The Top Outdoor Party Games for Family Fun
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Looking for some ideas for fun outdoor games to play at your next barbecue or family party? Good ol' fashioned group games — from sack races to cornhole and other toss games — are all the rage these days! Check out this list of our favorite old and new outdoor games (to buy or DIY) that will make your backyard the ultimate kid-friendly party spot this summer. Many of these games are also great for the beach!
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Top Outdoor Party Game Ideas for 2021
If you’re thinking about throwing an outdoor party, the decision of which games to play is an important one. Whether it’s a birthday party, BBQ, or backyard party for no reason at all, games can make all of the difference in elevating the opportunities for fun. From family reunions to 4th of July, your own backyard can be transformed into a major fun zone by choosing games that are right for your group. Consider whether you are looking for a DIY project to create the game, a supremely easy setup, or something in between. Also, be sure to think about the ages of your participants and what would be enjoyable for all.
1. Hilarious Bigfoot Game
This is a game that offers your family the opportunity to have fun both making the game and playing it. All you need are a pair of flip flops, tape, plastic balls, and a giant box that you can cut up. Racing each other with gigantic “feet” taped to your flip flops will provide funny photos and enjoyment for all.
2. Human Ring Toss
This is an entertaining version of the classic carnival ring toss game. The only difference is that the rings are giant and being tossed on to your family members! All you need are six 36-inch inflatable pool tubes. You can set the distance to throw from and discover who has the best tossing skills in the family while enjoying a park or your backyard.
Purchase inflatable pool tubes on Amazon.
3. Donuts on a String
Who can resist donuts as a summer treat? Especially when eating them is part of an outdoor contest! All you need is a piece of long string, two adults to hold either end of the string, and a bunch of delicious donuts lining the string. The kids will keep their hands and arms behind their backs and use only their mouths to race to see who can eat their assigned donut first. The prize is the finished donut!
4. Human Pinata Chase
Everyone is motivated by the reward of candy, and this is a hilarious take on the classic game of pinata. All you need are old t-shirts, a glue gun, and snack sized candy. You make the shirts in advance by using the glue gun to attach the candy to the shirt. The people who wear the shirts in the game are your human pinatas. The rest of the kids chase the human pinata and grab the candy off whenever they can!
5. Keep It Up Balloon Game
It’s not a party without balloons, and they provide an opportunity for a fun game beyond just being part of the party decorations. Save some of your balloons for a classic game of keep it up. You’ll definitely get caught up in the game as you try to beat your records for how many hits it takes to keep the balloon up in the air for the longest amount of time!
6. Duck Pond Matching Game
Everything you need for a duck pond matching game comes together in one set. Not only does this game look festive, it also provides endless hours of entertainment for little ones as they try to match floating ducks with shapes and numbers on the bottom in a baby pool filled with water. This is a great game to develop memory skills and a perfect opportunity to provide the younger kids with an exciting challenge.
7. Giant Outdoor Connect Four
Connect Four is a classic family game for all ages. Now you can take the fun outside with an oversized version of the game that stands three feet tall. It’s made to stay outside being weather and pest resistant, and it gives kids a fun but calm activity to focus on when they need a little break from running around.
8. Giant Inflatable Bowling
Bowling is always a fun bonding activity for families with kids of all ages, but who wants to be inside a bowling alley on a beautiful day? This version of the game allows you to be outside, and with a gigantic but lightweight ball and pins, no matter how amazing your regular bowling skills are, you never know who might turn out to be the winner.
9. Mega Checkers and Tic Tac Toe
The games of checkers and tic tac toe can keep kids occupied for hours. With a giant reversible rug and large playing pieces, these games can be played indoors or outdoors. It’s also an easily portable game to take to the park or camping. Everything’s more fun when it’s oversized and played outside!
10. Four Legged Team Races
Four legged races are so much fun, and this game provides a twist by having four people on a team at a time. This is a great option for larger gatherings, and it gives both kids and adults the opportunity for team work. It will keep you laughing as you waddle together towards the finish line!
11. Glow in the Dark Capture the Flag
Many parents probably remember hours of outdoor nighttime play devoted to the classic game of Capture the Flag. It’s even more exciting now with Capture the Flag Redux because it now involves twenty five glow in the dark pieces! This will provide hours of electronic-free nighttime entertainment for older kids as they run through the yard or park glowing!
12. DIY Tetherball
Tetherball is a classic party game, but you can actually make it yourself for half the price of purchasing the game! This game that normally costs over $100 can be made as a family project for only $45. Once you have this set up in your yard, it will be a staple for regular backyard play and a favorite for any outdoor party at your home.
If you’d rather skip the DIY project, you can purchase a tetherball set on Amazon.
13. Water Balloons
When thinking about party ideas for a summer party, always consider water games. It’s a fun way to cool off while still playing a yard game. Having a water balloon fight is a simple game, but it never gets old. When playing with younger kids, you might choose to adjust the activity from being an actual water balloon fight to a more gentle game like a water balloon toss.
TIP: It’s extremely helpful to use a quick fill water balloon kit because filling water balloons the old-fashioned way can take some of the fun out of preparing for the party!
14. Tug of War
Tug of War is a classic lawn game. It’s especially fun when you have a large group of people of varying ages. Just be sure to balance out the teams to the best of your ability. Using a rope that is made for tug of war will ensure that there are no hurt hands afterwards, and choosing one with a length of 35 feet or so will provide enough room for everyone.
15. Giant Jenga
Giant Jenga is a great option for the whole family. It’s an easy one to have set up somewhat close to where you are eating so that a few people at a time can casually play as they chat or eat. The first team to knock down the structure is in charge of setting up the game for the next teams!
16. Outdoor Dominoes
Outdoor Dominoes is another oversized game that makes for an exciting lawn game. Older friends and relatives will love the spin on this classic game, and everything is more fun when it’s giant and played outside.
Classic Outdoor Party Games for Kids
1. Potato Sack Race
Sack races, aka "gunny races," became popular at carnivals in the 1800s, and they're still a hoot today. All you need is a burlap sack or large, sturdy pillow case for each participant (It should reach their waist), and plenty of space for them to hop to the finish line. You can also purchase durable sacks right on Amazon. Try pairing kids with adults!
Spikeball, a cool cross between four square and volleyball, is sure to be a hit at your next barbecue! To play, smack the palm-size ball onto the net so it bounces back up toward your opponent, who then gets three tries to control it and bounce it back to you. When a player misses, the other scores a point. The first one to 21 wins!
3. Cornhole or Bean Bag Toss
This bean bag toss game is simple but requires the perfect combination of luck and skill. Official "regulation" cornhole is played with two sets of wooden boards (24x48 inches) set 27 feet apart (which is pretty far!), so it's better suited for older kids and adults. But you can find plenty of kid-friendly bean bag toss games on the market. If you're handy at building things, you can build your own cornhole game!
4. Bocce or Boochie
Bocce is a classic outdoor game with roots in the Roman Empire! It can be played on grass or on the beach (damp, firm sand works best). Standard bocce balls weigh 2 pounds, which is heavy for kids (and some adults!), so be sure to pair off your teams fairly! Little kids who are too young to play will get a kick out of tossing the "pallino" (little ball that is used as the target).
A new bocce-inspired family game called Boochie is a more kid-friendly option (recommended for ages 8 and up). It combines a variety of tossing challenges using lightweight "bean balls" and plastic rings, and has a relatively short playing time.
Yeehaw! Round up your cowboys and cowgirls for this classic backyard game. You can buy rubber horseshoe sets these days, which are much more kid-friendly than traditional metal horseshoes. The National Horseshoe Pitchers Association guidelines call for the two stakes to be 40 feet apart, but we think it's fine to place them closer together for the youngins.
6. Washer Toss
Like horseshoes and cornhole, washer toss (aka "washers" or "urban horseshoes") is another fun tossing game that's easy to play with a cold drink in one hand. You can buy it or build your own single-hole or three-hole washers game, if you're handy.
7. Kan Jam or Frisbee Golf
Frisbee fans will love Kan Jam, a disc toss game for all ages that can be played in the backyard or on the beach. The goal is for teams to toss the discs into the slot or on top of the large cans. If you have some Frisbees and some (clean) buckets, trash cans or recycling bins, you can play a basic DIY version of this game. And there's always Frisbee golf — another game that requires aiming plastic discs at different targets.
How low can you go? There's a pretty good chance the kids will beat the adults at this classic luau game — unless you're feeling pretty limber! You can use a long pole or broom, or you can buy a bamboo limbo pole online. It's an excellent choice for the beach or a pool party.
This award-winning active play game combines the fun of horseshoes, bocce ball and bowling. It involves rolling wooden discs toward a pyramid-shaped target and trying to get the discs to land with the higher point value facing up. Families are raving about it!
10. Giant Tumble Tower
Here's another awesome wooden game. This one can be played outdoors or inside (where there's plenty of space). Giant Tumble Tower is like a 5-foot-tall version of the classic board game Jenga. It comes with 56 hardwood blocks that measure 8x3x2 inches (so you could build your own version!). Because of its size, this game is better for older kids.
11. Ladder Ball
This game (aka "lasso golf," "ladder golf," "golf toss," or "ladder toss") involves tossing "bolas" — roped pairs of golf balls — around different rungs of a PVC "ladder." The bolas are pretty hard, so be careful playing with young children around. If you're pretty handy with a hacksaw, you can build your own ladder ball game.
12. Obstacle Course
Whenever you are thinking about outdoor activities for young children or even the whole family, an obstacle course is always a super fun option. Kids especially love raised stones and logs in the spirit of “The Floor is Lava” to hop along. You can find many different options for kids’ obstacle courses to keep things interesting for lots of variety in outdoor activities.
With all of these fun ideas and creative spins on classic games, your family will be entertaining themselves outside both at parties and during regular play for the whole summer! You can make games yourselves or buy instant entertainment, but the most important thing is that you will be out in fresh air and encouraging fun playtime for the entire family.
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Charise Rohm Nulsen is a writer, social media influencer, activist, and perpetual volunteer.