students the boundaries and then send of an individual to hide – I usually send two kids together.  The rest of the students close their eyes/turn around and give them a minute or so to hide.  Blow the whistle once to start the game and then the students try to find the people who are hiding.  It is best if people spread out and don’t walk in large groups.  When they find the person/people who are “it”, they quietly hide with them – it is called “Sardines”, because you pack yourself in tight like sardines.  If someone is near you when you spot them, wait until they leave the area before you go and sit with the “it(s)” – be sneaky!  The game ends when the last person finds the group – make sure that you know how many people are playing, so you know when to call the game.  The first person to find the “it(s)” can be “it” next round.


Kick the Can

There are a few ways to play – these are my rules.  Determine the boundaries.  Place a “can” (anything that can be kicked) in a somewhat open area in a wooded area or on the edge of a wooded area.  Choose someone (or two or three) to be “it”.  I find that there is more action and faster games – less sitting around for students who are “out”, when you have a few “its”.  They close their eyes while everyone hides.  Games begins on whistle.  “Its” try to find people who are hiding.  If they see someone they say “One, two, three, on _____________ (student’s name who they see).”  That student must then run and try to kick the can.  If they get tagged they are out, but if they kick the can they win.  Hiding students can also make the run to kick the can if they haven’t been seen, but think that they have a chance to make it.  If you are using more than one “it”, they can work together to tag people, but they may not puppy guard the can.


Capture the Flag

Divide the class in half and choose your boundaries.  I find it easier to use boundaries that are already there – paths, streams, grass, etc. instead of worrying about putting out cones.  Each team will get a jail (hula hoop) and “flag” (pinny) to place on their side.  Rules for hiding the flag: 1. Flag must be visible from three sides 2. Flag cannot be tied to anything 3. Flag must not be higher than the shortest person’s reach 4. No booby-trapping the flag – this has happened to me before!

The purpose of the game is to get the other team’s flag to your side without being tagged.  You can get tagged anywhere on your opponent’s side.  If you are tagged you go to your opponent’s “jail” and are freed when a teammate runs over and tags you (you both get a free walk back to your side) or the teacher yells “jailbreak” (everyone is free).

Rules for the game: 1. No puppy guarding the flag or jail (must be at least 10 feet away) 2. If you are tagged with the flag you must drop it in the spot you were tagged – you cannot pass it to a teammate and the other team cannot re-hide it

If the game is taking too long I will have the teams switch sides, leaving the jail and the flag.  They now know where the flag is (as it is the one that they hid) and the other team doesn’t necessarily know where to defend, so it gets more exciting.



Split the class in half.  Have one half hide and the other half put on pinnies and wait.  On the whistle the half with pinnies runs into the woods and tags the other team.  When they are tagged they are out and return to where the game started.  Once all of the players are out switch what team is it.  Time both games – the team that tags all of their opponents the fastest wins.


Predator Prey

There is a bit of set up for this game, but it is a lot of fun.  You can play this game with a lot of people – teachers at my school often play together with two classes.  I will describe the equipment for 30 students – add what you need for larger groups.

Orienteering Marker

Determine the boundaries – it is fun to have varied terrain, so don’t worry about playing in a hilly area as long as there are no drop-offs.  Before class I will hide eight or so “food” and “water” stations – we use orienteering markers as they each have their own punch design, but you can use a regular felt marker attached to a ribbon, etc.

Next, you will need cards with paperclips.  18 Green cards for the herbivores with 5 paperclips each (represent lives), 8 yellow cards with 3 paperclips each for the omnivores, 3 red cards with 2 paperclips each for the carnivores, 1 black card with 0 paperclips for the hunter.  The amount of people you have in each group may vary based on your class – competitive, likes tag games, fast, etc.

Herbivore (green), omnivore (yellow), and carnivore (red) cards

It sounds confusing, but once you start playing the students will get it right away.  Choose your herbivores, omnivores, carnivores, and hunter – they will get their designated card and a pinny of the same colour.  Tell the herbivores (green) that they will get a head start.  Their goal is to visit each food/water station and mark their card.  They are trying to avoid omnivores and carnivores who will tag them and take one of their paperclips (a life).  If they lose all of their paperclips they are out of the game.

After a minute or so send the omnivores (yellow) off after explaining that they are trying to visit as many food/water stations as possible, as well as trying to tag as many herbivores as possible (they will take the herbivore’s paperclip and put it on their card).  If they are tagged by a carnivore or hunter they have to give them one of their paperclips.

Now tell the carnivores (red) that their sole purpose is to tag herbivores and omnivores – they will take the tagged person’s paperclip and put it on their card.  They are trying to avoid the hunter who can tag them and take their paperclips.  Send the into the playing area.  The carnivores should be students who like to run and are competitive.

Lastly you have the hunter who is trying to tag carnivores and omnivores.  This should be a fast student who gets into games.  Send them in after a minute or so.

If a student loses all of their lives quickly I will usually give them another paperclip or two and send them back in, as they will just be sitting out for a while.   Additional rules: 1. If you go out of bounds when being chased you are considered caught – give the chaser a paperclip 2. You cannot tag the same person two times in a row – give them some time to get away.

After 15 minutes or so, or when the game is starting to dwindle I will call time.  I add up water/food station visits, how many lives they have, etc. to determine the winner in each category – herbivore, omnivore, carnivore.  We will play another game (where I try to switch up everyone’s category) and score the hunters of each game against each other.

Predator Prey Scoresheet