Whether your family picnic is small and intimate or a reunion of many generations, there is always that time after the eating is over when both kids and adults become fidgety and yearn for playful diversions. Planning a variety of games and entertainment that everyone can enjoy adds an extra element of pleasure to the event.
Traditional Yard Games
If your picnic area has large, open, flat areas of land, plan some games of skill that are fun for all ages. You can adjust the rules to give everyone a fair chance of winning while they learn new skills and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
All you need for this game are two stakes about 20 inches high and four metal horseshoes. You can get the horseshoes from a local blacksmith or buy a horseshoe game set at a sporting goods or toy store. Pound the stakes into the ground so about 14 inches are visible. Regulation horseshoe stakes are 40 feet apart, but you can adjust the distance to meet the skill levels of the players.
Two teams of two players take turns tossing the horseshoes toward the stakes. Points are awarded for the horseshoes that are closest to the stake. If the shoe touches the stake or is within 6 inches of it, you earn one point. If the shoe encircles the stake, you gain three points. The team that reaches 40 points first wins, or you can choose a random number of winning points, as well as a different scoring technique.
This game requires special equipment available for sale at sporting goods stores. Croquet can be played by two to four players at once and involves hitting wooden or plastic balls through metal frames inserted into the ground at various intervals. There are different versions of the game that are included with the croquet set.
All you need to play this game are people and a pillowcase, potato sack or other cloth bag for each player. Set up a start and a finish line. Divide the players into two teams and have each player put his feet and legs into the sack and hop from the starting point to the finish line, and then back. The first team to do so wins the game. To increase the difficulty of the competition, turn it into a Three-Legged Race where two players each put a leg into the sack to make one leg and use their outer legs to hop the course together.
Incorporating food or water into family picnic games adds an element of humor to the day. You can divide large groups of people by age to make the competitions more equitable.
Egg and Spoon Relay Race
Gather at least six to eight contestants and equip each of them with identical plastic or metal spoons. Divide the people into teams behind a starting line and point out a distant tree or other object for the players to walk around. Line up the participants single file behind the starting line. At the starting command, the first person in each line must balance a raw egg on the spoon, walk to and around the tree and return to the starting point, where he passes the egg to the next team member's spoon to repeat the walk. If the egg falls off the spoon, the player must start over from the starting line. The first team to complete the task without breaking the egg wins the game.
Pie Eating Contest
Buy a bunch of cheap pies or have each guest bring their own. Seat all the contestants at a large table with their hands tied behind them and place a pie in front of them. Sound a starting gun or give a command to start. The first person to eat the pie assigned to them without using hands or utensils is the winner.
This game is especially fun on a sweltering summer day when everyone is trying to cool down. Arm all the players with water guns or water-filled balloons. Divide the group into teams designated by armbands or bandanas, and send them into combat. When an appropriate amount of time has passed, or the competition starts to get too rowdy, blow a whistle to end it. Use an independent judge to assess which team is drier and crown the members of that team the winners.
Rainy Day Options
If a thunderstorm or spring shower interrupts your family picnic, you may have to find shelter in a gazebo or park clubhouse until it passes. Keep a deck of cards in the car or pack a couple of board games in the trunk to provide indoor fun until the sun shines again. Keeping in the spirit of physical games, a good 'board game' for outdoor fun is Twister. Playing this game in a gazebo or covered shelter is ideal because everyone can howl with laughter without disturbing anyone else.
Keep your family's customs and preferences in mind when planning outdoor games. Bring music along, or enjoy the sounds of nature. If you keep your family's regular preferences in mind when planning the picnic games, your event is sure to be a success, rain or shine.