Four Square: An Outdoor Game That's Challenging and Fun

Bouncing Ball Game Can Be Played Many Ways

Younger grandchildren will enjoy four square ball.
Four square ball is a simple but fun outdoor game. Photo © Jessie Jean | Getty Images

Playing four square is a great way to build coordination and learn good sportsmanship. It's an old-fashioned ball game that even the younger grandchildren can play. The kids will love progressing from peasant to king!

Getting Ready to Play Four Square

Four square is appropriate for school age children. It can be played with a standard playground ball that is about 10 inches in diameter, or it can be played with a king-sized ball.

 A driveway or other hard-surfaced area is needed for four square. You will also need some chalk.

Draw off a 10-ft. square with the chalk, then divide into 4 even squares. Number them 1-4, going clockwise. Draw a diagonal line in 1's box, to designate it as the serving spot. The player in the 1 square is known as the king. Number 2 is the queen, while Number 3 is known as the jack, and Number 4 is the peasant. The point of the game is to advance to the king's spot and stay there as long as possible.

The king serves by bouncing the ball into any of the three boxes. The player whose square receives the ball must hit it into another square. The ball can be hit in the air or after one bounce. Play continues until a player fails to return the ball. At that point, that player has to move to the peasant's spot, and the other players advance.

Rules and Variations

  • Older players usually use a 16-foot square, which makes the game considerably more difficult.
  • There are many different conventions for naming the four squares. Some players just refer to them by their numbers, but kids get a kick out of becoming the king.
  • When playing with more than four children, children can rotate in and out. A player who is demoted from the king's spot goes to the end of the line.
  • Official four square rules are fairly complex, but you may not want to introduce the game using a lot of rules. Indeed, you may want to modify rules to fit the situation. For example, when playing with younger children, it's okay to allow them to catch the ball before bouncing it back to their opponents.

Harder Rules for Older Grandchildren

If you have older grandchildren, they may become bored with the standard game play. Introduce these rules to make the game more challenging! 

  • Black Jack: If the ball is caught before it strikes in a player's square, the player who hit the ball is out. This forces players to hit the ball low and fast.
  • Double Taps: A player can hit the ball twice in the air. This technique allows players better control and better placement of returns. 
  • Battle: While a game is in progress, a player can call for a battle, also known as a death rally. The player chooses one opponent to challenge, and only those two players can hit the ball until one is eliminated.
  • Teams: Similar to battle, a player can call for teams in the middle of play. At that time, players in two adjacent squares battle the other two players. The ball can bounce twice in a team's rectangle. When a team is defeated, both players must leave.

    Find more ways to have old-fashioned fun, or see more classic kids outdoor games.