Last Updated: May 10th, 2019
By: Taira Jordan
Apart from being just plain fun, playing games at the park has many health benefits for kids and adults alike. In addition to the benefits associated with physical activity, outdoor play promotes healthy living and helps to reduce stress. Just by being outside on a sunny day, you get a healthy dose of Vitamin D from the sun which helps to strengthen your immune system. For kids, studies have shown that outdoor play is crucial to brain development as well as the development of motor and social skills.
Play at the park can be unstructured or structured and both are essential for child development. Unstructured play allows kids to be imaginative, while structured play usually has an element of competition and helps kids build confidence and communication skills. Fun games that can be played at the park with family or a group of friends include, but are not limited to: disc golf, horseshoes, bocce ball and croquet. If the sun is shining, pack up your park essentials and head to the park for a family day or after school fun!
Popularly played in 40 countries around the world, disc golf has rules similar to traditional golf. Instead of using clubs and a golf ball, disc golf players throw a flying disc or Frisbee from a “tee” area to a target “hole”. After each person has taken their throw, each player makes their next throw from the spot where the previous throw landed. Like golf, the object of disc golf is to go from the beginning of the course to the end with the fewest number of throws. For a more competitive game, you can set a par for each hole and keep track of bogeys, birdies and eagles.
A game for all ages, disc golf can be played at a public disc golf course, park, or any green space. The typical game of 18 holes takes between one and two hours and provides good cardio exercise with little risk of physical injury. This inexpensive sport can be played with a disc golf set that includes discs that vary in weights and sizes. Most disc golf sets have a driver, mid-range disc and putter. As players commonly lose their Frisbees, you should look to buy brightly colored discs to better keep track of their flight path.
Easy to learn and play, horseshoe emphasizes accuracy and precision. The simple purpose of this game is to hook or encircle a metal horseshoe around a vertical iron peg. Players score points by throwing ringers (hooking the horseshoe), leaners (resting the horseshoe against the stake) or simply by getting a horseshoe closest to the stake.
Horseshoe pits can be found at some parks and include two sand pits set roughly 40 feet apart with wooden backstops and a metal stake in the center of each pit. When a horseshoe pit is unavailable, you can create your own arena by driving two metal stakes into sand or grass. Horseshoe sets usually include two metal stakes and four horseshoes, two of each color. Played by either singles or doubles, the first team pitches both horseshoes and then the second team throws their horseshoes from the opposite end. Points are tallied at the end of each round.
Brought to America by Italian immigrants in the 20th century, bocce ball is a relaxed yet strategic game played by singles or teams of two, three or four. Standard bocce ball sets contain eight colored balls, four of each color, and one smaller ball known as a jack or pallino. The game begins by the first team throwing the pallino and then the first bocce ball, trying to get as close to the pallino as possible. As points are given to the team whose bocce balls are closest to the pallino, players strategize by knocking the pallino closer to their own bocce balls or hitting an opponent’s ball away from the pallino. Bocce ball courts made of dirt, clay or grass can be found at some parks. The game can also be played in any open space.
Originating in France in the 13th century, croquet has been a popular lawn game ever since. While there are multiple variations of croquet, the object of croquet is to use a wooden mallet to hit a ball from the starting stake, through all the wickets or hoops, and back to the starting point. Players score points both by hitting the ball through the wickets in the proper order and by hitting the wooden stakes. Popularly known as Backyard croquet, the rules of Nine-Wicket croquet differ from Six-Wicket or competitive croquet.