The Best Outdoor Games for Families this Summer

Best Outdoor Games

Since South Africans are pretty much confined to our backyards this summer, we thought we’d brainstorm some fabulous and fun ideas for outdoor games! And here are the fruits of our research: 10 ways the family can get creative and enjoy the sunshine and each other in lockdown…

Tic-tac-toe, al fresco

Tic-tac-toe, al fresco

It’s the game we all know and love, except played outdoors, on the pavement, an old tree stump, or on literally any other available flat surface, which you can mark with chalk or string. For a super rough, yet no-less-effective approach, you can use chalk to mark a set of five stones with an “X” and another set with an “O”, and begin playing. Or, you can get creative and paint your stones in different colours or even things (like ladybugs versus beetles), as long as it’s clear which belong in a set.

Backyard bowling with recycled bottles

Turn your backyard into a bowling alley with recycled bottles and a ball…it’s that simple. Use lengths of rope to demarcate the alley and perch the bottles atop a section of cardboard so they’re easier to arrange. Also, try to use a ball with a bit of weight to it so that it’s not too difficult to knock over your makeshift bowling pins.

Bean bag ladder toss

Bean bag ladder toss

Image source: DIY & Crafts

All you need to make this fun backyard game is a mid-sized ladder, some beanbags or balls, and the stationery to create score levels. Write varying levels of points on pieces of paper (10, 20, 30, 40, etc.) and tape them to each rung of the ladder in ascending order of difficulty. Then, let the challenge begin: each player gets three beanbags or balls, depending on what you have on hand. Whoever scores the highest total, wins!

Water balloon cricket

On a hot day, you and your kids are going to love this game! It combines the fun of playing cricket with the comedy of watching a water balloon explode upon contact and drench the batsman. To play, simply substitute the cricket ball with water balloons and let the hilarity ensue.

Balloon darts

Balloon darts

What is it about balloons that just makes us want to destroy them? Well, in this outdoor game, that’s the point! Tape a whole bunch of balloons to a wall and draw a line about two to three meters away, depending on the challenge you want to set. You can arrange the balloons into a picture or a pattern if you like…and the smaller the balloons, the trickier it will be to hit them.

Then, using darts you can buy for cheap at your local toy, dollar, or hobby store, stand behind the line and play target practice with the balloons! Each time you nail one, it’ll explode with a satisfactory “pop” and if you want to keep score, you can award points to certain colours, or even just write numbers on the balloons themselves.

Backyard Twister

Four cans of (non-toxic) spray paint are all it takes to recreate this hit game right in your own backyard. Spray a 4 x 6 grid of large dots onto your lawn (one line of six blue dots; one line of six yellow dots; one line of red dots, and one line of green dots, e.g.) Then, using matching colour paper, cut out six blue, yellow, red, and green disks.

How the game works is that the first player draws a disc at random from a hat. He or she then has to place a hand or foot on that colour in the grid you’ve created on the lawn. The next player draws a disk and does the same. Each time a player draws a disk, they have to place a hand or foot on that colour and after a few turns, things can get super, ah, twisted!

Matching tiles

Matching tiles

This is an enormously fun game that’s just as engaging for adults as it is for kids. Print out a selection of colourful images (make sure you print doubles). The more you create, the harder the game but, also, the more backyard real estate you’ll need to play so be conscious of that. Then, stick them onto cardboard backing or laminate them, so they’re easier to work with.

Once your tiles are made, shuffle them (breaking up the partners), scatter them facedown in your backyard, and start trying to match up the partners!

Create an artistic mess

Set up an easel with paper (or canvas if you expect to render a masterpiece) and then go crazy on it with wild swings of your paintbrush. And if you’re feeling really playful, fill a water gun up with watered-down acrylic paint and fire away at your canvas, creating an abstract artwork that would be the envy of Jackson Pollock.



Cornhole is a game that’s been around for as long as outdoor weddings have been “a thing”. It involves trying to toss a beanbag (or ball) into a small hole cut into the far end of a rectangular wooden board, which is propped up at that end. Players take turns throwing their missiles and keep tally of points: a bag directly in the hole scores three points, while one on the board scores one point.

P.S. A part of the fun of this outdoor game is DIY making one of these boards at home and then getting the kids to paint it! Alternatively, you can order them online.

Water balloon volleyball

You’ll need a makeshift volleyball net, water balloons, and one beach towel per team to play this hilarious version of the original. Each team of two people hold a towel between them like a slingshot, using it to catapult a water balloon over the net and to the other team, who will then attempt to catch it in their towel without breaking it. Good luck with that. Expect to get wet!

And even more ideas for outdoor games…

These are really just a handful of ideas to get you started. There’s also lawn scrabble (using large cardboard tiles with letters written on them), giant Jenga, DIY obstacle courses, and treasure hunts! Needless to say, every outdoor game we’ve mentioned here can be appropriated for adults, particularly for braais and dinner parties when the restrictions lift!