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Best Classic Yard Games For Kids And Adults

Why Play Yard Games?

According to a 2016 study, children today spend roughly half as much time outdoors as their parents did. It’s important for today’s youth to be familiar with technology for their futures. It’s also just as, or more, important for their physical and mental well-being to be active and experience the outdoors.

Here’s a list of just a few ways that active outdoor play benefits kids.

Active play:

  1. Helps kids maintain healthy body weight.

  2. Strengthens muscles, bones, and joints.

  3. Prevents or delays chronic disease.

  4. Helps kids focus.

  5. Reduces the risk of mental illness.

  6. Helps develop social skills.

  7. Improves quantity and quality of sleep.

  8. Enhances academic performance.

  9. Enhances motor coordination.

  10. Establishes good exercise habits

On average, kids today spend 3-7 hours in front of a screen. This form of entertainment has largely replaced outdoor and backyard active play, but it does not replace the benefits.

To give your kids a reason to turn off the TV, we’ve put together a list of fun backyard and outdoor games that you can play with your kids.

Ball-based games

A lot of yard games can even help your kids get ready to play sports. This is especially true of ball-based games as they often improve cardiovascular endurance as well as coordination.

1. Spikeball

# of Players: 4

Equipment: 1 Spikeball set

The Game: Spikeball is a new fun game taking the world by a storm. If you can imagine what volleyball would look like upside down, then you’d have a good idea what Spikeball is.

In Spikeball, teams of two bounce the ball off the ground net to the other team who then has 3 touches between the two of them to bounce the ball off the net back to the other team. If one team drops the ball or commits another penalty, the opposing team gets a point.

Benefits: Hand-eye coordination; cardiovascular exercise; strengthens bones, joints, and muscles.

 

2. Four square

# of Players: 4-20 

Equipment: 1 Kickball and a way to make lines on the ground

The Game: Four square is the old classic playground game that so many parents remember playing as kids. Good news, it never gets old! If you need a refresher on the rules, check out this article.

Benefits: Hand-eye coordination; cardiovascular exercise; strengthens bones, joints, and muscles.

 

3. 9-square

# of Players: 2-30

Equipment: one 9 square set (ball included)

The Game: This fun outdoor game is reminiscent of four square, but adds elements of volleyball to it. The game is played by 9 people who bounce a ball up and out of their own square and into an opponent’s square. If a player drops the ball, they are “out” and have to start over in the rotation.

This backyard game can also be adapted for 2, 4, or 6 players. Whether you’re a kid or adult, this is a great outdoor game.

Benefits: Hand-eye coordination; cardiovascular exercise; strengthens bones, joints, and muscles; great early training for volleyball.

Net-based games

This type of game is a great way to improve your hand-eye coordination as well as your reflexes. These games are a great source of fast-paced fun in the backyard.

1. Pickleball

# of Players: 2-4

Equipment: 1 Pickleball set (2-4 paddles, 1 net, 1 ball)

The Game: Playing pickleball is kind of like playing ping pong, only the table is huge and you get to stand on it.

Like ping pong, players try to hit the ball back and forth over the net without hitting it out of bounds or letting it bounce twice on their own side of the court. Unlike ping pong, there is a “no volley” zone (the kitchen) where players cannot step unless the ball has already hit their side of the court. There’s a bit more to it, so check out this video for more information.

Benefits: Hand-eye coordination; cardiovascular exercise; strengthens bones, joints, and muscles; another fun option for those who enjoy ping pong or tennis.

 

2. Badminton

# of Players: 2-4

Equipment: 1 Badminton set (2-4 racquets, 1 net, 1 birdie)

The Game: Another classic. Badminton is a sort of mix between tennis and volleyball. Players use rackets to hit a “birdie” (feathered or plastic ball with a lot of drag) over a high net. The opposing team tries to return the birdie and land it in the opposing team’s court.

Benefits: Hand-eye coordination; cardiovascular exercise; strengthens bones, joints, and muscles; another fun option for those who enjoy ping pong or volleyball.

 

3. Volleyball

# of Players: 4-12

Equipment: 1 Volleyball net, 1 volleyball

The Game: Volleyball is a beach favorite, but also makes a great gym or yard game. Some public parks have volleyball nets, so you may only need a ball! This game does require a bit more coordination than some of the others on the list, but it’s extremely fun and satisfying once you get the hang of it.

There’s also more running and jumping than some of the other games, so players can enjoy all of the health benefits associated with that type of exercise.

Benefits: Hand-eye coordination; cardiovascular exercise; strengthens bones, joints, and muscles.

Super classic games

These outdoor games have been popular for generations, if not centuries or longer. There’s a reason that these are timeless.

1. Horseshoes

# of Players: 2-4

Equipment: 1 Horseshoes set

The Game: Not much is more satisfying than a solid underhand toss of a horseshoe that ends in a ringer. The game is simple. Teams toss horseshoes from their horseshoe pit into their opponents and try to land it around the post, leaning against the post, or near the post.

Benefit: This is a relaxing game that allows you to enjoy your company and practice hand-eye coordination.

 

2. Catch/Pass

# of Players: At least 2, possible with many

Equipment: Your choice

The Game: The game of catch is as old as family relationships. Catch is a perfect way to connect with your kids on a 1-to-1 basis, or as a whole family. You can also play catch with your object of choice. Baseball, soccer ball, football, volleyball… The list is endless.

Benefit: Hand-eye coordination, opportunity to connect with friends and family.

 

3.  Capture the flag

# of Players: 10-40+ depending on your available space

Equipment: Two objects to be used as flags

The Game: This game is a classic for very good reason. It’s simple, and a whole lot of fun. There are also infinite variations of this classic game. All you need is two flags, two teams, and some fun house rules. 

Benefit: Cardiovascular exercise, practice in social settings.

 

4. Races

# of Players: 2+

Equipment: Optional

The Game: There are innumerable ways to race. Everything from a good old-fashioned foot race to an obstacle course is fair game. Here are a few options:

  • Egg race: Balance an egg on a spoon as you’re getting from point A to point B.

  • Potato sack Race: Contestants stand in a sack and hop from point A to point B.

  • 3 legged race: Partners tie one leg together and the teams each race on “3 legs”.

Benefit: Exercise and healthy competition.

 

Tossing games

Tossing games are a very popular type of lawn game. Most are very simple and can easily be played in a backyard or park.

1. Kubb

# of Players: 2-12

Equipment: 1 Kubb Set

The Game: Kubb is an old Swedish game where teams toss batons to knock down wooden blocks on their opponents’ end of the field. This is an unfamiliar game, so here are the rules. Kubb is a lot of fun, and is an easy DIY yard game project.

Benefit: Hand-eye coordination, slow-paced, social game.

 

2. Bocce Ball

# of Players: 2-8

Equipment: 1 bocce ball set

The Game: Bocce ball is a classic outdoor game that can be fun as a kid or an adult. Each team’s goal is to toss their bocce balls closer to the pallino (specially marked ball) than their opponents. This is a fun outdoor game that can be played in a backyard, park, or on the beach.

Benefits: Hand-eye coordination, slow-paced, social game.

 

3. Cornhole

# of Players: 2-4

Equipment: 1 Cornhole Set (2 Cornhole boards, 4 cornhole bags)

The Game: Cornhole is a BBQ favorite toss game. It’s another very simple, social game where the experience is more important than the victory. For a specific set of rules, see this article. This party game could also make a good DIY project for handy yard game players.

Benefit: Coordination, slow-paced, social game.

 

4. Ladder Golf

# of Players: 2-4

Equipment: 1 Ladder Golf Set (2 “ladders” and 6 bolas)

The Game: This is another great option for a simple DIY backyard game. All you need is some PVC pipe, 12 golf balls, and some rope and you’ve got what you need. In this game, the point is to toss bolas (golf balls connected by a length of rope) and have them land and stay on a ladder. 

Benefit: Coordination, slow-paced, social game.

 

5. Lawn darts

# of Players: 2-4 

Equipment: 1 lawn darts set

The Game: The point of lawn darts is similar to that of Horseshoes and Cornhole. Players toss “darts” (sharp ones are now illegal) in a high arc and try to land them in a hoop at a distance. Sometimes it’s the simple things that bring the most fun to the backyard. This is one of those.

Benefit: Coordination, slow-paced, social game.

 

6. Bucketball

# of Players: 2-4

Equipment: 1 bucketball set (12 buckets and 1 ball)

The Game: Bucketball is similar to cornhole. All you need to play bucketball in your backyard is 12 identical (or at least similar) sized buckets and a ball. Teams take turns tossing the ball into each other’s buckets. When a bucket is made, it is removed from the game. The first team to make all 6 buckets wins!

Benefit: Coordination, slow-paced, social game.

 

No Equipment games

Many of the games on this full list don’t require much equipment, and some are easy DIY projects. These no-equipment games, however, are completely equipment free!

 

1. Tag in all its varieties

# of Players: 3+

Equipment: None!

The Game: There are a million different versions of tag (here are a bunch). The simplicity of this game is what makes it fun, and there’s no limit to where or how long you can play it!

Benefit: Cardiovascular exercise, sprinting, and endurance.

 

2. Sharks and Minnows

# of Players: 10+ The bigger the better!

Equipment: None!

The Game: One person from the group starts as a shark. Everyone else is a minnow. The minnows’ goal is to get from one end of the playing field to the other without being tagged. Once tagged, a minnow becomes another shark. 

Once all surviving minnows reach the other side, they repeat the process until all minnows are tagged. The last minnow to be tagged becomes the new first shark.

Benefit: Cardiovascular exercise and sprinting.

 

Water Games

Many yard games can be played during most seasons, but water games are typically a summer thing. They’re a great way to cool off and let loose.

1. Water fight

# of Players: 2+

Equipment: Water balloons, water hose, pool noodles, squirt guns...

The Game: There’s not much to say here. Water fights are a summer staple and just always a fun outdoor game for a birthday party or any other occasion. You can split up teams, or just make it a free-for-all, it doesn’t matter so long as everyone gets wet.

Benefit: Cardiovascular exercise, social practice.

 

2. Slip ‘n Slide

# of Players: 1+

Equipment: Slip ‘n Slide or wet soapy tarp

The Game: Slip n slides are a lot of fun for kids, but they’re also a great way for adults to let loose! These are definitely one of the best ways to cool off in the summer. If you use your own tarp, just make sure it’s really slippery to avoid injury.

Benefit: Casual fun, mental release.

 

3. Slip ‘n Slide Kickball

# of Players: 14+

Equipment: 1 kickball, 1-4 Slip ‘n slides

The Game: This game is just like kickball except you get to slip ‘n slide into home base (or each base if you have more slip n slides). This is a great game to play with large friend groups or as a neighborhood.

Benefit: Casual fun, mental release, cardiovascular exercise, foot-eye coordination.

 

Creative Games

These are all games we know and love that have been adapted to an outdoor, backyard, or other settings.

1. Creative golf

# of Players: 2+

Equipment: Get Creative!

The Game: This lawn game works just like traditional golf, only you get to place the holes, and you can use whatever you have in the garage to play. Instead of a golf ball and club, try a tennis ball and ski, or a volleyball and hockey stick. This is a silly backyard game that is much more about the experience than the score.

Benefit: Creativity, hand-eye coordination.

 

2. Lawn bowling

# of Players: 2+

Equipment: Lawn bowling set or DIY 

The Game: There are official rules to lawn bowling, but there’s also nothing wrong with just having fun knocking the pins down. You can also just find your own ball and “pins” to knock down if you’d rather not buy anything.

Benefit: Casual fun, hand-eye coordination.

 

3. Giant toppling tower

# of Players: Typically 2-4

Equipment: 1 giant toppling tower set 

The Game: If you’ve ever played the indoor game Jenga, you know how this works. Stack up the blocks in layers of 3, then take turns removing blocks and placing them on top. The added tension as the tower gets more precarious is thrilling for everyone! This is also another great DIY yard game. 

Benefit: Hand-eye coordination, concentration.

 

Frisbee Games

Frisbee games are a back yard, BBQ, or beach favorite. Add these games to your options of things to do with a frisbee.

1. Kan Jam

# of Players: 2-4

Equipment: 1 Kan Jam set or DIY version 

The Game: This game is like a cross between frisbee and horseshoes. Teams take turns tossing a frisbee towards the Kan to earn points. Different point values are awarded for hitting the Kan, dunking the frisbee, or throwing it through the narrow slot.

Benefit: Casual fun, hand-eye coordination.

 

2. Frisbee (Just passing)

# of Players: 2+

Equipment: 1 frisbee

The Game: just tossing a frisbee around is a lot of fun. It gets you outside, and it’s a great chance to just talk with your family or friends and build those relationships.

Benefit: Casual fun, hand-eye coordination, some running.

 

3. Frisbee/Disc Golf

# of Players: 2+

Equipment: A frisbee or disc golf set per person.

The Game: You can play frisbee/disk golf very casually, or pretty seriously. Your city may have a disk golf course you can go to, or you can just set up targets in your backyard and start tossing. It’s a lot of fun, and it gives you a great chance to connect to the people you’re with.

Benefit: Hand-eye coordination, walking exercise.

 

Night games

School’s out for the summer and late nights are a part of life. Here are some family-friendly ways to spend your time after dark.

1. Judge

# of Players: 5+ The more the better

Equipment: None!

The Game: Choose a “Judge” and have them walk around the playing area while all other players follow and look for a chance to leave the line and hide. While the judge looks for hiding players, he/she can, at any time, count down from 5 out loud and turn around. If they catch someone out of line 3 times, that person becomes the new judge.

Benefit: Walking, cardiovascular exercise, social fun.

 

2. Jailbreak

# of Players: 5+

Equipment: None!

The Game: Choose one person to be the “jail guard” and select a “jail”. Everyone else hides and the jail guard seeks them out. If the guard finds someone, he/she calls out where they are. When a player is found, they have to go to the jail until another player gets a chance to put a foot on the jail and yell, “Jailbreak!” without being caught. 

At that point, all players get another chance to hide again while the jail guard counts. The game is over once everyone is in jail, or one person has been put in jail 3 times. 

Benefit: Walking, cardiovascular exercise, social fun.

 

3. Sardines

# of Players: 4+

Equipment: None!

The Game: Pick one person in the group to go hide first. After 1 minute, everyone else can go find them. As people find the first player, they hide with him or her. Eventually the hiding spot gets packed with “sardines.” the last player to find the group becomes the new sardine.

Benefit: Casual fun, social practice.

 

4. Kick the can

# of Players: 5+

Equipment: 1 can or bucket,

The Game: Place the can in the middle of your play area. One person is “it” and guards the can. This person gets other players “out” by calling out their location and jumping over the can. The other players try to end the game by kicking the can without being caught. 

Benefit: Cardiovascular exercise, social practice.

 

5. Cops and robbers

# of Players: 6+

Equipment: A flashlight for each cop

The Game: Divide the players into two teams; cops and robbers. The goal of the robbers is to get from point A to point B without being seen or tagged by the cops. The cops’ goal is to find and tag all of the robbers. This game can be played in all sorts of places, but bigger areas are typically more fun.

Benefit: Cardiovascular exercise, social practice,

 

Conclusion

When we think back on our childhood, these are the kinds of experiences we remember, active, social games with friends and family.

By introducing and encouraging these games for your children, you can help them live a childhood they’ll enjoy and remember.

We’d also like to emphasize the importance of playing with your kids. The health benefits they enjoy are only a part of why active play is so important. These games are a perfect opportunity for you to become a bigger part of your children’s lives and strengthen your family relationships.