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Personalized Backyard Games to Buy or DIY

Aug 14, 2018

by Dayna Isom Johnson

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Every Tuesday evening from July 31–September 4, we’ll be hosting a quick recap of the latest episode of NBC’s competitive crafting show, Making It, and sharing original DIYs and shopping ideas tied to each week’s theme. So mark your calendars and don’t forget to tune in at 10/9c—or stream it whenever you need a dose of inspo—then meet us here to get inspired and get crafty.

It’s August, and you know what that means: time to squeeze in as much summer fun as we can before fall sneaks up on us (where does the time go?). Right on theme: On Episode 3 of Making It, the contestants were asked to inspire some backyard family bonding by creating outdoor games (and seating to go with them)—and wow, did they pull off some pie-in-the-sky ideas. We’re talking everything from a cactus-shaped ring toss to catch-the-lobster.

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Needless to say I loved their creativity, but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to rediscover the joy of playing games in the fresh air with the people you love. Even basic, nostalgic yard games will spark laughter, conversation, and good times—and let us go back to the days when we weren’t constantly distracted by Instagram and Candy Crush. Playing spades and volleyball with my cousins, aunts, and uncles at family cookouts—those simple moments have become lasting memories for me.

One way to make those everyday pleasures even more memorable is to set yourself up with some personalized or custom gear—which you can commission from loads of sellers on Etsy, or even try to DIY.  So what are you waiting for—September?

Cornhole

The only thing more fun than playing a good old-fashioned game of cornhole is thinking about all the ways you could personalize your own set—those smooth wood planes are basically blank canvases calling your name.

To buy: I love these home-state boards from Crafty Doods—they’d make a great gift for a couple buying their first home together. You could also theme them to feature the locations of the colleges each person went to or other meaningful spots.

To DIY: If you’d rather customize some cornhole boards yourself, just order an unfinished-wood set and get started. Ask all the kids in the extended family to put handprints on them and write their ages and the date. Or make a set for your annual block party, with a painted stripe featuring each family’s last name. Order stamps or sponge-paint a blue sky with fluffy clouds. Whatever design you choose will become an instant classic you’ll look forward to pulling out of the garage for years to come. If you have sewing skills, you can even pick up some coordinating fabric and make your own bean bags (or just order some cool ones on Etsy, of course).

Kubb

I’ll admit I’m still learning how to play this lawn game after a coworker’s Swedish boyfriend introduced it to me, but basically the goal is to knock down the other team’s kubbs, or wood blocks, by throwing another wood piece at them. (They even had to correct my pronunciation at first—not “cub” but koob, with a sophisticated Swedish accent.) It’s really popular in Europe, and it’s growing more and more popular on Etsy too. Go ahead, challenge all those horseshoe and bocce champs by busting this one out at your next barbecue.

To buy: This solid wood kubb set from DigaDesigns can be customized in one of five colors (to match your backyard decor, or your family’s favorite sports team) and is sealed to protect it from the elements, earning it future-family-heirloom status.

To DIY: Custom-paint a portable cedar kubb “six-pack” from Lumburr to bring to weekend picnics in the park—it’ll even fit in your bike basket. You could use a wood-burning tool to monogram the carrier, which by the way, also neatly fits six beers.

Oversize tic-tac-toe

After years of playing it exclusively on paper restaurant placemats, it’s time to take tic-tac-toe to a whole other level of fun by bringing it outdoors.

To buy: This travel-ready set from the Dutch Goldfinch can be customized in two ways: with standard letters in the colors of your choice, or with the letters of your choice instead of the typical X’s and O’s (try your initials, or yours and your sweetheart’s).

To DIY: If you rig your own “board” using rope or chalk you can just stock up on sets of loose wooden letters for each family member’s initial—and never forget which one of you is X or O this time around. Plus, you can paint them whatever awesome color combo you prefer.

Jumbo stacking tower game

A true classic that nobody can resist—you’ll never walk into a bar and see a set sitting there un-played. I love how it brings out everyone’s competitive spirit—and especially watching peoples’ faces as they ever-so-carefully remove those blocks.

To buy: Hands-down the most-fun anniversary gift ever. Order a set from Wood Thingamajigs in your wedding colors, along with your names and the wedding date, and you’ll relive the big day together every time you play (especially if you’re hanging out with friends who were in your wedding party way back when).

To DIY: There are so many ways to customize an unfinished set like this one. At each year’s family reunion, write a favorite memory from the day on a block. Or use this as a guest book at a wedding, having loved ones write sweet notes on the blocks. It’s sentimental and suspenseful all at once.

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