Easy to set up. Easy to play. And a whole lot of fun!

When I was a child, there was no game I loved more than wiffle ball. In fact, as far as summer games for kids go, I'd say this one ranks up there in terms of fun, exercise, and family-bonding potential. There are lots of ways to play (well beyond the official rules), it's cheap to set up, and, perhaps most importantly, it's an outside game so everyone can enjoy the beautiful sunny weather. Here you'll learn the basics of what you need to know (and have) to get a good game of wiffle ball going. 

wiffle ball playingCredit: Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/62126383@N00/1516749291/">hoyasmeg</a> via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a> What is wiffle ball?

Well, simply put--it's like baseball but with a hollow plastic bat and plastic balls made with unique (and often oblong) holes. For most wiffle ball game variations, you have the exact same goals as in baseball. Pitch the ball, hit the ball, move runners forward, and get the batter out. If you've got young baseball fans in the family, this is a great game to share with them.

What makes wiffle ball special?

Why not just play baseball or softball you may be asking? Those can be fun summer games for kids too, but there's a lot of cool things about wiffle ball that place it in a class all its own. 

  • You can play at a moments notice: No need for finding gloves and protective gear, getting a team together, and getting to a field. 
  • You can play in the country or in a more urban setting: Wiffle balls and bats were designed to make sure the balls don't travel too far when hit or pitched. Plus, the balls are hollow and light, so it's nearly impossible for them to do major damage to things they hit.
  • A game can work with two people or eighteen people: This is a summer kid's game that can be just as fun one-on-one as against a team. 
  • The balls are fun to throw, hit, and catch: The holes in the balls allow you to throw some amazing "junk" pitches with lots of curves and sliding action. And when hit in the air, they can take some unusual twists and turns. 
  • It's pretty safe for young ones: Baseballs and baseball bats can be dangerous in young hands. Wiffle ball equipment is more like plastic lightweight toys in comparison.
  • It's great baseball or softball training: If your child has shown interest in these sports, wiffle ball is a great low impact place to start. 

The equipment you need

As mentioned, it's pretty cheap to get a wiffle ball set up going. All you need is some basic equipment and you are set!

Wiffle balls

Wiffle 9 Inch Circumference Baseballs in Counter-top Display - One DozenI'm a fan of the original wiffle balls, though there are variations out there. These balls have oblong holes going around the top of the ball only. Other variations have holes covering the entire ball, and often the holes are a perfectly circular shape. I've found that the original balls allow for more spin and tricks with the ball when pitching, and it does more interesting things in the air when hit.

I also prefer the nine-inch balls to the twelve-inch wiffle balls. They are easier for kids to hold and throw, and they are a bit more challenging to hit. But if you love softball, the twelve-inch varieties are your best bet. 

The wiffle ball bat

Wiffle 32-Inch Bat
Amazon Price: $20.00 $2.29 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 10, 2013)

The original yellow plastic bat is a classic. It's the only wiffle ball bat you need, no matter kid or adult. It's light, easy to swing, and durable. Plus, who doesn't love the bright, fun color? It just feels like summer. 

Throw down bases

BSN Orange Throw Down Bases (5 Piece )
Amazon Price: $30.00 $10.05 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 10, 2013)

While not a necessity (you can use landmarks, stones, and other natural markers), many people like using throw down bases. It gives the game a little more organized feel, and they're really not that pricey of an accessory for the value they bring.

Game variations

There are quite a few ways to play a game of wiffle ball. Here are a few, but feel free to make up your own house rules, too:

The offical (or close to it) wiffle ball game

Wiffle 32-Inch BatThis is great for two players, but there can be as many as five per team. There is no running of the bases, only pitching, hitting, and outs. Set up foul lines, a strike zone (a piece of marked cardboard can help), and field markers for a single, double, triple, and home run. I suggest fifteen feet per each of these markers, starting from home plate. Then get to pitching and hitting! 

You score runs by getting a clean hit that lands (and stops) in one of the marked areas. Essentially you are moving imaginary runners around the diamond. A single gets a runner on base. A double will move an imaginary runner on first to third. It'll also score any runners already on second or third. A double or triple will clear the bases. A home run is, well, a home run. There are no walks as wiffle balls can be tough to control. 

There are three outs per side. Outs are earned by striking out, catching a ball in the air, or grabbing a ground ball while it's still in motion. Foul tips are strikes, except for the third strike (just like in baseball), and balls that aren't swung at, but hit your strike marker are strikes as well. 

When one on one, you've got the entire field as the defender. If you can catch up to a fly ball (in fair or foul territory) or a moving ground ball in fair territory, you can snag it for an out, no matter where on the field. If there are more than two players, you can place one person in each designated marker area. They can't leave that area, but they can snag any balls in it. But of course, no person can be passed the home run marker, unless you're just a family onlooker cheering on the game!

One Dozen Sets of Wiffle Baseball & Bat Sets from Wiffle
Amazon Price: $78.80 $44.90 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 10, 2013)

The "it's just like baseball" variationhttp://www.amazon.com/BSN-Orange-Throw-Bases-Piece/dp/B0010AP7HU/ref=sr_1_11?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1365900224&sr=1-11&keywords=wiffle+ball

The title says it all. You field a team, you run the bases, and you score runs. It's great for getting summer time exercise for the kids. Outs are scored by striking out, a defender catching a fly in fair or foul territory, but with a ground ball, there needs to be a tag or a force out (touch a base before a runner who is forced to move gets to it, due to a hit). 

The thrown ball tag variation

This one is not for everyone. If you don't like the idea of your kids throwing wiffle balls at someone running the bases, just ignore this one. But, my friends and I loved this variation when we were kids. Really, it's the same as the baseball variation above, but you can get someone out through a well-aimed throw at the runner. If you can hit the runner in the torso area (no head, no legs) while the runner is circling the bases, then the runner is out. 

This is a great way for a small team (even two people) to play a base running version of the game. But again, it adds to the play risk. Proceed with caution. I had a few wiffle balls to the head in my day, though I should say I think I'm pretty ok from it.

Just for kicks

Technically you don't need to have any ruled game surrounding your play time. It can be a lot of fun (and great baseball and softball training) just to throw the ball, swing the bat, and field without keeping score. Your child could even play on his or her own using a wiffle ball machine like the one below.

Franklin Sports Mlb Pitching Machine No. 6696S3
Amazon Price: $41.99 $20.00 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 10, 2013)

A lot of warm weather good times to be had

So if you're considering your options for cool summer games for kids around your neighborhood, here's a vote for giving wiffle ball a shot. It's got so much going for it between the family and team bonding opportunities, the skill learning, and ultimately just the fun of throwing, fielding, and batting these crazy balls. The fact that you can pick up and play just about anywhere adds to it too. This is a game that works just as well at a group picnic or an empty basketball court, as it does in your own backyard.