The 8 Best Games for Your Backyard

The Fourth of July is just around the corner (for my US readers. Well actually, it’s still July 4th for everyone using the Gregorian calendar, but… go with it). For many of us this means large gatherings of friends and family, often outdoors. While one of the more memorable Independence Days took place at my friend Scooter’s farm in Riley, Ohio and involved a home fireworks display and the phrase “which end you reckon points up?” – with predictable results – you can’t spend the whole day shooting fireworks at bystanders. In that spirit, here’s a list of some of my favorite lawn/yard games (in no particular order):

8. Croquet. Croquet is awesome, but it does require a fairly level, open stretch of yard. Growing up, we played in our front yard. It was level, but three mature maple trees and their roots made play a little challenging. There was a definite home court advantage. One of MJ’s colleagues hosts an annual croquet tournament, for which participants are required to show up in their croquet whites. I am not this fancy.


7. Kickball. I’ve always loved kickball. It’s like a sport designed for those of us lacking the necessary coordination for tee-ball. There are actually adult kickball leagues, which I feel like I should mock but I secretly wish we had one in Culpeper.

6. Cornhole. It’s actually not a favorite of mine, it’s just on the list because I’m hoping someone from Virginia will help me understand WHY cornhole is this big exciting deal here. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’s like poor man’s skeeball. I don’t get it.


(Why yes, those are wedding themed cornhole boards. If that’s your thing, these are made by etsy seller Style My Corntoss. And they’re right here in VA, because cornhole’s a thing here? Sure)

5. Bocce. I grew up in Rhode Island, where the old Italian and Portugese men played some pretty hardcore bocce. If you doubt my home state was serious about the sport, allow me to point out that my brother’s wedding reception was at the restaurant called The Bocce Club. For real. Anyhow, bocce is one of those backyard games that can be as informal or as intense as you want. If your grass is nice and short you can play on the lawn, but if you’re a hardcore afficionado you can install a regulation bocce court in your backyard complete with the compacted oyster shell surface. Play is simple; think curling for those of us who hate winter.

4. Wiffleball. The other day I came across this article on the history of wiffleball. Did you know that it originated in Fairfield, Connecticut? David Mullany sought to create a lightweight ball that curved and broke easily when thrown, to keep his kids from hurting themselves trying to throw big league pitches with little league bodies. In a bit of trivia that speaks to the stereotype of New Englanders as cheapskates, they left out the “H” in “whiff” because if they ever needed to buy a sign, it was one less letter. Apparently folks are super competitive about their wiffleball, which seems a little excessive at first but look at this video!

3. Volleyball/badminton. Are they the same game? Of course not. But if you own the net you probably bought the set that includes a volleyball, four badminton racquets, and a couple of shuttlecocks. Both of these games are an absolute blast, although Top Gun really set an impossible standard for the rest of us guys. I do not look like that when I play volleyball.

2. Lawn darts. I’m not talking about the ones you can buy today with the safe, soft foam tips with a weight buried discreetly in the projectile. I grew up with the ones that got banned and they were the best. Satisfyingly heavy, the “thok” of that steel rod impaling itself in the hard, baked earth of a summer day was incredibly gratifying.

lawn darts vintage

1. Horseshoes. As a charcoal snob, every time I grill I’m faced with 20-30 minutes of wait time while the charcoal briquettes get going. If I’m feeling inspired I’ll weed or prune or address random tasks around the yard. More often than not, though, I toss horseshoes. Horseshoes is one of those games where it doesn’t matter how horrible you are. It’s still kind of fun.

These are among my favorite games that I played growing up, and still dabble in occasionally. Have I missed anything? What’s your favorite backyard game?




    July 16, 2013 REPLY

    Hi David,
    I am so thrilled that I stumbled upon your website by chance tonight as I was searching for some landscaping inspiration. I clicked on a picture of a house with a beautifully landscaped front entranceway and as I was reading – I read your name!
    Love the landscaping work so thanks for the ideas.
    Your backyard games article was sure nostalgic but you forgot Slip and Slide. I guess it’s because your yard was so flat.
    Hope you are well.

      July 16, 2013 REPLY

      Shelly, glad you found the site! Believe it or not, I have NEVER been on a Slip and Slide. Ever.

    September 29, 2013 REPLY

    Rollors is another great game to add to your lawn game inventory.

      October 1, 2013 REPLY

      You know what? Ordinarily I’d flush a self-promoting comment like this, but I’m intrigued.

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