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If you’re looking for something different to do this summer, go outside and play on the lawn. Lawns aren’t just for small kids, even adults can have lots of fun playing lawn games. It’s a form of family relaxation that used to be popular, but with the advent of TV, cars, computers, etc, we seem to have forgotten how to play outside.
There are lots of games you can play on a lawn. Lawn games are great for a party (for any age), they’re good for improving your reflexes and keeping fit, and they help you to practise your sporting skills.
The lawn doesn’t need to be of championship games standard but it does need to be reasonably level, well drained, well mown, and free of sticks, leaves and spiky weeds.
The official game of croquet is played on a very flat, fine-grassed area measuring 27 m x 18 m. The object is to drive the balls through a circuit of hoops (wickets). The game is played between 2 sides: one side hits the blue and black balls, the other side hits red and yellow balls. The first side to get both of their balls through the hoops in order and hit the peg in the centre of the court is the winner.
Backyard versions can be much more flexible. You can arrange the hoops in all sorts of combinations. You could set them up side by side in a straight line, or perhaps in a zigzagging slalom-type arrangement, where the aim is to get the ball through the hoops using the least number of hits or competing against a time limit. Once competitors have successfully negotiated each course a few times, it is easy to rearrange the hoops to create new challenges.
Also known as bocce and boules, this French game is similar to lawn balls and is played between two players or teams. The object is to deliver a boule (ball) from a standing position to land as near the jack (target) as possible. The official court has a sand base and measures 27.5 m. Home versions are fine on level grass, and the court length depends on the size of your backyard and the skill of the players.
This is a good one for small backyards because it doesn’t require much space. A ball is tied to the end of a fine ripe which is attached (usually so that the ball and line can rotate around the top of the pole without the line winding up onto the pole) to the top of a pole stuck vertically into the ground. The top of the pole is about chest height, or slightly higher for the players. One or two players hit the ball with a racket or plastic bat, so that it rotates around the pole – the aim being to keep it moving. There are numerous commercial versions of this game.
Originally a shipboard game, this one is ideal for narrow backyards or verandahs. Flat rings, usually made of rope or plastic, are thrown onto a peg stuck into the ground or on a board.
Games for young children
Young children love organised outdoor games. Some old favourites include tunnel ball, sack races, egg-and-spoon races, three-legged races, treasure hunts, and tag.
This one is easy to set up. Simply get hold of a plastic plant pot (at least 150mm in diameter) with drainage holes around the side of the pot base. The pot is laid down on its side, and anchored in position by tent pigs, or using pegs made of fencing wire, or clothes hanger wire, pushed down through the holes in the base of the pot into the ground beneath. Then set up a start line, or ‘throwing mat” (which could be simply a small square of carpet on the lawn) at a suitable distance from the pot (this will vary according to the age and skill levels of the players). The aim is to throw or roll a ball (such as a golf ball) into the pot, trying to get it in straight in from the first throw. You are numerous variations you can play:
Use a set number of balls, and the player who gets the most in first shot wins.
Play it like a golf game, and using one or more balls, move to where each ball lands after the first throw (for the ones that don’t get a “hole-in-one”), and take a second shot, and if necessary a third, and so on until each ball ends up in the hole (pot). The player who takes the least number of throws to get their balls in the hole wins. Another variation that will make this a bit harder is to not anchor the pot, so that if it gets hit on the side it gets moved around, creating a greater degree of chance (harder to line up your shots to get near the open end of the pot).
This can be expanded to create a number of “holes”, in effect creating a mini-golf course where you throw the ball instead of using a club. The length, placement and number of holes will depend on the available space, and the likely concentration span of the players.
As an alternative, instead of using golf balls, or other balls (with suitable weight), use bean bags or small sand bags, making sure they are durable enough to stand up to repeated throwing. You might also use a bucket or used ice-cream container as a “hole”, suitably weighted down in the bottom with sand or similar material to prevent it moving around if hit.