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15 Creative DIY Backyard Games for Kids

Michele Meleen
Kids running and playing in the backyard

Some of the most fun games for children to play outside are backyard games you invent yourself. Get creative with backyard games for kids and make up a fun game using whatever you've got lying around. Challenge each of your kids to create a cool game, then try them all out as a family.

Rock, Dirt, Flower

Cheap yard games use materials you have on hand or better yet, natural resources. Kids will throw down some nature in this active take on Rock, Paper, Scissors. If you want to get fancy, you can call it Nature Roshambo.

What You'll Need

  • 1 small rock for each player
  • 1 flower for each player
  • 1 small bucket or cup of dirt for each player

Element Hierarchy

Each element of the game defeats one of the others in some way.

  • Rock crushes flower
  • Flower eats dirt
  • Dirt covers rock

How to Play

  1. Create a central play area by drawing a chalk circle on your garden path or making a circle in the yard out of sticks.
  2. Each player will need a hidden area where they stash their elements.
  3. Only two players can compete in each round.
  4. Each player secretly chooses one element from their stash by holding in their hands behind their back.
  5. Both players meet at the central play area with elements hidden behind their backs.
  6. In unison, players say "Rock, dirt, flower, drop," then each drops their element into the playing area.
  7. The player who threw the winning element wins the round.
  8. Players should take their elements back to their hidden stash area.
  9. Play as many rounds as you want. Use a tournament bracket for more than two players.

Stick Croquet

Croquet is a fun game similar to Putt Putt that you play in the backyard. The objective is to hit your "ball" through a series of small arches before the other players do. In Stick Croquet, you'll create the arches out of branches or flexible plants.

What You'll Need

  • 9 forked branches or flexible stick-like plants
  • Thick sticks, plastic baseball bats, or other similar items to use as mallets
  • A small ball for each player that fits under your branches

Game Setup

  1. Create a croquet course by placing your arched sticks, or stick brackets, in some type of pattern around the yard.
  2. If you use forked branches, simple stick them into the ground, forked side down, leaving room for the ball to pass through the fork.
  3. If you sue flexible reeds or similar plants, stick one end into the ground, then bend the plant and stick the other side into the ground.
  4. Designate a starting line about ten feet in front of the first bracket.
  5. For younger kids, it's helpful if you number the brackets in order. You could use number magnets or numbers written on stones.

How to Play

  1. Choose a player to start. This person sets their ball on the starting line and hits it toward the first bracket with their chosen mallet.
  2. Each player takes a turn to do the same.
  3. If a player gets their ball through the middle of the bracket, they try to get through the next bracket on their next turn.
  4. If a player doesn't get their ball through the bracket, on their next turn they will hit the ball from wherever it sits and try to get it through the first bracket.
  5. Players take turns in order and move through the entire course.
  6. The first player to get their ball through the last bracket is the winner.
Couple playing croquet with their three daughters

Scavenger Hunt Tag

If you've got a group of kids or the whole family wants to play, you can try scavenger hunt tag. In this mashup of a scavenger hunt and tag, kids will need to find a specific item and avoid getting tagged.

How to Play

  1. Choose one person to be the tagger.
  2. To start the game, the tagger calls out any item she can see multiples of in the backyard. For example, she might say "Acorn!" or "Basketball!"
  3. All other players have to run and grab the called item.
  4. The tagger can only tag someone who is not holding or touching the called item.
  5. If the tagger tags you, you become a tagger too.
  6. The tagger can call out new items whenever he wants, but he must be at least five feet away from any player when he calls out a new item.
  7. The last player standing becomes the next tagger.

I'm on a Picnic

Turn the classic talking game of I'm Going on a Picnic into an active game in the backyard. All you need to start with is a blanket everyone can sit on. The game needs at least four players, but is more fun with a larger group.

How to Play

  1. Choose one person to host the picnic.
  2. Everyone should sit around the edge of the picnic blanket in a circle.
  3. The host will secretly think of a rule for all items allowed on the picnic. For example, they might decide all items must start with the letter "S."
  4. The host will find an object in the backyard that follows their rule and bring it back to the blanket. They will set it in the middle of the circle and say, "I'm on a picnic and I brought," then say the name of the object.
  5. The player to the left of the host goes next. They try to find and bring back an item for the picnic.
    • If the item doesn't follow the secret rule, the host will say "You may not bring that to my picnic." The player has to put the item back where they found it.
    • If the item does follow the secret rule, the host will say "You may bring that to my picnic." The player leaves their item in the center of the circle.
  6. Players go in order, finding and bringing back objects until everyone has figured out the secret rule.
Children having picnic in countryside

Backyard Battleship

Older kids and families can set up a small nature Battleship game in the backyard. You'll need some type of divider to hide your boards from each other, like a mini wall made from two kids chairs with a towel draped over them.

What You Need

  • Lots of twigs or other small, thin, straight objects
  • 5 leaves
  • 10 small flowers
  • A bunch of small rocks or nuts
  • A makeshift mini wall

Game Setup

  1. Set up your mini wall so there's room for one player to have a roughly 2 foot by 2 foot playing area.
  2. Each player will need to set up a 5 by 4 grid using the twigs.
  3. Each player will use their leaves to create the "ships" on their board. One ship will be made of three leaves in a row and the other will be made of two leaves in a row. They can put the ships wherever they want in their twig grid by placing one leaf in each square to form a row.
  4. Players will use the flowers to show where their opponent has hit their leaf "ship" by placing the flower on top of the leaf.
  5. Players will use the rocks to show the spaces they have guessed for their opponent's ships that are misses. If it is a hit, they will use a flower instead of a rock.

How to Play

  1. Imagine the columns are labeled A, B, C, D, and E in that order from left to right.
  2. Imagine the rows are labeled 1, 2, 3, 4 in that order from top to bottom.
  3. On a turn, call out a coordinate, like "A4."
    • If your opponent has a leaf in that square, they would say "hit." You would place a flower in this square on your grid.
    • If your opponent does not have a leaf in that square, they would say "miss. You would place a rock in this square on your grid.
  4. Players take turns calling out one coordinate at a time. The goal is to find and sink both of your opponent's "ships" first.
  5. The player who sinks the other person's ships first is the winner.

Backyard Connect Four

Use chalk and a hard surface, like the wall of your garage or shed, your driveway, or a fence to create a simple outdoor Connect Four game. This game is made for two players of all ages.

What You Need

  • 3 different colors of chalk
  • A large, mostly flat surface
  • Water

Game Setup

  1. Use one color of chalk to draw a Connect Four board on your flat surface. A typical Connect Four board had seven columns of circles and six rows of circles, but you can make yours any size.
  2. Give each player one of the other chalk colors.

How to Play

  1. The object of the game is to fill in four circles in a straight or diagonal row before the other player.
  2. On a turn, use your chalk color to fill in one circle on the game board.
  3. Players take turns until one person has connected four colored circles in a row. This person is the winner.
  4. Use the water to erase the game, then draw a new board.

B-U-C-K-E-T

You can easily create a game like Horse or Pig in basketball, only use whatever bucket and ball you can find you can find in the backyard. Games like this were made for two players, but you can play with more.

What You'll Need

  • 1 small bucket (or plastic planter, basket, or a bowl)
  • 1 small ball that fits inside the bucket (or pine cone or a pebble)

How to Play

  1. Choose a player to go first.
  2. This player can put the bucket anywhere they want in the backyard. It could be sitting on the ground or laying down on a tree branch.
  3. The player chooses a place to stand away from the bucket and tries to throw the ball in the bucket.
    • If this player doesn't land the ball in the bucket, their turn is over and the next player gets to place the bucket and try a shot.
  4. If the first player lands the ball in the bucket and it stays in the bucket, the next player has to grab the ball and try to make the exact same shot as the player before him.
    • If both players make the shot, no one gets a letter and the first player chooses a new spot and shot.
    • If the second player misses the shot, he gets a "B."
  5. Game play continues in this way.
  6. The first person to spell "bucket" is out.
  7. The last person left in the game is the winner.
Colorful Balls In Bucket

Frisbee Bowling

Kids love bowling games, but they're a lot harder when you play with a Frisbee. Get creative with your "pins" to change up the game from day to day. Kids can play this game alone, or you can play with groups of two or more.

What You Need

  • 10 "pins" made from sticks stuck lightly into the ground, plastic pop bottles, or even tiny rock towers
  • 2 Frisbees
  • Paper and pencil to keep score

How to Play

  1. Create a bowling lane by lining a wide, straight path with sticks. For younger kids, the lane should be about 10 feet long. For older kids, it can be as long as you want.
  2. At the end of the lane, stand your pins in a pyramid shape with one in front, two behind that, three behind that, and so on.
  3. You get two throws per turn. The goal is to knock down all ten pins in a turn.
  4. Toss your Frisbee any way you like on your first turn. If you don't knock down all the pins, you get a second throw.
  5. Write down how many pins you knocked down and reset the pyramid of pins for the next player.
  6. Play ten frames like a real game of bowling. In the final frame, you get three throws. If you knock down ten pins in the first or second throw, you reset them for your last throw(s).
  7. The player who knocks down the most pins is the winner.
Boy throwing flying disc

It's Not Touching You

Take the classic kids' saying "I'm not touching you!" and turn it into a fun game similar to Bocce Ball. Each player needs two small balls or round objects. The objects should be distinct for each player.

How to Play

  1. Choose a player to go first and a playing order. You will follow this order for the whole game.
  2. The first player chooses something that is touching the ground, like a specific tree, stone, or one wall of the shed.
  3. He throws or rolls one of his balls to get it as close to the object without actually touching it as possible.
  4. Each player, in order, rolls one ball toward the chosen object.
  5. Each player then throws their second ball.
  6. The person whose ball is the closest to the object without touching it gets one point.
  7. The person who gets the point chooses the next object. Game play continues for about 10 rounds.
  8. The person with the most points at the end is the winner.

People Shoes

Transform an adult game of Horseshoes into a fun kids game by using human shoes instead! If you don't have a horseshoe pit in your backyard, you can find two sturdy sticks to stick upright in the ground about 10-20 feet apart, depending on age. The sticks should stick up above the ground at least a foot.

How to Play

  1. The game is made for two players and each will need to choose two matching shoes. You can pick any type of shoes from sneakers to flip flops, but both of your shoes must be the same type.
  2. Players stand behind one stick and take turns throwing shoes at the stick on the opposite end of the playing field.
  3. If your shoe lands on the stick and stays there in any way, you get two points.
  4. If your shoe is touching the stick, you get one point.
  5. Both players walk to the other stick and pick up their shoes.
  6. Players will now take turns throwing from this stick toward the other stick.
  7. Play six rounds.
  8. The player with the most points at the end is the winner.

A Roll in the Goal

Gather up all the small balls you can find from bouncy balls to baseballs for this easy game. Kids of any age can play and you can have as many players as you want. You'll need a soccer goal to play, but if you don't have one you can make one by draping a sheet over two chairs placed about three feet apart.

How to Play

  1. Use a jump rope or sticks to make a line about 5 to 10 feet away from the front of your goal. It should be closer for younger kids.
  2. Count the number of balls you have gathered.
  3. On a turn, a player stands behind the line and holds all the balls in their arms.
  4. The player must stay behind the line and throws/rolls all the balls at once toward the goal.
  5. Gather all the balls you threw that didn't go in the goal.
  6. You get one more throw with these balls from behind the line.
  7. Count the number of balls you got in the goal. You get that many points.
  8. Each player gets five turns.
  9. The player with the most points at the end is the winner.

Backyard Parkour Copycat

Another fun game you can play in the backyard that's inspired by Horse is Backyard Parkour Copycat. You'll use natural and found objects in your backyard for the game. This requires a bit of creativity and is best for older kids.

How to Play

  1. Instead of "horse," the word you'll spell in this game is "cat."
  2. The first player demonstrates a series of at least 2 parkour actions. For example, they might run toward a tree and jump up to kick off the trunk with both feet, then land and hurdle over a garden stone.
  3. The next player has to copy the parkour moves.
    • If she is successful, the first player takes a new turn.
    • If she is unsuccessful, she gets a "C."
  4. Players take turns until one person spells "cat." This person is out of the game.
  5. The last player left in the game is the winner.

Bubble Hoarding

If you've got bubbles lying around, you can play Bubble Hoarding with anywhere from two to five kids. If you don't have bubbles with bubble wands, you can make your own bubbles. One person will need to be the bubble blower for each round.

How to Play

  1. The bubble blower sits in the center of the yard with the bubbles and bubble wand.
  2. Each player stands on a different side of the bubble blower.
  3. You can use jump ropes or sticks to define the playing area for each player, or just eyeball it.
  4. On "Go," the bubble blower starts blowing bubbles straight up in the air and in every direction around them.
  5. Players have to try to get the bubbles to move into their area without popping them and try to keep the bubbles floating in their area. They might try to blow the bubbles in their direction or use their arms to create a draft that will move them.
  6. After about 30 seconds to a minute, see which player has the most bubbles in their direction.
  7. The player with the most bubbles in their area is the winner.
Boy chasing bubbles

Backyard Spot It

Put all your backyard toys to use in one simple giant backyard game. Kids of all ages can play this family outdoor game.

How to Play

  1. Gather up all your backyard toys and arrange them in a large open area so they are not piled on top of each other, but are very close together. It should look like an I Spy book page.
  2. All players should stand in a row at the edge of the toy area.
  3. One person will be the caller for each round.
  4. The caller will shout out 10 to 20 items from the toy pile, depending on how big it is and the ages playing.
  5. All players have one minute to gather the called items at the edge of the toy pile. Players are working together as a team to collect all the called items.
  6. If the players collect all the items in one minute, they win.
  7. For each round, choose a different caller.

Backyard Olympics

Choose about five DIY backyard games and five standard yard games such as Cornhole or Badminton for your Olympics. Create a sign-up sheet so kids and family members can sign up for different events. Set up the events one-by-one with those not competing acting as spectators. This will give you a whole day of backyard fun and everyone can win with a great barbecue dinner to follow.

A shot of some vintage lawn darts

Enjoy Your Own Backyard

With a little imagination and creativity, kids will never want to leave their own backyard. From water games for kids to youth outdoor challenge games, kids can have endless fun with backyard activities. Learn about colonial children's games or safe outdoor school games and look for easy ways to adapt them using the toys and natural items you have in your backyard.

15 Creative DIY Backyard Games for Kids