Set down bases and a pitcher's mound in the yard with sticks or old books. Divide players into two teams. The usual rules apply, with one exception: Before the pitcher rolls the rubber ball, the kid who’s at bat has to turn in a circle three times. It’s harder than you think!
Catch the Fox
Sit players in a circle and have one kid pass the “fox” (a tennis ball) to the others. Then pick another child opposite the first to pass the “hunter” (a slightly larger rubber ball), who’s desperate to nab the fox. The child holding the fox when the hunter catches up to it is out — so the circle gets progressively smaller and the game gets harder. Bump up the fun by letting the fox escape the hunter’s clutches any way he wants — even sailing straight across the circle — while the hunter is restricted to traveling in only one direction.
Driveways make the best spot for this after-school version of the playground favorite. Draw a large square with sidewalk chalk. Divide it into quarters. Have one player stand in each corner and use her palms to smack a ball from square to square, letting it bounce once before hitting it to the next player. For a brainier version, one kid picks a category — like brands of cereal, U.S. states, or colors — and each player has to name an item that fits the bill before passing the ball to the next child.
Kids have to be pretty nimble to use their hands and feet to scuttle belly-up across the ground. Once they get the hang of pretending they’re crustaceans, divide them into two teams and toss in a beach ball or oversized exercise ball. Tell the kids they can only use their feet to maneuver it toward goals at opposite ends of the yard. Hands aren't allowed in this game, except to fetch a ball that sails well out of bounds.
Beach Blanket Volleyball
All you need are a couple of beach towels to play this version of (net-less) volleyball. Divvy up the kids into teams of two or three players. Have each player hold an end of the towel and use it to toss a lightweight beach ball back and forth. When someone drops the ball, the other team picks up a point.
Practice addition in a way your kids won't even notice! Earmark one child as the designated thrower. While he tosses the rubber ball straight up in the air, he calls out how much the throw is worth — say, "Twenty-five cents!" or "One dollar!" Whoever catches the ball adds that amount to his imaginary piggy bank and announces his new total out loud. The winner is the first person to reach $5. Give older kids an extra challenge by having the thrower say not just an amount, but also "ground" or "air." A ground ball has to bounce once before the catcher can earn money for grabbing it; an air ball must be plucked before it hits.
Under the Bridge
Have kids stand in a circle with their feet far apart and their hands on their knees. (They should be toe to toe.) Grab two balls and toss them into play. The goal is to roll a ball through another player’s legs while using your hands to block or catch any that come toward you. Each time one whizzes through your legs, you get a point. The player with the fewest points wins!
Croquet requires more coordination than most grade-schoolers have, but no need to give up the game yet. In this kid-friendly version, grab a pool noodle and a beach ball. Swap wickets for “bases” — a big tree, a spot on the backyard fence — and take turns whacking the ball toward them.
We’ve got loads more ways to have family fun right outside your door! Just visit scholastic.com/fuelbackyardfun.