The ball is perhaps the most versatile play toy ever invented and is the central object in thousands of games played around the globe. In this article we will introduce you to—and in some cases, reintroduce you to—a wide variety of games to play with a ball, ranging from the most popular and well-loved outdoor and indoor sports to some of the lesser known games that will keep kids engaged and entertained for hours.
Popular Schoolyard Games Kids Play with a Ball
When it comes to the number of games that can be played with a ball the list is virtually limitless. Some of these games are so popular that many a child will practice hours upon hours to hone their skills in hopes of someday seeing their name in bright lights as a member of a professional league. Other ball-based games are simply designed to provide enjoyment and recreation on the school yard, in a park, the classroom or gymnasium. To help you build up your game repertoire, here are several games you can play with a ball:
Designed mostly for older children, dodge ball is played with a soft (usually red) ball of larger than average size. The dodge ball court, which is usually painted on the asphalt at many school yards, is a large rectangle with a line down the center known as the center-line. Dodge ball is usually played with two teams of 5 players each, but more people can play on each team if the court is large enough to accommodate them. The two teams stand on either side of the center line and take turns throwing the ball at the opposing team. If the ball hits a player from the other team and is not caught, that player is “out” until the next game. However, if the ball IS caught, the player who threw the ball is “out” until the next game. This goes on, back and forth, until only 1 player is left—and that player and team are declared the winners.
Kickball is another game that has been around forever. The game is played with a soft, well-inflated playground ball and the rules are very similar to baseball. In kickball there are two teams: the team in the field and the team up to bat. The pitcher for the team in the field is required to roll the ball to the person kicking, who then kicks the ball as hard as he or she can to try and hit a home run—a ball that flies over all the fielders’ heads. Players on the offensive team run the bases just like in baseball trying to score runs, while the defensive team tries to record three outs so they can take their turn up to bat.
Kick the Can
In this childhood classic game, the object is to kick an object—in this case a ball—that is placed in the middle of a large court or yard. The ball, however, is protected by a guard, who tries to tag players who get close before they can reach the ball. If the guard is successful at tagging all the players before the ball gets kicked he is declared the winner. However, if someone is able to elude the guard and manages to reach the ball before getting tagged, he or she is the winner and earns the right to guard the ball in the next game.
Keep Away is another one of those games that has seemingly been around forever. The game requires at least three people, although it can also be played among a large group. In the three-player variant of the game, two of the players stand apart from each other while the third player stands in the middle. The game is played using a soft playground ball of some type. As the game begins, players one and two attempt to toss the ball back and forth to each other, without allowing the third player to intercept the ball.
If you really want to allow your kids to burn some energy before quiet time, try organizing a raucous game of ball tag at recess. The game can be played in small or large groups with a soft rubber ball that will not injure any players who get hit with it. Ball Tag is a combination of regular tag and dodge ball. The person with the ball chases the other players around a predetermined area in the grass, but instead of tagging the other players with his or her hand, the thrower instead aims a throw at them. The last player to elude getting hit with the ball wins the game and becomes the thrower in the next game. As an added safety rule, we recommend you have an age limit with this game (no very small children) and instruct the thrower to aim below the shoulders at all times.
School Yard Bowling
Last but not least, School Yard Bowling is a fun game that involves some precision and accuracy. Simply set up some objects in the classic pin formation—1-2-3-4—and allow each person in the group two tries to knock down as many pins as possible. The person who knocks down the most pins is declared the winner. For this game we recommend you set up the pins (or objects) directly in front of a wall or barrier of some kind to avoid having to constantly chase down the ball.
Tetherball is a game that has been around for decades. In tetherball, a medium-sized rubber ball is attached to a long rope, which is then attached to the top of a pole. The game is played between 2 individuals, and the object of the game is to hit the ball around the pole until all of the slack in the rope has been taken up. One player tries to hit the ball clockwise around the pole, while the other tries to hit the ball counterclockwise, leading to some fierce battles and great exercise. You can even put one of these in your backyard.
Ultra Popular Games You Play With A Ball
These sports are some of the most common games that adults and kids can play with a ball.
Often referred to as America’s game, baseball is a game that has been around for centuries. The game is usually played with a hard-ish baseball with raised seams, but it can also be played with a small rubber or plastic ball as well. In baseball, a team of nine position players, scattered throughout the field, attempt to record three outs against the opposite team, which is simultaneously trying to score points or “runs” by hitting the baseball and advancing their players around bases. Outs are recorded when there is a groundout, a fly out or strike out, at which time the players switch sides and roles.
Although the professional (tackle-style) game of football is far too rough to play on school grounds, children can have just as much fun playing touch football. In football, two teams of roughly 7-11 players each square off against each other. The team with the ball in their possession is known as offense, while the team without the ball is known as defense. The goal for the offensive team is to advance the football, either by throwing it or passing it, down the field and into the “end zone.” However, each time the player with the ball is tagged with two hands by the defense, his progress stops at the point of contact. If the offense is successful in reaching the end zone, they earn 6 points and then kick the ball off to the other team. If they are not successful, the defensive team takes over control of the ball.
A great rainy day or bright sunshine game, basketball is a game that can be played indoors—in a gymnasium—or outside on asphalt courts. In basketball, two teams of five players each try to score points or “baskets” by tossing the ball through an elevated hoop or “rim” at either end of the court. Each time the ball goes through the hoop, the shot counts for 2 points. The game of basketball is timed—usually about 30-45 minutes—and the team with the most points at the end of the game is declared the winner.
Soccer is a game played by youth and adults the world over. In fact, according to statistics it is the most popular or oft-played game in the entire world. The rules of soccer are very easy. The game is played on a grass court that is typically about 100 yards in length and 50 yards in width (you can make the dimensions any size you like). Typically, there are about 11 people on each team in soccer. One player on each team is known as the goalie—the player that stays back and protects the net. Also a timed game, the object of soccer is to kick the soccer ball into the opposing team’s net as many times as you can, while the goalie from each team tries to block those shots. Each successful shot is worth 1 point, and the team with the most points once the time limit has expired (usually 30-45 minutes) wins the game.
image: University of Hawaii – Wes/Flickr