Being a kid in the ’70s and ’80s was a time where safety was a loose concept. Even in 1989, only two-thirds of the US had mandatory seatbelt laws. Thus, it isn’t surprising that kids of this era grew up playing lawn darts, which actually killed people. It was banned in 1988. But, aside from the death part, it was kind of fun. Are there any safe alternatives?
Modern lawn darts are legal and are made of soft, weighted tips shaped like half a ball. Some of these are sold under the brand name Jarts. Other alternatives include ring toss, horseshoes, Kubb, yard pong, Kan Jam, and bocce. These are not injury-free games, but are safer than vintage lawn darts.
Look, safety is relative. A horseshoe to the head is not going to be a pleasant experience. A Kubb stick nailing you in the shin is going to have you singing high notes and using four-letter words you wish toddlers would not repeat. But there are fun lawn games out there that don’t result in a long needle becoming embedded into your heart or brain. Honest.
10 Alternatives To Lawn Darts
As tempting as it may be to haul out the vintage lawn darts from your grandparent’s basement, it’s really not a great idea. While dying from lawn darts was rare, the injuries were pretty hectic as case after case demonstrated. Nor do you need to, because we have ten alternatives for everyone to enjoy.
Updated Lawn Darts: An Alternative To Lawn Darts
Yes, there are modern lawn darts. There are many versions, but we like this glow-in-the-dark set for its shape and durability. Plus, you can play it in the dark, and that’s fun.
However, this inflatable set of lawn darts might be easier for younger children. It also has an indoor option for rainy days, which is brilliant.
But if you want something that looks closer to the originals, Jarts is the way to go. These don’t look like they’ll kill anybody, sure. However, they do look like they might give a more significant bruise if you get hit. Which, for some folks, is a chance for bragging rights and a great story. To each to their own.
Ring Toss: An Alternative To Lawn Darts
Ring toss is one of the safest games we have on our list. It is fun, and the only way to really hurt yourself is to fall on the wooden target. That would be hard to do without a LOT of adult beverages! Which, we’re not saying that’s impossible, but it takes some serious effort. Besides, sometimes simple games are the best. This set has a nice retro look and is highly rated.
Jenga Giant: An Alternative To Lawn Darts
Giant Jenga is fantastic for good laughs in the backyard. I LOVE this game! Evidently, I’m not alone, because it has 3,000 5-star ratings on Amazon. However, if you are a toddler walking by as the entire five-foot tower crashes, you are probably going to scream loud and long. So, while we can’t claim the game is perfectly safe, we can tell you that no spikey flying metal projectiles are involved.
Horseshoes: An Alternative To Lawn Darts
Kids of yesteryear played horseshoes by using old horseshoes and stakes. Not going to lie; things can and did happen, especially if some child snatched up a shoe that still had nails in it (ouch). But these days, there are even sets in rubber in addition to the professional sets.
So no, neither modern version has touched a horse’s hooves. But then again, they are probably safer.
Polish horseshoes, also called bottle bash, is an easy, fun game for all ages. You can play it at the beach, in the backyard, at the park. The only sharp piece of equipment is the stake side of the bottle stand. So we suppose you could stake your foot while setting up the game if you don’t pay attention. Otherwise, it is a fairly safe activity (bruises and sprains aside).
Croquet: An Alternative To Lawn Darts
In theory, croquet is supposed to be a genteel game. But there are wooden mallets that can be swung like a vicious baseball bat, providing opportunities for some serious sore losers to cause damage. Also, heavy balls, two vampire-slayer-worthy stakes, and spikey steel wickets that lurk in the grass to screw up your lawnmower or take out an ankle.
So is it a safer alternative to lawn darts? Probably. But is it safe? Well, that really depends on who you play with and if you can find all those wickets once the fun is done.
Kubb: An Alternative To Lawn Darts
Kubb has a very curious history, and some of it may even be true. The story goes that after Vikings ransacked and slaughtered a village (yes, violence), they would use their victims’ skulls and femurs to play a game. But just as lawn darts has been given a modern make-over, so has Kubb. The game is now played with wooden blocks and zero bloodshed.
Again, safety is relative. Played correctly, bashed shins are as bad as it gets. However, use the king piece to crash over somebody’s skull and…yeah, don’t do that.
Yard Pong: An Alternative To Lawn Darts
Yard pong is an all-seasons versatile game with flexible rules. It’s fun, doesn’t require much equipment, and is easy to take on a camping trip or to grandma’s.
Can you hurt yourself playing yard pong? Hey, even a professional athlete once needed emergency dental surgery after eating a microwaved donut. So sure, people have probably found a way to hurt themselves with yard pong, but we can tell you that there are no long metal spikes involved.
Kan Jam: An Alternative To Lawn Darts
Kan Jam has become a backyard and tailgate trend. These days you can get glow-in-the-dark versions and even a more suitcase-friendly version called Dynamic Discs Dynamic Dunk. Sure, you can twist an ankle or sprain a finger, but it will take some serious creativity to poke out an eye playing this game.
Bocce And Boules: An Alternative To Lawn Darts
Bocce and boules are not the same game, but they are similar, and the balls are often identical. So sure, dropping one on your foot is not advised. Nor should you use the balls to bash another person over the head. But if you are really worried, there are some plastic versions, including those that glow-in-the-dark.
Clearly, if you love a good retro game like lawn darts, but want to remain physically intact, there are options available. Old-school, hands-on games are a great relief from video games. They’re good for the body and the soul.