Jenga—what's fun indoors on a tabletop on a rainy day is now even more fun outside on a sunny day! The only difference is that you're going to make a heavy-duty towering version that will last for years and keep the kids outside and off the video games
Step 1 - Measure and Cut Your Boards
When choosing your 2x4’s, get the straightest boards available. If they are warped or twisted, they won’t stack squarely. If there is cupping (when the inside of the board is concave), the boards will wobble and tilt, which is not very conducive to this game. It may be worth it to pay a little extra and get the best boards in the lumber yard.
Each Jenga piece is going to be 10 ½ inches long. Each board should yield nine Jenga pieces (with a little piece of board left over). When you're done with all your cuts, you'll have 54 blocks that will make up your new backyard game. When you're measuring, be sure to allow for the width of the blade you're using. Although it's slightly more time-consuming, I prefer to measure each cut after the previous cut. If you measure out 10 1/2 inches all the way down your board and don’t allow for the width of your blade, you will have uneven pieces.
If you're using a chop saw, you can be done with the cutting in no time at all. A circular saw is the next best thing if you don’t have a chop saw. Just be careful that you are at a 90-degree angle and not off on some wild tangent. And a hand saw…well, you know you'll be aching tomorrow—that’s a lot of sawing!
Step 2 - Sand the Wood
Sand each piece until it's smooth. The pieces must be able to slide easily when stacked together. The sawn ends will need extra special attention. Any burrs or rough edges will hamper your game. If you want to make your game more colorful, you could stain each piece. Make sure they are completely dry before stacking them. Whatever you decide, do not paint or varnish the game pieces. When outdoors, humid air may cause painted or varnished pieces to stick to each other. You will want your game pieces to slide effortlessly.
Setting up the Game
Stacking your game pieces is important to the game. They must be on a level surface. If smaller kids are playing, you may want to stack them on the ground. To help keep them level, use a 12x12 flat-faced patio block. If you are lucky enough to have a patio or paved driveway, you won’t need the block. If adults are playing, then stacking them on a picnic table could also work.
Each layer is three blocks wide. Lay your first layer in one direction, and your second layer in the opposite direction. Continue layering until all your blocks are stacked to a towering nine levels high.
How to Play the Game
The first player carefully slides out one piece from anywhere in the tower except the top layer. If successfully pulled out without the tower falling, they will place their piece on the top of the tower. Each player will do the same thing. Be careful—it gets harder as the game goes on. Whoever pulls the piece that makes the tower fall is the loser. The nice thing about this game is there is only one loser—all the other participants are winners!
I like to have a special tote to keep the game pieces in, that way no one will accidentally think they are firewood. That said, this is a great game to take along camping, on a picnic, or to the park! Have fun, and stand back when they fall!