5 Backyard Games
Summer is approaching and its time to start spending some time in the sun. However, your busy schedule may not allow for many of the destination activities like hiking, camping, or even heading to a city or national park. But summer practically begs for outside activities. Here are a few great lawn games that you, and your friends and family, can enjoy in your very own yard, of really any size.
- Lawn Darts
Here is the quintessential bar game, but in lawn format. The game uses large “darts” with rounded plastic or rubber tips and plastic rings placed on the lawn. Lawn darts is fairly skill intensive and requires an above average amount of scorekeeping, yet is still one of the many go to activities for adults and kids. It fits the needs for the hyper-competitive adult, as well as the kid that just wants to throw things that look like a weapon.
How to Play: Each team (or individual) will take turns attempting to throw the darts so that they land inside the target ring (or rings in the case of optional, smaller, harder to hit bonus rings for more points). For every dart the player lands in the target zone the thrower will earn one point. The trick comes with the competition of the other player. For each dart in the target ring, matched by the opponent, the points are cancelled. For example, if Player 1 lands four darts, and Player 2 lands three darts, Player 1 will leave the round with one point. Then play proceeds again starting with the other player. High score wins.
The childhood classic can be surprisingly competitive and fast-paced. The games are quick, lending themselves easily to group activities, even though the game is technically a two-player game. There’s no need for cement pads with anchored posts anymore. This vintage game has seen a number of modernizations, allowing you to purchase stable, but mobile gear sets to let your inner Napoleon Dynamite show.
How to Play: The goal of the game is simple. Hit that tetherball as hard as you can, to confound your opponents efforts to stop it, and wrap the ball entirely around the pole. The first player goes one direction, while the second player goes into the other. Players may only hit the ball once per volley, so much of the strategy is based around blocking your opponents shot and returning with full force. Depending on how competitive you are, there are rules and penalties for stepping too far to any particular side, hitting the ball twice (or more for the really aggressive players), or hitting the pole and/or rope.
A hilarious mixture of volleyball, ping pong, and tennis all wrapped up in an easily set up and played backyard game. Played with a specifically shaped racquet, with a significantly smaller striking area, and a shuttlecock (or “birdie”). This is a game that scales well. It is designed to be played one on one or two on two, but you can add as many people as you want to the game to include the entire group of family and friends.
How to Play: The game’s rules are just as simple as tennis and ping pong. Use your racquet to hit the shuttlecock back and forth, over the net, with the goal of preventing it from landing on the ground on your side of the net. In order to win you must score a minimum of 21 points, however you must have a scoring margin of two points or greater to win. When a team scores a point, that team gets the serve again.
While the game has traditionally been played in a court, but for our purposes that court can be your backyard. While there are rules for placement of the wire “checkpoints” called wickets, it’s always been much more fun to turn a croquet game into something of an obstacle course as well. It’s a kingly game, one that exudes a casual, relaxed nature making the perfect pastime during hot summer days.
How to Play: Each player picks a colored ball. The goal of the game is to pass that colored ball through each wicket twice. Each time a player hits their ball through a wicket (in order), they receive a bonus turn and may hit the ball again. Additionally, if a player’s colored ball strikes an opponent’s colored ball, and stops next to it, the original player will get two bonus turns. One of these bonus turns can be used to hit the opponent’s colored ball away.
Bocce is played with, either metal, plastic, or resin balls, in a variety of sizes and colors. It can be played in yard’s of virtually any size and easily adapts to the skill and age of the player’s involved.
How to Play: A game of Bocce starts with the smallest ball, called a boccino, being thrown by a player, or being placed in location that is agreed upon by all players. Then play proceeds throwing the balls, using an underhanded throw, in an attempt to land their balls as close to boccino as possible. Players take turns when they no longer have a ball closer to the boccino than their opponent. That player continues to throw their balls until their supply has been exhausted or a ball lands closer to the boccino than any other. At the end of each round the player with the closest ball is the only one who can score points, and each ball between the boccino and their opponent’s nearest ball is one point.
Cornhole gear is a common addition to outdoor bars, backyards, or even elementary school classrooms. You may known it simply as, “bean bag toss”. The only equipment needed to play a game of Cornhole is a number of beanbags (of two different colors), and a couple of sturdy tilted platforms with a hole in them. Cornhole sets can be purchased, but they can also easily be built by you Do-It-Yourselfers.
How to Play: Players, or teams, simply alternate turns throwing the bean bags at the platform, in an attempt to get the bag into the target hole. Some cornhole platforms have bull’s-eyes painted on them to allow points to be scored just by landing the bag on the platform. The player, or team, with the most points after two rounds is the winner.
- Ladder Golf
Another easy addition to the DIY quiver of backyard games. Ladder Golf may also be known as golf toss, bola toss, and has probably been featured in almost every school fair for the passed two or three decades. Ladder Golf is another game that may easily be scaled to any size of backyard or skill of player.
How to Play: Players take turns throwing two balls connected together with a rope at one of the ladders. Points are scored by wrapping the two balls around a rung of the ladder, and each rung rewards the player with a variable amount of points. The top rung is worth three, middle worth two, and the bottom worth one.
There is almost no one in the current or last few generations that doesn’t know how to play kickball. It may require a slighter larger yard, or a park, to play, but the equipment required is minimal. The game lends itself to modification based on skill and age of players, and space available though.
How to Play: It is played exactly the same as baseball or softball, and it is almost guaranteed if you are having an outdoor activity at least one person will know how to play. However, the basics include having one player pitch the kickball by rolling on the ground towards the kicker. That player then kicks the ball, and attempts to run bases from 1st base, all the way around and back to home.
Volleyball stands out on this list as one of the more intensive games as far as space and player requirements, as well as complication, go. Don’t be fooled however, a great game of volleyball does not require a sand pit, or a strict referee. All you need is a net with posts, a ball, and hopefully some grass.
How to Play: Players attempt to land the ball on the ground, on the opposite team’s side of the net. Each team gets three hits on the ball before it must be returned to the opposing team. Points are also scored when the ball goes out of bounds and teams must win by a margin of two points.
- Giant Jenga
Have some spare 2×4 lumber laying around? Done deal, you have your next DIY backyard game almost finished already. Either cut those 2x4s yourself, or have them cut, into 48 ten inch pieces. Sand them up nice to avoid slivers, and stain or paint them. Giant Jenga works for any age or size of yard.
How to Play: Stack up the giant Jenga pieces three pieces per level, and alternate directions each level. Then players take turns removing pieces, attempting to leave the tower standing.