16 unusual games to play with your family this summer

Kids playing

Once you’ve exhausted all the go-to cottage pastimes, try one of these games, culled from the hive-brain of Cottage Life fans.

Challenge accepted

We love family-challenge weekends when even our teens get into the games. One that is always a hit is cheese heads. One participant dons a shower cap, and someone covers it completely with shaving cream. Then the kids line up and try to throw a Cheezie in the shaving cream.

—Robin Holmes

Hide and go freak (out)

We play leprechaun in the dark outside. The game consists of the kids hiding and my husband looking for them, finding them, and then chasing them around with a flashlight held under his chin, all the while laughing like a maniac.

—Pamela Ann Monk Renaud

Glow on

We play tag in the dark wearing coloured glow sticks as necklaces.

—Kim Bechard

This is hot

We build homemade steam baths. We start by getting the kids to collect about 40 fist-sized rocks and pile them in a ring about two to three deep. Then we build a fire in the centre and let it burn for at least 45 minutes—long enough so that the stones are nice and hot. After dousing the fire, being careful not to wet the stones, we wait for the smoke to clear before kicking the stones into a pile. We erect a big tarp around the stones, supported by canoe paddles or 2x4s, making sure to get a good seal at the edges by weighing it down with more rocks, to create a steam room. We make it big enough so about six of us fit in. Last, we splash water onto the rocks and enjoy the heat! You can’t even see your hand in front of your face from the steam. Then we all run into the lake to cool off.

—Simon Foster

Spin classic

We made a “what-to-do-matron” spinning wheel (like on Wheel of Fortune) out of old plywood with typical cottage activities in each section: archery, canoeing, hiking, camp out, rock hunting, forest-house building, etc. We spin it when we hear “I’m bored!”

—Michelle Caddey Maclean

Star power

On late August nights we do a midnight dip then lie on the dock to watch for shooting stars.

—Jackie A. Francis

Bowl of fun

Use glow sticks and old water or pop bottles to make a nighttime bowling set. Fill each bottle about two-thirds with water, add the Sticks, cap the bottles, and line ’em up. Use a basketball to knock them over.


Jump around

We put two chairs at the end of the dock and place a pool noodle between them. My son takes a running leap and has to launch himself over the noodle into the water. Hours of laughs!

—Katy Durdan Kelly

Water winner

We always have paint stir sticks, balloons, and oversized sponges on hand. Shove the stick inside the bottom of the sponge to make a racquet with which to swat around the balloons. The sponges also make for an ideal tool in a water fight (the balloons too), or you could even use them for painting.

—Christina Ko

Use your noodle

Once our pool noodles get old and start to rot in the middle, we cut them in half to make bats and play baseball using a Nerf ball. We also use them for pool noodle races, running or swimming with the noodle between our legs.

—Pat Bauder

Rainbow connection

We make pattern-dyed T-shirts using colours made from plant material that the kids find around the cottage.

—Nancy Anderson

Night moves

My kids play flashlight tag at night with all the neighbouring kids. Sometimes parents drop their kids off via boat so they can play too.

—Erin Bridgeford-Zeppetell

Light idea

We put fireflies in a jar to make lanterns.

—Frank Merfort

Going buggy

Build a simple bug hotel so that your kids can learn about bugs at the cottage and hopefully get over feeling squeamish about them. All you need is a plastic bottle and some twine. Lop the top and bottom off the bottle so you have a plastic tube that’s open at both ends. Cut the tube in two. Stuff each tube with nature debris from around the cottage: sticks, pine cones, pine needles. Use twine to hang each tube on a tree or leave them on the ground and see what kind of bugs check in.


Eggscellent trick

Fill a balloon about halfway with water and stuff a small plastic toy inside—those mini-dinosaurs from the dollar store are ideal. Then put the balloon in the freezer. Once frozen, cut and peel off the balloon and present your kids with their very own ice egg with a surprise inside. The eggs are neat in themselves, but the best part is smashing the egg to get the toy out.


Grow op

Plant a simple and low-maintenance herb garden at the cottage with your kids. It will give them a super-easy way to help out with preparing a meal (they can run out to the garden to gather “secret” ingredients). An herb garden will help them to become interested in cooking and kitchen activities too.

—Richard Thompson