Toggle Menu Toggle Search
16 playground games for primary schools

16 playground games for primary schools

Playtime gives children and teachers valuable time away from the classroom. Although it is not a structured lesson, playtime offers infinite opportunities for children to learn about risk management, develop social skills, and use their imagination.

However, we don’t want playtime to become another task to add to an already busy workload for teachers. Finding a bank of playground games that will interest and boost development can help to reduce friendship squabbles, injuries and even bullying incidents- as the children are engaged.

In this article, we share 16 playground games for primary school children.

Let’s dig in!

School Playground equipment

Why are playground games important?

Time away from the classroom to engage in playground games greatly benefits all children, regardless of age or ability. Playtime allows children to build on skills they have learned in the classroom and help develop teamwork between peers. Playground games for kids, including inclusive play, can also help with social skills, allowing children to make up games and interact in a fun, creative way.

Understanding the concept of winning and losing is tough (even for adults… have you ever witnessed a parents’ race at sports day?) Giving children the opportunity to learn these valuable life lessons, all wrapped up in a game, is essential for building communication skills. Playground games also help build confidence, especially when looking for creative ways to promote communication and language opportunities.

Not only does outdoor play help children explore and express themselves, but it also allows them to apply strategies learned in the classroom. Pupils who benefit from calming their nervous systems or any of the eight sensory systems can regulate during playtime, helping them focus in classroom lessons after completing sensory circuits.

Movement breaks are helpful for every child, especially given the increasingly concerning number of children with obesity in the UK (1 in 3 leave primary school obese or overweight). Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) may need sensory equipment to help them regulate. Playground games that incorporate sensory play equipment are a bonus!


Playground game ideas for small playgrounds

It is not always easy to think of playground games for small playgrounds. There may be more restrictions and considerations to have to think about:

  • How many children are on the playground at once?
  • Is the playground slippery?
  • What are the ages of the children playing?
  • Will the game be age-appropriate?

Here are some small playground games your children might enjoy:

HopscotchSchool Playground Hopscotch

To help children develop turn-taking and sharing skills, throw a bean bag to a number to jump to. This game might be tricky for children with physical disabilities, so consider adapting it to encourage a two-footed jump or walking.

Piggy in the middle

Adaptable with few resources, this age-old game can be made more accessible by using a light object that will take time to fall, like a balloon.

Hula hoopSchool Playground Hula Hoops

Have you ever tried to keep a hula hoop going? It’s much more complicated than you think! Add two hula hoops and a timer, and you have a challenge!

Noughts and crosses

Needing only a small amount of space, mark-making chalkboards can be used for classic games like noughts and crosses, hangman or Pictionary for some less active alternatives of small playground games.

Playground game ideas for social skill development

We all know that playground games are helpful in so many ways, but they are also important to help build on social skills to help children learn how to cooperate and communicate tricky emotions.


In the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), children form their first friendships and maybe find their feet by sharing games with others. If you have ever joined in with or witnessed a game between toddlers, you can see why it can be easy to find the ‘rules’ a little woolly.


Having a bank of games to promote social skill development during playtimes can help to build these essential skills in a fun, interactive way.

School Playground Play Train


Skipping ropeSchool Playground Skipping Rope

For such a simple piece of kit, a skipping rope really can turn into just about anything. From skipping games to limbo, the possibilities are endless.


Hand clapping games

Building on the communication and language aspect of the National Curriculum all the way from EYFS to KS2 and beyond, hand-clapping games cannot be underestimated as classic playground games. Are children looking bored and needing a little inspiration? Teach them ” A Sailor Went to Sea “, the earworm, or patty cake.

Trim trial partner share

A true test of social skills is to apply good manners, clear communication, and voice our needs in times of pressure. Navigating a trim trail with a partner can be a great way to develop speaking and listening skills.

School Playground Trim Trail


Want to know more about our best-selling trim trails? Email our friendly team at today for a quick chat.

Activity panels

Prioritising SLCN improvement across the school and want to capitalise on the vocabulary potential playtime holds? Add some activity panels to your playground area. Taking up little room, problem-solving boards can spark conversations whilst entertaining.

School Playground Activity Panel

Playground game ideas for pairs

Two is a couple, three can be a crowd… but not when it comes to playground games! There are plenty of games to play with just two friends. Whether they prefer quieter games or want to get active, let’s explore.

Magnetic water channels

Build and set up a water channel of dreams, then try floating a small toy down the connecting pipes to put scientific learning into practice.

Balancing beams

Some children are naturally more coordinated than others (again, the same applies to adults. Think a wedding dance floor!), but Coordination and balance can be developed, especially in the EYFS. Balancing on development blocks can help children let their imagination run wild while playing in a small group. If you ask us, those development blocks look awfully like crocodiles!

school playground balancing blocks

Playground game ideas for small groups

Small group games can be great for learning interventions, including social skills and SLCN. Here are some simple playground games for small groups.

Red light, Green light

A hybrid between What’s the Time Mr Wolf and musical Statues, this game has to be played where children can hear a person shout out if the light is red or green. Or, if you want to get creative, you can use a lollypop stick with a green and a red face on. When the children see the red face, they must freeze; if they move, they are eliminated. The winner is the last man standing!

Parachute games

This versatile game can be played across all age ranges (even staff meetings). Play cat-and-mouse with a small group- be careful in the wind! As a team, shake a set of balls off the parachute to improve arm, shoulder, and core strength.

Playground game ideas with no-resources

No resources? No problem. The fun shouldn’t stop if you are limited with outdoor play equipment or resources. Here are some favourites you may have forgotten about:

  • Stuck in the mud
  • Rock, paper, scissors
  • Hide and seek
  • I Spy

Another great tip is to change how children count during these games. For example, hide and seek; instead of counting 1-20, try counting up in the 2, 5 or 10 times table. Consider pairing children up to help those needing more help understanding the rules and structure of games.

Imaginative playground game ideas

Outdoor play equipment is an easy way to motivate children to create and participate in endless playground games individually, in pairs or in small groups. If you want exciting playtime every time, outdoor play equipment is a solid choice.

If you notice common playtime themes, you can build on these with future games you might suggest. We find common themes of pirates, safari, and chasing games are always crowd-pleasers. Here are some games to try with our top-performing play equipment:

school playground play house

Escape the pirates

Whether the aim is to escape to safety or to find the hidden treasure via a tempest, a pirate boat is a great place to start. Ahoy, me hearties!

school playground pirate boat

Pirate puzzles

Sticking with the pirate theme, explore the spinning compass to direct where the adventure will go or fancy yourself as the next Long John Silver. The pirate activity panel set is a favourite of the parents for social media sharing.

In the jungle

Picture this: You’re deep in the planes of Africa on safari. Your knowledgeable tour guide is upfront, sharing their lifetime of knowledge about lions, zebras, and elephants when… an angry herd of buffalo appear from nowhere! Our safari tracker is the perfect getaway vehicle.

Escape to safety

Continuing with our imaginative playground game ideas, a larger piece of outdoor play equipment that is designed to withstand the test of time. An investment for years to come, our young explorer towers open a host of imaginative games. From escaping to safety from the Vikings to escaping rising flood water, your children are equipped with all of the inspiration they need to really enjoy their playtime.

school playground climbing tower


How can Playtime by Fawns help?

With over 30 years of experience, our play experts can design, create and install your dream playground. From small projects to community transformations, you’re in safe hands with our friendly, helpful team.

Want to learn more?

Here are your next steps:

  1. Contact our team for an initial chat about your plans. Phone us on 01252515199 or email
  2. Book a free design consultation with one of your local experts
  3. Get your design and quote
  4. Secure some dates in the diary!


Some more articles you may like:

Age-appropriate playground games for your outdoor play equipment

5 ways to improve your SEND provision in mainstream schools

Making the most of playtime: How to engage SEND children in outdoor play