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The Backyard Olympics

By Martine Redman
So you're planning the big family picnic/reunion/anniversary/birthday/barbecue bash, and you're wondering how to keep all the guests entertained? Games are just the thing to work off excess energy and work up a good appetite. Playing games can build and reinforce close relationships - and create warm and lasting memories. The games featured here require little equipment and return lots of fun. These game ideas will help make your next gathering a hit - rain or shine.

You’ll need a game leader for each activity, so recruit some uncles, aunts and especially teens to help everything run smoothly. Equipment is minimal, and mostly involves things you have around the house. Score keeping is completely optional. If you choose to keep score, the winning team can be required to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” for the crowd as a Grand Prize.

Have the guests choose up teams. This is a game in itself! Each team should be between 3 and 10 people. If you can get a range of ages within each team, so much the better. You might hand out numbered slips to people as they arrive, then at some point let everyone know that all 1’s are to gather here, all 2’s over there, all 3’s over there, and so on. Once each team is assembled, challenge them to come up with a Team Name and a pep song or chant.

Introduce each Team, invite them to perform their pep song or chant, and explain the rules, which are as follows:

Each Team gets a score sheet (if you are keeping score) and must visit each game station. There are games for a variety of skills, so each Team will choose one or more champions for each activity. How they do that is up to the Team! Allow about an hour for everyone to complete all the games.

Have fun, and above all, play nice!

Lick the Gum Habit
Equipment: 5 sticks of chewing gum, 1 pair large gardening gloves, watch with second hand, table
Scoring: 2 points for each stick of gum opened and chewed before 3 minutes has elapsed

Each Team chooses five contestants.

The first contestant puts on the gardening gloves, opens a stick of gum, chews it—then removes the gloves and passes them on to the next teammate who puts on the gloves, opens the next stick of gum, and so on.

The game continues until all five contestants have opened and are chewing a stick of gum.

Puzzle Profusion
Equipment: One complete puzzle and lots of extra puzzle pieces, watch with second hand, table
Scoring: 1 point per piece of largest puzzle completed within 3 minutes

The Team tries to complete one 24-piece puzzle within 3 minutes, choosing from a collection of similar puzzle pieces. Only one puzzle in the pile of pieces has all its pieces.

Equipment: Hand towel 15 objects (pencil, coin, stone, watch, etc.), table
Scoring: Perfect Score: 10, 3 points for each object correctly remembered, 1 bonus point for getting all 3

The Game Leader places 15 found objects on a table and covers them with the hand towel. Remove the towel, allowing the Team to see all the objects. When the Team is ready, place the towel over the objects once more. Each Team member closes his or her eyes. The Game Leader removes three of the objects. The Team must name the missing objects.

Equipment: 10 empty aluminum soda cans, table
Scoring: 1 point for each can that is used successfully

The Team has 3 minutes to create a tower, one on top of the other, that is self-supporting using only empty soda cans. NO tape, bubble gum, wedges, or any other material may be used. The structure must stand on its own for 5 seconds. It’s fun if some of the cans are just a little bit crushed!

Jump Rope
Equipment: Double length jump rope
Scoring: 1 point per jump

The Team chooses 2-3 contestants who take turns jumping. Two other teammates turn the rope. The Game Leader records the most consecutive jumps of one player up to 10.

Body Scavenger Hunt
Equipment: List, watch with second hand
Scoring: 1 point per object found

The Team tries to find objects from the list on their own persons within 3 minutes. (The list can include things like: tattoo, penny, paper clip, belly ring, something red, aspirin, pen, #2 pencil, Band-Aid, anklet, $50 bill, toothpick, postage stamp, belt buckle, Mickey Mouse, used Kleenex tissue, foreign currency, parking ticket, movie ticket stub, bubble gum, photograph, tic-tacs, battery, granola bar, empty wrapper, and so on…)

Anywhere I Hang My Hat Is Home
Equipment: Hat, six foot dowel rod that is stuck into the ground (outdoors) or an unplugged floor lamp without its shade and light bulb (indoors)
Scoring: 1 point per hat that stays on the dowel rod after 10 tries

Contestants get 10 tries to toss a hat from a distance of five feet so that it lands and stays on the upright dowel rod. (If the Game Leader wants to be helpful, he or she can sort of move the rod or floor lamp to catch the hat.)

Tennis, Anyone?
Equipment: 4 tennis racquets, 4 tennis balls
Scoring: 1 point per consecutive bounce

Each player holding a racquet tries to bounce a ball on his or her own racquet without dropping it. The Game Leader scores the highest number of consecutive bounces of one player.

Mini Golf
Equipment: Toy mini golf set from a toy store, or golf clubs, a ball some paper cups and found objects for obstacles
Scoring: Each Team starts with 11 points. Subtract one point for each stroke needed to sink the putt. Score only the best player of the Team.

The Team may choose three contestants. Each golfer tries to sink the putt in as few strokes as possible. The best score is recorded for the Team.

Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?
Equipment: Multiple-choice list of ten questions.
Scoring: Team gets 1 point per correct answer up to question #5. After that, they lose all points if they answer one incorrectly! The questions get harder and harder, so the Team may choose to quit while they’re ahead!

Sample Questions (Use these, or make up your own!)
The Game Leader reads the questions, one at a time to the Team. If the Leader reads the question, the Team must try to answer. Beginning with Question # 6, the Game Leader asks, “Do you want me to read the next question, or do you want to keep your points?”

1. What is the capital of the United States?
Richmond, VA
Washington, DC
Topeka, KS

2. Our longest river is:

3. Name the third President of the United States.

4. According to our most recent census, America’s second largest ethnic group is:
African American

5. The Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet at which city?

6. What happened in 1875?
John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln.
Teddy Roosevelt explored the Isthmus of Panama.
Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.

7. Which river did Lewis and Clark not explore?

8. What is the origin of the name “Cajun?”
Cayman Indian

9. In what state are the San Juan Islands located?

10. The tallest mountain east of the Mississippi is…
Mt Washington, New Hampshire
Mt Mitchell, North Carolina
Stone Mountain, Georgia

About the Author
Martine Redman and her husband John Donofrio founded Briarpatch, a game and puzzle company, in 1992. Until her untimely death in 2007, she had more than 100 games on the market, and had been honored with numerous awards for her products.

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