Summer is coming up, and with the beautiful weather are great opportunities to kick our kids off their “screens” and outdoors! What better way to get them outdoors and bond as a family than to join them outside for a family game? Here are some great backyard activities for your family to enjoy on these warm summer afternoons.
1. Capture the Flag and Kick the Can
We all played these games growing up–running around between the neighbors’ yards and hiding from each other. They require minimal equipment, and the rules are simple: don’t get caught!
In Capture the Flag, players are divided into two teams. Each team has a designated territory and a “flag” to be retrieved by the other team. If you get caught on the other team’s territory you’re “in prison” until another team member can safely escort you across. Capture the other team’s flag and return it to your territory or capture all their team members to win!
For Kick the Can, one player is designated the defender of the can, which is placed somewhere everyone can find. Everyone else has a chance to hide while the defender counts down. The first person to kick the can without getting tagged wins. Get tagged, and you become a defender of the can as well!
2. Cornhole and Horseshoe Toss
These games don’t require nearly as much physical exertion, but a lot more hand-eye coordination. In Cornhole, each person or team tosses a bean bag into the other team’s board, taking turns until no bean bags remain. Whoever gets the most bean bags into the hole wins! The horseshoe toss is similar, except everyone is tossing the rubber horseshoes across the yard at the same post. The winner is whoever hooks the most horseshoes onto the post!
3. Giant Chess or Checkers
Perhaps you’ve seen these oversized game boards at the park or on the beach. These games are played exactly like the tabletop versions, except the pieces are much bigger and team members can participate by acting as the pieces! Oversized versions of these games can be purchased online, or you can make your own with whatever you have in the garage: Christmas decor, yard ornaments, old toys, and the like, with chalk on the driveway to make the board.
This game was made popular on the TV show Shark Tank, and is a version of volleyball that is easy to transport to the beach or park. In the middle of the “court” is a small hula hoop-sized net standing on short legs like a miniature trampoline. Each team gets up to three passes before spiking it on the net back to the other team; when the other team misses, your team scores. This game is great for younger kids to get involved as well, just don’t spike the ball too hard!
5. Badminton and Volleyball
Badminton and volleyball are played very similarly, and require at least four players — a perfect activity to get the whole family involved. A net divides the court in two, and each team gets three passes to get the ball or birdy over the net to the other team. Badminton requires a racket for each player to hit the birdy but is easier for younger kids to play, whereas volleyball only requires a ball but flies faster and harder than the birdy. You can purchase sets which include the net, birdy, rackets, and volleyball.
6. Frisbee Golf and Ultimate Frisbee
Both of these games require only a frisbee, and are easy to play. Frisbee golf can be played on an official Frisbee golf course (in Roanoke, VA there is one just near Explore Park) with heavier Frisbees designed for the game. Most courses are free, and are played just like mini golf, throwing the frisbee as close to the chained goals as possible and tossing from wherever it lands until you make it in!
Ultimate Frisbee, on the other hand, is significantly more physically intensive, and plays similarly to football. Players are divided into two teams with an end zone on either end of the field. To start, teams line up in front of their respective end zones and the defense passes (“pulls”) the disc across the field to the offense. Players may not run with the disc, but instead pass the disc to a teammate within ten seconds of receiving possession of the disc, to move it across the field. Complete a pass into the other team’s endzone to score! For full rules, visit https://www.usaultimate.org/rules/
A popular garden activity for many generations, this strategic game is better suited for older children and adults as it requires patience and precision. Players carefully hit their balls with a mallet through hoops in the grass and ultimately touch the stake at the end. For full rules on this complex sport, check out https://www.woodmallets.com/how-to-play-croquet/ and https://www.llbean.com/customerService/assemblyInstructions/images/130520_CroquetSetInstructions.pdf
8. Bocce Ball
Bocce ball is another game of patience and precision, but is simpler to play and better suited for younger children than croquet. Players gently toss weighted balls across the lawn to get as close as possible to the “pallina” (a small, white ball) without hitting it. Play is passed once the active team gets a ball closer to the pallina than the other team’s balls. Players in a team will take turns tossing the balls, until all balls have been exhausted. The team possessing the ball closest to the pallina scores points equal to the number of balls closer than the opposing team’s closest ball. Full rules are available here: https://www.backyardbocce.com/basic-rules/
9. Scavenger Hunt
Although time-intensive to set up, scavenger hunts can be some of the most fun activities your kids will enjoy this summer. On slips of paper write hints for locations around the yard and then hide each hint in a different location, with one hint set aside for the starting clue. At the last location, stash a sweet reward! Better yet, let your kids design the scavenger hunt for you to play!
10. Obstacle Course
This activity can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. Set up–or have your kids set up– a course around the yard involving any number of obstacles, and time how quickly each competitor completes the course. Great obstacles include hula hoops to climb through, stairs and slides to climb up and slide down, wood logs to balance on (make sure you’re wearing shoes!), trees to run around multiple times, and tarps or construction paper to jump between. Use sidewalk chalk to mark the beginning and end of the course, and reward the winner with the privilege of setting up the next one!
These ten activities, and many more that you may remember from your childhood, are great ways to get kids active this summer and have a blast. Even if you can’t have the same physical activity as your kids or friends, just being involved in their joy outdoors can be a great bonding experience. Enjoy the beautiful weather!