Not long ago I found myself at my Norwegian professor’s house for a barbeque with other Norwegian students (ja, jeg kan snakke norsk, er det bra?), and during said barbeque the weather was just nice enough to make full use of his backyard for some bocce ball. I had never played, but apparently I was very good. Afterward it got me thinking about some other backyard games I’d played in my childhood, and since summer is peaking right around the corner, why don’t we cover some of these activities? Alright, let’s go!
Step One: Get a Yard
So we can start with bocce ball since that’s the most recent game I played. The game is incredibly simple with two teams lined up, each with four large ceramic balls (minds out of the gutter, please). One person tosses a smaller white ball and the teams attempt to toss their bocce balls closer to the white ball than the other team. Very, very simple. I’ve found the best method is to throw with a high arc rather than a roll. Most backyards are likely to bounce your bocce everywhere, but a high lob will result in your ball thumping down into the grass, thus losing momentum and stopping basically wherever you threw it. It’s simple science! Plus, it’s also very cheap to get into.
In the same vein is the game of lawn darts, though I forget is these are still outlawed. Why would they be outlawed? Because you’re hurling small javelins around. Eventually some kid got injured and the game was banned. If you can’t come upon one of these elusive deadly versions, I’d suggest Tic Tac Throw, a version of lawn darts that uses bean bags instead. You toss them into a tic tac toe board and try to get a tic tac toe, obviously. Safer than darts but still fun.
While horseshoes are simple enough, you really need a sand pit to play them correctly, and if you don’t have that in your backyard, then I don’t see much of a point. Croquet is another sport that requires your yard to have some form of shape before attempting play, but it’s simple enough to find a patch of grass flat enough or at least devoid of bumps enough to allow decent play. Naturally though, kids will see large wooden mallets and use them for anything other than croquet. It’s just the way nature works. As soon as you explain how you can strike one ball through another and it’s all over, you’ve lost them to the dark side of physics.
Step Two: Get Some Friends
Probably the best game for kids to play in their backyard is tag. If you don’t have a backyard big enough for tag or your kid doesn’t have enough friends for tag, well they just have a miserable childhood, don’t they? There are dozens of variations of tag from the simple “You’re It” version we all know and love to the more hardcore “Freeze Tag,” the advanced “Band-Aid Tag,” or even the ultimate huge party game, “Ghostbusters Tag” where four kids are the Ghostbusters and go around tagging the other kids, Ghosts in this scenario, sending them to an area designated the Containment Unit. When there is one kid left, he can free everyone else by running up to the Containment Unit and pressing something everyone decided is the Release Button and becoming a hero to the group. Then again if you’d rather not infringe on copyrights, just go with a simple Flag Tag where everyone has two flags clipped to their side and everyone attempts to be the last person who still has a flag on their side. They’ll get hours of really good exercise just trying to grab a little rubber flag from their once-friends, now naturally their most-scorned adversaries.
This is just a short list of things to play with in a backyard, but give your kid the chance and they’ll think of something else to do. In the inevitable instance that it’s raining and you’d rather not have your kids all wet and muddy, declare that the floor is lava and let them spend the afternoon hopping from item to item in your living room. It’s really a choice between destroyed furniture or kids coated with mud. Tough call.