13 DIY Backyard Games and Play Structures
Fill your yard with fun games and forts for the whole family to enjoy
Give kids and guests a buffet of playtime options and your backyard could be the season's hottest destination. All it takes is games suited to all ages and abilities, a place where family and friends can gather to face off—whether it be for an innocent competition or a heated grudge match. In other words: If you build it, they will come.
We're not talking about staid badminton or weak-willed Wiffle ball. You need games of skill and strategy, games once played by warriors and kings—games like bocce, horseshoes, and croquet. To learn how you can create your own outdoor sport courts, see A Backyard Built for Games.
For how-tos to build your own Cornhole game, Ladder Golf set, outdoor fort, soccer goals, and many other yard games and play structures, keep reading.
Surely you've enjoyed a shuffleboard match somewhere along the line and experienced the joy of knocking your opponent's puck into oblivion. Now you can take that competitive spirit to tabletop heights with the TOH version, Ricochet, which employs an elastic band and a hollow-core door to transform the traditional playing surface into a challenging U shape.
This project is a win-win for the whole family. The goal shown here has a basic design and is easy to build, so it can be assembled in an afternoon. Because it's made from PVC pipes and deer netting, this unit is so lightweight and easy to move that you can set it up whenever you're ready to play. Get the whole family outside and turn the backyard into a playing field.
For full step-by-step instructions, see How to Build a Soccer Goal.
All those hours of playing Nerf hoops might finally add up to a useful skill when you bust out the pipe-ball game at your next garden party. Instead of shooting a foam basketball at a door-mounted hoop, though, you're arcing a tennis ball at a grouping of pipes—and the rebound is nasty. The angled ends and the varying heights of the pipes make it a game of skill that demands nothing less than the equivalent of a swish.
Mini-golf is a family-friendly game all ages enjoy. But it doesn't have to be just a vacation treat. Wouldn't it be great to have your very own course to play in your backyard? This one is made up of panels that you can take apart and rearrange to make the game as easy or hard as you like. Create as many panels as you need for 1, 2, or even 18 holes. Then give everyone a putter, and they'll have a ball—literally—trying to navigate the obstacles you set for them.
For full step-by-step instructions, see How to Build a Miniature Golf Set.
Nope this isn't like golf at all. Golf balls take on a different form in ladder golf as bolas—a pair of golf balls connected by a length of nylon cord. Wrap one of the bolas over a rung, and you score. If it stays put, that is.
A sandbox brings a little bit of the beach into your backyard. This red car-shaped box is ready for hours of playtime. It is a bit challenging to build—but with the whole family pitching in, it will take just one weekend to get this car roadworthy, so you're kids will soon be ready to roll.
This backyard beanbag-toss game that caught fire in the Midwest now boasts its own association, Wikipedia entry, and myriad online purveyors. It's easy to see why it's become such a barbeque favorite: You can hold a beverage in one hand and loft your beanbag with the other. You can easily make a game board to be proud of with plywood and 2x4s. As for your poor aim? Nothing a few well-chosen teammates can't overcome.
When the sun is hot and kids are bored, there's nothing better to get them motivated than a project that comes with a built-in reward. Get them started on their very own small summer business with a charming lemonade stand. It is sure to spark some creative interest, along with a bit of entrepreneurial spirit.
For full step-by-step instructions, see How to Build a Lemonade Stand.
Throwing sticks may be taboo on the playground, but it's precisely the point with the Swedish game Kubb: The goal is to throw short dowels at your opponent's pieces to knock them over. Yes, a wild toss can be hard on the shins, but the game has been entertaining Swedes for more than a thousand years, so it's worth giving it a shot.
You don't have to mess with explosives to launch a rocket. If you put air under pressure, like in a tire, you can use it to propel an object upwards. Add water to the mix, and your rocket will go far above the trees. This rocket is made from simple PVC plumbing pipe and some plastic soda bottles. Put this rocket together in just one afternoon, and get ready to supervise its first flight.
The heyday of classic board games like Ker-Plunk and Jenga may be long gone, but you can re-create that heady feeling of pulling out a piece and waiting to see if everything comes crashing down. You can do it in a yard-size version that's sure to become the raucous centerpiece of any summer gathering.
By adding a backyard fort, you can let your kids' imaginations run wild. The design of this fort encourages tons of fun, with a super—cool kid-sized hatch—complete with a peephole to check out visitors—and a flag that kids can design and make themselves. It takes only an afternoon to cut and assemble the parts—and your kids will have a playhouse retreat for years to come.