Cookouts bring family and friends together. As a good host knows, well-planned entertainment plays a big part in any get-together. Filling the afternoon with easy-going games passes the time and works up an appetite.
Relay races allow lots of people to participate at the same time. Divide your guests into two or more groups, with a good mix of ages and physical ability on both sides. Mark the start and end point on a straight course; it doesn't have to be a long distance. Have your teams line up single file. Give the person at the front a napkin or soft ball. In turns, the runner will follow the course and return to the line, handing off the object to the next person. The team that finishes first wins.
This game gets older and younger children to interact. Separate your party guests into pairs. The teams race with one person in the front running on his hands, while his partner supports his legs and follows. Wheelbarrow races work best on circular courses, where players will have to make a sharp turn.
Nothing beats a hot day like a good old-fashioned water fight. Line your cookout area with different types of weapons; water guns, sponges, balls, balloons, buckets and hoses. To make things more colorful, add food coloring to the water, and provide players with plain white T-shirts. At the end of the fight they will have a neat souvenir "signed" by everyone.
In this game, a leader (Simon) instructs all the players to perform a task, such as "Hold your ear," "Hop up and down" or "Eat a pickle." Players must listen carefully and follow instructions only if the leader says "Simon says..." before his command. If players follow orders incorrectly or without hearing "Simon says," they are removed from the game. The best listener is the winner.
Chess, checkers, Scrabble, Scattergories, Taboo, Trouble, Monopoly and Twister are all popular party games. Any game with a durable board can be taken outside during a cookout. Travel-size or magnetized versions of popular board games minimize the risk of damaging or losing pieces. After a filling meal, it's nice to settle down with a quiet game.
The Human Knot
Have an even number of guests stand in a circle facing inward. Each person reaches across the circle and grasps the hands of two other players. When everyone has a firm grip, the group tries to untangle themselves and return to the original circle, without dropping hands or falling. Players may step over, under and around each other to reach the group goal. This is a good game to end the festivities. Allow players to say good-bye as they work to right the circle. You may even lead your guests in a group hug or prayer before ending the game.