How to Have a Lumberjack Competition With Your Kids

Have your kids ever heard stories of lumberjacks like Paul Bunyan?

Want to create some unique backyard fun for your family?

Create a family lumberjack competition.

It’s simple to set up and gets everyone outside for some friendly competition. Not only are the activities fun, but you’ll also learn about a fascinating industry with deep historical roots.

In this article I’ll explain how to put together kid-friendly versions of real competitive events from actual lumberjack competitions.

Looking for some lumberjack style historical fun? Create kid friendly versions of professional logging games in your own family lumberjack competition. Timber!

Why a Lumberjack Competition?

A lumberjack competition is a great opportunity to combine the cerebral with the physical! You’ll get your kids outdoors for an adventure that’s part obstacle course, part relay race, part target practice and all fun! Plus, you’ll be able to sneak in a fascinating history and social sciences lesson about this tradition.

Lumberjacks and lumberjills, or loggers as they’re referred to today, are people who cut down trees to harvest lumber. Your family won’t be cutting down any trees. Instead, you’ll participate in fun games that simulate some of the skills used in logging.

It’s easy to create your own competition, using materials found at home or any big-box store.

A wonderful community exists around the modern-day logging industry. Lumberjack competitions take place around the world.

Watch this awesome video of the annual Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, Wisconsin for an overview of some of the events.

professional competition sign

Check out a professional lumberjack competition before you make your own.

Before you create your competition, read about the history of the lumber industry and find out about modern-day loggers.

Find out if there’s a lumberjack competition happening near you and take your kids to it. That’s the best kind of research you can do to create your own family lumberjack games and it’s a fun family outing.

Ready to make your own lumberjack games? It’s easy and fun. Let’s go!

You Will Need

  • Hammer
  • Piece of scrap wood and 5 nails for each competitor
  • Stopwatch
  • Paper and pen to note times
  • Sawhorse
  • 4 big boots, hat, scarf, small blanket and other “clothes” for the horse
  • 1 log per participant (fireplace logs work wonderfully)
  • 2 pool noodles (or up to one per logger)
  • Plastic knife
  • Plastic axe (found at dollar stores or big-box stores)
  • Target (tree trunk, fence, bin, etc.)
  • Measuring tape

Preparation Time

30-45 minutes to set up all activities

Activity Time

1 hour or more


Your backyard!

Try these five events to test the skills of your lumberjacks and lumberjills. Although these are aimed at kids, parents should play too!

Separate everyone into age categories or divide into teams with a member from each age group.

#1: Nail Drive

This first activity gives kids a chance to use a hammer and see how quickly they can drive in some nails. It’s easy and satisfying!

Although hammering is not one of the typical events in a lumberjack competition, it is a good woodworking skill for kids (and adults) to develop, and a great challenge for your family lumberjack games.

Driving nails is a good (and safer) game for your family event than the wood chopping events found in professional competitions.

Prep: Lightly hammer five nails in a row into a piece of scrap wood.

Play: After you give the signal and start the stopwatch, the logger hammers in the nails, one after another. It’s kind of a “big kid” version of that favorite babyhood toy: the mallet and pegs.

boy hammering nails

See how fast you can hammer in five nails. It’s a true test of dexterity and concentration.

Write down the first competitor’s time, then set up a new board and nails for the next person. Continue until everyone has had a turn. The player who completes the challenge in the shortest amount of time wins.

This simple game is so much fun, your kids will want to help out with other construction projects where hammering is involved.

#2: Dress the Sawhorse

Draft horses have been used in the logging industry for centuries.

horse powered logging

Historically, horses played a key role in logging. Screenshot from

Prep: For your own backyard activity, set up a sawhorse.

If you don’t have a sawhorse, use a toy rocking horse or make a sawhorse: Hammer some pieces of scrap wood together in the shape of a horse. Use a flat piece of wood for the body and thinner (but sturdy) pieces for the legs.

If you want, get a wooden “head” with mop hair from the craft store to complete your horse. Attach a belt to use for reins.

boy on sawhorse

If you don’t have a sawhorse, make one using scrap wood.

Round up some old clothes for the horse. For example, grab old work boots (one for each foot), a scarf to tie around the neck, a hat for the head, a blanket “saddle” and whatever else you can find.

Play: Using the stopwatch, time each logger as they “dress” the horse. Write down the results.

girl dressing the sawhorse

Cheer on your family members during this fun competition.

After each child finishes, they should undress the horse. Place all the clothes in a pile, so they’re ready for the next participant.

#3: Log Roll

Lumberjacks traditionally moved the logs they cut by rolling them into a nearby river and then guiding the floating logs to the closest sawmill.

River drives were a standard way of moving large amounts of timber to sawmills during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

You probably don’t have a river in your backyard, but your family will have fun with this simple log roll that mimics the transportation job of the loggers.

Prep: Mark off a start line and a finish line for this fun race. Line everyone up and place a log in front of each participant.

Play: At the start signal, start rolling!

The first to roll a log past the finish line wins.

girl rolling log

Fireplace logs work well for the log roll.

To take it further and simulate the river drive, use long sticks or broom handles to guide the logs along a grass, dirt or asphalt “river” or down the length of a swimming pool.

The great thing about the log roll is it can be set up anywhere. Try some race variations during the competition: a log roll on the grass, another down the driveway or across the deck, etc.

#4: Crosscut Saw

Crosscut saw competitions are great tests of strength, skill and teamwork.

A pair of loggers must quickly saw off a “cookie,” a thin disk of wood, from the end of a trunk. In this competition, they cut two.

Use pool noodles and a plastic knife to set up a kid-friendly version of the crosscut saw competition.

Prep: Place a pool noodle on your sawhorse and line up your lumberjacks and lumberjills for this fast and furious event!

Play: You can do it in one of two ways:

  • Each kid has his or her own pool noodle, which you have pre-marked into ten equal segments. The kids move the pool noodles down the sawhorse as they cut them, using a plastic knife, into ten pieces. Use the stopwatch to time how long it takes each child.
  • Alternatively, split your loggers into relay teams. Each participant cuts one or two pieces, and then it’s the next one’s turn. That way, you only need two pool noodles (one per team) for the entire event. Again, use the stopwatch to time each logger and a plastic knife to cut the pool noodle.

    sawing pool noodle

    The crosscut saw event is a great test of strength.

Once you determine the winner or the winning team, move on to the final event!

#5: Axe Throw

Accuracy with an axe is an important skill for a logger. An axe-throwing competition is a good test.

Only try this at home with a toy plastic axe or a rubber mallet!

Prep: For this event, you’ll need a toy plastic axe, like the ones found in the costume section of a dollar store or a big-box store. If you can’t find one, you can use a rubber mallet from the hardware store or make an axe from foam.

You’ll also need to choose a target. It can be anything: a tree trunk, a spot on your fence, a field hockey or soccer goal, a big box or bin, a hula hoop, etc. Use your imagination!

girl throwing axe

It’s easy to modify the difficulty of the axe throw. Just change the type of target and/or the distance between the logger and the target.

Play: If you’re using a flat solid target (like a tree trunk or fence), mark a common starting point and throw the axe as close to the target as possible. Give each logger three tries. Measure the distance from the target to where the axe falls each time. Note their best score or an average of all three scores.

If you’re using a “hole” target (like a soccer or hockey net or a large box), the goal is to throw the axe inside of it. Mark off a place for the participants to stand, and give them three tries with the plastic axe. The one who hits the target (or gets closest!) wins.

Like most of the lumberjack events, the axe throw can be altered so it’s different each time. Try different targets, different axes or change the placement of the throwing line.

The point of the family lumberjack competition is not just to win, it’s to try something new, be creative and come up with lots of events to do with your kids. Most of all have fun!

Some Final Thoughts

A lumberjack competition tests skill, strength, dexterity, concentration and teamwork. Compete in the events as individuals or as family teams. You can even get the whole neighborhood involved. Make snacks. Turn it into a big event!

Your kids will beam with pride as they complete these fun tests. And you will too!

These games are just as much fun for adults as kids, so get the whole family involved. There’s a bit of lumberjack or lumberjill in everyone!

What do you think? Which activity was your favorite? Did you think of any fun variations? What additional events did you create? We’d love to hear about your experience. Feel free to post a picture of your little lumberjack or lumberjill in the comments below!

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About the Author, Amanda Shaw

Amanda Shaw is mom to three spirited children and doubles as director of content marketing at WebrunnerMG. On any given day, she dons a tutu or a hard hat. Other posts by »

  • Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks, Amanda! This is such a great, old-fashioned activity. I went on a tour of a saw mill one time and it was fascinating.

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