11 of the best garden games: hours of fun for all the family

Staycationing? Snap up some of these best garden games to keep the family occupied all summer long

The best garden games, family playing boules or petanque on a lawn, coloured balls in the foreground
(Image credit: Alamy)

If it's home entertainment you're after, the best garden games can turn a day of moping about in the garden into hours of fun for the whole family. 

Depending on the game, they can be solo diversions or involve multiple people, and they're a great solution if you have stuff to do around the house or garden and you need to keep the kids' entertained. And if you already splashed out on the best trampoline, they are generally a low budget way to give them more to do in the garden.

The best garden games are also the ideal distraction from the magnetic pull of iPads, tablets and consoles (zero judgment here, we all know of the invaluable silencing powers of a bit of screen time), and they'll get your kids outdoors and – more importantly – playing with the rest of the family. Even your sulky teen might enjoy a spot of croquet.

We've collated our pick of the best garden games available now, from family classics like croquet and skittles, to the more modern water slides and Swingball to inspire you to discover more ways to get (and keep) your kids outdoors this summer. 

So if you find yourself thinking 'how long till schools go back?', simply scroll down to discover instant time fillers for all the family.

Molkky Skittles garden game

(Image credit: Tactic)

1. Mölkky Skittles Game

Best aiming game: easy to learn but tricky to master

Specifications
Suitable for: 6+ years
Players: 2+
Reasons to buy
+Great for teams+You can have unlimited number of players or just two+Sustainable and no plastic+Easy to pick up+Great for all ages
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't include anything to keep score which you do need for the game (but a phone will do)

This Scandinavian version of skittles is much more fun and strategic than the classic game. Arrange the pins as seen in the image and throw the Mölkky (a short log) underarm to knock them over. If you knock one down, you score the number on that pin. Knock two or more and your score is the number of pins you toppled. Once the score has been tallied you put the pins back up where they fell.

It sounds simple, but as the pins start to spread out, a little bit more skill comes to the game as people aim for specific numbers. The aim is to get exactly 50 points – go over and you go back down to 25. 

Mölkky is a great game to play as solo players or split into teams, making it an incredibly versatile choice for your garden activities for kids. The only drawback is you don't get a whiteboard or pad to keep score on, and the game needs a line for throwers to stand behind but these are minor things you can improvise with things you already own. There are iOS and Android apps for keeping score, too.

Disc Golf

(Image credit: John Lewis )

2. Disc Golf

Best garden game for adults & children: one for the whole family

Specifications
Suitable for: 10+ years
Players: 2+
Reasons to buy
+Fun for adults too+You can play with any amount of people (just take it in turns if there are more than four of you) 
Reasons to avoid
-You only get four frisbees

This garden version of a popular sport couldn't be simpler – just chuck a frisbee until it hits a stick. It's easier said than done though, and depending on how competitive your family is, this could provide hours of distraction. Still, as the rules are very simple it is one of the best garden games that everyone can have a go at, no matter age or ability.

What's more, it's perfect for any social distancing garden parties you may have over the summer – just imagine what a few G&Ts might do to your aim...

Rainbow giant Jenga

(Image credit: John Lewis )

3. Professor Puzzle Giant Toppling Tower Game

Best balancing game: looks great and everyone can get involved

Specifications
Suitable for: 8+ years
Players: 2+
Reasons to buy
+Adds instant colour to your garden
Reasons to avoid
-Clearing up giant wooden blocks isn't fun 

While Jenga is the original wood block stacking game, this version is a near match and is around double the height, too – perfect for playing outdoors. Your only requirement is a patch of garden flat enough to stack them in the first place.

Naturally, the jolly, rainbow-coloured blocks make it far more appealing to younger players, but it's oh-so-easy to play and it's a game that everyone is bound to enjoy. Just keep very small children away as the taller the tower, the more it will hurt if it falls on you.

Water slide

(Image credit: Argos)

4. Chad Valley Double Slide

Best water game: a fun water slide for hot days in the garden

Specifications
Suitable for: 3+ years
Players: 1 +
Reasons to buy
+Space for two to use at a time+Ideal for a flat lawn
Reasons to avoid
-It uses a lot of water 

On a scorching hot day, top of our list of best garden games is – without question – a water slide. Yes, you can splash about in a paddling pool or have fun with the best sprinklers for kids, but the thrill and fun to be had on this slide is far more rewarding.

Back when we were all kids, we'd make do with a strip of pond liner with someone relegated to hold the hose pipe while everyone else had all the fun. This version is far more sophisticated – you attach it to the hose and it fills perforated tubes either side of the slide, meaning that it continuously stays wet, while the sprinkler at the bottom also sprays everyone who slides down it. 

And the best bit? It has two 'lanes' you can have races, too.

Swing Ball

(Image credit: Argos)

5. Pro All Surface Swingball

Best high energy game: a classic garden game that's great exercise too

Specifications
Suitable for : 6+ years
Players: 1+
Reasons to buy
+Only needs one player+Height adjustable so suits all ages +Great exercise too 
Reasons to avoid
-None!

Need a compact ball game that isn't going to totally destroy your garden? Look no further than this addition to our list of best garden games. Any mess (sorry, we meant 'fun') that would normally be associated with garden-based ball games is contained because the ball is attached to a pole and won't fly off hitting plants, windows, pets (or people). 

This also means your kids won't be bothering you constantly to come and play with them because they can easily practice on their own.

There are many versions of Swingball available but we prefer this one because, not only is it height adjustable (perfect for adults to use), it can be used on any surface – just fill the base with water. And when you're done, everything packs away neatly into the base, making it easy to store when not in use.

Professor Puzzle Traditional Ring Toss Game

(Image credit: John Lewis )

6. Professor Puzzle Traditional Ring Toss Game

Best great value game: an affordable buy that's both simple and fun

Specifications
Suitable for : 6+ years
Players: 1+
Reasons to buy
+Perfect for small gardens +Inexpensive 
Reasons to avoid
-Not suitable for very young children 

Looking for a garden game that doesn't take up a lot of room? This classic ring toss game is perfect for a small garden or patio. 

Playing is simple, just throw a ring and try and get it onto one of the coloured sticks – each colour gives you a certain amount of points. 

It's the ideal game for great for get togethers as you can play with as many people as you like – just keep passing the rings on and keep note of the scores. 

Tennis set

(Image credit: Argos)

7. Chad Valley Tennis, Badminton and Volleyball Set

Best multi-game set: kids will have hours of fun with these ball games

Specifications
Suitable for : 5+ years
Players: 2+
Reasons to buy
+Rackets and balls are included +Great price+Easy to put up 
Reasons to avoid
-You'll need a large garden 

If you've got the space, and you're not fussed if your garden may take a bit of a beating, badminton is a great buy for the summer months. 

This nifty set includes everything you need to play badminton in the garden, as well as tennis and volleyball too, with rackets and balls for all three games. 

It's a cinch to assemble – simply stake it into your lawn and after use, it rolls up easily for handy storage. 

Garden Tee Pee

(Image credit: Rex London )

8. Children's Jungle Play Teepee Tent

Best play tent: this easy-to-use garden den is great for little ones

Specifications
Suitable for : Any age if supervised
Players: 1+
Reasons to buy
+Hours of play time+Suitable for younger children 
Reasons to avoid
-Not waterproof 

A play tent like this pretty teepee encourages your smaller children to come up with all kinds of garden games so it's a super versatile buy – it may be a house one day, a shop the next, a palace the day after that... the possibilities are endless.

Made primarily from sturdy cotton, with wood dowels and plastic attachments, it is easily assembled so can be used indoors or out. Bear in mind that it's not waterproof so it can't be left outdoors in all weather, but as it's super light you need just lift it up at the end of the day – or whenever you feel a few spots of rain - and bring it indoors to safety.

Den kit

(Image credit: Not on the High Street )

9. The Original Den Kit

Best for mini adventurers: pint-sized Bear Grylls fans will love this camp kit

Specifications
Suitable for : 8+ years
Players: 1+
Reasons to buy
+Great for kids learning outdoor skills+Good for team building 
Reasons to avoid
-You will need trees and bushes in your garden 

If your idea of a garden den is slinging a bedsheet over the washing line and securing it to a nearby tree with some clothes pegs, here's how you can up your den game. This ingenious kit comes with virtually everything you and your kids need to create to most amazing dens in your back garden. 

Within the handy khaki-coloured knapsack, you'll find a camo-printed tarpaulin, a handy groundsheet, ten metres of jute rope, eight steel tent pens, a handmade wooden mallet, a cute enamel mug and – the cherry on top – a tube of dark green face paint for camouflaging the kids. Love it.

The best garden games, croquet set

(Image credit: Oliver Bonas)

10. Traditional Garden Games Family Croquet Game

Best classic game: one for all the family, young and old

Specifications
Suitable for: 5+ years
Players: 2+
Reasons to buy
+Both children and grandparents can play+Play as individuals or in teams
Reasons to avoid
-Mallets may be heavy for smaller children

A British best garden games round-up isn't complete without including the perennial classic – croquet. What was once a pastime for the landed gentry, this game has become synonymous with garden parties around the country, and is perfectly paired with afternoon tea or a glass or two of Pimms. 

Set up the nine hoops wherever you choose and play in a group up to four people or in teams – just remember to keep track of the scores.

The best garden games, foosball table on casters, perfect for outdoors too

(Image credit: Amazon)

11. Homcom Foosball table on castors

Best football game: test everyone's skill with this portable table game

Specifications
Suitable for: 10+ years
Players: 2+
Reasons to buy
+Ideal for older kids (and adults!)+It's on castors so is easily moved
Reasons to avoid
-Not weatherproof

Want something for your older kids to play with that isn't a Playstation, Switch or Xbox? In lieu of a screen, this classic foosball table is guaranteed to keep them happy. 

While it's not strictly a garden game (it's not in the least bit waterproof so will need a cover if you're leaving it outdoors overnight), the feet are fitted with castors so it's relatively easy to move around and bring outside onto the patio so your teens can get some much needed fresh air. 

And let's be honest here, adults will enjoy playing this, too – both Chandler Bing and Joey Tribbiani are proof of that.

How to buy the best garden games 

The best garden games, small child playing foosball

(Image credit: Getty)

When choosing the best garden games, there are a few things you might want to consider, beyond how fun the games may be, so it's definitely worth double checking these specs before you buy:

What ages is the game suitable for?
If your kids are over the age of ten, then this isn't so much of a concern. However, younger children may find certain games unwieldy for their small hands or difficult to play. Always check whether a game is suitable for their age group - if not, they may end up frustrated, or worse still, they may hurt themselves.

How many players is it for?
Two player-only games are best avoided by larger families, in part so you can all get to play, but also to avoid the arguments more than anything else. It's also worth seeing if a game can actually accommodate more players than it states. Certain two- to four-player games can easily be played in teams, with everyone taking a turn.

What games suit my garden best?
For small gardens or patios, static games like Jenga, ring toss and, to some extent, Swingball are better choices for the best garden games as you don't need lots of space to play them. If you have a larger garden, space is obviously less of an issue but you should also consider the shape and style of your garden – some games require a certain amount of lawn area and others won't work if your garden slopes down, either. 

If your kids are already fans of the best Nerf guns, don't forget to check out our best Nerf game ideas for even more ways to keep them entertained this summer.