As parents, most of us annoyingly start saying the same nagging things to our kids that our parents said to us. My current favorite: Shut the door; were you born in a barn? (I had no idea what that saying meant at the time, and I still don’t. Every barn I’ve ever seen has doors. Yet I still f***ing use it, and I hate myself a little bit every time I do.)
Another classic saying from my childhood was, go play outside. Now whether my mom wanted us to get some exercise, or she just wanted peace and quiet inside, I don’t know. What I do know is it’s still good for kids to exercise outdoors these days, but it’s even harder to get them there. Today’s kids have far more entertainment options to make them want to stay indoors than we had, like when kids use their screen time as an excuse not to even see the sun.
You may need to encourage them to step out into nature — or at least your backyard — with some of the best outdoor games and activities. Our list of the top outdoor family games and activities are so fun that you may even want to go outside and join in yourself. (Just be sure to close the door on the way out, so the neighbors don’t mistake your home for some sort of barn-house.)
If your family loves in-the-car games like I Spy and Slug Bug, you can keep the fun going by playing this scavenger hunt game once you arrive at your destination. (As an added advantage, you won’t have a permanent bruise on your upper arm like you get with Slug Bug.)
When you arrive at the park or are out in nature, you can take these cards in the small carrying case and set up a game of GoFindIt in no time at all. Among fun outdoor games, this is one of the most versatile, as you can set up individual games that take a few minutes or a few hours. This game is great for creativity, as some of the items on the cards can encompass multiple things in nature, so kids can use their imaginations.
Play as an entire family, taking turns drawing cards and finding the items on the card together. Or split into teams and see who can find the most items. To prevent cheating (and you know your spouse will try to cheat), take your smartphones with you and shoot a photo of the card next to the item that you discovered.
When I was a kid, one of our favorite outdoor family games was called Jarts. (Those of you nervously chuckling under your breath right now know this game.)
They still make a version of Jarts these days, but the new version no longer has the heavy, sharp metal tips on the end of tail that we lobbed at a hoop laying on the ground several feet away. Being kids, we, of course, threw them as high as we could and took turns dodging the tip as it impaled into the ground. Good times. Somehow, we managed avoiding a trip to the ER.
This Flickin’ Chicken game is similar to Jarts, but the pieces have no sharp metal tips. Instead, the pieces resemble rubber chickens, which are a lot safer (and more fun) for kids to throw at the target hoop. Kids, as they are on most lawn games, will be hard on this game, but these chickens are pretty durable.
For kids who are avoiding playing outside because they say they prefer playing board games indoors (which, to them, means playing games on an app on their tablets or smartphones), you will be ready to counteract their argument with these giant dice.
Each die measures 3.5 inches on all sides, so they’re huge, which kids will love. The numbers are singed into the wood instead of printed on the wood, so they will last a long time.
This kit ships with six giant dice and a whiteboard score pad, so you can keep score while playing Rollzee or Farkle. (You definitely are not playing Yahtzee here. Absolutely not.)
Actually, you can use the huge dice to play any board game outdoors, so if your kids want to create a knockoff giant Monopoly game in the backyard, these dice will do the trick. Let them show off their creativity by incorporating these dice into any fun outdoor games. (Just make sure your kids don’t try to use these dice to open some sort of giant outdoor casino featuring craps in your backyard that will ensure a visit from your friendly neighborhood police officer.)
When you’re looking for one of the best outdoor games that’s non-traditional, the game of Kubb can be fun. This kit contains rubber wood blocks that are durable and safe for use outdoors.
You can make teams or play individually with this game, attempting to knock over your opponents blocks by tossing pegs at them. The first team to knock down the king block wins.
All of the blocks fit inside a convenient carrying bag, so you can take the game with you camping or to a barbecue at a friend’s house.
We do need to mention that the rubber wood blocks are not soft. They’re still firm and heavy enough to throw properly. They’re just not quite as hard as an all wood block would be. So if your little monsters throw the pegs at each other instead of at the blocks, you can expect some tears. And if you set up the game field too close to the windows in your house … well, let’s just not set up the game field too close to the house.
Kids love Jenga, often because they love the large crash when all of the stacked blocks fall to the ground. Kids just can’t resist massive destruction. Randomly inspect the majority of kids’ bedrooms without warning, and we’re pretty sure you’ll understand what we’re talking about.
When you want to move this need for destruction outdoors, this stacking block Toppling Tower game is the perfect choice for fun outdoor games that family members of almost any age can play. (Please do not call it Jenga. No one needs to get sued here.) The blocks are available in wood stain colors or in red, white, and blue colors, which are perfect for lawn games for a Fourth of July party.
When fully stacked, the tower of blocks is more than 5 feet tall, which kids will love. The crash when the big tower falls is spectacular. We imagine some kids will be able to spend hours entertaining themselves building the tower and then crashing through it over and over, Godzilla-style, rather than actually playing the game. (Hey, whatever it takes to give you some peace and quiet inside.)
When you want fun outdoor games that provide a little bit of friendly competition (or a lot of unfriendly competition if your brother-in-law shows up), Molkky is a popular option.
This can be a bit of a strategy game when you want to play competitively. You’ll try to pick off an individual pin with the throwing peg to score the proper number of points that you need. There’s some skill involved, but there’s also just enough luck involved to frustrate the hell out of your overly-competitive BIL.
It also can be a game of complete destruction when the kids want to blow off some steam with outdoor family games by knocking down as many pins as possible.
The entire game consists of sturdy wood, including the pins and the carrying crate, so it should give you a good value over time.
If you remember The Bozo Show TV program and the Grand Prize Game, you’ll be a big fan of the BULZiBUCKET outdoor family game.
After all, when watching on TV as a kid, you always knew you could win the Grand Prize Game, where you had to toss a ball into a series of buckets, if only you’d have had the chance. But your parents would never fly you to Chicago, buy tickets on the black market to the wildly popular show, and hope for the slim chance that you’d be selected out of dozens of other kids. Not that you’re still bitter.
The BULZiBUCKET game also involves tossing a ball into buckets, but these buckets have varying sizes and are stacked vertically, meaning you can score different points for each bucket that you hit.
When you want a best outdoor game that’s usable at the beach, at the tailgate party, or in the backyard, this bucket game delivers. The buckets float, as do the balls, so you can even play in the pool if you want.
Little kids will have a bit more fun with this game than cornhole, because the throwing motion is more natural with a ball than a beanbag, and scoring is a little easier. (Don’t worry, though. You can still drink plenty of alcohol while playing this game, just like cornhole.)
Sometimes, you want your outdoor family games to involve plenty of exercise. But you may not want the hassle of creating a volleyball court (nor the embarrassment of trying to set up the net, where you end up twisted inside the netting, falling flat on your face, and turning yourself into a runaway social media video).
Spikeball works in the backyard, at the park, or on the beach. You just need several feet of free space all the way around the net, as the players will be running back and forth, looking at the ball, so you don’t want tripping hazards in the area. The game can be as competitive or as relaxed as you want it to be.
Because Spikeball is extremely popular among high school and college aged students, your teenagers will be amazed at your cool factor when you present this as a new lawn game for the family. (Don’t let it go to your head. You’ll do something to become incredibly uncool again in a few hours.)
No list of the best outdoor games would be complete without cornhole. (Yeah, the name is stupid. But so is the game. Stupidly fun.)
Cornhole consists of tossing beanbags at a hole in an angled board. The player who puts the most beanbags in the hole wins. Simple enough, which makes it one of the best outdoor family games, as family members of any age can play successfully.
This version of cornhole uses extremely sturdy materials, which gives it a significant advantage over cheaper versions that have a lot of plastic in them. And you can count on the fact that a kid (or a drunk uncle) will step on the board at some time. A cheaper board will snap.
When the kids go to bed at night, the adults can continue playing on this board, as the hole has LEDs around the rim, so you can spot the target in the dark, even if you’ve been imbibing while playing. (Quick tip: When you’re seeing triple the number of holes while drinking and playing and drinking, always aim at the middle one. If you’re just seeing double, though, we can’t help, other than to suggest you may need to drink more to play cornhole properly.)
Outdoor family games can be a lot of fun, creating special moments that you and the kids will remember for years to come … and none of the memories will have to do with who won the game. We can’t guarantee that other toys will give you the same types of long-term memories as these outdoor games, but we have plenty of toys guides for other products to help you try.