Backyard games for cooped-up kids

Get out your green and gold ... it's time to party.
Get out your green and gold ... it's time to party. 

Are you looking for ways to inspire your kids to spend more time playing outside? Challenge them with a game of backyard soccer, cricket or baseball by combining a few affordable essentials with items you can easily find around the house.

If it's been a while since you played any of these games here are a few ideas to help get you started. But don't get to hung up on the rules, better still let kids make up their own and watch the fun unfold.

Backyard Soccer:
The aim of soccer is generally to kick the ball around until you reach your end and score a goal without using your hands or letting the other team manoeuvre the ball off you. But when it comes to backyard soccer half the fun is making up your own rules. Maybe you’re only allowed to dribble the soccer ball with your left foot or perhaps you have to bowl the ball into the net, the possibilities are endless.

To set up your soccer field you will need a decent area of grass, a soccer ball, and some white spray paint to mark the goalies on the grass. Alternatively you could use garbage bins turned on their sides or cardboard boxes.

Get someone to keep score as you play. You will need at least four players so invite the neighbours’ kids over for the game as well. The more the merrier.

Street Cricket:
Get all the kids in the neighbourhood together for a game of street cricket. We are sure you have your own rules and versions of the game from when you were a kid but here are few ideas of our own.

To play you will need a cricket bat and ball, if you don’t have a cricket ball, a tennis or rubber one will work just as well. You can make your own wickets by finding six long sticks and putting them in six empty bottles. Fill with sand or dirt to balance and then put three at each end of the runway. Divide the players into two teams and toss a coin to decide which team is fielding and which is batting. Pick a bowler and wicket keeper from the fielders and start the game.

Like with most games everyone in the neighbourhood will have their own rules that they play by. It’s best to discuss this at the start and remember to let them get creative. Games are more fun when you mix it up a little.

To play a game of baseball you will need a decent sized backyard or you can take over the neighbourhood street if it’s safe to do so. You will need a bat, a baseball or equivalent, and ideally some baseball gloves for the pitcher and catcher. Use chalk to mark the pitcher’s mound, the three bases and the home base or old pillows if you are on the grass.

You will need a decent amount of players to have a good game so get all the kids in the street out to play if you can. Break the players into two teams. Toss a coin to decide who is fielding and who is batting. From the fielding team chose who is going to pitch, catch and be on base.

Make up your own rules or stick to the standard ones but make sure everyone knows how you plan to play and remember to have fun!

Shooting hoops:
If you are after some one-on-one games set up a hoop in the backyard and have a shoot-off. Make up as many different obstacles and tricks as you can think of to keep it interesting. You might have to shoot blindfolded, backwards, from so many metres away or from sitting on the ground. Kids love a challenge and shooting that ball through the hoop will keep them going for hours.

Whether it be baseball, cricket or any other game, the goal of playing in the backyard or street is to show your kids how easy it is to have fun outside. Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement and a visit from your inner child to help your kids embrace their imagination and learn to play the old fashioned way.

Do you play games with your kids in the backyard? What are the funniest rules you play by? Share with members on the Essential Kids Forums.

Whether it be baseball, cricket or any other game, the goal of playing in the backyard or street is to show your kids how easy it is to have fun outside.