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Bonsai! Summer's best outdoor games!

As we've written here over the past several weeks, summer is marked by many things: from grilling and watersports to gardening and, of course, travel. There's one category of activity, however, that seems to harken back to some of the purest memories of childhood. Each summer we have the opportunity to relive those seemingly unending days of summer vacay. What activities you might ask? Why outdoor games in your own backyard, of course! Whether you have a "true" backyard, a front yard or simply a nearby community park at your disposal, the family fun can certainly be equally as rich. Having lived in the western, mountain, midwestern and now eastern regions of the US, I've noticed that there really are some different regional approaches to having a blast outdoors with the fam. The following are just a few of my personal favorites, but we'd love to hear your go-to backyard games as well.

Badminton: A classic, if not also an ongoing mystery. How can that birdie manage to zip through the air so quickly and yet, at times, hang as if suspended by the gods of Badminton themselves?! Regardless of it's erratic nature, this game is inexpensive, easy to setup and a blast for the whole family. While those of us with hand-eye coordination issues may look like more like we're making sport of fly-swatting, this game rarely fails to deliver a decent workout, great conversation and some serious laughs! For those that take it a bit more seriously than most, YouTube is full of some crazy-inspirational clips of the game played well - study-up!

Bocce: There are variations of this game, also known as boule in French-speaking countries or even petanque, whose deeply-rooted heritage dates back to ancient Roman times. A straightforward, but deceptively difficult game of precision and strategy, defensive elements of bocce are reminiscent of shuffleboard or curling. Bocce is portable, simple to play and fits casually into any gathering or summer cocktail party - where one hand is likely busy keeping hold of a cool refreshment. Why not relive history this summer with a bit of Bocce?

Slip 'n Slide: Little needs be said here. Some flowing water and a long strip of plastic are all you need to truly embrace the spirit of summer. While this is certainly an activity aimed more for the kids, parents don't simply have to observe. As long as you're ready to be careening across your lawn somewhat embarassingly, and need to cool off, I'm sure the kids will let you rotate in. After all, while you're reliving a bit of your childhood you'll be creating hysterical memories for the kids to remember as part of theirs! Parental warning: this one can produce bruises and "yeowch" moments the next morning if you don't pace yourself! It's not simply Slip 'N Slide anymore by the way, with Hydroplane, Double and Triple Racer models, there are all sorts of new twists on the original.

Croquet: Hoops, pegs and mallets. Sound intriguing? Well, if you're unfamiliar with croquet that doesn't really give you much to go on, but needless to say this game involves hitting wooden balls through a circuit of hoops more deftly than your competition. The game has a certain air of its British roots, but don't feel like you need a yacht waiting in the marina or a complete hipster outfit in order to play. Most sets are relatively affordable and either on wheels or otherwise portable enough to fit in the backseat for a trip to the local park. Beware: there can a temptation to convert this into a layman's game of polo if any bicycles are nearby. Not recommended, so resist the temptation!

Corntoss: This is a classic that I only really learned about once I'd spent a couple summers in the Midwest. Also known as "Corn Hole" or "Bean Bag Toss," this game is more legit than it might sound. What looks like a pretty simple game of tossing an object into a sloped opening a distance away can become exceedingly difficult the further away you get. And, just when you think you're going to sink one of your shots, it may well slide right off. This is a really easy game to also treat as a DIY project, given that constructing a set can be a great parent-child bonding afternoon project. So grab yourself a forgiving partner and check out this site for further detail!

Bolo Toss (aka "Ladder Toss"): Don't worry, you won't need to raid your father or grandfather's tie closet to be fully-equipped for this game. This is another backyard entertaining go-to that I picked-up when I lived in the Midwest. The hand-eye coordination involved here is, much like Corntoss, much harder than it looks! These sets typically retail for between $20 and $35, but, again if you're handy with some dowels and a saw, then you could certainly jimmie one of these up on your own. The object is to get the bolos to stay on the rungs, with higher points awarded the higher your bolo is placed on one of the three rungs. With competitors and gravity seeking to bounce your toss off, it poses quite the conundrum of concentration. Enjoy your tossing!

So, these are some of the classics that come to my mind, but what backyard games have you and your family found to be your favorites?

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