Many outdoor games are meant for two players or two teams of two. Others are best suited for large crowds. That leaves groups of three somewhat in the lurch. Playing sets, which often include equipment for just two or four players, can also be a problem. You can create enough equipment for a third player by borrowing from a set intended for team play, purchasing a second two-person set and borrowing from that, or by improvising from materials on hand.
Tossing a ball back and forth can be fun, and it’s easy to add a third person to the mix. Make sure, however, that everybody gets a chance to touch the ball every few throws. If you get tired of tossing the ball, try using a football or flying disc instead.
Bean Bag Toss
It’s easy to squeeze a third set of turns into a bean bag toss game. Trying to slide other players’ bean bags off the target so they don’t count as points is part of the game so, instead of giving each player his own target, everyone should take turns throwing at the same target.
Soccer is uniquely suited to playing with three people because it’s simple to add a third goal. All three goals should be spaced evenly around the circumference of a circular playing field. This fast and furious variation is essentially a game of two on one, with whoever has the ball going up against the other two players.
Horseshoes is a turn-based game that’s easy to adapt to three players. Each player tosses both of his horseshoes in turn, and the third player takes a turn after the first two have gone.
Ladder Ball challenges not just your throwing ability but your strategy and hand-eye coordination, too. Including a third player is easy, but include her in the rounds as you all take turns lobbing two small balls joined by a cord at the three vertical ladder “rungs.” The more ball-pairings you can get to land and stay on the rungs, and the higher the rung the balls land on, the more points you get.
Lawn Darts is a turn-based game that's easy to play with three players. Just let the third person squeeze in a turn after the second player has taken his throws. The goal is to lob the lawn darts, which resemble giant versions of regular darts, underhand at a set of graduated hoops placed on the ground. The game is similar to conventional darts: the closer you land your lawn dart to the center hoop bull's-eye, the more points you get.
Lisa Maloney is a travel and outdoors writer based in Anchorage, Alaska. She's written four outdoors and travel guidebooks, including the award-winning "Moon Alaska," and regularly contributes to local and national publications. She also has a background in personal training, with more than 6,000 hours of hands-on experience.