Parlor or porch activités brought family and guests together often requiring no more than a sense of humor, pen, and paper. The American porch for over a century was a way to get outdoors, relax, socialize and breathe in the fresh air. It was a way to engage conversation, do something new and have fun.

It is incredible how much a quick walk in the outdoors can do to uplift the soul. Bringing family and friends together in the backyard or out on the patio is a great way to spend quality time together. With activities and games, they will want to come back again and again.

Here are just a few patio and backyard pastime ideas to refreshen your mind and get started on livening up time with those you love.

Couple barbecue food with wine

Barbecue and eating outdoors is an all-time favorite for many American families.


You can use any expression such as a smile, look of shock, disgust or frown, etc.

One player starts the game by, for example, smiling wide at everyone. Then they use their hand in a gesture to wipe their smile away, replacing it with a straight face. Then they toss their hand towards another player as though they are throwing them the smile. That player must then pretend to catch the smile and use their hand as though it is creating the smile as they smile, and repeat the process with any emotion of their choice.

If any player shows even so much as a smirk when it is not their turn, they become eliminated, until only one winner is left.

outdoor game smile
dice game girl pavilion


Bunco is a game of luck. It takes nine dice. More or fewer people can play as long as the number of people that are playing can be divisible by 4.

The player must try and roll the number that corresponds to the round played. For example, in the first round, everyone attempts to roll a one. Then for round two everyone rolls their dice hoping for a two, and so on.

When a roll of dice is successful, the player calls “Bunco,” and a point won. The team with the most points wins.


Two people pair up to perform for the rest of the group, one is extremely serious and gives a discourse or story, while the other acts out the words with gestures and exaggerated emotions. To make it easier, you can print out ahead of time some things to recite, such as songs, anecdotes, etc.


Word games were a favored game in the Victorian era. They continue to be a hit with word games, mobile apps and in some board games. For this game, you will need a dictionary. In the game of Fictionary, one person chooses any word from the dictionary and then reads it aloud. Everyone else writes on a paper what they think it means.

dictionary fictionary game

The person with the dictionary then reads all the fake submissions along with the correct definition and everyone guesses which meaning is accurate. For each right answer, the person gets the point. If no one guesses the right answer, then the person with the dictionary gets the point.

hold hands for game


Tying the Knot ideally needs eight or more players to play, the more, the better. The players stand and hold hands in a circle. Without letting go the players step over, under each other and crawl through any gaps until they can untangle themselves. Somewhat like the game of twister, hilarity is sure to ensue.


One or two sets of cards are dealt and then the players alternate placing a card face up on a pile in the middle. When an Ace is placed down, the first person to cover it with their hand wins the stack. Similarly, when a King appears, the first person to salute; Queen, say, “Good Morning, Madam.”; Jack, shout, “Boo!” gets the cards. Whoever gets all the cards is the winner.


Jenga is a game with 54 hard wood blocks. The blocks are stacked to 18 stories tall. Once the tower is created, the players alternate in removing a single block with one hand from the tower anywhere below the highest level. The block is then placed on top. The last player who can place the last block on top before it collapses wins.

playing block game under pergola


Everyone sits in a circle. The person to their right is “The Monkey.” The person on the left asks “The Monkey” personal questions such as their name, where they are at, their state of health, etc.

The person sitting to the right of “the monkey” is “The Organ Grinder” and answers for “The Monkey.”

If “The Monkey” happens to talk or laugh then everyone will shout, “He wasn’t talking to “The Monkey,” he was talking to the Organ Grinder!” Click edit button to change this text.


Everyone sits in a circle. One person us the inquisitor and must choose three categories. For example, farming, books, geography. The inquisitor is in the middle and points to a person asking them a question relative to one of the three chosen categories. The answered must be immediate, or they are out.


face painting

Face painting can make a person look like a scary monster, a beautiful princess, an animal, a bad guy and so much more.

Although face painting is often done at parties to entertain children, it gets fun when children get to be the makeup artist.You can also throw in some hats, wigs or props if you like.

When finished, the masterpiece gets to guess who or what they are.

violin bass banjo play music


Playing an instrument around a fire pit or on the porch is steeped in the American heritage. Music in the evenings with the sweet air of the outdoors is so rare that it may take your guests by surprise. There is nothing quite so homey as live music.


You can use a pinata but hanging a paper bag can be fun as well. Hang a paper bag filled with whatever you like from a pergola, arbor, pavilion, swing set, or anything you have handy in your yard. Blindfold each player and give them three tries to hit the bag with a stick. You can make it more challenging with a pool noodle.

Traditionally candy is used, but there are many alternatives to sweets. Here are just a few suggestions to get you started: Pennies, Plastic toys, Finger puppets, Nerf darts, Mini balls, Yo-yos, Fruit Snacks, Stuffed toys.

princess birthday party
pergola movie children
Pavilion by pool with outdoor television


outdoor tv bar timber frame pergola chirstmas decor

Watching outdoor movies in the comfort of your backyard is a lot of fun especially for kids and the kid in us. Not owning an outdoor T.V. is not a problem. Pictured above is screen hung from a ShadeScape™ pergola. Screen fabric, black-out material is in many cases less than it costs for one person to go to a downtown evening cinema. The screen can hang from your pergola, pavilion or even be taped to the side of the house to enjoy your outdoor movie. If you have WIFI, you can also set up the computer and take in all the nostalgia of an old-time outdoor movie theatre.

chess game pergola shade
Carry chess horse piece toddler


Board games can be taken outside and played on the back patio, porch or deck. Games, such as Chess, Checkers and Scrabble are also making a big hit in backyards in an even bigger way. Oversized pieces played on boards made from paver, grass or rock squares. It create an inviting atmosphere to play more often.

scrabble game played outdoors


Tic-tac-toe is also known as Xs and Os or Noughts and Crosses and is two player game. One player is the Os, and one player is the Xs. To start, one player draws a board, creating a grid of squares, traditionally a 3 x 3. There are some who extend the challenge to a 4 x 4.

The player who is playing “X” always goes first. The players alternate turns trying to place their X or O until each player has three (or 4 if doing a 4×4) in a row, diagonally, horizontally, or vertically to win. If not, and all nine squares (or 16) are filled then is a tie.

Tic-tac-toe used to be a pencil and paper game that has grown to include many variations to the game or how it is made, especially for playing it in the outdoors.

Here are a few ideas:

1. In place of Xs and Os use two colors of frisbees and toss the frisbees and where they land is it. This takes more skill with a bit of chance.

2. Colored bean bags can be tossed the same way you would with a frisbee.

3. Colored Rocks, plastic animals, seashells and starfish, lids, can substitute the Xs and Os.

With a little creative imagination this simple game can intrigue your family or guests of any age.

Get the Free Ultimate Pergola and Pavilion Guide

Get the Free Ultimate Pergola and Pavilion Guide