There’s nothing like playing games in the yard with your family and friends. Some of my happiest memories from both childhood and as an adult revolve around having fun mucking around in the garden. Although I love most outdoor games, many of my favorite ones use wood blocks as part of their construction.
Some of the most popular games made of wooden blocks you can play in your yard include Kubb, Giant Jenga, Yard Dice, Lawn Bowling and Giant Connect 4. All have large, wooden parts and are easy to learn and play, both in teams or one-on-one.
Here’s our breakdown of the five most played games in US backyards that are made of wooden blocks. After you’ve finished reading this it’s time to take a break away from the screen and go outside to have fun! 🙂
Your kids are going to LOVE this game (grown up kids too). Because Kubb is about capturing a King using – body parts. We love games using dismembered body parts!
Although kids will love the idea of throwing skulls around, Kubb is not a game for all ages. In this game, wooden dowels and blocks are thrown around. Younger children may not have the throwing skills needed and kids can get hurt from the flying wood.
What is Kubb?
Some say Kubb (pronounced koob) began with a bunch of Vikings after a good pillage. The story goes that the game was played in (probably drunken) celebration with body parts from the vanquished enemy.
Another version is that it was invented in the 1920s in Sweden on the island of Gotland.
We like the Viking version.
How Do You Play Kubb?
To play Kubb, you need 2 or more players or 2 teams. The wooden parts of the game are: one King, 6 femurs (long narrow sticks or dowels called batons) and 10 skulls (thicker, shorter wooden blocks called kubbs or kubbar).
The game involves throwing the batons, or femurs, at the standing kubbs, or skulls, and knocking them over. When one team has knocked over the opponent’s field kubbs and baseline kubbs, then they have a go at knocking over the King.
If they knock over the King, game over, and they win.
Here’s a good video on how to play Kubb.
Jenga is derived from kujenga, the Swahili word for build. And that’s what you do when you play – you build. You build until the entire building collapses.
Giant Jenga, played outside, is a recipe for loads of laughter.
What is Giant Jenga?
The classic Jenga game was released in North America in 1986 by Hasbro. The originator, Leslie Scott, grew up in Tanzania playing a game with blocks.
Giant Jenga is like the classic game but – giant. Building a tower with Giant Jenga blocks can be up to 5 feet high.
How Do You Play Giant Jenga?
Just like classic Jenga, start the Giant Jenga tower on a hard, level surface, like a gazebo, patio, or sturdy outdoor table.
Any amount of people can play Giant Jenga – you can even play all by yourself. But blocks of wood falling from up to 5 feet off the ground can be scary or even harmful for little kids, so limit the age to six and over.
First, build the tower like this. Player 1 removes one block from the tower. Then, Player 1 sets that block carefully on the top of the tower, using the 90° pattern.
Play continues, with all the players taking turns. The last player to successfully pull out a block and put it back, before the hilarious collapse, wins.
To play yard dice, you’ll need a set of six large dice. There are thousands of dice games. Snake Eyes, 10,000, Ship, Captain, Crew, Whamee, Yardzee, Beat That, Twenty-One, Going to Boston, Balut, or Yarkle (or Yard Farkle) are all dice games.
Here’s a good reference for many yard dice games.
What is Yard Dice?
Dice have been used for gaming and divination since 2,000 BC or so. Evidence of dice games have been found in Egyptian tombs. Central and South Americans used animal bones as dice, probably to predict the future. Cubical dice started in China and were brought back by Marco Polo in the fourteenth century.
Yard dice resemble their smaller cousins, but are 20 times as big.
How Do You Play Yard Dice?
Snake Eyes is one of the easiest and most popular dice games. Kids can play too. In fact, Snake Eyes is a great way to help kids with simple addition skills.
Each person gets a turn to throw all six dice into a target ring (3 feet in diameter). Dice that land outside the ring don’t count. The number of dots on the top faces of the dice inside the ring are added up.
For each turn, record the number of points. The first team or person to get to 21 points or the first person to roll “Snake Eyes” – wins.
Lawn bowling is just like the classic game at the bowling alley – except under a bright, sunny sky with birds singing and the smell of the brisket in the smoker.
Lawn bowling has giant pins with balls to knock them down. Sure, you can keep score if you want, but you don’t have to – just have noisy fun with this classic game.
What is Lawn Bowling?
Lawn bowling is the outdoor cousin to the classic game of bowling. Bowling has a long history. Archeologists think bowling began in ancient Egypt around 3,200 B.C. Germany has also claimed to have the first bowling, along with England. Yup, Henry VIII enjoyed his wives and – bowling.
Lawn bowling is a much less serious version of the classic game played indoors. Lawn bowling sets have from six to 10 pins, made of wood or plastic.
How Do You Play Lawn Bowling?
First, pick a spot for your outdoor bowling alley. Lawns work well but dirt areas at campsites work too. Pick as flat an alley as you can.
You can make your lawn bowling set up as complicated or easy as you want. The foul line – which is where all players must stand behind to roll the ball – can be marked with chalk, a stick or piece of string. Most alleys are 15 feet long, but you can adjust it for younger kids.
Set the pins out in a triangle shape. Any number of players or teams can play. A player stands at the foul line and rolls the ball towards the pins. You can keep track of points like classic bowling, or not.
There are lots of rules, a specialized vocabulary, and ball spinning strategies in classic bowling. In lawn bowling, you can just have fun.
Giant Connect 4
Connect 4 is a board game. Giant Connect 4 has a giant game board. Players try to build a line of four large, round checkers. Their row of four can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal.
This yard game is perfect for quiet, wind-down times under a shady tree.
What is Giant Connect 4?
Connect 4 can be a fast, fun game or surprisingly strategic. Connect 4, is also known as Four Up, Find Four, Captain’s Mistress (we’re not commenting on that one), Four in a Row, Drop Four or Gravitrips.
The game is played on a board that has seven columns and 6 vertical rows. Here’s the Wikipedia website with a picture of the board and the rules.
How Do You Play Giant Connect 4?
Connect 4 is normally played with only two players. But hey – you’re outside! Giant Connect 4 can be played with any number of players or teams. Yes – only one person can play against themselves. It can happen.
First, find a nice spot for your board. Start the game. The first player slides a counter into a column. The checker falls into the lowest empty space. If the checker makes four in a row, then the game is over. If not, the next player or team takes their turn.
Here’s a rule: you can’t pass on a turn.
The first person or team to connect four counters in a line – wins.
Here’s another rule: you win if you have Connect 4 – not 5. Connecting 5 is losing or forfeiting the game.
Playing with wooden block games in the yard is such fun that you won’t want to stop – especially if you’re playing with your kids and family members, or have some friends round for a boozy BBQ.
So what’s it going to be to get started? Do you fancy a game of chance with some Lawn Dice, or how about trying your hand at some Lawn Bowling? Alternatively, you could play a game of strategy like Giant Connect 4 or Giant Jenga – or mix strategy with a bit of ‘smash ’em up’ with a rowdy game of Kubb. The choice is yours.
Just remember – it’s your backyard and your rules, so let the games begin! 🙂