(originally published to Helium writing site, now gone)
At a family reunion, you will probably have a large number of people of different ages, some of whom have rarely met if at all. A good way to get people interacting and socialising might be to organize one or more lawn games. These should be suitable for people of a wide age range and different levels of ability and fitness. Here are some games you might like to consider for your next reunion.
Croquet is a game traditionally associated with older people but can be played by everyone. It might even get some of the more senior family members on their feet, especially those who might have played the game sometime. Croquet involves hitting a small plastic or wooden ball with a mallet so that it goes through a hoop pushed into the ground. Sets can be bought quite cheaply.
There are a number of variations of the game and rules can be complex. For a family reunion, it might be best to place two hoops in the ground perhaps 20 or 30 feet apart. Each participant takes it in turn to see if they can send a ball through each hoop from this distance. Teams can be organized, with the first team to get their ball through a hoop perhaps 10 times declared the winner.
This is another lawn game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Again many family members may have played the game at some stage. It is a popular game on ships and some relatives may have played the game on a voyage as a migrant or tourist and be able to relate a story or two. Quoits is played with rings of metal, rubber, or synthetic material. These are thrown at a pin or stake in the ground over a distance of 30 to 60 feet depending on the version of the game.
At a family reunion, with participants of varying fitness and skill levels, this distance could be reduced considerably. Quoits of a lighter weight than competition quoits can be readily purchased, and these might be more suitable for social play. The game can be played between individuals or teams. The simplest scoring method is to award one point for each quoit that lands over the pin.
Horseshoes is a similar traditional game that might be suitable at a family reunion. In competition, the game is played by two people or teams throwing four horseshoes at two stakes in the ground 40 feet apart, although women and seniors throw from 30 feet. You might like to reduce these distances for your reunion lawn game as many family members may never have played, and might not be able to hurl a two pound shoe this distance let alone make it land on a stake so far away. The stake sits 14 to 15 inches above the ground.
Scoring is simple enough, with a “ringer” worth three points and a “leaner” or a shoe within six inches of the stake worth one point. In competition, the first player to earn 40 points wins the game. In the backyard, the winning person or team might be the first to reach 15 or 20 points.
Lawn darts became a popular backyard game in the late 1950s and is another game for all ages. It is usually played with four darts and two players or teams. The darts are 12 inches long, much larger than those used indoors at home or at pubs. They are held by the rod and thrown underarm at a plastic ring laid on the ground 50 feet away. For a family reunion game and in order to get as many people as possible taking part, this could be reduced to perhaps half the distance.
A dart in the ring scores one point. In competition, extra points can be earned with a dart outside the ring if it lands closer to the ring than an opponent’s dart. Sets can be bought cheaply, although they aren’t available in the US and Canada where they were banned in the late 1980s after three children died from dart injuries.
If the oldies have had enough but younger family members still have energy to burn, a game of volleyball could be organised. This game is normally played by two teams of six on a court with a high net strung across the middle and held up by two posts. At a family reunion or other gathering, up to nine players to a team could take to the court.
Nets are fairly cheap. If you don’t have a net, one can be made fairly quickly with rope and old netting or other bits of material hanging down from the rope. Suitable posts are fixed objects such as a fence, tree, clothes line, or side of a shed or house. The only other thing needed is a volleyball. The object of the game is of course to keep the ball from hitting the ground on your side of the net and trying to hit the ball to the gaps on the other side.
There are many other lawn games suitable for a family reunion. Before deciding which game or games to organize, take into account the number of people, their ages and fitness, and the size of the venue. If you have a family member who has played a particular game competitively, you might like to include this game and ask them to show other members the finer points.