The great thing about picnics is they can be whatever you want them to be. The worst thing is not having a few picnic games, in case your friends start feeling a bit restless.
The opportunity to eat outdoors with your closest friends is an opportunity that should be used to the max. Whether you’re picnicking in your backyard, in a park or in a forest, you’ve got access to a larger than normal playing space. Some of your friends might enjoy lounging around, and some of them might want something more energetic to do.
This collection of picnic games is the best of both worlds. It gives both sets of your friends fun things to do, and all of it in the name of relaxing and people getting to know each other.
Because that’s the best part of picnics, right? Bonding with your friends over good food in the fresh air.
Let’s get started.
Picnic Games With Cards
Group Silent Charades
Break everyone into 2 teams of equal players. Each player in Group 1 thinks up a charade each, and writes 2 copies of it. Collect all the papers, shuffle, then distribute, making sure everyone in both teams gets a slip each. On Go!, players from both team spread out and simultaneously act out their charade – in total silence – while also looking for another person doing the same charade. When this person is identified, both people make a silent gesture that signifies they are the same then must sit down immediately. The last pair to sit is out.
When everyone is down, pairs now share their charades. If pairs are the wrong match, these players are out. The remaining pairs split into 2 new teams, for a second round featuring new charades. Keep going until there’s one pair left standing.
If you’re not looking for energetic picnic games, then Loaded Questions might be more your thing. Unlike most card games, Loaded Questions doesn’t require much thinking, which makes it great for a relaxing time with friends.
The person nominated to start the game picks a card from the question card stack and reads out the question. Everyone else then secretly writes their answer to the question on their answer sheet. The answers are collected up, shuffled and read out one by one by the person to the right of the question asker. The question asker must now guess what answer belongs to which player.
For this version of Pictionary, you will need strips of paper, 2 reporters notepads and pens. Firstly, invite everyone to write down 10 to 15 phrases, objects, nouns, people, etc, and mix the strips of paper in a large bowl. Break everyone into pairs or equal teams.
Playing against the clock, in rounds of 30 seconds, one player from the first team must help their team guess what the word drawn from the bowl, by drawing it only. Phrases can be as ridiculous as you like, for example: ‘a bird with one wing’, ‘an upside down cake’. The team who gets the most answers correct out of a series of rounds wins.
Movie Reverse Charades
This game requires a bit of prep before you have the picnic. Write down on strips of paper the names of famous movies, then bring them to the picnic in a plastic box. Nominate someone to be your guesser. Instead of this person acting out a movie name drawn from the box, everybody else must act out the movie together for this person to guess. The guesser has 30 seconds to guess as many correct movies as they can.
Never Have I Ever
Get everyone standing in a circle, then say to the group, “Never have I ever…” Then complete the sentence with something they might never have done, such as: travelled to Scotland, seen a wolf. Anyone who has has done it must hold up one finger. The first person with 3 fingers up is knocked out of the game. Keep going until one person remains and is declared the winner.
Picnic Games From Childhood
Looking for lunacy combined with competition? This game is perfect for you. Four-legged racing is played by attaching an adjustable ankle strap to the same leg of each partner. Then everyone runs to the finish line together as one person with 4 legs, without trying to fall over as they do it. You can organise different types of games, for example, three-legged games, couples vs couples, etc.
Split everyone up into teams and set up a start and finish line about 20 feet in length. Get your players to the start line and on Go!, they must run down the race course by crouching down and holding their ankles as they run. They run to the finish line, jump up like a gorilla, then run back, still holding their ankles as they run.
Back at the start line, their next team player takes their turn. When the last player returns to the team, their whole team must run to the finish line – again holding their ankles – to win the game.
Piggy Back Racing
This picnic game’s just the easiest game of all. Get your friends into pairs and have them stand at some distance away from the picnic area (which can be the finish line).
Get one of the pairs to piggy back their partner and run for the finish; the first pair there is the winner.
You might recognise this game. One friend puts their hands on the ground, while another holds up their feet as they walk along. The trick is to make sure the friend holding the legs doesn’t go faster than the “wheelbarrow”, otherwise the whole thing will fall over. Get everyone assembled at a start line and aimed towards some kind of finish line.
Fake Egg And Spoon Racing
I say “fake egg” because we’re using tennis balls in this game. Line up each player at a start line with a tennis ball balanced on a large spoon. They must now race to the finish line without dropping their ball. Anytime the ball drops, the player needs to return to the start and begin again. The first person to cross the line without dropping their ball is the winner.
Silly Picnic Games
Choose one player to be your Sculptor, then get everyone to their feet and standing still. The Sculptor then moves between everyone, placing each person in a difficult pose. Players must try and maintain their poses without laughing, smile, moving or breaking pose. Anyone who does is knocked out of the game. Last player standing wins.
Draw to Score
You will need to do some prep before the picnic. In that prep, write out a list of topics, e.g. pets, food, then from that list, write out items from each topic; so for pets, list cat, rabbit, etc. It’s this second list of items you will use in the game.
Divide everyone into even teams with their own referee. On Go!, the first player of each team is given the same word and must draw it (no talking allowed) for their people to guess. When guessed correctly, the next player runs to you for the next word. The team with the most points wins.
Picnic Post It Note Game
Write down the names of celebrities and fictional characters on Post-It notes, passing them (face down) until everyone has one. Then ask everyone to stick their note to their forehead (or hold it there if the note is not sticky). People then mingle, taking turns to ask whoever they meet Yes or No questions around their secret identity. “Do I have two legs” is a fun place to start. Keep playing the game until everyone has guessed their name.
You will need a tennis ball and some plastic drinking cups for this game. Place the cups in a row, each down weighed down inside by a stone to stop them falling over or blowing over.
Players must roll their ball towards the cups. The first player to knock over 5 cups after multiple rounds is the winner.
For this picnic game, you will need Post-It notes, Sellotape and a pen. Write down a different ingredient of a hamburger on each note, then tape one note on the back of each player. Players must now rearrange themselves in the correct order a hamburger is made. You can easily play this game as a competition by having 2 teams do this as a race. You can also trip players up by creating a long list of hamburger ingredients or choosing a more complex food item.
Competitive Picnic Games
To play volleyball you need to a playing net and a ball, although stringing rope between 2 sturdy tree branches is okay. Split everyone up into 2 teams of ideally 6 players. The goal of volleyball is to send the ball over the net so that the opposing team cannot return the ball back over or stop it from hitting the ground. When the ball goes over the net, whoever intercepts it before it hits the ground motions the ball towards one of their team who then tries to hit it over the net.
The reason volleyball teams need 6 players is that everyone needs to assume a position at the net. You have 3 players taking forward positions close to the net (1 player in the middle then players flanking either side) and 3 playing the back court. Any one of these players can intercept the ball as it goes over the net. I personally love volleyball and things can get very competitive very fast, so be warned!
If you’re looking for a more strategic game, Bocce is the one for you. You play in 2 team of up to 4 players, with each team getting 4 balls each. There’s also a ball called a palina, which is tossed out first. Then teams take it in turns trying to throw one ball (the bocce) as close to this target ball as possible.
Points are awarded depending on how close the ball gets; if a bocce touches the pallina, a move known as a kiss, the team gets 2 points. First team to get 12 points wins the game.
Forehead Pass the Orange
This game needs completely different balls to Bocce, namely oranges. You will need 2 oranges for this game and lots of playing space. Split everyone into 2 equal teams, then pair people according to similar heights.
The first pair of each team stands at the start line. Place an orange between each pair, gripped hard by their foreheads. On Go!, the pairs must run to the finish line then back to the start, without dropping the orange. The orange is then passed by hand to their next pair for their go. If the orange is dropped at any point, the pair must start over.
The winning team is the one where all pairs have completed the game successfully.
Badminton is less intense than volleyball but still just as competitive. You will need at least 4 badminton rackets and a badminton net for this game, and split everyone into pairs for a doubles match. You can also play in singles.
Badminton matches start with a coin toss to determine who goes first. Then a player from the deciding team must serve the shuttlecock towards the opposition who hits it back over the net. Players win points when the shuttlecock hits the ground or a player commits a fault. Keep playing until the first team reaches 21 points to win the game.
If you like classic picnic games, Croquet is the one for you. Invented back in 1851, Croquet involves players hitting a ball with a mallet around a playing course you need to set up first. Each player gets to choose the colour of the ball they want then strikes the ball gently through a series of wickets. Although the game sounds a bit easy on paper, game play is harder, as you can strike your ball to sabotage other people’s balls and make it harder for them to complete the course. Croquet is best played by buying a Croquet set which has all the equipment you need.
Picnic Games With Movement
Picnic Photo Scavenger Hunt
Make sure everyone has a camera on their phone then divide everyone into teams of 3. Give each team a list of things the teams need to find and photograph. The things in the list can be random ideas, for example: a piggyback ride, something stripey, a scarecrow. Let your teams use their imagination to find items that correspond with your list. Whichever team completes the list is the winner.
Originally called Pretzel, Twister is a team game from the 1960s originally conceived as a shoe polish promotion! To play this game, you need a Twister mat large enough to accommodate 2 to 3 players at a time. Players first remove their shoes and face each other on opposite ends of the mat, near to where it says ‘Twister’. Each person places their feet on a yellow and blue circle closest to them. A third person acting as referee spins the spinner and reads out loud the limb and colour the arrow lands on, such as Left Hand, Red.
Players must obey the direction of the referee, without protest. Only one limb from one player can take one circle at one time; if two limbs arrive at the same circle, it’s up to the referee which player got there first. The round ends when a player falls or their elbow or knee touches the mat.
This picnic game’s a fun way for people to get to know each other. You will need a ball of wool to play this game. Nominate someone to start and give them the ball of wool.
This person begins by telling a short story from their life. The moment they say something like “I like bananas”, anyone identifies with the same interest must shout out “Connection!” The first player keeps hold of a piece of string before throwing the ball over to whoever said it first. This new person now tells their story until someone shouts “Connection!” again. Keep going until you’ve played 3 rounds continuously.
Get everyone standing in a circle. Each person takes it in turns to make a different gesture with their hand, or leg. Go around the circle until everyone has had their turn. Everyone else watching needs to memorise each gesture as best they can.
After the round is complete, have everyone dancing to music, then call out someone’s name. This person now starts dancing using their chosen gesture. When you call out a second person’s name, the person already dancing must incorporate this person’s gesture into their dance. Once they’ve done that, start over with a new person. Anyone who messes up when a name is called is out of the round. Keep playing until one person is left standing.
Who Is It?
Get everyone standing in a circle. Blindfold one of your players and place them in the middle, then spin them 3 times on the spot. On Go!, ask this person to try and find someone. They must ask the first person they nab “who is it?” Whoever they reach must answer with any word but said in a weird voice. If the blindfolded player guesses correctly who this person is, the players swap over for a new round. But if their guess is incorrect, the game resumes, until they’ve found someone correctly.
Picnic Games With Throwing
Slammo is a bit like volleyball only it’s played without a net or a court. The game is played in two-on-two player teams with Slammo placed in the middle of them. Once the ball is served, the receiving team has up to 3 hits to return the ball to the net. Points are awarded only to the serving team, if the receiving team cannot return the ball to the next in 3 hits or less. Here’s a quick video of Slammo in action.
This is a very simple game, involving a plastic disc tossed between players. Players typically try to catch the disc as it spins through the air before it hits the ground.
Frisbee is generally considered a relaxing game. But if you want to get everyone moving after a heavy picnic meal, you can turn it into a more competitive experience. Points are awarded to competing teams anytime the Frisbee hits the ground. Players can toss the disc in such a way that it requires the opposing side to leap upwards or swoop downwards in order to catch it.
Also known as Coits, Ring Toss is a simple game, where players or teams take it in turns to throw a rubber or metal ring towards a peg staked to the ground. Each successful toss that snags the peg is awarded 5 points; 3 points is given for any ring that touches the stake. Players need to stand at least 10 to 15 feet (3 to 5 metres) away from the pegs and do so behind a designated line. This gives everyone the chance to toss the ring from the same distance.
Horseshoes is a variation of this game, where players throw 2 metal horseshoes at a staked peg during their turn.
Also known as Cornhole, this is a team game that involves players throwing bags at a raised platform with a hole at the furthest end. People play in teams 0f 4 at a line 27 feet away (or 8 metres) so people have equal throw. Each team takes their turn to throw their 4 bags, before alternating with their opposition.
Points are scored when a player gets a bag onto the board or into the hole. A bag that falls through the hole gets 3 points; a bag landing on the board gets just 1 point. The first team to reach 21 points is the winner.
Scoop Ball is a team game for up to 6 players, each one holding a plastic scoop. Players must try and catch a ball with their scoop then toss it back without it hitting the ground. If you’ve got the time, you can replace the plastic ball with water balloons for some summertime fun.
Picnics are the best kind of parties, in that anything goes. If you’ve gone through this list of picnic games, you will now know just how diverse such games can be. Everything from oranges to games from the 19th century to questions about Scotland are fair play when it comes to picnics. I hope you find something here to use at your next gathering with friends.