More exciting than croquet or horseshoes, Lawn Darts once held the distinction of being a fun outdoor game to play in backyards, beaches and parks across America. Today, they are illegal to sell. Read on to learn how Lawn Darts went from popular recreation activity to the toy that would live in infamy.
When Lawn Darts were introduced in the 60s, they were greeted with enthusiasm as a fun game, perfect for picnics, backyard barbeques, and any outdoor gathering of friends and family. A number of companies released versions of the toy and they all sold very well. By the time the 70s rolled around, there were few suburban garages that didn’t have a set laying around somewhere.
A set of Lawn Darts typically included two pairs of differently-colored darts, along with two plastic rings. The darts were about a foot in length, Much like their tavern-dwelling cousins, they consisted of a pointy end and a tailfin section to help them fly straight. The difference was that they weren’t as sharp. They were, however, weighted so as to better pierce the lawn. That weight meant that they didn’t need to be sharp to be dangerous.
This video wonderfully demonstrates why Lawn Darts wouldn’t be with us for very long. (And no, the video isn’t of a real accident.)
All was fun and games during the early years, but of course someone always has to come along and ruin a good thing. In the case of Lawn Darts, “someone” was literally thousands of people who were regularly showing up at their local emergency rooms with dart-related injuries.
During a nine-year period, starting in 1978, almost 7,000 trips to the hospital were the result of accidents and misadventures via a set of Lawn Darts, and three out of every four of those visits involved children.
The first step was to remove Lawn Darts from the toy section and relocate them to sporting goods. This did little to solve the problem, however, as the toy simply proved too enticing to youngsters. They were eventually pulled from store shelves across the country, but that still left a lot of sets gathering dust in those suburban garages.
Eventually, it became illegal across the country to sell actual Lawn Darts, and the government encourages people not to play with the real thing (although it isn’t technically illegal to own them). Nerf would eventually introduce a much safer version of the toy, but it just wasn’t the same.
We are a nation of free spirits, and some of us have kept a set of lawn darts in the garage ever since, warnings be damned. In the privacy of their backyards, nostalgic folks still play the game when they so desire, unwilling to let mere tales of misfortune spoil their lawn-piercing fun.
I suspect that there are a lot of you out there with fond memories of playing with real Lawn Darts, either before or after their forced extinction. I’d love to hear all your stories, good and bad, about your experiences playing with this iconic and infamous toy in our comments section below.
(Editor’s note: When I originally wrote this article, I was under the impression that it was illegal to own lawn darts. One of our readers pointed out that this isn’t the case. I checked it out and he is right. Thank you for steering me right, Rick Allen! The story now has the correct information and I apologize if anyone was misled. You needn’t hide your lawn darts. 🙂 )