Go Play Outside: Fun and Easy DIY Backyard Games

THE TED LARE LOOK

If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard or even a patio or deck in Iowa, there are plenty of fun lawn games that you can DIY for some old-fashioned family fun! Stepping out into the yard for some fresh air and a game is a great way to entertain everyone for a little while, and getting outdoors is good for our mental health

Here are a few DIY backyard games you can create from things you may have around the house. Even if you don’t have the exact supplies, get creative. You can probably cobble together some fun games from old crafting supplies or your recycling bin.

DIY Giant Tic Tac Toe

  • Ten large rocks
  • One 12×12″ square board (or cardboard, or lawn paint)
  • Craft paint, or permanent markers 

Draw or paint X’s on 5 of the rocks, and O’s on the other 5. Then draw or paint your tic-tac-toe grid on your board, and play! Tic-tac-toe is easy to scale up in size. If you’ve got some wood cookies, you could use those for pieces and make a larger grid on your lawn. 

Giant Jenga

  • Six 8-foot long 2×4’s
  • Wood glue
  • ½ – ¾ inch plywood for the base
  • Sander & Sandpaper
  • Wood screws
  • Wood stain (optional)
  • Linseed oil (optional)

Jenga has 54 pieces, laid perpendicular to the layer below sets of 3. Since 2×4’s are actually 3 ½ inches wide, you’ll want to cut your 2×4’s into 10 ½ inch lengths.

You’ll want to sand your pieces well; the less friction you have, the better they’ll slide out of the stack. It can also be helpful to slightly round the corners and edges of each block, so they’re less likely to catch. 

If you’d like some visual variation, you can stain some of the blocks in different colors. Wiping each block down with a coat of linseed oil will also help them be a little smoother and help prevent slivers.

Jenga is most stable on a flat surface. If you don’t have a level patio, there are a variety of ways to make a base to play on. You can simply cut a 12×12″ piece of plywood to lay on the ground. Or, you could construct a large box or crate out of plywood that can double as a storage container for the Jenga pieces. 

Bottle Ring Toss

  • Nine or twelve bottles (wine bottles are perfect)
  • Rings (we’ll list a few ways to make some)
  • Twine, yarn, rope
  • Box
  • Spray paint (Optional)

If you’ve got a collection of wine bottles sitting around, turn them into a game! Find a box that they’ll fit nicely inside. A small crate, or a case from wine, or any other medium box will do. If the box has high sides, cut it down so that the edges are level with the top of the bottle labels. 

If you’ve got some spray paint around, you can also paint the bottles for some extra fun! 

How to Make Rings: There are a few different ways to DIY rings. One way is to wrap old embroidery hoops with twine or rope. You can also craft your rings from deconstructed wire coat hangers. Alternatively, you can carefully cut some rings out of stiff cardboard with a craft knife.

Lawn Bowling

  • Five or ten soda bottles
  • Ball (Soccer ball, basketball, or any ball that will roll well and knock the pins down)
  • Paint (optional)

If you’re feeling artsy, remove the labels from your bottles, wash and dry them, then add a layer of gravel, sand, or dirt to weigh them down. You want them to be heavy enough that the wind won’t blow them over, but light enough that they’ll fall pretty easy when a ball hits them. Screw the lids back on tight, and if desired, give them a coat of spray paint or paint fun designs on them with craft paint. 

If you’re going to play on the grass in your backyard, you may want to mow a strip of lawn extra short so that the ball will roll well. You can also play this game in the garage or the driveway!


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While those of us who need to stay home as much as possible, it’s still good to get some fresh air. If you’re stuck at home, spend a little extra time out on your patio or in your yard—now is the perfect chance to focus on some quality time with your family.

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