9 Backyard Games That Won’t Ruin Your Lawn

kids playing yard games

You love a good football scrimmage in the backyard but hate the holes it leaves in your lawn. We’ve got nine lawn games that are easy on your turfgrass so you can enjoy the time outdoors instead of worrying about your lawn with every snap.

9 backyard games that won’t ruin your lawn

1. Badminton

Badminton can be played with as few as two people. If you’re feeling social, invite three friends over and play doubles. All you’ll need is a net, a few shuttlecocks, and some rackets, and you’re ready to play.

Why badminton won’t ruin your lawn: If you play infrequently and keep up with the recommended yard maintenance for your grass type, your lawn may not see any wear or will recover quickly. If you plan to play more often, this may not be the best game choice if you want to keep your lawn pristine.

2. Cornhole

Most people are familiar with cornhole. Each player aims to toss small bags (yes, they’re often filled with corn) into the hole or on top of the board to earn points. If you’re not familiar with this game, it is a kind of bean bag toss. Whether you’re playing solo or have several friends, you can enjoy a game of cornhole on your lawn. 

Why cornhole won’t ruin your lawn: The bags are very lightweight. Move the board(s) around the lawn each time you play to avoid wearing down the same area of turf.

3. Frisbee

Throwing a frisbee is a fun game the whole family (including Fido) can enjoy, and it’s one of the best lawn games if you’re on a budget. 

Why frisbee won’t ruin your lawn: Unless you play ultimate frisbee every week, a few hours of frisbee every so often won’t hurt a healthy lawn.

4. Giant yard games

If you prefer to spend your summer days in your own backyard instead of at the beach, try these jumbo-sized classic games. 

  • Backyard tic-tac-toe

Buy or make a giant set with jumbo X and O shapes, or keep it simple with Hula Hoops and bean bags or whatever you have around.

  • Giant dice

These are great for outdoor dice games like yard Yahtzee (AKA Yardzee). Low on cash? Homemade giant dice are a great DIY project.

  • Giant Jenga

Giant Jenga is a jumbo-sized version of the classic game. Most sets even come with a handy carrying case so you can take it on the road.

  • Life-sized checkers/chess 

Take these indoor board games outside. Don’t leave the set on the grass long-term, though, unless you don’t mind going without grass in that area.

Why giant yard games won’t ruin your lawn: As long as you pick up the giant game after you use it, there shouldn’t be any harm to the lawn.

5. Kubb

First off, let’s get this pronunciation right: Sounds like “koob.” Ok, so what is Kubb? The story goes that this is a modern version of an ancient Viking game. Kubb means “block of wood,” and the modern game is composed of three kinds of large wooden pieces: one king, six batons (femurs) and 10 kubbs (skulls). 

Have a minimum of four to six people to play on opposing teams. (Exact rules of engagement vary in official competitions.) Knock down all of the opposing team’s kubbs without knocking over the king. Then knock down the king for the win.

Why Kubb won’t ruin your lawn: You will need to smush the grass a little to get the pieces to stand up in the lawn, but not to worry. If you have a healthy lawn, it should rebound without any trouble.

6. Ladder toss (AKA ladder golf)

You may have seen ladder toss games outside stadiums on game day. To play this tailgate favorite, you’ll need a ladder toss set which includes six bolas (two balls attached by a string) and two small “ladders.” You can play with two or four players. The goal is to earn points by throwing the bolas to hit the horizontal rungs and wrap around the ladder. 

Why ladder toss won’t ruin your lawn: Most ladders are very lightweight and won’t cause damage to healthy grass.

7. Ring toss

Ring toss games are simple but have been enjoyed for eons. If you like to DIY, this is a great game to construct from scratch or use things you have around the house. Horseshoes are another variation of this theme.

Why ring toss won’t ruin your lawn: Most ring toss footprints are very small. Change the location each time you play to avoid wearing down the lawn.

8. Spikeball

Spikeball is a fun game to play with three friends. Since the field of play is centered around a small net, this game is perfect for those with small lawns.

Why spikeball won’t ruin your lawn: The field of play is very small. Move the net around each time to avoid hitting the soil in the same place each time you play.

9, Water balloon dodgeball

Fill up a bucket of water balloons, choose your teams, and start dodging. 

Why water balloon dodgeball won’t ruin your lawn: Most people only play this game during the hottest months of the year, so the season for this game is limited. With such a short season, a healthy, well-maintained lawn should be fine.

How to protect your lawn from traffic damage

Outdoor games don’t have to hurt your lawn. Here are a few tips and tricks to avoid damage in the first place.

Know your lawn

Certain turfgrasses are more resistant to wear than others.

Warm-season grasses that resist wear in high foot traffic situations:

  • Bermudagrass
  • Zoysiagrass (moderate to high, depending on variety)

Cool-season grasses that resist wear in high foot traffic situations:

  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Perennial ryegrass
  • Tall fescue

Most cool-season lawns are mixes of more than one cool-season grass. This helps the lawn resist disease and gives a stronger overall lawn. This happens because you’re taking advantage of the strengths of more than one grass species.

Note: Keep in mind that the recuperative potential (see chart on pg. six) is different from wear tolerance. The grasses listed above (both warm- and cool-season) are good at resisting damage (wear tolerance). But once damage occurs, you have to think about its ability to recuperate as well. 

Both bermuda and Zoysia have stolons (above-ground stems) and rhizomes (below-ground stems) that help them to recover if there is too much wear and you get a few bare patches in the lawn. Bermuda spreads aggressively and has excellent recuperative ability. Zoysia recovers well also, but its growth habit is very slow, so recovery will take more time.

Perennial ryegrass and tall fescue get top marks for their ability to resist wear, but they fall at the bottom of the pack when it comes to recuperative ability. Tall fescue (with some exceptions) and perennial ryegrass are bunching grasses and do not have the stolons or rhizomes to repair themselves. Kentucky bluegrass only has moderate wear resistance but its rhizomes give it a moderate ability to recuperate from wear. 

Grasses with high recuperative potential:

  • Bermudagrass (high)
  • Kentucky bluegrass (moderate)
  • Zoysiagrass (high, but slow-growing)

Change ‘em up!

OK, we’re not talking hockey here, but it’s a good idea to vary the traffic (er… game) patterns in the lawn. Don’t set up cornhole boards, blocks, dice, etc., in the same spot each time you play. Rotate the equipment around to different spots on the lawn.

Clean ‘em up!

Once you’re done for the day, pick up your boards, nets, or rings and store them away from the elements. This not only protects your equipment, but also prevents the games, nets, or balls from pushing the grass down for an extended period.

Carry (don’t slide) equipment across the lawn

When you’re hauling your equipment to or from the storage area, carry it to its final destination. Pulling a cornhole board across the grass will cause unnecessary damage.

Go barefoot

As you enjoy backyard sports with your friends, consider adding a new twist to your favorite games: going barefoot. Not only may going barefoot have health benefits, but it is also easier on your lawn as well.

How to prevent damaged grass

The way to do as little repair as possible is to keep up with your seasonal lawn maintenance. It’s similar to your health. If you give yourself a healthy diet and exercise, you’ll be less likely to succumb to bugs when they come your way. And if you do get sick, it may be less severe, and you’re more likely to recover faster.

Here’s a quick snapshot of a seasonal lawn maintenance calendar:


  • Pre-emergent weed control
  • Spring cleanup
  • First mow of the season


  • Overseed* (warm-season lawns)
  • Aerate or dethatch* (warm-season lawns) 
  • Fertilize* (warm-season lawns)
  • Deep but infrequent irrigation
  • Mow at the correct height
  • Raise the mowing height by one-half inch in the hottest months
  • Remove no more than one-third of the blade per mow
  • Spot treat weeds as needed

*Late spring/early summer


  • Keep mowing
  • Mulch-mow the leaves
  • Aerate or dethatch as needed (cool-season lawns)
  • Fertilize (cool-season lawns)
  • Overseed (cool-season lawns)
  • Pre-emergent weed control

If you already have compacted soil, use a heavy mower, or play lots of sports on your lawn, aeration may be an annual chore. If you use the lawn for play and games throughout the year, plan to do overseeding annually as well.

How to repair damaged grass

The best way to repair damaged grass is to overseed it. Here’s how:

  • Mow the grass down to 1 ½ to 2 inches.
  • Dethatch or aerate, as needed. (If you’re overseeding small patches, you don’t have to use a dethatcher or aerator machine. Instead, use a lawn rake to rough up the soil surface a bit.)
  • Put down ½ inch of compost.
  • Use a starter fertilizer if your soil test recommends it.
  • Spread the seed. (Look at the instructions for the rate of application.)
  • Use the back of a rake to push the seed into the soil/compost layer.
  • Water.

For more information, check out our how-to guide: 4 Steps to Overseed a Lawn.

FAQ about backyard games that won’t ruin your lawn

1. Which backyard games cause the most traffic damage on a lawn?

Any sport that constantly impacts the lawn with balls (think bocce ball) or foot traffic will compact the lawn. If left untreated, compacted soil will cause the turf to thin and die in spots around the lawn.  

When you think about compaction, frequency of impact and degree of impact are two other things to keep in mind. If you play football twice per season with a few friends vs. every weekend with 20 of your best buddies, you’ll see a big difference in how your lawn responds.

The following sports can give your turf a tough time:
Bocce ball
Lawn bowling

No one is going to stop playing a pick-up game of football on the lawn, but know that these games may be harder on the lawn than others. Opt for tennis shoes over cleats, and read our next FAQ for more tips on how to strengthen your grass so it can take whatever game you throw at it.

2. How do I grow a healthy lawn?

Here at Lawn Love, we’re chock-full of articles on how to take care of your lawn. Dig into some of our resources for more information:

Cool-season fall lawn care: 9 Fall Lawn Care Tips for Indianapolis
Warm-season fall lawn care: Fall Lawn Care Checklist for Fort Worth

Cool-season spring lawn care: 8 Spring Lawn Care Tips for Milwaukee
Warm-season spring lawn care: 12 Spring Lawn Care Tips for Greenville

What is Overseeding?
Fertilizer Basics: What to Look for in Your Fertilizer
Lawn Mowing Tips and Tricks

3. Other tips to make my backyard game-day ready?

Before you invite friends over for a game of water balloon dodgeball, be sure to pick up after your dog. If you have a dog, it might be helpful to have a designated dog zone so the rest of your lawn is always ready for game day.

If you’d rather focus on your cornhole toss than seasonal lawn maintenance, we can help. Let our local lawn care pros mow, edge, fertilize, and keep your lawn ready for whatever games may come its way.

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Sarah Bahr

Sarah is a writer who has previously worked in the lawn care industry. In her spare time, she likes to garden, raise chickens, and mow the grass with her battery-powered lawn mower.