Let's Play Ball

Set kids loose in the backyard with these energy-burning games.

  • Photograph by Kim Lowe, Game by John Porcino

    Driveway Arcade

    This don't-knock-over-the-cans challenge calls for careful aim.

    Equipment: 1 playground ball; several empty cans or plastic bottles
    Players: 1 or more

    How to Play: Stack the cans about 2 feet apart and several feet in front of a garage door or wall. From a starting line several yards away, kids try to roll the ball through the cans. If they succeed, they score two points. If they knock down any cans, they score just one. Add up a 10-round score, then try to top it in the next game.

    Originally published in the September 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

  • Photograph by Kim Lowe

    French Cricket

    Introduce your kids to a backyard version of a game played around the world. Kids score points by hitting the ball so that the other players can't catch it.

    Equipment: 1 soft plastic ball; 1 tennis racket
    Players: 4 or more

    How to Play: Holding a tennis racket, the batsman stands in an open playing area with the others around her in a large circle. The first bowler throws the ball underhanded at the batsman, aiming to hit her below the knee. The batsman has to hit the ball with the racket without moving her feet. If she succeeds, she turns to face the next bowler, who collects the ball and throws it from wherever it has landed.*

    When the batsman hits the ball, the fielders try to catch it. If it's in the air, they can use two hands; if it bounces, just one. If the batsman hits the ball and no one catches it (either in the air or after one bounce), she gets a point. Play continues until the ball is caught or the batsman is hit below the knee. Let everyone have a turn batting.

    *Safety note: If the ball lands near the batsman, have her hold her racket at arm's length and turn in a circle. If the ball is in that zone, the bowler must move it out before bowling.

    Make It More Challenging: Have a batsman use a Wiffle bat.

    Originally published in the September 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

  • Photograph by Kim Lowe, Game by John Porcino

    Beach Ball Boogie

    It's amazing how long this simple challenge can keep kids entertained.

    Equipment: A beach ball
    Players: 2 or more

    How to Play: Players hit the ball back and forth in the air and count how many hits the group gets before the ball touches the ground.

    Make It More Fun: Players can use only their feet. Or only their foreheads.

    Make It More Challenging: Each player must hit the ball once before anyone can hit it again.

    Originally published in the September 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

  • Photograph by Kim Lowe

    Clean Your Backyard

    In this giggle-inducing free-for-all, kids try to get as many of the balls as possible onto the other team's side.

    Equipment: An assortment of balls (don't use any that are hard, such as baseballs); a garden hose or rope
    Players: 2 teams of 2 or more players

    How to Play: Divide the playing area in two with the rope or hose. Place an equal number of balls on each side. At "Go," players kick the balls to the other side for 1 minute (set a timer or have a player keep time each round). When the minute is up, teams get one point for each ball on their side. The team with the lower score wins.

    Make It More Fun: Have players throw or head-butt the balls.

    Originally published in the September 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

  • Photograph by Kim Lowe, Game by Curt Hinson

    Asteroid

    Teamwork is key to winning this fast-paced space-themed game.

    Equipment: 1 soccer ball (the planet); 1 foam ball (the asteroid)
    Players: 4 to 6

    How to Play: Divide the players into two teams. At "Go," Team Asteroid tries to throw their foam ball and hit Team Planet's soccer ball. Team Planet controls their ball by kicking it around, trying to keep it away from Team Asteroid. Team Asteroid players are not allowed to take any steps with their ball. Instead, they must pass it to get it in the hands of a teammate close enough to the planet for a shot. When the foam ball hits the soccer ball, the teams switch roles.

    Make It More Challenging: Add a second planet to the solar system.

    Originally published in the September 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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