Skip to main content

Backyard Fun for Grownups: Reawaken Your Inner Child

Jun 20, 2023 12:11PM ● By E. Senteio

Maybe just for a little while, don’t take life so seriously. The mind and body never outgrow the desire to, and benefits of, having fun. But perhaps you’re feeling a bit older. The thought of running across a tennis or basketball court makes your knees wobble; the idea of skydiving or jet skiing boggles your mind. Yet, children aren’t the only ones who need dedicated time to play. When was the last time you had a playdate? Yes, you. How about a leisurely stroll into your backyard where the days are long and the skies are sunny? Welcome to summer! It’s time for the grownups to have some fun!

A plethora of portable games are available for backyard playtime. Most take only moments to set up and offer hours of enjoyment and heart-healthy laughter. They are low-stress and loads of fun. Games can help with balance, strategic thinking, stress reduction, and, most importantly, up your enjoyment quotient. So, are you game? Here are a few options. Test them out and see what tickles your funny bone. Whatever you choose, just remember the main objective is fun! 


Objective: Using a bow, shoot an arrow into a target. Your goal is the bull’s eye at the center. The closer you get, the more points you score. 

Archery takes a bit of arm strength and precision. You’ll want about 20 yards between the archer and the target. Start off standing closer until you get the hang of it. For safety, don’t set target(s) in the middle of the lawn where someone could accidentally walk behind it. Before you draw that bow, check if your county or town has any ordinances in place. Remember, safety first, then fun.


Objective: Use a stringed racket to hit a shuttlecock, also called a birdie, over a net into your opponent’s area. 

It’s similar to tennis or volleyball, but you swat a shuttlecock instead of a ball. In the 16th century, the shuttlecock was made from goose feathers and cork. The goose feathers are now plastic. The weighted end is still cork with a layer of plastic. 


Objective: Roll or toss a weighted bocce ball closer to the pallino than your opponents.

A pallino, also called the jack, is just a smaller ball. Regular family-fun bocce balls usually weigh about 1.5 pounds. Regulation balls weigh in at 2 pounds. Bocce has been around since before 5200 BC when it was depicted in a painting in an Egyptian tomb. That’s a testament to the fun. 


Objective: Toss the hand-sized corn bag into a hole.

Cornhole is one of the most popular backyard games. The game consists of an angled wooden platform, usually with one hole at the top, although some platforms may have more, and small fabric corn bags (think little bean bags). Take turns pitching until someone racks up a victory. 

Lawn Bowling

Objective: Roll the ball closer to the jack than your opponent.

It’s been said that lawn bowling is the world’s oldest continuously played sport. It is similar to bocce in that you attempt to get your ball closest to the small white ball called the jack. But! These bowling balls are weighted and not quite round, so they roll in a curve! 

Another option is the more common alley-type bowling but played in the great outdoors. The objective is to roll your ball and knock down pins. Outdoor pins are usually larger than alley pins. 


Objective: Use a mallet to tap the ball through wickets pushed into the lawn.

Croquet sets are brightly colored wooden mallets and balls. The wickets—wire or plastic hoops—are often white and easily spotted in the grass. The striker is the person hitting the ball through the wickets that are laid out in a course. If you like golf without all the fuss and more fun, this might be the game for you.

Giant Checkers, Chess, or Tic-Tac-Toe

Objective: Capture your opponent’s pieces or make a continuous
line of Xs or Os. 

You’re likely familiar with the board games. These are much bigger, a bit more physical, and a lot more fun. Chess pieces can range from two feet tall to life-size! Checkers can be wide and tall, like a round throw pillow, but usually made of wood or plastic. Maybe the kids can join the fun on these. Put them to work while you sit on your throne (aka lawn chair) sipping a cool lemonade and have them move the pieces as you command. Or stick big felt Xs and Os on their shirts and tic-tac-toe them. 

Lawn Darts

Objective: Toss darts into large circles to score points.

Lawn darts with metal tips were banned in the United States in 1988. Now most darts have weighted, rounded plastic tips and fins on the back. The idea is to grab the dart by the rod and toss it underhand into a target hoop lying flat on the ground. 


Objective: Pitch a horseshoe as close as possible to, or preferably around, a stake. 

As one would imagine, this game was started by blacksmiths and farriers (individuals who shoe horses). You only get points if your horseshoe lands within a horseshoe width from the stake.

Ring toss

Objective: Toss the ring onto the post or bottle.

There are all kinds of setups for ring-toss games. Two of the most popular are wooden posts that stick in the ground or screw into wooden platforms. Rings (that resemble mini Hula-Hoops) are usually made of thick rope or plastic. You’ve probably tried the smaller version at carnivals for prizes. 

Go Big and Stay Home

So maybe you think you want something more adventurous, but you still don’t want to leave the snug comfort of your backyard. If you have a big enough area, well, let your inner child run wild. 

Obstacle course

Objective: Get from one end to the other by achieving goals and meeting challenges. 

Create an easy and fun obstacle course. Have everyone start by balancing a piece of fruit (or object of your choice) on their head as they walk from the starting line to the first challenge. Tie a knotted rope around a sturdy branch and swing over . . . anything. It can be a flat blue rug representing water, a garden fairy with spread wings, a rock, or a root. Consider fitness levels when you choose. Next, stop at the Hula-Hoop station; three complete hoop rotations around the hips are required before moving onto the six-piece jigsaw puzzle challenge, then safely dash through the sprinklers to cross the finish line. Create whatever tasks and challenges will make everybody laugh out loud. 

Or . . . pick several of these games and land a dart, strike a ball through a wicket, swat a birdie over a net, or knock down a row of pins before moving to the next challenge in your very own Obstacle Course Olympics.

Before the games begin, consider the following: 

Most of these activities have DIY options. The fun can start as you paint your checkerboard tarp or wrap your wine bottles in duct tape to use as bowling pins. Use tennis balls and a golf ball, and you have all the makings of a game of bocce. Search online for the most creative ideas. 

Remember, this is playtime for adults. However, if you want to make it family fun, there are child versions of these lawn games. Designate one area of the lawn for adults and one for children. Use child-friendly spray chalk paint to mark it off and then paint pictures on the trees and grass. The kids will want a few cans, too. And like the itsy-bitsy spider, the rain will wash it all away. 

When the kids go in for the night, turn on the twinkle lights and play glow-in-the-dark lawn darts or any of the other games that offer that option.

These games can be played one-on-one, in teams, or in groups of teams for a mini-league and tournament of your own. But don’t forget, many games can also be played alone. You may want to get in some practice so you can dazzle your friends with your seemingly natural ability at ring toss.

Try something new. Learn a new game together so everyone starts with a level playing field . . . like a lawn.

These are portable games. Most come with carry-all bags. You can take them to the neighbors, to the beach, or cross country. You can set them up and take them down with little effort. Or you can just enjoy them in the comfort of your backyard. 

You may think you don’t have time for this foolishness. Then how about a bit of science? Play sharpens the mind and improves memory retention. Play decreases cortisol and pumps up the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. High-stress levels increase cortisol, which can lead to hormonal imbalance and a weakened immune system. Studies have shown the happier you are, the longer you are likely to live. Stronger. Happier. Smarter. All fun facts. 

But don’t take your fun too seriously. Playful competition is supposed to be . . . fun. The need to win at any cost is not. It’s about enjoying yourself, spending time with friends, laughing too loud, and having the maximum amount of fun with minimal effort.

Dare to be silly. Is that a gnome on your obstacle course? Are those felt antlers on your croquet hoops? Are you wearing a cape as you fly through the obstacle course? When was the last time grownup you went out to play? When was the last time you really had fun? 

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Image's free newsletter to catch every headline