Let the Yard Games Begin!

Amanda Harper


It’s hard to believe that we’re nearing the end of summer. With back to school season comes an end to beach vacations and lazy days by the pool. But sticking close to home can still provide hours of enjoyment. Your own backyard practically offers a blank canvas for fun. Whether you’re entertaining friends or a gaggle of kiddos, these exciting game ideas will help you make the most of these final long summer evenings... 


Freeze Dance

Equipment Needed: a phone and bluetooth speaker or outdoor sound system

One person plays as the “DJ” and judge. The DJ plays music while all of the players dance – the wilder, the better. When the DJ stops the music, everyone must freeze; anyone who moves is “out.” Keep going until one person wins. Be sure to hand out awards for wackiest dance to keep your players moving. For an added challenge, have the DJ call out a dance that everyone must perform.


Ladder Toss

Equipment Needed: ladder, bean bags, paper

If you have a leaning ladder, set it up against an outside wall; if you have a free-standing folding ladder, set it up wherever you like! Use paper to mark each rung with points. To play, have players line up a short distance away and toss cornhole bean bags through the ladder. Whoever scores the most points wins!



Equipment Needed: tomato cage, dowel rods, water balloons, plastic wrap

Wrap the top of the tomato cage a few times with plastic wrap. Thread the dowels crosswise through the middle of the tomato cage. Place the water balloons in the top of the tomato cage, resting on the dowels; you want enough dowels that the balloons can stay put! Take turns pulling dowels from the tower. Whoever causes the water balloons to fall loses.  (Balloons will pop along the way. That’s part of the fun!)

For an added challenge, write numbers 1-6 on the ends of each dowel (repeating as necessary). Each player must roll a die before their turn and pull a dowel with the corresponding number. This forces players to pull dowels that might look a little risky...


Water Gun Cup Races

Equipment Needed: string, plastic cups, water guns

Cut matching lengths of string for each player. Punch a hole in the bottom of a plastic cup, near the edge. Pull the string through the cup, then tie the string up between evenly-spaced posts or stakes. Players stand at one end of the string with their water guns; when you yell “go,” they try to push the cup along the string with the water. Whoever gets to the end first wins. 

For an added challenge, use powerful water guns and have players stay put, forcing them to aim more accurately. This works best with adults!


DIY Mini-Golf

Equipment Needed: golf balls, golf clubs, cardboard, duct tape (and more)

This can be a two-part activity! First, challenge your guests to build their own miniature golf course. Use whatever craft supplies (or building materials) you have on hand, and get wacky with it. Offer awards for best course design, creative playing, weirdest hazard and more... this will encourage your guests to really go all-out.

Then, putt-putt away! Sure, some of them will immediately fall apart or be impossible to win, but that’s beside the point.

TOP Tip: Don’t have putters – or don’t trust your guests not to wreck your set of clubs? You can almost always grab some used ones from Goodwill. Or, embrace the DIY spirit and make your own putters!



Equipment Needed: chalk, a rock

If you have a concrete patio or sidewalk, you’re ready for hopscotch. Seriously, when was the last time you played this classic game? Kids love it, but it’s a fun, nostalgic activity for adults.


Splash Pass

Equipment Needed: sponges

Divide everyone into teams of two, and stand them facing two feet apart. Give each team a sponge soaked in water. Player one tosses the sponge to player two. Player two tosses the sponge back, then both members take a big step backwards. The teams keep tossing the sponge until they drop it. The last team standing wins!


Beach Ball Bowling

Equipment Needed: beach ball, empty bottles, pool noodles (optional)

Set up empty bottles to serve as bowling pins. Players bowl with the beach ball. You can set up pool noodles to serve as bumpers.


Flamingo Ring Toss

Equipment Needed: glow necklaces, lawn flamingos

Set up the flamingoes on your lawn (or in flower pots, if you don’t want to mess up your turf). Players try and toss glow necklaces onto the neck of the flamingoes. This game is a ton of fun to play after dark! 


Don’t Forget the Classics:

  • Cornhole / Toss-Across
  • Croquet
  • Frisbee Golf
  • Badminton
  • Volleyball
  • Bocce
  • Horseshoes
  • Shuffleboard
  • Four Square
  • Conkers
  • Tug of War
  • Water Balloon Fights
  • Red Rover
  • Dodgeball