Memorial Day Activity Ideas

Memorial Day activity ideas picture
For us Midwesterners, the cold, dreary weather of January often have us fantasizing about the easy days of summer. Memorial Day is finally here. The official, unofficial start of summer is often celebrated with cookouts. After the feast is finished, partygoers need something to do. As a Recreation Therapist, you know this is a great opportunity to address your clients’ need areas with activities.

I scanned my memories and the web to give you some Memorial Day activity ideas. Every population is different, so some of these activities will need to be adapted to fit your participants’ needs. This article provides some good ideas to make your Memorial Day fun, memorable, and therapeutic.

Active Activities

Frisbee Baseball

This activity is played like baseball. Instead of the pitcher throwing a ball to the batter, however, the batter throws a frisbee then runs the bases. The batter could choose to throw the frisbee high or bounce it on the ground. The fielders treat the frisbee like a baseball and do their best to throw the batter out at the bases. Adapt the game to your participants’ skill levels and to have a new twist on a summertime classic.

Water Balloon Dodgeball

Like Frisbee Baseball, Water Balloon Dodgeball adds a twist to a classic game. Use the same rules of dodgeball, but replace rubber balls with water balloons. If the water balloon soaks a participant, they sit out the rest of the round. Prepare several water balloons ahead of time. A good way to store water balloons is by putting them in rubbermaid container half full with water.

Bocce Ball

This is a classic summer game where the objective is for a participant to roll their bocce balls closest to a smaller ball called the pallina. It is a game accessible to many populations depending on how it is adapted. All you need are eight balls, a smaller ball, and some grass or sand. There are bocce ball sets, but if your participants need different types of balls to be successful, go for it. Consider using beach balls as bocce balls and a softball for the pallina. Check out this website for rules of the game.

Social Activities

Relay Races

Relay Races are versatile and easily adapted to your client’s needs. The only limits are the supplies on hand and the Recreation Therapist’s creativity. Have some water balloons left over from Water Balloon Dodgeball? Use them for a relay race. Didn’t use all your spoons during the cookout? Have the participants use them to run eggs or small balls to their teammates. Even if your participants aren’t particularly mobile, have them pass objects, like American flags, to get to the finish line.

Two Truths and a Lie

Everyone a little lethargic from the burgers and potato salad? Try this Memorial Day activity idea. Have your participants circle up and play two truths and a lie. In this game, a participant tells two things about them that are true and one that is a lie. The others in the group have to figure out which is the lie. Make festive themes such as, favorite picnic foods or past summer vacations to really get in the spirit of the season.

People Lawn Bowling

Think Bocce Ball meets Dodgeball meets Bowling. Set up hula hoops so they resemble the formation of bowling pins. Have a participant stand in each hula hoop. The bowler takes a ball, maybe a beach ball or whatever you find appropriate, and rolls it towards the participants standing in the hula hoops. Those in the hula hoops could jump over the ball or move to dodge the ball. If they jump, they must land back in the hula hoop. If they try moving, at least one foot must stay in the hula hoop. When a person is hit by the ball, they are out for the round. The last person standing gets to be the next bowler.

Team Building Activities

Toss A Stuffed Animal

Grab a couple sheets or durable table cloths and a stuffed animal. The object of this activity is for one team of participants to launch the stuffed animal in the air using their blanket. The other team must then catch the stuffed animal in their blanket. Every person on each team must have at least one hand on the blanket during the throwing and catching. Have the teams set a goal for how far they think they could launch the stuffed animal. Encourage problem solving and communication.

Keep the Ball in the Air

This is a simple activity requiring a beach ball and willing participants. The object is to keep hitting the beach ball so it does not touch the ground. Have the team set a goal for the number of times they could hit the ball without it reaching the ground. Or set a time limit the ball must stay in the air. The activity is simple enough that many populations could participate, but setting specific goals makes it challenging.

Sponge Launch

Do you have one of those elastic water balloon launchers but used all your balloons during Water Balloon Dodgeball? No problem. A bunch of wet sponges could easily be used with the water balloon launchers. And they are reusable! Even better, make your own sponge bombs. Set up some hula hoops or sled saucers in an open area. Assign a point value to each target. Have three participants work together to launch the wet sponges and get them to land inside the targets. I plan trying this activity on Monday.

picnic with rainbow

Relaxing Activities

Yard Yahtzee

Bringing Yahtzee to the outdoors is as simple as having a few oversized dice. If you have dry erase boards, make easily visible the score sheets. Play it like a regular game of Yahtzee, but with a lot more fresh air.

American Flag Sand Art

If you can’t head out to the beach on Memorial Day, why not bring the sand to your participants? Sand art is an easy craft activity. Use double sided tape to make the red and white stripes on a posterboard. Let the participants make white stars over a layer of blue sand, and you have a some patriotic sand art masterpieces.


Nothing brings a youthful feeling like blowing bubbles. As I was researching this article, I found a website with an idea so good I wish it was mine. They take a plastic sun tea container and fill it with a recipe for bubbles. Instead of buying a bunch of those little plastic bottles of bubbles, you have a functional dispenser. Fill the bubble solution in small bowls or whatever works best for your population. Here is the link.

I wish a happy Memorial Day to you and your participants. Please take some time to honor, reflect, or pray for those who have lost their lives serving this country.

Tell the Real Recreation Therapist

What types of activities do you do for Memorial Day?

Do you have a favorite cookout story?

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[…] of course, you can even do some other outdoor activities after the picnic like bean bags, frisbee, or […]