Lawn Games – How to Have Fun with Old Fashioned Games

Lawn games are a fun addition to that perfect, simple Potluck you are planning.  Once the food is devoured, it is time to challenge a few of your guests to a game of skill and chance.

Lawn games are an ancient form of entertainment, dating back to 5,000 BC. The games played then were similar to lawn bowling or ‘bowls’.  As time moved forward, more games were introduced. These were particularly popular in the 1800’s.

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blue, yellow, green, red, and white balls on green grass

What are Lawn Games?

Technically, lawn games are any type of game that can be played outside on a ‘lawn’. This may consist of a green strip around a condo or apartment building, a suburban lot, or in a pasture.  Depending on the size of your ‘playing field’ will determine what games you can play.

Baseball wouldn’t work well on a small strip of green.  But a putting green can be done, or even horseshoes.

Some games can be played directly on the grass, such as croquet. Others need a dedicated space built, such as ‘bowls’. This game needs at least a sandbox, or grass that is cut very short.

red and yellow croquet balls, croquet wickets and stakes

The Types of Lawn Games


When you think of lawn games, the first one that comes to mind is probably croquet.  This game is played with wooden mallets, wooden balls and six ‘wickets’, which are curved metal stakes placed in a set design. 

The goal is to move your balls through the wickets in a certain pattern, using only the mallet. At the end of the game, the ball is to go through two wickets and tap a wooden stake that marks the end of the game.

A regulation croquet court is 100’ x 50’.  Since most backyards do not have this much room, you can easily adjust as needed. 

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Two wickets are set up at the beginning of the play.  One wicket each is placed to the left and right of the starting wickets, and center court.  The last two wickets are directly across the beginning wickets at the other end of the playing field.  A wooden stake is positioned approximately 1’ from the last wicket.

The object is to get your ball through each of the wicket.  However, the other player is allowed to ‘knock’ your ball off course, causing you more moves and time to reach the winning stake.

You don’t need a special playing field for croquet.  However, the grass does need to be cut short to allow ease of movement for your ball.

a red horseshoe slipping around a stake


Most people have heard of, if not played, this age-old game. It consists of two metal stakes placed 40’ apart, and rise 14” to 15” above the ‘pit’.

Most horseshoe pits are framed with lumber and filled with sand.  The object is to stand at one end and toss the horseshoe so that it lands perfectly around the stake at the other end.  If you aren’t able to do this, you can get points for being the closest to the stake.  However, you still have to be within six inches.

Cooler weather is here, and we can't wait to be outside. Why not celebrate fall with a fun Pot Luck with friends and family? (oh! And be sure to listen closely to what the ducks have to say at the end....)

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Horseshoes is a regulated sport and comes with rules from the size of the pit to the size of the horseshoe – inside and out.  But for a fun game after a potluck or family gathering, setting it up ‘close to regulation’ will work just fine!

Other ‘toss’ games are Kubbs, a skill and strategy game using wooden dowels and ‘Kubbs’, a wooden tower-like game piece.  The object is to toss the dowels to knock down the opponents Kubb.

Ring Toss is a game that can be played by all ages.  It is a wooden playing piece that has stakes, and the object is to ‘ring’ the stakes with your plastic ring. 

bocce balls on a bocce court

Lawn Bowling / Bowls / Bocce

Although both played on a similar field with similar goals, Bowls and Bocce is a bit different.  All three games have a ball, or a ‘bowl’.  However, a Bocce ball is completely round, where a ‘bowl’ is round on one side, but elliptical on the other.  This gives it a bias and helps it to curve.

The object is to roll the ball and get it as close to another ball called the ‘jack’ or ‘kitty’.  It is a game of skill and requires finesse.  Bowls are rolled, Bocce balls are thrown underhand.

A Bowls or Bocce playing field is considering a ‘bowling green’, which means the grass is cut very short. The rules differ slightly between Bocce and Bowls, but any of the games can easily be played at home with the proper field!

Lawn bowling is simply taking pins and bowls off of a bowling alley and setting them up outside!  Well, almost.  The pins and balls are a bit different, but the rules stay the same!

(In searching for the biased balls for Bowls, I was unable to find a supplier for them.  If you would like to purchase a set and find a source, please let me know and I will add a link to this post!)

badminton racquet on green grass topped with a birdie

Badminton / Volleyball

The only two things these games have in common are a net and teams.  Where badminton requires racquets and a shuttlecock (often called a ‘birdie’), Volleyball requires hands and a ball.

Both are familiar to most people and are fun to play.  The shuttlecock for Badminton is a plastic cone-shaped object with the open-end resembling feathers.  The smaller end is rubber.  It acts and reacts differently than the volleyball.

Badminton is best when played with one or two person teams.  Similar to volleyball, the shuttlecock must stay in the air, off the net and within bounds.

Volleyball, on the other hand, plays better with more people on each team.  As with badminton, the object is to keep the ball in the air, without touching the net, and staying within bounds. 

Either game would be an excellent entertainment focus for a Potluck or family gathering.

Here’s a thrifty tip:  If you are interested in both games, consider buying a Badminton set, and a separate volleyball.  Unless you are playing professionally, this idea is less expensive and works just as well for lawn games!

a bean bag toss board and bean bags are perfect for lawn games

Bean Bag Toss / Cornhole

Where both Bean Bags and Cornhole have a similar playing board, a Bean Bag game has three or more holes, where Cornhole only has one.

Both require a bean bag for tossing.  The difference is that in Bean Bag, you must get the bag into one of the holes, and points are scored according to which hole your bag lands in.

Cornhole allow for hitting the board so your bag can ‘slide’ in. The game is played until one player reaches 21 points.  They receive 3 points for getting the bag in the hole, and 1 point if the bag hits the board and stays on.

Note: There are complete directions on how to make your own Bean Bag Toss in my Have a Merry, Simple Christmas eBook. Get your copy HERE!

children and two adults playing tug of war

Games for the Younger Kids

There are also fun and easy games geared toward the younger crowd. Tug-O-War, relay races, and Red Rover games are easy lawn games to play for the younger crowd!

Although not an ‘official’ lawn game, having Balloon Boat races will keep the younger set occupied for hours.  Just fill up a small plastic swimming pool, add air, and see who wins!

life size black and white chess set on a green lawn

Are you Ready for Fun?

Whether it is a neighborhood picnic, a Potluck or a family gathering, there is nothing more fun that good food and entertainment.

Simple games can be played while waiting for everyone to arrive.  Then fill your plates and sit down for great conversation and delicious food.

But don’t eat too much.  Save some room to be able to challenge an opponent or two to a game of your choice.  Then make the loser serve you that delicious dessert!!!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.


  1. Such a fun post! We have played many of these games, I really like bocce ball! We have made cornhole too and it is so fun! Thank you for sharing at Embracing Home and Family!

    1. Jennifer – we love playing lawn games as well. The Country Boy and I just finished building a bean bag toss game. It was intended for the grandkids, but we have been having a blast playing with it ourselves! I look forward to more ‘visits’ over at Embracing Home and Family!

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