As long as the sun is shining, early autumn is a great time to get outside and enjoy that beautiful you’ve been working so hard to maintain throughout the year. Barbecues and picnics are always a good excuse to get family and friends together but after you’ve finished eating you don’t want the kids (or the adults) wandering back inside to waste a glorious day staring at a television or a computer screen. It’s time for some good old-fashioned backyard fun: lawn games.
When you think of playing games on the lawn, children’s classics like tag and capture the flag might be the first activities that spring to mind but the possibilities are truly endless. Below are some of the top lawn games that are fun for all ages and can easily be adapted to fit a wide range of skill levels.
• Badminton: Official badminton matches are played indoors, but who wants to hang out in a hot gym on a beautiful day? You can pick up a decent-quality outdoor badminton set at any sporting goods store. Like tennis, you can play singles or doubles and for children or beginners, you can start without the net. Just hitting the shuttlecock back and forth is great for improving eye-hand coordination and fitness.
• Croquet: Croquet is one of the oldest and most widely-played backyard games in the world. There are many variations, but all involve using a mallet to hit a ball through a series of hoops or wickets, embedded in the grass. You can make the course - and the rules - as simple or as complex as you want and you can play as individuals or teams.
• Horseshoes: Two individuals (or two teams of two) take turns tossing four horseshoes at two stakes set in the ground. Backyard players can set their own rules, of course, but generally you score points either for “ringers” or for landing your horseshoe closer to the stake than your opponent’s. Other tossing games include ladder toss, cornhole, washer pitching and many variations on the ring toss theme. Choose your favorite or make up your own new game.
• Lawn bowls: Even if your lawn isn’t a perfectly level and immaculately manicured bowling green, you can still enjoy a good game of lawn bowls. The objective is to roll balls - they’re biased, so they follow a curved path - as close as possible to a smaller ball, called the “jack.” As a member of the boules family of sports, lawn bowling shares a common ancestry with bocce, petanque and other games in which a heavy ball is thrown or rolled toward a smaller target ball.
• Miniature golf: If you don’t have a miniature golf course in town, you can create your own. Use plastic cups as targets and let your imagination run wild in creating challenging obstacles. No putters available? Try disc golf instead: Create a series of targets that you throw a flying disc at and whoever completes the course with the fewest number of attempts wins.
• Water fights: They may not be a recognized sport but no list of outdoor activities would be complete without a mention of water fights. Whether you use water balloons, squirt guns or high-powered water blasters, there’s no better way to cool off - and you can even claim you’re watering the lawn while you’re at it.
If your group is a bit less competitively inclined, you can bring out the boomerangs, frisbee, hula hoops, Hacky Sacks, bubble-blowing equipment, kites and remote controlled airplanes (but keep those last two apart). Or, of course, you can just play catch - a game that never goes out of style. The important thing is that you are making the most of your lawn.
“A natural grass lawn creates the perfect setting for a whole host of outdoor activities for the entire family,” says Bryan Ostlund, executive director of Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers and turf specialists. “A healthy lawn can stand up to a surprising amount of traffic and can easily be spruced back up in the fall with some additional grass seed. If you’re lucky enough to have a grass lawn, use it! Spending time outdoors is good for both mind and body.”