Outdoor lawn games and backyard games are extremely versatile, appeal to groups of all ages and can be played anywhere.
Outdoor lawn games, or backyard games, as they are sometimes called, are extremely versatile and therefore make great family reunion game ideas!
They can be played indoors or outdoors, on virtually any surface (grass, concrete, sand, carpet). They also appeal to groups of all sizes and to all ages.
Most of the games listed here are conducive to tournaments, single or double play and the rules can be adapted to fit your time, space and group.
You can easily take these backyard games to the campground, beach, park or picnic - to any family reunion location or family gathering that you can think of.
Scroll down or click on a game title to find game ideas,
variations and rules for the following outdoor lawn games:
Due to its sheer awesomeness, KUBB gets a whole page of its own!
Outdoor lawn games sometimes go by many different names. For example, the cornhole game is sometimes called Corn Toss, Bean Bag Toss or Soft Horseshoes. Cornhole is similar to horseshoes except that you use wooden boxes, cornhole platforms and corn bags, instead of horseshoes and metal stakes. A cornhole platform is an angled rectangular wooden or plastic box with a hole. Contestants take turns pitching their corn bags (4 per player) at the platform until someone scores 21 points. A corn bag in the hole scores 3 points, one on the platform scores 1 point and a bag on the ground scores 0 points. You’re ready to play with just two platforms and 8 bags. American Cornhole Association (ACA) sanctioned bags are 6” x 6” square and made of soft duck canvas material and filled with pliable high quality feed corn. Unofficial bags could also be made from dry beans, rice or popcorn seeds. For official rules, including single, double and tournament play, sample tournament brackets and other cornhole resources, check the ACA webpage at www.playcornhole.org.
The Baggo Bean Bag Toss game is very similar to Cornhole. The main differences between these outdoor lawn games show up only in the “official” rules and platform components. If you aren’t worried about the EXACT game measurements, materials and lingo, it won’t matter which game you play.
A Bocce ball set includes 8 large balls and 1 small target ball, called the pallino or jack. Two players or 2 teams play. Generally, a bocce court measures 10-13 feet wide and 76-100 feet long. The object of the game is to roll the bocce ball closer to the pallino than your opponent.
To start each frame, one team throws the pallino between the center line of the court and the far boundary line. Wikipedia describes how play continues: "The side that places the pallino is given the opportunity to bowl first. Once the first bowl has taken place, the other side has the opportunity to bowl. From then on, the side which does not have the ball closest to the jack has a chance to bowl, up until one side or the other has used their four balls. At that point, the other side bowls its remaining bocce balls. The team with the closest bocce ball to the pallino is the only team that can score points in any frame. The scoring team receives one point for each of their balls that is closer to the jack than the closest ball of the other team. The length of a game varies by region, but is typically played to 11, 12, or 13 points."
Check the United States Bocce Federation (USBF) website at www.bocce.com for official rules, information and links to world wide bocce organizations.
When it comes time to purchase your own bocce set, be sure to buy balls that are properly weighted and durable enough to last more than one game.
Need more ideas for outdoor lawn games? Keep reading.
Ladder Golf can be played with two or more players or in teams. Each player has 3 bolos. A bolo consists of 2 golf balls attached by a rope. A ladder with 3 rungs is placed 15 feet away from the toss line. (Shorten this distance if you need to.) The object of the game is to toss the bolos at the ladder, wrapping them around one of the rungs. Each player tosses all 3 bolos on his/her turn. Each rung of the ladder is worth the following points: top = 3 points; middle = 2 points; bottom = 1 point. Play continues until one player or team scores exactly 21 points.
(This is a game known by many names. Amazon.com calls it "Blongo" and sells a great family fun set .)
Work as singles, doubles or teams to toss washers into a box approximately 25 feet away that has a center hole or “pit.” While official washer boxes are available commercially, you can easily make your own by securing a small cup in the middle of a shoe box without a lid. (Use a brad, super glue, tape or whatever means you have available to secure the cup – just be sure that the cup is sturdy enough so that it won’t tip over when hit with washers.) Each person or team gets 3 washers, approximately 2 to 3 inches in diameter. (Paint or decorate each set of washers so you can tell them apart.) Take turns tossing the washers. A washer that lands in the pit is worth 3 points. A washer that lands in the box is worth 1 point. Play until someone reaches exactly 21 (or passes whatever number determined at the beginning).
The international sport of horseshoe pitching evolved from the second century Grecian game of discus throwing. Today horseshoes is played with stakes in the ground approximately 40 feet apart and 2 horseshoes per person or team. Most games are played to 21 points and the winner must win by 2. Points are scored as follows:
Horseshoe lands within 6 inches of the stake – 1 point
Leaner - the horseshoe literally leans on the stake - 2 points
Ringer - the horseshoe completely encircles the stake - 3 points
The easiest way to play croquet is to buy a croquet set from your local department store or favorite online vendor and then follow the included instructions. A set includes 6 wooden mallots, 9 wire wickets and 2 wooden stakes. Generally play is cut-throat, in that points are not scored but the winner is determined by the first person to finish the course. Players must hit their balls through the wickets in a certain order, touch the wooden stake at the end, reverse direction, hit the ball back through all of the wickets and finally finish by touching the wooden stake at the beginning of the course. There are many, many variations to the game. Some of these outdoor lawn games for croquet include:
Need more ideas for outdoor lawn games? Keep reading.
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Badmitton was one of my favorite outdoor lawn games as a kid! There’s just something cool about the way a shuttlecock flies and how easy it is to control a badmitton raquet. The easiest way to get set up to play is to purchase an inexpensive set from the store. Each game is played to 21 points, with each player scoring when they win a rally. A match is the best of 3 games.
If you're looking for a set to purchase, the Carlton Badminton Recreational Set gets my vote. While it's not a top-of-the-line product, it is a great value for the price and even comes with metal poles. It's a perfect set for occasional back yard use or for the weekend family reunion.
Once you have a badmitton net set up in the back yard, you can play other outdoor lawn games, too. You might as well grab a volleyball and give your family more choices. Like other outdoor lawn games, volleyball can be as serious or casual as the players themselves. For official volleyball rules, court specifications and anything else you’d like to know about the sport, check out the FiVB, federation internationale de volleyball, website at www.fivb.org.
Qolf, which can be played indoors or outdoors, is a cross between croquet and golf. (Qolf fans also say it’s a great practice tool for golfers who want to improve their short game.) Play takes place with any standard pitching wedge, a lightweight qolf ball and qolf frame (which has an arch and a hole). The object of the game is to hit the qolf ball through each of the qolf frames with the fewest number of strokes. A round of qolf can be completed in 30 minutes or less.
Make your own homemade golf clubs from empty wrapping paper tubes with sturdy cardboard cut-outs for the golf club head. (If you’re looking for family reunion crafts, convert the process of making outdoor lawn games, such as homemade golf clubs and miniature golf course, into your family’s craft project.)
Paint your cardboard club or go crazy with the course decorations. Older kids could prepare the course for their younger cousins or you could divide and conquer by age groups, family branches, or however else makes sense.) Play with plastic golf balls or ping pong balls. Use various containers from your recycling bin to create the course “holes.” Empty cans, milk jugs, cartons, paper cups or pots placed on their sides work well. Secure them in place with rocks, bricks, books or other heavy (safe) objects. Ramps can be made by propping up thick cardboard at an angle. Fold the edges of cardboard pieces to define boundaries and control how far the ball can roll. Or define holes by lining portions of the grass or course with 2x4’s or other lumber pieces or wood. Make tunnels by removing the tops and bottoms of used cans (or empty 2-liter plastic soda bottles). Secure several cans of the same size together with duct tape for a longer tunnel. Use a sandbox for a sand trap and fill a kiddie pool with water to use as a water hazard. As with most outdoor lawn games, your imagination is the only limitation. (Picture is compliments of www.highlightsteachers.com.)
Here’s an important safety tip: Don’t use real lawn darts or even regular inside darts (or anything with a sharp point, for any of your outdoor games, for that matter). Lawn darts were banned from sale in the US in 1988 because they were responsible for the deaths of 3 children. But, substitute “safety” darts or even a bean bag and you can still play these same outdoor lawn games. Played individually or in teams, darts are thrown at a target, such as a plastic ring, 35 (or so) feet away. Landing anywhere within the ring scores a point.
In teams or in groups of 2, toss rings onto stakes in the ground. Use plastic diving rings or canning lids as the rings and wooden dowels, sticks or PVC pipe as the stakes. Make each stake worth a certain number of points (pre-determined by color or distance).
f you’re lucky enough to be at a school or park that has a tetherball pole, don’t forget to use it as part of your outdoor lawn games! If you have the budget, a fillable game base will run about $60. Or you can get an entire portable tetherball pole and ball set for $285 - $700. For complete rules, visuals and all the information you could ever need or want regarding tetherball, check out Total Tetherball at www.toteth.com.
Looking for fun outdoor bowling games to be a part of your outdoor lawn games? Make your own! Fill 2-liter soda bottles with water or sand. The more full the bottles, the heavier they are and the harder the game. Adjust accordingly. Use a rubber playground ball as the bowling ball. Make the “lane” as short or long as needed based on the age and ability of the players.
Divide the group into 2 teams and have them grab onto opposite ends of a sturdy rope. Play is simple: on the given signal, everyone pulls. One team will (eventually) prove themselves stronger. For added fun, place teams on either end of a pool of water or mud pit.
Dave from Minnesota adds that Two-Person Stump Tug of War - a game of technique over strength - is also a great rope game for outdoor parties. Place two "stumps" (a real stump, milk crate, five gallon bucket or whatever you have on hand) some distance apart. One person stands on each stump and picks up one end of the rope. On the count of three, both begin reeling in the rope and trying to tug against the other. The object of the game is to stay on your stump and to keep hold of the rope. You lose if you drop the rope or fall off your stump. Dave adds, "If you think that your opponent is about to give a hard pull, you can loosen your grip and let the rope slide through your hands. They'll likely fall off their stump backwards."
A good sturdy rope is kind of spendy but it'll make your games a heck of a lot more fun. Check out this 50' rope from Amazon.
Don’t forget that playground games such as hopscotch, jump rope and four square can be turned into fun outdoor lawn games, too. (Provided you have a patio and/or driveway nearby, of course!) Sidewalk chalk, a ball and rope can go a long, long way in providing solid family entertainment for your family reunion.
Ever heard of Squareball?? It sounds like a ball! (Get it? "Ball"?? Okay, okay, it was a lame joke.) Nathan sent me this link: www.originalsquareball.blogspot.com. Check it out for pictures, rules and more information.