Summer is in full swing and people are dying to get out there and have some fun with games. Activities range from fairly simple to the elaborate, the latter unfortunately with a price to match. Why not take it back to the old days of more classic yard games? Not much equipment is needed, besides a set to play most games with, which can be acquired almost anywhere (and even DIY-ed in some cases.) Not much space is needed more than a park, beach, or backyard. Here are some easy, inexpensive, multiplayer yard games that are perfect to get together and play with friends and family this summer. (–Not only are most of these games able to be played in teams, you can play most of them yourself to practice while waiting to meet up with other players.)
One of the most structured, true sports on our list, badminton is a classic game that can be played with two to four players, (or more, tournament style,) and can be played many places. While a badminton net does elevate the game, it isn’t necessarily needed. A line in the sand of a beach, a row of sticks, string, paint, tape, etc. can work just as well in marking out a general badminton court. Badminton is also a good compromise between other sports, such as tennis, which requires a bit more technical skill, use of a court, and expensive racket. It’s also slightly more advanced than something like ping-pong, which also requires a special table and playing space. (And, let’s face it, it’s easier to fetch a wayward badminton birdie than a rogue, pesky little ping-pong ball.) Adding a court and more teammates makes playing for points easier and fun for more players, but essentially you can play with just the basics: a couple rackets and birdies. Grab a friend and have a go at this easy to pick up, back-and-forth game, or, make teams and create a summer-long tournament.
It may sound old-fashioned, but this ball-and-hoops game is definitely an underrated, enjoyable yard pastime that is ready to make a big comeback. It may be a little tricky to find a good full croquet set these days, but obtaining a set will be worth it and ensure a lifetime of fun. It’s pretty easy to learn, easy to set up, and has many different variations that can be applied to play. The basic premise is to knock your ball with a mallet through a wire wicket in a certain pattern, then to hit the pole placed at the end of the court. (And sometimes weave back in another pattern through the wickets for a longer game.) Think of mini-golf in the way you putt and aim your ball to different goals. (Except you don’t have to go to a mini-golf course and pay to play.) This is a good game for a large group as you typically take turns hitting your ball across the field. It may sound slow or out-of-date, but the game is addictive in working to improve your mallet skills and nailing the perfect technique.
8. Bocce ball
A bocce (botch-ee) ball set is another yard game that you will get use of for many years. This game is slightly more advanced and calmer-paced than others, but still just as interesting to test one’s motor skills. It is also a great game to play in teams. As long as you have the ball set, it can be played on ANY flat surface. The goal is to roll your team’s color ball as close to the small, “goal” ball as possible. (Quite similar, in a fashion, to curling, in goals and scoring.) The team with the closest ball(s) to goal ball wins the round. Definitely sounds simple, but requires a certain hand to get the hang of the gentle roll of the ball without passing the “goal” ball successfully. It’s a very popular beach game since the set is pretty easy to pack and transport, and firm, even sand left at low tide is the ideal surface for ensuring a smooth-rolling ball. (Of course it’s possible to play in a yard, depending on how high your grass is, how bumpy the ground is, etc.)
While this can be found in stores these days, it is also a yard game set that can certainly be made. (The usual materials being PVC pipe, rope, and golf balls. Directions and instructions to build a ladderball set can be found here.) The fact that the sets are made from detachable pipes to set up and take down the ladders makes the game very mobile. A much-needed update on plain old horseshoes and ring toss, this team-tossing game requires skill and dexterity in flinging the two balls connected by rope so they strike a horizontal bar and wrap around it. Different rods are different points, and seeing the balls fly is admittedly amusing. The devastation of a ball wrapping around a rod too fast only to have it unwrap is only countered by the satisfaction of a clean wrap on the highest scoring rod!
6. Corn hole/bean bags
Another toss-to-the-goal style of game, bean bags requires a whole different set of skill in tossing. Unlike ladderball, the object to toss is a hefty little bean bag. The goal is to aim it as close to or through a hole on a slightly angled board. Instead of aiming for a horizontal spin, there is more of an arcing, vertical factor in play, as well as the different weight of the bag to factor in. The areas on in the board in relation to the hole count for different points, and, in a variation, even if your bag flies off the board. This game can be found in stores but is yet another candidate for an easy DIY–even the bean bags. (It’s also a cool activity to decorate your own board and/or design the areas that are different points.) This is a pretty fun and safe alternative for young kids as well since it deals with soft bags (instead of hard flying golf balls or heavy horseshoes.)
5. Kick the can
Probably the oldest, most classic game on this list is the adrenaline-fueled kick the can. For this you’ll understandably need a can, or some similar, sturdy object that you can use to kick around. (Something that can stand on its own, for example, not a ball as it will roll out of place.) Players run and hide while the person who is “it” counts in a central area with the can. (It’s a good tip to spread out hiding spots in all directions.) When the “it” player finishes counting, the other players must hide as the “it” player roams around the area freely and seeks players. Players then must attempt to sneak to the central area where the can is and kick it before the “it” player catches them and tags them out, or, places their foot on the can before the other player can give it a kick. This historical game is an exciting, multiplayer game of distractions, sabotage, teamwork, and finesse!
If you don’t happen to have a can or anything that you can use in a game of kick the can, Camouflage is a game where you need NO equipment; just a group of people and a LOT of space–a space with many obstacles, like a forest or playground. Camouflage, one name it’s known by, is an exciting, unique variation and combination of tag and hide and seek. The best part about this game? The way it’s initiated! Someone who wants to play, yells “CAMOUFLAGE!” suddenly! This player who is “it” counts while all other players run as far as they can and hide in the time the “it” player finishes counting. The “it” player then searches (from their spot) for any players. If they don’t see any, they count again, and all other players must move closer, yet (try) to remain hidden. Play continues until the last unspotted player wins. This can get understandably tricky and amusing as players get closer to the “it” player while trying to remain hidden!
Another game able to be handmade is a play on the classic dice game Yahtzee, known in this capacity as “Yardzee.” This has all the elements of the usual game–just jumbo-sized. From massive dice rolled in buckets to large scorepads, there is endless potential fun in seeing the massive dice go flying across the whole yard. This is a more modern take on yard games by blowing up a simple, pre-existing game. What other simple and classic games can you think of to jumbo-size for the yard? (Giant checkers? Chess with people as the pieces? Pick-up-sticks with real sticks?) These and other simple dice games (such as Qwixx) are more ideal candidates for the beach since you can just bring the dice and players can keep score in the sand. “Yardzee” is just the beginning of games you can use giant dice for. They will definitely come in handy for an array of other outdoor games, such as…
2. Sidewalk chalk board game
This is a game idea that’s just as fun to make as it is to play! All you’ll need is a large, paved driveway (or sidewalk,) and sidewalk chalk. (And of course, imagination and ideas!) To take turns you can also make/use jumbo dice or just use an internet number generator on your phone. Draw out a game board any way you like–incorporate loops and curves and different shapes–whatever you feel like. Then, start adding things to the squares. Such as: go ahead three spaces, stand on one leg until your next turn (or else go back five,) go ahead as many spaces as many push ups as you can do, hopscotch across a section of the board, roll again if you’re last–anything that you can think of that spices up the game spaces. The beauty in a sidewalk chalk board game is that you make up all the spaces, and you can change the board each time you play.
A refreshing take on plain old frisbee, (we get it–you throw it, miss catching it, have to go get it, rinse and repeat,) KanJam is a commercial game where the goal is to get the disc into a slot or top opening of a large, plastic, cylindrical shape by passing it to your teammate in such a way that they can knock it into the top of the “kan.” If the disc hits the “kan” in any fashion, it’s worth points, as well as the highly difficult move of getting it into the front slot for an instant win. (There is also “Mini KanJam” that can be played more places, and “KanJam Splash” that is played in a pool.) It requires much more control, much more skill, and much more teamwork than your basic frisbee-throwing, and, let’s face it, a more interesting goal than just having your friend catch it. It also demands a lower-to-the-ground aim which helps reduce over-throwing it over player’s heads. (Therefore saving you from yelling at Richard for throwing it into the road.) Now get out there in the summer sun and have fun!