Summer means endless hours of outdoor play. Pass by any neighbourhood green space and chances are you’ll see friends and families gathered for a game of pick-up soccer or playing catch with a ball and glove. But not all games revolve around summertime sports.
For a change of pace, bring the gang together for some good old lawn game fun. These all-ages outdoor activities will have everyone tossing objects from balls and batons to ropes and plastic discs – perfect for developing hand-eye coordination. But it’s also very easy to incorporate other skills to build balance, work on agility, and provide all-around energy burning.
Tip: try any of these while balancing on one leg, or if space provides, have participants run across the yard or jump rope on the spot before their next turn.
Here we go: Six lawn games to add to your next backyard barbecue, picnic at the park, or any time you find an old patch of grass. Let the (friendly) competition begin!
1. Ladder ball
The store-bought version has players tossing a small rope with two balls on either end towards a ladder-like structure. The aim is to have them loop around various rungs – each rung worth different points. A traveller version is a collapsible tent that packs into a small sleeve and slides right into a backpack.
Do-it-yourself: Set up an actual ladder in the backyard and attach pieces of paper with different number of points on each rung. Find some bean bags or balls for an old-fashioned DIY bean bag toss.
2. Bocce ball
Its history can be traced to the Roman Empire and is played around the world as bowls (in Britain) and pétanque (in France). For bocce, opponents roll balls towards a white pin called a pallino – the ball closest to the pin scores points.
Do-it-yourself: Bocce balls are heavy, so for little kids, swap in some lighter balls for easier and safer tossing.
Best described as a combo of bowling and horseshoes, the object of this Swedish lawn game is to knock over wooden blocks known as kubbs by throwing wooden batons at them. Sometimes known as Viking chess, it can be played one-on-one or family vs. family. Check out this short animated video on how to play Kubb.
Do-it-yourself: Replace the blocks by reusing plastic water bottles or empty cans to turn it into backyard blowing. Kids up late? Fill the plastic bottles with water and add a glow stick for glow-in-the-dark fun.
This centuries-old Finnish throwing game is less about physical strength and more about chance and skill. Players use a wooden pin called “mölkky” to try to knock over wooden pins called “skittles” each marked with numbers from 1 to 12. Knock over skittles and score the points marked on that pin – the first to exactly 50 points wins the game.
Do-it-yourself: Literally. Handy moms and dads can make their own cutting an abandoned tree stump or leftover lumber into same-sized pieces. Use a marker or paint to add the numbers and you’re ready to go!
5. Flying discs
Frisbees are not just for playing catch with your dog on the beach. Ultimate Disc is a field game played 7-on-7 on a football-sized field, but if you’re left with less space, test your throwing skills with a game of Kan-Jam or a more do-it-yourself version of Frisbee Trash Can. Played in teams of two, players work with their teammates to toss the disc into the top of the can, off the side, or through the slit to count points. It’s great for all skill levels – beginners simply move the cans closer to together.
6. DIY obstacle course and loose parts play
Make up your own game! Gather some cardboard boxes, leftover lumber, outdoor toys, and whatever is kicking around in the yard to create your own pop-up playground or a mini obstacle course. This imaginative play provides hours of fun and will have kids building, crawling, and jumping in and over their creations.
Find yourself with more concrete than grass? Grab some chalk to make an extra long game of hopscotch. And a driveway is perfect spot for playing catch with water balloons.