How to play balloony

Published (updated: ) in life.

Ever since my son was very small, he and I have been playing a game we invented – an indoor variant of tennis that we call balloony. Here’s how to play it.

  • Mark out the playing area. You need a rectangular empty space approximately 3.2m long by 2.4m wide. This is the space we have in our living room when we move the coffee table and other furniture to the sides. 
  • Roll up a blanket or a towel, and lay it across the centre of playing area. This marks the centre line. 
  • Blow up a balloon. Have a couple of fresh ones handy in case this one pops. 

Now you’re ready to play. 

The object of the game is to be the first person to score 20 points. 

You score 1 point for getting the balloon to touch the floor on your opponent’s side of the playing area. 

When one player reaches 10 points, the players swap sides (even if the score is 10-0).

After a player scores a point, the opposing player gets to serve to restart the game.

That’s all the basics covered, but there are a few more rules and tips you need to know:

  • No player can score a point from a “smash” on their serve (otherwise it becomes too easy to do smash after smash and win the game without anyone having fun).
  • That said, you can score with a smash at any other point in the game. Just not when you’re serving.
  • If the balloon lands on the line in the centre, the nearest player picks it up and serves.
  • If the balloon lands on the line in the centre and then bounces into the playing area, no point is scored.
  • Players are not allowed to reach over the centre line to touch the balloon while it’s in flight over the opponent’s half of the playing area. If they do, the opponent is allowed to serve again.
  • There’s no limit to the number of times you can touch the balloon during play.
  • Players may use any part of their body to hit the balloon.
  • If the balloon pops, just blow up another one and carry on.
  • It’s a good idea to agree, and clearly mark out, the boundaries of the playing area. If the balloon lands on or just outside these boundaries, no point is scored, and the nearest player serves.
  • It’s also a good idea to remove any sharp-edged pieces of furniture from the room. We usually shift everything out of the way except the sofa, which is fine because we can land on it at speed without damaging it or ourselves.

Possible game variations include: 

  • A shorter game that only goes to 10 points, or a longer one that goes to 30. Either way, don’t forget to swap sides when one player reaches half points.
  • Use larger, smaller, or elongated balloons. Partially deflated balloons are also quite fun to try (they fly and fall faster).
  • Limit players to just using one hand, or one hand and one foot
  • Add a limit to the number of touches each player is allowed per turn (3 touches is tricky, 2 touches hard, 1 touch makes it very hard).

That’s it. Hope you enjoy playing balloony!