Is Lawn Darts Safe To Play?


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Key Takeaways

  1. Modern versions of lawn darts are safe to play since manufacturers make them from rubber or plastic instead of metal.
  2. Older sets of lawn darts were banned in the late 1980s due to their causing injuries and even death.
  3. It’s still essential to play lawn darts as intended and to do so safely, even with the safer designs.

Lawn darts was once a favored game for many families in the 20th century but quickly turned controversial when it caused injuries and death. Safer versions exist now, but it’s natural to wonder if even those versions of lawn darts are safe to play.

So, are they?

Is Lawn Darts Safe To Play?

The good news is that the lawn darts versions on sale today are safe to use. Just make sure to use them as intended.

However, lawn dart sets still exist, which sellers sell secondhand as nostalgic items. Those sets are unsafe since they are made from metal and end in pointed tips, similar to the darts you throw at a dartboard.

In fact, as you’ll see more below, these sets were and still are so unsafe that using them resulted in injuries and even death.

Lawn Darts: A Brief History

The classic outdoor game of lawn darts became popular during the mid-20th century. For many years, people of all ages enjoyed throwing these large darts toward targets on their lawns during family gatherings. However, relatively shortly after their popularity gain, they became controversial and were eventually banned – at least in their traditional form. 

The game idea goes back to ancient civilizations, though what we now recognize as lawn darts didn’t appear until more recently. 

The journey of lawn darts as a game hasn’t been smooth. Concerns were raised about their safety following incidents and injuries, particularly involving children. This led to a ban on selling traditional lawn darts and paved the way for a newer, safer version. 

Safety Concerns Of Lawn Darts

A closeup of an old version of lawn darts.

Manufacturers designed traditional lawn darts like their smaller dartboard relatives. They had pointed metal tips, which pierced the lawn when thrown. It was these sharp tips that concerned many. 

When thrown carelessly or with force, these tips can–and did–cause injuries and death. For a game aimed at families, it quickly became evident this wasn’t the best design for children.

Tragically, there were some serious incidents with lawn darts, including the deaths of children who the darts hit.

Regulatory Actions And Important Changes

In 1988, the U.S. government banned the sale of traditional lawn darts following the death of a girl while playing the game. 

Michelle Snow was seven years old and was playing in her backyard when a lawn dart came over the fence and penetrated her skull, killing her. Her father campaigned for a ban on the sale of these garden toys, and he was eventually successful 18 months later. Other jurisdictions followed the U.S. ban.

Before the ban, there were already restrictions on selling lawn darts due to concerns over their safety. They couldn’t be sold in toy shops, for example, only in sports goods stores. They also had warnings and were not marketed for children’s use.

Many people kept their traditional lawn dart sets from before the ban. If these are hanging around in your garage, it’s not illegal.

Public Perception Of Lawn Darts

The public perception of the game is varied. Some are nostalgic about the traditional game and believe an outright ban shouldn’t exist. 

Some people have gone so far as to buy the parts and make traditional lawn darts themselves. You’ll also find people selling old lawn dart sets on auction sites like eBay.

Many argue other activities are just as dangerous or have killed more people and have not received a ban. 

On the other side of the fence, some people believe sentimentality shouldn’t get in the way of safety, and that survivorship bias has a role to play among those who position themselves for the traditional game.

Modern Versions Of Traditional Lawn Darts

One of the responses to the lawn darts ban was a complete redesign of the game. This meant people could still enjoy the game but could do so in a safe way.

Manufacturers redesigned lawn darts to have large and soft rounded tips. Instead of harsh and sharp metal, manufacturers made them from rubber or plastic. 

The game, in essence, is the same. However, it is now much safer. 

There are also many different variations of the game. Some lawn dart sets come with one target, while others have rings. You can even buy glow-in-the-dark sets for after hours! Inflatable versions also exist, which means you can take the game indoors in bad weather.

Guidelines For Playing Lawn Darts Safely

Lawn darts is fun, but when you’ve got a game with throwing, you must approach even the modern version cautiously. Here’s what to do to ensure the game is safe and fun:

  • Choose an area that’s level, free of obstacles, and spacious.
  • Place the targets at a suitable distance.
  • Don’t play in crowded areas or near buildings.
  • Supervise children–even those not playing. 
  • Only retrieve darts when all have been thrown.
  • Maintain a proper stance when throwing so the dart goes in the right direction. 
  • Only use underarm, gentle throws so you can control a dart’s trajectory.

Parental Responsibilities

Parents play an essential role in the safety of lawn darts. They should supervise their children, particularly young children or those with additional needs. Even teens can be immature and lack appropriate safety awareness. 

Parents should educate their children about the risks involved with lawn darts. Parents should teach them how to play safely and the potential consequences if they don’t.

Comparative Risk With Other Recreational Activities

Lawn darts is similar in risk to games like cricket or baseball, perhaps even less due to the force they’re thrown. It’s also similar to another family favorite – horseshoes. 

Just as you would exercise caution when playing cricket or baseball, take the same stance with lawn darts to ensure the safety of all.

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