Outdoor Play

Here’s Your Guide to Summer Olympics-Inspired Backyard Games

By: Highlights Editorial
Soccer players smiling with their medals.
For All Ages
Fine Motor Skills

Organize these Olympic-like events at home so your kids can compete like the pros.

Most kids will never get to compete in world-class games. But the plan below shows how to create fun activities based on real Olympic events. Give your kids a chance to test their own feats of athleticism at home, in your backyard or neighborhood park, now and for the rest of the summer.

Olympic Event: 100-meter dash

Converted for Kids: 100-foot dash

What to Do: Stake out 100 linear feet on a sidewalk or driveway, or in your backyard. Let kids race solo for the first run of the day; you keep time. Then let kids compete in one-on-one elimination races, to determine the final winner.

Olympic Event: Archery

Converted for Kids: Water balloon toss

What to Do: Set out a 6-foot ladder. Assign a point value to each space between the ladder’s rungs. Start at zero and add 10 points for each space from the bottom to the top. Hand out foam darts, beanbags—or better yet, water balloons, and let kids take aim. Whoever racks up the most points prevails.

Olympic Event: Golf

Converted for Kids: Wiffle ball golf

What to Do: Recycle out-of-season hockey sticks or borrow golf clubs from a kid-size set and clear an outdoor space for golfing. For holes, scatter a few giant-size plastic cups around the lawn and tip them sideways. Let kids take turns hitting Wiffle balls into the cups. Kids with the lowest score medal.

Olympic Event: Beach volleyball

Converted for Kids: Beach-ball volleyball

What to Do: Tie an extra-long ribbon or a heavy-duty string between two trees and get the volley going. Have one kid serve; players cover their side of the court. Play singles or doubles, and keep score like the pros.

Olympic Event: Discus throw

Converted for Kids: Frisbee (or pool tube) toss

What to Do: Hand out Frisbees, but what’s even more fun—and actually more challenging—are inflatable pool tubes. Kids toss tubes one at a time, while an official (you) marks the distance. How far can the tubes go?

Olympic Event: Balance beam

Converted for Kids: DIY balance beam

What to Do: Draw two thick parallel lines with sidewalk chalk. Make sure your “beam” is 6 to 10 inches wide and about 15 feet long. Kids can perform routines. Encourage them to hop on one foot, balance a book on their head, or twirl a Hula-Hoop while they travel across the beam.

Olympic Event: Fencing

Converted for Kids: Pool noodle fencing

What to Do: A Styrofoam pool noodle is a hilarious substitute for a traditional saber. Hand out smocks or old T-shirts. Then dab one end of each noodle in washable paint and let kids score points dotting (not stabbing or hitting) their opponent.

Olympic Event: Weightlifting

Converted for Kids: Sir and Lady Lift-a-Lot

What to Do: Let kids show strength by lifting faux barbells, fashioned out of a sturdy stick and two buckets partially filled with water. Call this an individual event and slowly add more water to boost the challenge. 

Olympic Event: Ping pong

Converted for Kids: Paper plate and balloon ping-pong

What to Do: Use chalk to draw a line (widthwise) across a picnic or patio table. Create a paddle by taping a craft stick to a paper plate. Give one paddle to each player and encourage kids to volley with balloons and score points like the champions. (Save this game for a wind-free day or play in the garage.)

Olympic Event: Basketball

Converted for Kids: Ping-pong basket bowl

What to Do: Set out a single plastic or metal bowl on a large indoor or outdoor table. Have kids stand at one end of the table and toss Ping-Pong balls into the bowl, free-throw style, at the other end of the table. Award points to the player who throws the most balls into the bowl within, say, one minute. Or set up a series of bowls with different point values.

Author Photo
By: Highlights Editorial