Summer checklist: Life without lawn darts

If you’re older than, say, 30, this might surprise you, but we now have an entire generation of young people who grew up without ever playing lawn darts.

If you’re too young to remember, lawn darts were basically oversized darts. You threw them at a target on the ground.

Lawn darts weren’t as sharp as regular darts, but they could kill you, which is why the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned them in 1988.

That was 24 summers ago.

When I was a kid, we had lawn darts and a badminton set. Today, our yard doesn’t work for badminton, and my parents didn’t save our 1970s-era lawn darts. Thing 1 (the 12-year-old) and I play catch and shoot hoops, and Thing 2 (the 6-year-old) and I kick the soccer ball around, but I realized a couple summers ago that we weren’t playing games outside as a family, so I decided to find a game we could all play.

I thought about horseshoes, but hammering in the spikes is a hassle, plus the game requires too much skill, so, I settled on bocce.

Bocce was first played in ancient Rome. It’s kind of like horseshoes, except instead of throwing horseshoes around a spike in the ground, you bowl balls to see which side (could be one person, could be a team of people) comes closest to a target ball called a pallino.

If you play it correctly, there are a bunch of rules, but, basically, that’s it, so it’s a great game for kids of different ages and skill levels.

I know, because the family champion is the 6-year-old, which is driving the 12-year-old nuts.

Thing 1 is the family athlete; she plays basketball and softball. She’s good, but, when it comes to bocce, Thing 2 is better.

We aren’t letting him win, either, the way we do sometimes when we play Uno. He just has a knack for getting the ball within inches of the pallino.

Which is the nice thing about yard games: It’s an even playing field.

No one plays them enough to get good at them, so no one’s too competitive. You’re just playing. You’re just passing the time while the hamburgers cook on the grill. You’re just hanging out and having fun.

Lawn darts by TheDamnMushroom, via Flickr/bocce balls by jenly, via Flickr

23 thoughts on “Summer checklist: Life without lawn darts

  1. I must confess that this is one of my hot buttons (i.e., lawn darts). The banning of lawn darts is one of the pinnacles of regulatory idiocy. Sure, they can kill you. But more people die from smoking than ever died of lawn darts. True of handguns, too. In 2005 a person was killed while playing badminton (impaled by a flying broken racquet). I say bring back lawn darts and let Darwin sort it out.

  2. There is a large Italian community nearby and (especially in the winter) large groups of men play bocce at a county park on actual “courts” (I guess, not sure what they are called). The competition is intense, whole families sit on the sidelines to watch. The gestures, mannerisms and language are interesting and entertaining.

    I stink at bocce, along with other outdoor games…but I do miss lawn darts. Probably a few too many family reunions where a mixture of alcohol and “Hey, Bubba, watch this…” did that game in.

  3. I wonder if T2 has a height advantage. Croquet is another one that was a family favorite when my dear ones were little.

    Here’s wishing you and your family a lovely Father’s Day weekend, Toddster.

  4. Wow, I was born the year they outlawed lawn darts, so my childhood must have been perfectly safe, right? Well, other than the fact that we spent most of our time in the woods with our bb guns . . . yeah.

  5. Oh, yes, 50+ and I remember lawn darts! I remember running in the opposite direction if anyone suggested playing with them. I nearly gave a friend a concussion with a plastic golf set. Yep, plastic. God only knows what sort of injuries I would have inflicted on family and friends with the darts. We played Croquet like it was going out of style. Fun family time. My kids, despite my efforts, couldn’t grasp the concept of playing outside – though they did play badminton for a week. I think I locked them out of the house until they played.

  6. I didn’t have lawn darts — my folks must have bought into that “dangerous” thing! We played badminton, though, and tennis without a net in the street. Lucky for us the neighbors had good eyesight back then! Good times! Happy Dad’s Day weekend, sir!

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