Beat the heat with a day of fuss-free outdoor family fun.

By Laura Fisher
Updated May 31, 2019
Credit: Getty Images

With summer almost upon us, it’s time to get the whole family away from the screens and into some fresh air and sunshine. Keeping kids entertained isn’t always an easy proposition, though. Luckily, you don’t need tons of equipment or hours of advance planning to put together some fun games that will keep everyone active for hours on end. All of these backyard games require minimal supplies and setup time, and likely involve things you already have on hand.

If you’re feeling ambitious, check out this guide for how to host an entire backyard Olympics. If you’re looking for something a little easier to set up, check out these simple yet totally-engaging backyard activities.

Slippery Water Balloon Toss

Water balloon games are perfect for those extra-hot summer afternoons. You might already be familiar with the classic water balloon toss, but have you ever tried a “hot potato” version of the game? All you need is liquid dish soap and a few filled water balloons. Gather all the players and soap up their hands, which will make them slippery and that much harder to successfully catch the filled balloon. Divide players into two lines (how far apart will depend on age and skill level, so start close and then move out if it’s too easy) and have them toss the water balloon back and forth. Last player standing with an intact water balloon wins!

Backyard Bowling

If you have empty water bottles and a tennis ball, you can set up your own bowling alley. Just set up the “pins” in a equilateral triangle pattern (ten pins is traditional) and have family members take turns rolling the ball. Each player gets two turns, and make sure to refresh yourself on the basics of bowling scoring. This game works best on a deck or long driveway. Mark the start of the ‘lane” with a piece of chalk, and extend it farther back to increase the difficulty of the game. Different aged family members can even have different lengths to even the playing field. If you are feeling extra crafty, paint the water bottles white with two red stripes around the neck to make the game feel even more authentic.

Use Your Noodle

Pool noodles aren’t just for splashing around—they make perfect lightweight bats (bonus: they won’t cause injury if one accidentally makes contact with a little body part). All you need for this game is one laundry basket and pool noodle per player and a number of filled balloons. Set up the laundry baskets up in a large circle, and toss all the balloons in the center. The goal is to get as many balloons into your basket as possible using only your pool noodle. It sounds easy, but the trickiest part is getting the balloon off the ground! If you are short on laundry baskets, just use two and divide into teams. Play until all balloons are contained in baskets, and tally up to see who won!

Human Ring Toss

All you need for this crowd-pleaser is six giant pool rings per team—three per team. Divide up into two groups and designate one person per team to be the “cone.” It’s fun to have an adult be the cone and kids be the tossers, for the extra height challenge. Pick a distance away from each human cone and mark it equally for both teams to avoid any accusations of cheating. From there, each player takes turns tossing the pool rings towards the cone, trying to get the hole over the head to score three points. First team to 21 wins! To make this easier for little kids, the human cone can move his or her upper body around to try to catch the cone. For a more challenging version, the cone stands completely still.

Pictures in the Clouds

This last one is for those days when energy is low, perhaps after an intense morning activity, but you still need an activity to keep the kiddos engaged. It requires no setup or materials—all you need is a blue sky with some fluffy clouds. Lie in the grass with the kids and watch the clouds go by above, searching for shapes of animals, cars, faces, and anything else you can spot. If you want, offer prizes for the most imaginative pictures “found.”