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5 Backyard BBQ Games: Bringing Fun To Your Summer Cookouts

Family reunions, Fourth of July parties, and just plain ol’ summer cookouts, these five BBQ games are the best way for everyone to have fun.

Summer is here, and that means it’s BBQ season! Nothing brings family and friends together quite like a good ol’ backyard cookout. While the grill sizzles and the lemonade flows, there’s no better way to amp up the fun than with some classic, easy-to-set-up backyard games. And the best part? You don’t need to buy anything! Most of these games use everyday household items, making them perfect for spontaneous fun. Let’s dive into five fantastic games that will turn your summer cookout into an unforgettable event.

1. Sack Races

Sack races are a timeless favorite that can get everyone laughing and having fun in no time. Here’s how you can set up and play:

Materials Needed

  • Old pillowcases or large trash bags


  1. Designate a start and finish line in your yard.
  2. Give each participant a sack.

How to Play

  1. Participants stand at the starting line with both feet inside the sack.
  2. On “Go!”, everyone hops towards the finish line.
  3. The first person to cross the finish line wins!

Tips for Maximum Fun

  • Team Races: Pair up participants for a relay race to add a cooperative twist.
  • Obstacle Course: Add obstacles like cones or garden decorations to hop around for an extra challenge.

2. Water Balloon Toss

Cool off and have a blast with a water balloon toss. It’s a simple game that brings loads of laughter, especially on a hot day.

Materials Needed

  • Water balloons


  1. Fill water balloons and divide participants into pairs.
  2. Pairs stand facing each other, starting about 3 feet apart.

How to Play

  1. Each pair tosses a balloon back and forth.
  2. After each successful catch, both partners take a step back.
  3. If the balloon bursts, the pair is out. The last pair with an intact balloon wins!

Tips for Maximum Fun

  • Water Balloon Variations: Try a water balloon relay race where each participant has to carry a balloon on a spoon to a finish line and back.
  • Use What You Have: Whether you have full-size balloons, super-soaker water guns, or just a hose, they all will work. The spontaneity is what makes it fun.

3. Homemade Obstacle Course

An obstacle course can be tailored to fit your space and the ages of your participants. Plus, it uses whatever you have around the house!

Materials Needed

  • Hula hoops
  • Cones or plastic cups
  • Pool noodles
  • Rope
  • Anything else you can find!


  1. Arrange the items in your yard to create a course.

(For example, lay hula hoops on the ground to jump through, set up cones to zigzag around, and use a rope for a balancing line.)

How to Play

  1. Participants take turns running through the course.
  2. Time each person to see who can complete it the fastest.

Tips for Maximum Fun

  • Customize: Adjust the difficulty by changing the number or type of obstacles.
  • Themes: Create themed courses, like pirate treasure hunts or superhero challenges, to keep things exciting.
  • Try It Blindfolded: Team up in pairs of two, and have one member guide the blindfolded member through the course. Forwards, backwards, sideways, whatever makes it fun!

4. Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are great for getting everyone moving and thinking. You can create a list of items that are likely—or very unlikely—to be found in your backyard.

Materials Needed

  • Paper and pen for lists
  • Small bags or baskets for collecting items


  1. Make a list of items for participants to find. This could include things like a specific flower, a rock, something blue, or a feather.
  2. Place items outside if you’ve added uncommon items to the list.
  3. Divide participants into teams or have them play individually.

How to Play

  1. Give each team or participant a list.
  2. Set a timer, and let the hunt begin!
  3. The first team or individual to find all the items wins.

Tips for Maximum Fun

  • Clues: Add fun clues or make each item a riddle to make it more challenging.
  • Themes: Have themed hunts, like nature, colors, or holiday items, to keep the game fresh.

5. Three-Legged Races

Three-legged races are a fun way to promote teamwork and coordination. They’re easy to set up and always good for a laugh.

Materials Needed

  • Scarves, bandanas, or old ties to tie legs together


  1. Pair up participants and have them stand side by side.
  2. Tie the inside legs of each pair together with a scarf or bandana.

How to Play

  1. Pairs line up at the starting line.
  2. On “Go!”, they must work together to race to the finish line without falling.
  3. The first pair to cross the finish line wins.

Tips for Maximum Fun

  • Practice: Give pairs a few minutes to practice walking together before the race.
  • Relay Style: Incorporate the three-legged race into a relay race for added fun.

Additional Tips for a Fun and Safe Game Day

Since you’ll be having too much fun, we’ll be the backpack mom who makes sure everyone stays happy and healthy out in the sun (it’s what we’re best at). Just follow these tips to make sure everyone avoids the post-cookout lobster face.

1. Hydration

Keep plenty of water available, especially if it’s a hot day.

2. Sunscreen

Encourage everyone to apply sunscreen to protect against sunburn.

3. First Aid

Have a basic first aid kit handy for minor scrapes or injuries.

4. Inclusive Play

Adjust games to ensure everyone, regardless of age or ability, can participate and have fun.

Be Open to Fun

Any good cookout game can start from nothing. Your summer cookout traditions can start with a bet to see who can eat the most hot dogs, or a prank to replace all the photos in Grandma’s house with your face. The key to making your own BBQ tradition is to be open to fun.

By incorporating these simple and fun backyard BBQ games—even the ones you make up—into your summer cookouts, you’ll create memories that last a lifetime. No fancy equipment is needed, just a little creativity and a lot of enthusiasm. So, gather your family, fire up the grill, and let the games begin!

Try out this steak fajita recipe from Gas Fire Heat to spice up your summer cookouts.

Discover How to Put On the Best Summer Cookout

The cover of the cookbook Gas Fire Heat.

Gas Fire Heat

The cover of the cookbook Aguas Frescas & Paletas.

Aguas Frescas & Paletas

The cover of the book Big Book of Family Games.

Big Book of Family Games

Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.

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