They say that: “Having a garden is like having an extra room in your house.”
If you have kids and you’re lucky enough to have some outdoor space it can often be more than one room’s worth… working as a playroom, exercise yard, an in-person biology lab and much more.
Most parents though will have heard the refrain of: “I’m bored.” a little too often – so how can you add some new life to your garden or outdoor space, without breaking the bank?
Even the most-loved games can pale a bit when you play them for the 19th day in a row so investing in two or three fun games can not only keep the kids fit and active but also stave off the return of that dreaded: “I’m bored!”
Swingball is a classic garden game. If you grew up in the 70s, 80s or 90s you or your friends almost certainly had a set.
And it’s making a big comeback (which can cause stock levels to fluctuate quite a lot with some suppliers, so do checkout all the buying options).
It’s a great game for kids from any age from about four or five-years-old. The rackets are really light and plastic so once they’re big enough to pick them up and take a swing, they’re ready to play.
You can make it as competitive or collaborative as you like.
The differences you’re looking at in the sets here are mostly how it’s affixed to the ground: either through a spike into the ground or with a weighted base (filled with something like water or sand).
If you have the lawn and the gardener in your family doesn’t mind you spearing it into their turf, the spiked version is a little more stable and reliable. But the weighted base option does make it more mobile (so you can take it to the beach or to a friend’s house etc.).
The only limitations are: only two kids can play at a time and you need enough space to swing the proverbial cat… or at least a ball on a rope, though many sets come with a tether which you can shorten the rope with, if you’re really tight on space.
Alternatives to Swingball
If you’re child (or inner child!) is a bit anti-tennis, there are lots of alternatives for active, sporty games.
From a netball hoop to practise their shooting and throwing accuracy; to a kick-ball returner for your budding football or soccer stars; to a brilliantly entertaining table-tennis version (you need laser-sharp reflexes for this one!).
And the great thing with almost all of these games is: you can play them on your own. Perfect for an only child (or the one that gets left out!) when they want to while away some time and have some fun (that isn’t just the ‘electronic baby-sitter’ of the TV!).
The football game is especially great for those frustrated kids who may be missing their friends and are desperate to have a kick-about. Especially if Mum or Dad’s fitness/abilities aren’t quite up to the required standard!
Petanque or boule
Perhaps those are too active for yours kids (or you!).
For the less mobile, those with movement difficulties (or disabilities) or just the ‘less sporty’ kids, you can still get outside and have some fun.
Games like pétanque or boule or whichever name you prefer are all variations on a theme: get your ball as close to the target as possible.
And there are some gorgeous sets to be had too:
There are plastic boule sets available (and the bright primary colours can be a bit more kid friendly) but they don’t last very long.
One accidental drop on the patio can crack a ball… or a rare cold evening and a frost and crack… that’s another one gone. We think the metal ones are worth spending that little bit more on (but do remind your little darlings (and the big kids!) not to wave them around over their heads in triumph… they’re heavy).
Quoits is another classic game, often played on ships and cruises (as the rope elements are less likely to roll away on a tilting deck!).
If you don’t have that much outdoor space this velcro target game could be ideal. The target balls are tennis balls (so less likely than a heavy ‘boule’ to cause injury if dropped on a head or toe!) and the target has sticky patches like a dartboard, worth various points. Loads of fun!
If you do have a bit more room, nothing screams ‘English Country Garden’ more than a croquet set. This one from Jaques of London, complete with canvas carry bag is glorious. Cream tea anyone?
If your kids are yawning their way through that lot, maybe something more active?
Spikeball (or Rashball, BamBall, Spiderball… it’s a bit like Nike vs. Adidas vs. Reebok etc.) has burst on to the garden games scene in the last few years. It’s hugely popular in Germany.
Starting out from catching and fielding drills for sports like baseball or cricket it’s emerged into a fun active gaming scene has built up around these toys.
There are a number of catching and reflex-testing point scoring games you can play or again, these can be a great solo game or stress-buster for someone with energy to burn off:
They’re really portable too so you can take them to the beach, park or to a family picnic for when the children are going to need to let off steam.
If you have a big cricket fan in your family, do check out out: Gifts for Cricket Fans – which includes specialist cricket fielding-drill versions of this game.
As the weather warms up through spring and summer (or even a late ‘Indian Summer’ if it’s a good year!) it can get startlingly hot outside, even in the UK.
So keeping cool can be tricky, especially as the kids run around at 300mph in the blazing sunshine.
We’ve got just the things:
A paddling pool.
The kids jump in and splash around whilst Mum and Dad (or Granny and Grandad!) pull up a chair and dip their feet in to keep cool.
Obviously kids should never be left unattended when there’s water around but we’ve thought of that too.
There are affordable inflatable paddling pools with chairs and drinks holders built in. One of these surely has your name on it:
Again, there are cheaper options available but what you’re paying for is either depth (higher walls so they can fit in more water) or gadgets, gismo and slides to play with (like the dinosaur example above).
Pay that little bit extra for something with thicker, higher sides and you won’t have to pay out twice or spend your evenings with the puncture repair kit!
Whilst you’re there, save a few pounds for these brilliant crochet balloons – for the ultimate eco-friendly water fight!
Water Slides and More
Your kids will love these water slide ideas too.
Your garden maybe not so much… as they can be a little ‘tough on the turf’ causing a bit of a minor flood from time to time.
But seriously… the kids will love it. And, if you take it easy with the water you don’t have to sacrifice your garden to the cause:
The price and variations you’re looking at will affect the length or shape of the slide. Some have curves or added ‘bumpers’ etc.
You will need a good bit of space for one of these though. Most are around 15-16ft long (about 5 metres) and that’s not including the space the kids will want for a run-up… nor the space the adults will want for a ‘buffer zone’ (so the kids don’t face-plant into a wall or Aunt Margaret’s begonias!).
Bank on needing at least 20 feet of clear space if you’re thinking of getting one of these.
We realise that ‘adding fun to your garden’ is a real first world problem. Not everyone is lucky enough to have some outdoor space – so we’re especially grateful that we do, even more so during the lockdown around the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wherever you are in the world, we hope you’re staying safe and are able to have some fun. We hope this post brings you and your loved ones a few more moments of laughter. We all need that.
Last update on 2021-06-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API