This Awesome, Indoor Version of Skee-Ball Will Entertain Any Kid

Even better, you don't need a bucket of quarters to play.

by Dave Baldwin

Want to give your kids some arcade-esque fun but want to focus on at-home (and free) activities for kids instead of the offerings at the local Dave & Busters? Try ‘Stair Ball Drop’. A fun take on Skee Ball, it involves kids bouncing balls down a flight of stairs and into baskets worth a certain number of points. It’s good for young and older kids alike, requires little setup, and even fewer quarters. Better still, it’s a great way to exhaust older kids with stair repeats ⏤ they have to go up and down to collect the balls every round ⏤ while also practicing their math skills as they manually tally the scores.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Entertainment Time: 15 minutesEnergy Expended by Child: Moderate physical, mostly from climbing up and down the stairs; Moderate mental, from doing all that math.

What You Need:

  • A staircase
  • Several balls ⏤ tennis, Nerf, dodge, beach, small rubber, doesn’t matter ⏤ just no medicine balls. That said, it’s more fun if they’re of varying sizes.
  • Several bins or buckets ⏤ laundry baskets, trash cans, foldable cloth bins, plastic bowls, they all work well.
  • A few sheets of paper, a pen, and some tape.
  • Fun prizes.

Set Up:

The first step is to attribute point values to each receptacle. On each sheet of paper, write a single number ⏤ 10, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 75, 100, etc. ⏤ and tape it to a bin. Any numbers will do, it just depends on how hard you want to make the math. After each bin has a label, arrange them at the bottom of the staircase in no particular order. Now, collect all the balls and deposit them at the top of the stairs. Again, how many bins or balls really depends on what you have around the house. The game works fine with only a few of each but rounds can last longer if you have more.

How to Play:

All of the kids should stand at the top of the stairs. If they’re young, they should be behind a gate. If they’re older, definitely no gate ⏤ it’ll only slow things down. You stand at the bottom with a scoresheet.

The game can be played in teams or as individuals although each player should throw all the balls before another takes a turn. It works just like Skee Ball, but instead of rolling the balls, you drop them. One at a time, each ball is tossed down the stairs and bounces in or over the bins. Important note, the ball has to bounce at least once before landing in a bin ⏤ no throwing the balls down the stairs. When a player finishes tossing all the balls, they should come down to the bottom and help add up their score. Or, you just tally it up if they don’t possess the math knowledge. After they return the balls to the top of the stairs, another player takes a turn.

After playing a predetermined number of rounds, the player/team with the highest score wins and they can claim their prize. Best part, no tickets needed to get the cap gun.

Note: If you live in a ranch or don’t have access to stairs, you can still play a version of the game. Some parents call it ‘Laundry Basket Skee Ball’ and, instead of using stairs, they build a simple ball ramp out of a cardboard box. Play is more similar to real Skee Ball and kids can roll the balls across the kitchen floor, jumping them into the bins.

Wrap Up:

The beauty of ‘Stair Ball Drop’ is that it combines physical and mental play, exhausting kids on both fronts the longer the game. Ideal for rainy/snowy days, they’re often having such a good time they don’t even realize they’re doing an actual workout, or their math homework. Also, it doesn’t cost you a bucket full of quarters and, let’s be honest: it’s just fun to watch balls bounce down a flight of stairs.