The 10 Best Yard Games
Pass The Time Before Passing Out
There once was a time when we all played outside every day. We didn't need a special occasion to tear ourselves away from our televisions and our video game systems to get the bare minimum amount of vitamin D required to survive. We used to run around for no good reason, roll down hills, swim in streams, and do all manner of fun, pastoral activities that make us think the next generation is doomed for not having experienced them.
Those days, unfortunately, are long gone, but that doesn't mean that we can't make the most out of our occasional forays into the yard. In fact, if you go so far as to invest in and set up the right yard games, you might just find yourself lured into the great outdoors behind your house a little more often.
A good yard game balances out a competitive spirit with a certain sense of luxury. You'll notice that not a single game on our list incorporates a time limit. Like baseball or cricket, these games are designed to pass the time. They depend on the accuracy and intelligence of the players, not on their physical prowess or athleticism.
It's also important that you can successfully play these games when consuming alcohol, since they usually come out on holidays that promote day-drinking. The badminton set is the only thing that requires a lot of movement, and that's ideal when you don't want to shake up your belly full of beer.
Play With Your Spirit
I've never figured out what my spirit animal is. I've heard people talking about their deep connection with one animal or another, and a part of me has always felt jealous, but any time I think I've narrowed the connection down to one beast, I find kinship in another. It turns out, I have different spirit animals for different situations.
Thinking a little bit about your spirit animal in the context of competition will give you a pretty clear sense about which of these yard games is going to give you the best experience. If you can match up the timbre of the game with the persona of your competitive animal, you're liable to have a blast. Find conflict between the two, and the party could turn ugly fast.
Say, for example, that your competitive spirit is a little more mellow. You're just as excited to best your own score as you are to get the better of your friends and family. Maybe you're like a koala bear or a sloth. The tossing games are probably the ones you'll like the most, as you can casually lob a bean bag or a sling toward an intended target, take a break, have a drink, eat some pasta salad, then come back and toss another. Games like these are the most laid back, but they still have a friendly competition to them.
If you're looking for even less physical exertion and an uptick in mental stimulation–perhaps your spirit animal is closer to a penguin–,you can reach for the puzzle-based yard games like the giant wood block tower or the oversized connect four. Like the tossing games, you can leave and come back to these, though the tower could blow over on a windy day.
Then, there are the games for you more active animals, like the dolphins or the cheetahs. These are your badminton and ball slam games, and they require the most physical exertion of anything on our list. Give yourself a few minutes between scarfing down half a dozen hot dogs and the commencement of any of these contests, lest you reverse your digestion.
Finally, we come to the bocce ball set, which I give its own paragraph out of reverence for the game itself. Traditionally, you need a cordoned off bocce ball court to play the game properly, which is why it's so far down on our list, but the fact that it's still on the list despite the fact that it's so much better served by the presence of a court shows you how special the game truly is.
It's an Italian game, and the closest thing to a national animal in Italy is actually a wolf, so all you wolves out there ought to check it out.
Let The Games Begin
Each of the games on our list is an evolution of something much older. Some come from around the world, and others are simply augmented versions of more familiar pastimes.
The Jenga-style wood block tower, for example, actually originated a West Africa, with a game called Takoradi. The bean bag toss, often called Cornhole, is said to have originated in Germany in the 14th century. The giant connect four game is simply a larger version of a game developed in the 1970s by Milton Bradley.
While these games trace their origins to somewhat more recent times, a pair of the games on our list–bocce ball and badminton–reach back as far as 2000 years to the ancient civilizations of Europe.
I'm sure there were crotchety product reviewers in those days, as well, bemoaning the lack of spiritual connection to all things outdoors among the youngest generations. After all, inter-generational discord is the oldest and most celebrated game of them all.