37 Fun Backyard Games, and How To Play Them


Whether it’s a cookout, family reunion, birthday party, or just a random summer night, you need a way for kids (and sometimes adults) to have fun and stay entertained. So, we compiled a list of 37 games you can play in your backyard, and show you how to play them.

Here’s Our Top Favorite 37 Backyard Games List:

  1. Giant Jenga
  2. Connect 4 Yard Game
  3. Cornhole
  4. Night Bowling
  5. Backyard Tic-tac-toe
  6. Bean Bag ladder toss
  7. Backyard Twister
  8. Ring Toss
  9. Ice Block Treasure Hunt
  10. Water Balloon Baseball
  11. Lawn Scrabble
  12. Giant Lawn Matching Game
  13. Water Cup races
  14. Oversized Checkers
  15. Simon Says
  16. Soccer
  17. Football
  18. Scavenger Hunt
  19. Hide and Seek
  20. Red Light, Green Light
  21. SPUD
  22. Musical Chairs
  23. Telephone
  24. Kickball
  25. Monkey in the Middle
  26. Capture the Flag
  27. Races
  28. Dodgeball
  29. Horse
  30. Don’t Drop the Ball
  31. Tug Of War
  32. Helicopter
  33. Wheelbarrow Race
  34. Duck, Duck, Goose
  35. Secret Agent
  36. Hot Hands
  37. Quick Switch Chase

Anyone can go down the outdoor aisle at the store and load up the cart, but you’re more creative than that. We’ve put together these backyard games, including those you can put together yourself, and those that require you to purchase little to no equipment.

DIY Backyard Games and How to Play Them

Most games require supplies or equipment to play, and these games are no different. However, you can always make a small DIY project out of it to transform these games specifically for your backyard.

1. Giant Jenga

Equipment: Giant Jenga Set

Number of Players: 2+

Supplies:

  • 40 feet of 2X3’s
  • Saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood Stain

Cut all the 2X3’s into 7.5 inch sections. You could do this with 5 (or 6 to be safe) 8 foot pieces of 2X3. You need 54 blocks total.

If you don’t want to make this game yourself, you can always get the official Jenga Giant Hardwood GameOpens in a new tab. on Amazon instead.

How to play:

On the off chance that you haven’t played Jenga, or maybe just don’t remember the rules exactly, we have you covered.

  • Take one block from any level (except the top of the incomplete top level)
    • The player may tap the block to see if it is loose, but any block that is moved but not taken out must be fixed unless the tower will fall.
    • The turn is over after 10 seconds of not touching the tower, or when the next person touches the tower, whichever happens first.
  • Stack the block on the top of the tower in the same fashion the tower is built.
  • Don’t make it fall! If the tower does fall, the loser is the person who attempted to take out a block when the tower fell.

Here’s a quick video showing you the giant Jenga block build in action.

2. Connect 4 Yard Game

Equipment: Connect 4 Yard Set

Number of Players: 2

Supplies:

  • (2) ¼” x 2′ x 4′ Plywood Project Panels
  • (2) ¼” x 2′ x 4′ Plywood Project Panels
  • (1) ½” x 2′ x 4′ Plywood Project Panel
  • (2) 1 x 3 x 6′ Boards to make the Legs and Tray
  • (6) ½” x ½” x 3′ Square Dowels
  • (2) ½” x 2 x 3′ Hobby Boards
  • 1¼” inch Kreg Jig Screws
  • 5/8-inch finish nails
  • 1¼” Finish Nails
  • Drill, drill bit
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood Stain

The classic game Connect four brought madness and memories to our families throughout the years. The only issue was the small pieces that were easily lost, making this game one that didn’t travel well, or do very well if you wanted to play outside.

If you want, you can just buy the Connect All 4 Game SetOpens in a new tab. (link to Amazon). If you want to build it yourself, you can find the step by step instructions in this video:

How to play:

The rules to connect four are rather simple, but on the off chance you’ve never played, we’ve laid them out for you.

  • The two players decide who goes first
  • Take alternating turns dropping the pieces into the slots on top trying to complete 4 in a row
  • The 4-in-a-row can be diagonal, horizontal or vertical

3. Cornhole

Cornhole is commonly played competitively, but most people just prefer to throw some beanbags around in their backyard in a playful atmosphere. Now, you can buy premade boards everywhere, or you can make them yourself.  These are a little harder to make, considering you have to get the angle right on the incline, and can’t make it too slick, or rough.

Equipment: Cornhole Boards and Cornhole Bags

Number of Players: 4

How to play:

  • Playing in teams of two, you stand on opposite sides of opposite facing cornhole boards
    • Boards should be placed 27 feet apart
  • Each team has four colored bags, different colors for each team. Alternating turns, each player will throw the bags towards the other board in an attempt to get a bag in the hole.
    • Players may throw anywhere from behind the front of their board.
    • If a bag hits the ground and bounces on to the board, that bag should be removed and not counted.
  • The game continues until a team hits 21 points
    • 3 points for a bag that went in the hole
    • 1 point for a bag laying on the board’s surface
    • Points from the other team cancel each other out. For example, Team A gets one in the hole and one on the board. Team B gets one in the hole. Team A’s score is 1; Team B’s score is 0.

For more in depth cornhole game rules and tips, check out my How To Play Cornhole article where I cover the layout, player positions, and include a cornhole rules printout.

4. Night Bowling

Equipment: Ball, Night Bowling Set

Number of Players: 2+

Supplies:

  • 10 Plastic Bottles
  • Glow Sticks
  •  Ball

How to Play:

  • Place the glowsticks in the bottles, put the lids on, set them up in rows, and go bowling!

5. Backyard Tic-tac-toe

Equipment: Wooden X’s and O’s, string

Number of Players: 2

Supplies: (if making yourself)

  • Plywood
  • Saw
  • Paint
  • String

Here’s a Giant Wooden Tic Tac ToeOpens in a new tab. Game on Amazon that you can buy yourself, or use as a guide to make your own.

How to Play:

  • Simply layout the string with two horizontal parallel lines, and on top of those, two vertical parallel lines.
  • Takes turns with a partner and try to get three in a row!

6. Bean Bag Ladder Toss

Equipment: Bean Bags, ladder, paper

Number of Players: 2+

How to Play:

You can choose which rungs are for what point value, and everyone tries to throw the bean bags through the rungs.  Pick teams or even play individually; you can do so many things to add twists or depth to this game. Easy and fun!

If you didn’t have a ladder, you could also do a variation of this game where you use bowls instead and place them at different places in the yard for added difficulty.

Here’s a quick video of the ladder toss being played with Frisbee’s, but you can easily do this with bean bags as well.

7. Backyard Twister

Equipment: Chalk Paint

Number of Players: 2+

How to Play:

Using some chalk paint, paint four circles of the same color vertically.  Do this three more times with three different colors besides the original circles, and you have your twister board. Bring your original twister spinner out, and you have the game ready to play!

Homemade Chalk Paint Recipe:

  • Hot Water
  • Cornstarch
  • Tempera Paint
  • Dishwashing Soap

8. Ring Toss

Equipment: Rings and a pole of some sort

Number of Players: 2+

How to Play:

This simple game is very easy to gather supplies for, all you need are some rings (if you vary the size you get added difficulty), and anything to throw the rings around. The options for something to throw the rings around are easy to find, and chances are you have one in the house to use.

  • Sticks or sturdy pole put into the ground
  • Barstool turned upside down
  • An arm of a person
  • Weighted skinny bottle
  • DIY Ring toss – Wooden dowel put into a wooden base

Here’s a DIY video showing a pretty impressive version of this game.

9. Ice Block Treasure Hunt

Equipment:

  • Small toys or items
  • plastic bags
  • A large container
  • water

Number of Players: 2+

How to Play:

This game is good for a hot and humid summer night, mainly because it’s all about ice. Once you gather your items, you can start prepping for this game. It’s usually best to prepare this several hours ahead of time, so the water has time to freeze.

  •  Wrap your items in the plastic bag and fill up the container with water. 
  • Once you’ve filled the container, drop the items into the water, and try to get them decently separated.
  • Place your container in the freezer and leave for several hours or until frozen solid. It is very important that it is completely frozen solid for the game to work.
  • Take out the ice block and lay it on a hard surface. 
  • Using your hammer, you take turns hitting the ice to reveal the prizes.
  • You can use dice to see how many hits you get, or a timer to only allow the person a certain amount of time.

10. Water Balloon Baseball

Equipment:

  • A baseball bat or something to use as such
  • Filled Water balloons
  • Friends!

This game won’t exactly turn into a full game of baseball due to the water balloons exploding on impact, but it is a fun game to play on a hot summer day. For the full rules, and some game tips, check out this How To Play Water Balloon Baseball article for the complete rules and game set up.

11. Lawn Scrabble

Equipment: Lawn Scrabble Set

Number of Players: 2

How to Play:

You can buy premade sets of lawn scrabble from a myriad of places. I suggest this Gigantagrams Ultimate SetOpens in a new tab. (link to Amazon). All you need after that is a yard and a person to play with! Here’s how you play!

  • Pick seven letters and figure out who is going to go first.
  • The first person will spell a word with the letters they have then pick a letter to replace the ones they used.
  • The next person will spell a word with their letters; however, it has to branch off of, or into the first word somehow.

12. Giant Lawn Matching Game

Equipment:

  • Stencils
  • Large sheets of paper or plywood (the number is up to you; it just has to be an even number)
  • Spray Paint

Number of Players: 2+

How to Pay:

  • Use the stencils to spray paint designs on the paper. 
  • Make matching sets of cards, so you have to find the other match when they are turned over.
  • Once they dry, lay them out in the yard face down and have everyone take turns finding the match. 
  • The person with the most matches wins!

13. Water Cup races

Equipment:

  • Plastic Cups
  • String or yarn
  • Water Guns

Number of Players: 2+

How to Play:

  • Simply cut a hole in the bottom of the cup and feed the string through it.
  • Tie both ends of the string to two different places.
  • Do this twice and make sure they are the same length.
  • Starting at one end, use the water gun to shoot the bottom of the cup and see who can get it to the other side first.

Here’s a fun video showing the set up and game play.

14. Oversized Checkers

Number of Players: 2

Equipment:

  • A plywood square cut into 24’x24’
  • Painters tape
  • 24 Mason Jar Lids
  • Paints:  black, white and red
  • Primer

How to Make:

  • You will paint your checkerboard first with primer, then 2 coats of white paint. After that dries you need to tape off your squares that you will paint black. You will want 8, 3-inch squares to make them even.
  • Once you have everything taped off, you can paint over the white paint to make your black squares and then allow that to dry.
  • While your board is drying, paint your mason jar lids. 12 Red, and 12 Black. These will serve as your checkers.
  • Once everything has dried, you can set it up outside to be played whenever.

If you decide you’d rather just buy a set, I recommend this Home Jumbo Checkers SetOpens in a new tab. on Amazon. This set is great indoors or outside, and for under 20 bucks, is a great price.

Games that Require Little to No Equipment

15. Simon Says

This easy childhood game is a classic, but it has made it through the years still being a favorite. You can add difficulty to this game by making faster, giving time limits, making the instructions cumulative, or having two Simon’s.  Opportunities are endless to keep this game exciting and fun.

Equipment: None

Number of Players: 2+

How to Play:

  • Pick one person to be Simon
  • When Simon gives an action like “Simon says…” everyone should do it
  • If they do not say “Simon Says…” nothing should change from previous instruction
  • The people who follow the wrong instruction are out. Last person standing wins.

16. Soccer

Equipment: Soccer Ball

Number of Players: 4+

How to Play:

Grab your family or a few neighbors and play a pickup game of soccer.  Pick two trees to be goals or use trashcans, bottles, cups, houses…etc. This game only requires a ball and a goal to aim for, so you don’t need planning or time to get this game going, which makes it perfect for a spur of the moment backyard game.

If you need more info on how to play soccer, check out my How To Play Soccer article.

17. Football

Equipment: Football

Number of Players: 4+

How to Play:

Football is another game that you don’t need many supplies for, really all you need is a ball and some players. Once you have two teams, decide where the endzones are and go after it!

18. Scavenger Hunt

Equipment: Pencil, Paper, Nature

Number of Players: 2+

How to Play:

This game simply needs a pencil and a piece of paper; however, you could make it different by turning the list into a bingo board.  Make a list of things for your group to find and set everyone in the backyard to see who can find them all first.  If you need help gathering ideas, we’ve got you covered.

  • Bird making noise
  • Squirrel
  • Lightning Bug
  • Flowers(you can make this color specific for added difficulty)
  • Rabbit
  • Any type of wild berries
  • Anything Red (or any color you want)
  • The moon
  • A cloud in the shape of….
  • A dog
  • A bike

Once a person has completed the list, they win.

19. Hide and Seek

Equipment: Places to hide

Number of Players: 4+

How to Play:

While this game is widely played with only kids, adults can absolutely get in on the fun.

  • Pick someone to be “it.”
  • Pick a “safe zone” and a time limit to find everyone in.
  • Let “it” count to 30.
  • While they are counting, everyone goes to pick a hiding place.
  • If you get found, you have to touch base before they touch you or you lose.
  • Those who don’t get found within the time limit win.

20. Red Light, Green Light

Equipment: None

Number of Players: 4+

How to play:

  • Pick one person to stand on the opposite side of the rest of the group.  This is the “traffic light.”
  • The traffic light gets to choose red, yellow, or green light,
    1. Red light – no one can move
    2. Yellow light – You have to move slow
    3. Green light – you can run, hop, skip, jump, or use any means of movement to make your way towards the traffic light.
  • The person who gets to the other end first wins.

Here’s a video demonstration of red light green light.

https://youtu.be/4vPep4MB_8A

21. SPUD

Equipment: Ball

Number of Players: 4+

How to Play:

  • Pick someone who will be “it.”
  • Everyone crowds around whoever is It, with “it” being in the middle. 
  • Everyone picks a number
  • “It” throws the ball in the air, then everyone runs away.
  • Once the ball hits the highest point in the air, “it” will call out a number.
  • Whoever’s number is called must come back and catch the ball, once they have it, they yell freeze.
  • Everyone has to yell freeze, and the person with the ball must try to hit one of the frozen players.  If they hit them, they get a letter (SPUD)
  • If you spell “SPUD!” you are out.

22. Musical Chairs

Equipment: Chairs (one less than the number of people that are playing)

Number of Players: 4+

How to Play:

  • Place the chairs in a circle with the seat facing out.
  • Start some music, when the music stops, everyone must find a seat.
  • The person who didn’t find a seat is out
  • Remove a chair and play again
  • The last person sitting wins.

Here’s one of the funniest games of musical chairs I’ve ever seen.

23. Telephone

Equipment: None

Number of Players: 4+

How to Play:

  • One person whispers a sentence of their choosing into another person’s ear.
  • One-by-one, each person whispers the sentence into the next person’s ear.
  • In the end, the last person says out loud the sentence they were told.  Chances are, it’s totally different from the original. Usually, it’s a pretty fun change!

24. Kickball

Equipment: Ball

Number of Players: 4+

How to Play:

  • One person “pitches” the ball to the kicker
  • The kicker kicks the ball and runs through the bases will trying not to get tagged with the ball.
  • If the kicker makes it to home base, they score a run. If they get tagged, that’s an out. Three outs and you switch teams.

25. Monkey in the Middle

Equipment: Ball

Number of Players: 3

How to Play:

  • Pick someone to be the “monkey,” this person will stand in the middle of the other two people.
  • The other two people will throw the ball back and forth, trying to keep it away from the monkey. If the monkey gets the ball, the person who has it last switches with the monkey and becomes the monkey.

26. Capture the Flag

Equipment: Flags, or any object that can be “captured”

Number of Players: 4

How to play:

  • Two teams place their object in their “Base.”
  • The other team’s objective is to capture the object and bring it back to their base without being caught by the other team. If you are tagged, you are out.
  • The first team to capture the object and get it back to their base is the winner.
  • If everyone on one team is tagged,  and therefore, out, then the other team wins by default.

Here’s a video with some good tips on how to play capture the flag.

27. Races

Equipment: None

Number of Players: 2+

How to Play:

Racing can be modified in so many different ways; it can really be made for any age range or any group that is racing. Start and one point and decide on the ending point, the first person to the endpoint wins. Here are some ideas of how you could race in your back yard.

  • Water chugging
  • Foot race
  • Potato sack race
  • Three-legged race
  • Food eating
  • Bear crawling
  • Crab walking
  • Jumping

28. Dodgeball

Equipment: a few balls

Number of Players: 4+

How to Play:

  • Place the balls in a line in the middle of the two teams.
  • Once someone says go, you try to grab a ball from the middle and hit a player from the other team.
  • If you hit them, they are out. If they catch it, they get to bring back another player from their team that is already out.
  • The team with the last player(s) standing wins.

29. Horse

Equipment: Basketball and Basketball Hoop

Number of Players: 2+

How to play:

  • The first person picks a spot to shoot from and tries to make a basket.
  • If they make it, the next players also have to try and make the basket from that same exact spot.
  • If they miss, they get a letter (H-O-R-S-E)
  • The first person with the entire word spelled out loses.

Try these other 14 Fun Basketball Games too!

30. Don’t Drop the Ball

Equipment: A ball

Number of players: 2+

How to Play:

  1. Throw the ball into the air, and don’t let it hit the ground.
  2. You cannot catch the ball, just simply hit the ball back into the air.
  3. The last person to touch the ball before it touches the ground is out
  4. The last player standing is the winner

31. Tug Of War

Equipment: A long rope

Number of players: 2+, but even teams

How to play:

  • With an even amount of people on each side of the rope, everyone needs to grab ahold of the rope.
  • Once someone says go, each team will start pulling towards their side.
  • The first team to fall or let go of the rope is the loser.

32. Helicopter

Equipment: A rope

Number of Players: 3+

How to play:

  • One person swings the rope around while the other players stand around them, close enough for the rope to hit them
  • The players must try to jump over the rope; if the rope hits you, you are out.
  • The last person standing is the winner.

Here’s a quick video to show you what helicopter jump rope looks like.

33. Wheelbarrow Race

Equipment: None

Number of Players: 4+

How to play:

  • In each team of two, someone is the driver, and someone is the wheelbarrow. The driver holds the ankles of the wheelbarrow.
  • The wheelbarrow uses their hands to walk while the driver points them in the right direction.
  • The winner is the one who reaches the end first.

34. Duck, Duck, Goose

Equipment: None

Number of Players: 4+

How to play:

  1. The players sit in a circle, and you pick someone to be “it” first.
  2. “It” walks around tagging players and calling out “duck” until they decide to call a “goose.”
  3. The player that is “goose” has to chase after “it” and tag them
  4. If the person that was “it” sits down in the “gooses” seat, the “goose” is now it.

Here’s a quick video explanation on the game-play of duck duck goose.

35. Secret Agent

Equipment: pieces of paper all labeled “not it” and one labeled “it.”

Number of Players: 6+

How to play:

  • You can play a version of hide and seek, or just a race that is more of an obstacle course.
  • Everyone picks a paper up, someone will get the “it” paper, but no one will know who is “it.”
  • Everyone has to get to the end goal without being tagged by it.  The issue is, you don’t know who “it” is.

36. Hot Hands

Equipment: None

Number of Players: 2

How to play:

  • 2 Players must stand a foot apart with their hands out in front, palms down.
  • Each player must try to slap the top of the other person’s hands.
  • You can move your hands, but not your feet.
  •  If your feet move, the other person gets the point.
  • The person who gets to 21 points first, wins.

37. Quick Switch Chase

Equipment: None

Number of Players: 4+

How to play:

  • One team sits in the middle of a marked aisle on the grass, ensuring there is enough room for people to walk by. There must be an equal amount of people facing each side of the aisle.
  • The team that is not sitting down must try to run to the other side of the aisle without being tagged.
  • The last person standing wins, then you switch positions.

All of these games are sure to give you and your family, or neighborhood, a decent amount of time to exercise and have a few laughs. Some of these games will also give you a chance to brush up on your DIY skills too!

Helpful Links:

Robert Sampson

I'm Robert Sampson and I live in Colorado where I spend a lot of time in the backyard with my family either grilling, playing games and sports, or working on a project to make our backyard a better place to be.

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