The Best Yard Games

Remember the good old days, before our phones became our primary tool for recreation? Back then, family games ruled summer in the yard, and no one would dream of not owning a game set to bust out along with the barbecue. It’s time to bring back the good old days by bringing out the best yard games.

Exercising is becoming rare, starting in childhood. Pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom says, “Ideally, kids should be playing outside three hours each day.” She also believes the skills gained in play help children learn how to make friends and successfully interact with others.

So how do you pick the lawn games the whole family will enjoy? As long as you have two functional thumbs and an Amazon account, a world of yard games new and old await you. 

The Classic Lawn Games

  • Badminton
  • Bocce Ball
  • Cornhole
  • Croquet
  • Frisbee
  • Lawn Darts

What baby boomer doesn’t remember growing up playing badminton? All you need is a net, birdies, and racquets. Portable badminton sets allow you to take the game to the neighborhood park or a friend’s house. Bocce ball is another portable game that comes with a carrying case. It’s history dates back to ancient Egypt, and it’s a national pastime in France and can be played on a court or a lawn. Pack it up and take it to your next tailgate party.

One of the joys of cornhole is the length of the throw can be instantly changed to match the size and skills of the players. Credit Virginia State Parks, CC2.0

No tailgate party or camping trip is complete without a cornhole set. This classic game is arguably the most popular bean bag toss game of all time. The rules are simple: Throw bean bags toward corn hole boards, aiming for the hole. A deceptively simple, undeniably great game. 

Alice in Wonderland playing croquet
In “Alice in Wonderland,” croquet had added degrees of difficulty with flamingo mallets and live hedgehog balls.

While some form of croquet has been around since the 1300s, modern croquet caught on in 17th century England. It was such a craze that, according to the London Telegraph, “only tobacco smoke spread faster through the English empire.”

It maintained its popularity with help from “Alice in Wonderland” and the movie “Heathers,” and no wonder: It’s a cutthroat yard game disguised as a mild-mannered, upper-crust entertainment. Play on a large lawn, but in a version of extreme croquet, almost anything goes. Six players play at a time. If you prefer a more aerobic game, grab a frisbee and head out to the backyard. You’ll need good hand-eye coordination, and a willingness to jump and the flying disk. Step it up, and get a team together for a game of ultimate Frisbee. 

The original game of lawn darts was a longtime favorite but was deemed too dangerous to sell after one accident too many. Fortunately for us, there are versions of the game available with weighted darts that lack the metal spikes that made the original so dangerous. Same old fun, without the trips to the ER.

Modern Lawn Games

  • Flickin’ Chicken
  • Giant Connect Four
  • Giant Jenga
  • Ladder Toss
  • Spikeball
Giant Connect-Four
You must be this tall to play Connect Four. Credit: “Giant Connect 4,” Ellie, CC by-SA 2.0

If you’re not interested in the games your parents played, a new wave of yard games is making the backyard party rounds.

Flickin’ Chicken is a new twist on the classic ringtoss that features effortlessly easy rules made to be broken. And you get to toss rubber chickens. Great for the whole family and little athletic ability required. Another kids’ favorite is giant connect four. It’s not the most portable lawn game, but worth the trouble.

Timberrrrrr! A game of giant Jenga ends the way it always does. Credit: NPS

You’ll need a flat yard, or at least a flat surface if you want to play giant Jenga. Just like the tabletop version, only much bigger, this is one of those outdoor games that you can play with two or 20 people.

Another great game for parties and camping trips, ladder toss is a game where you toss bolas (which look like large golf balls) at a “ladder” for points. Sometimes known as ladder golf and ladder ball, play this game in groups of four with two teams of two. 

A vigorous game of spikeball. Credit: “Spikeball,” Elvert Barnes, CC by-SA 2.0

Looking for a twist on the traditional volleyball game? Try your hand (or hands) at spikeball. This reinvented game from the ’70s got a boost from appearing on the TV show “Shark Tank.” A cross between volleyball and four square, it’s best played two-on-two. Teams take turns bouncing the ball off a mini trampoline-like net and your opponent tries to return it. You score points when the other team misses. 

Choose the Best Yard Game: 5 Questions 

Start by asking yourself the following:

  1. How athletic are the players? To avoid over-exertion, stick to cornhole, croquet, or ladder toss. Spikeball and badminton are for players seeking more cardio. 
  2. How much space do you have? Frisbee, croquet, and bocce ball are for bigger yards. 
  3. How old are the people who will be playing? Small children will certainly enjoy giant connect four and giant Jenga more than games that require a lot of hand-eye coordination, while much older players may not appreciate a vigorous game of bocce ball. 
  4. How many people will be playing? Some games have unlimited numbers of players, and others are more suited to two-on-two or even one-on-one.
  5. How competitive are the players? Spikeball and croquet will bring out the competitive juices; giant Jenga, giant connect four, or flickin’ chicken less so.

So put away the cellphone and the hammock, and break out the games. We promise more fun at your next get-together! And your body will thank you for the physical activity.

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!