35 Inexpensive DIY Picnic Games (+ Printables)
As you look forward to getting out of the house and finding an outdoor activity that the whole family will enjoy, you might consider going on a picnic.
At any picnic, you need delicious food and good company, but, beyond that, you also need something fun to do. Why not spice up your picnic with low-cost, easy and fun picnic games that go beyond the basics like Hide-and-Seek and Tag?
It doesn’t matter if you’re picnicking in the park or just in your backyard. All of these games are simple to set up and require materials that you likely already have around your house. Skip to one of the accompanying printables below.
Unique Low-Cost Picnic Games for Kids
Whether you want to play a relaxed game while sitting on your picnic blanket or a more active game running around the park, there are plenty of DIY options that will keep your family entertained long after you’ve finished eating your hamburgers and hotdogs.
- Bottle Cap Curling: In this modified version of curling, place these printable bullseyes on either end of the picnic table. Flick bottle caps across the table and try to land them in your opponent’s bullseye. Download the bottle cap curling printable.
- Finger Twister: You’ve likely played this classic game on your living room floor or in your backyard with your hands and feet. Why not shrink the game and bring a miniature version to your picnic? Draw red, yellow, green and blue circles on a piece of paper and play with your fingers.
- Windy Day Can Challenge: Before tossing your used soda cans in the recycling bin, have a little fun with them. See how high you can stack up your cans before they fall over. (Bonus points if you can build a high tower when it’s windy.)
- DIY Dry Erase Surface: You can make any flat outdoor surface into a dry-erase board by covering it with contact paper. Simply cover a picnic table, the outer wall of your house or even an old tree stump with contact paper and challenge someone to a doodle contest or a friendly match of dots and boxes.
- Marbles and Toes Game: Here’s a fun game to strengthen the muscles in your feet and have fun while doing so. Place some marbles in a bucket. See who can remove more marbles from the bucket using only their toes. (It’s harder than it looks!)
- Crate Tug of War: Tug of war is fun when you’re standing in the grass, but it’s even more fun when you’re a bit off balance. Stand on picnic benches or crates and see who can pull the rope farther without falling off. (Please be wise and take it easy if you decide to attempt this).
- Towering Tree Test: Find a tall tree. Then write down how tall you think the tree is. You can then figure out whose guess is the closest to the actual height of the tree by measuring your shadow and the tree’s shadow. The approximate height of the tree will be the length of the tree’s shadow times your height divided by the length of your shadow.
Simple and Classic Picnic Games
Of course, you can’t forget about the classic picnic games at your next family outing. There’s a reason that bean bag toss and lawn bowling have been around for so long. They’re easy to learn and can keep your family entertained for hours.
- Lawn Battleship Bean Bag Toss: Spread out these printable “battleships” in the grass and try to land bean bags on them to “sink” them. The smaller the ship you sink, the more points you earn. Download the lawn Battleship bean bag toss printable.
- Paper Plate Bean Bag Toss: Or, if you’d rather play a more traditional bean bag toss game, write the numbers 25, 50, 75 and 100 on four paper plates and spread the plates out in a line. Try to land your bean bags on the plates and tally up the points.
- Outdoor Tic Tac Toe: If you have several hula hoops lying around your garage, form a tic tac toe board with circles instead of squares. Lay out nine hula hoops into a grid and use materials from the park or your backyard as the x’s and o’s. For example, you might use loose tree branches for the x’s and stones for the o’s.
- Giant Hula Hoop Bubbles: If you have just one or two hula hoops on hand, try creating full-body bubbles. You can concoct a highly stretchy bubble solution using dish soap, distilled water, bubble solution and a bit of glycerin.
- Lawn Bowling: Gather up empty soda bottles and cans and make your own bowling alley. Although this game works best on flat, hard surfaces, you can also play in the grass.
- Ring Toss: Perhaps ring toss is so popular at picnics because it’s easy to set up but challenging to play. Make your own rings by tying together pieces of heavy rope and try to throw them over the mouths of soda bottles.
- Human Ring Toss: As a popular alternative to the classic ring toss game, try human ring toss. In this game, hula hoops serve as the rings. See how many hula hoops you can gently toss over someone.
- Straw Race: Try to keep a small piece of paper attached to the end of a drinking straw by consistently sucking in through the straw. Whoever can successfully transport the piece of paper on the end of their straw from one location to another wins.
- Popsicle Eating Contest: Cool off by participating in a popsicle eating contest. Whoever can finish their popsicle first wins the challenge (and perhaps a brain freeze).
- Picnic Basket Unpacking Race: You can use your picnic basket for so much more than just transporting your food. If you have two packed picnic baskets, see who can unpack their picnic basket the fastest. At the end of your picnic, you can also hold a packing race and see who can (properly) pack their picnic basket back up the fastest.
Low-Cost Picnic Games for Large Groups
If you’re planning an extended day in the park with family, food and fun, check out these picnic games to keep your whole crew engaged, from dodgeball with a twist to an outdoor take on the classic Pin the Tail on the Donkey party game.
- Targeted Dodgeball: Traditional dodgeball is fun, but targeted dodgeball is even more exciting. Tape these printable targets to your clothes. Hitting opponents’ red targets means you automatically lose the game, while hitting green targets scores you extra points. Download the targeted dodgeball printable.
- Picnic Basket Ball Balance: Pack a few ropes, a tennis ball and a roll of masking tape in your picnic basket. Tie the ropes around the edges of the roll of masking tape and place the ball on top. Have everyone grab a rope and balance the roll of tape so that the ball doesn’t fall off. Try to transfer the ball to an empty picnic basket by pulling certain ropes and relaxing others.
- Picnic Telephone: Look around you and come up with a phrase or sentence based on your surroundings. Whisper that sentence into someone’s ear and have them whisper what they hear into the next person’s ear. Go down the line and determine how much the original sentence has changed at the end.
- Hula Hoop Tag: In this exciting twist on tag, everyone must continually hula hoop while walking or running around. If you tag someone but your hula hoop falls to the ground, the tag doesn’t count, and play continues.
- Connected Tag: Start with three people holding hands. Those people are “it” and must remain connected while attempting to tag other players. Anyone who is tagged by that group of three must join hands with the group of three and work to tag other players. The game ends when everyone is holding hands.
- Pin the Face on the Tree: Like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Pin the Face on the Tree involves trying to tape a funny face onto a tree while blindfolded. Download the Pin the Face on the Tree printable.
- Recycled Tower: Build a tower from the materials that you find in the park or in your backyard. This could include the leftover food containers from your picnic, branches, rocks or any other materials you find lying around.
- Picnic Blanket Balloon Transfer: Have several people hold two different picnic blankets. Transfer a balloon from one picnic blanket to the other by flapping the blanket up and down without letting the balloon touch the ground.
- Back-to-Back Balloon Walk: Stand back-to-back in groups of two with balloons wedged between your backs. Try to be the first pair to cross the finish line with your balloon still safely wedged between your backs.
- String Donut Eating Contest: Thread several donuts or cookies with holes through a rope. Tie the ends of the rope to nearby trees and space out the treats. Challenge your family to an eating contest. Whoever eats their treat first without using their hands and without allowing the treat to fall off the rope wins.
- Soccer Ball Would You Rather: Write several “would you rather” statements on the different sides of a soccer ball. (You can use washable markers.) Then, toss the ball around and have people answer the prompt that they see first.
DIY Backyard Water Games
- Water Balloon Fence Challenge: If you’re near a fence with narrow openings, try to slip as many water balloons through the openings as you can within a minute without popping them. Teams of two can even stand on either side of the fence and help pull the balloons through.
- Water Balloon Face Challenge: Try to draw a complete face on a water balloon with a pen without puncturing the balloon. The person who draws the best face wins.
- Water Balloon Dye Fight: Fill your water balloons with natural dyes. (Learn more about how to make natural dyes from food in your kitchen.) Wear a white T-shirt and watch as the water balloons colorfully stain your shirt.
- Water Balloon Limbo: Balance a water balloon on two pieces of rope held tightly. Limbo under the strings and try not to make the water balloon fall.
- Water Balloon Pit: Form a circle in the grass with a few jump ropes. Fill the circle with a pile of water balloons, jump in and try to pop as many water balloons as possible.
- Ice Block Treasure Hunt: Fill a plastic container with water and submerge little toys inside. Freeze the tub into a big block of ice. Then, chip away at the ice block until you recover the treasures inside.
- Water Transfer Race: Set up several narrow glasses of the same size in a line. Fill the first glass to the brim with water. Try to transfer as much water as possible from the first glass to the second and down the line. See how much water you end up with after you’ve completed all of the transfers.
Look to these cost-effective DIY picnic games to ward off the inevitable “I’m bored” at your next outdoor family gathering. If you’d like to make family picnic day a tradition, check out these Wayfair deals for potential savings on other yard games, like ring toss and croquet.
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