How to make Jenga game the life of the party

Handy_Ann_columnNothing says summer quite like a campfire sing-along, making s’mores and playing Jenga.

What a minute. Did I just say playing Jenga?

Actually, yes. This summer the wooden stacking game was a staple at many gatherings I enjoyed with family and friends. However, unlike the tabletop set that can be found in toy stores, a homemade life-size version of the game was the main draw.

LEANING TOWER OF HILARITY: A backyard game of giant Jenga sees players stack “life-size” game pieces without making the tower tumble.
LEANING TOWER OF HILARITY: A backyard game of giant Jenga sees players stack “life-size” game pieces without making the tower tumble.

Let me take you to the beginning.

I was having a hard time coming up with a gift idea for my brother’s graduation party. I mean, what could I get a guy who has everything and doesn’t seem to want anything? After perusing online ideas for backyard games I discovered that outdoor giant Jenga had become a pretty popular thing. Since my brother is always one for fun and games, I knew right away this would be my next project.

To customize my gift, and since my German family is still on cloud nine over the recent World Cup championship, I put a little German spin on the final décor. Not only did guests play this game for hours when I brought it out at the grad party, but a friend requested a set of her own for a 30th birthday party the following weekend.

With the summer weather already slipping away, Giant Jenga will help you make the most of the great outdoors while it is still nice enough to do so.

What you need:
• 8 wooden 2 x 4s, 8-foot long
• 1 sharpie
• 1 power saw
• 1 electric sander
• 3–4 paintbrushes and colourful paint

1) Head on down to the lumberyard and pick up the 2 x 4s.

2) Saw the 2 x 4s into 10½-inch pieces for a total of 54 game blocks. If you don’t have access to a saw, get someone from the hardware store to cut the wood for you. Thankfully, I have a dad with all kinds of gadgets who was happy to lend a hand.

3) Sand the edges to make the wooden game pieces smooth around the ends and edges. This not only makes it easier for the pieces to slide during the game, but also prevents players from getting splinters.

4) At this point, the game can be played as is for a life-size regular game of Jenga. But if you’re interest
in adding an extra twist to the rules, this is where the fun begins. Using a sharpie, write a different instruction on each piece of wood. This could be a general rule for all players of the game or something specific for the person who winds up choosing that particular game piece.

To keep it family friendly, make the instructions things like make or break a rule, everyone must spin in a circle before their turn, play the remainder of the game on one foot or boxhead: the player who pulls this piece must wear a box on his or her head for the rest of the game. The one that caused an uproar during the grad party, especially when the stack got quite high, was the do-over piece, which instructs the player to put the piece back where it came from and select a new game piece.

To give the game more of an adult spin, instructions like distribute two drinks, or truth or dare, can help turn things up a notch. If you’re stumped coming up with 54 ideas, there are countless websites with suggestions to choose from.

5) Now it’s time to add some finishing touches. Personalize your game by painting the ends of every three or four pieces in a different colour or choose shades that represent your favourite colours or flag. Let dry.