Children's party games
Birthday parties are the must-attend social events of young children's lives, and they can sink or swim on the strength of party games.
Not only is it vital to pick the right activities but you also need to schedule them carefully so none of the guests gets bored and loses enthusiasm or explodes with over-excitement. It's a tricky balancing act but we've compiled some suggestions to get your party started.
Party ground rules
- Plan a mixture of calm and lively games and switch between the types throughout the party.
- Keep games short. Even if it's a success don't be tempted to drag it out, children get bored very quickly.
- Different types of games will allow different children to shine.
- Give children who are 'out' something to do, eg. helping to judge or referee, drawing, a quick puzzle
Lively party games
- Balloon race Divide the childen into equal teams and give each team a balloon. Set out a race course and explain its path. Use a whistle or call 'go' to signal the start. The children pat their balloon along the course. If it hits the floor or a child hits another's balloon they have to start over.
- Pass the balloon Children can play a similar game using the same race course but this time passing balloons from between their knees to between the next person's knees, hands behind their back.
- Traditional musical statues or musical chairs Let children pick a sweet once they're out.
- Treasure hunt Cut out paper eggs (or another object). Before the children arrive hide the eggs all over the house ie Blu-Tack to windows, doors, walls, etc. Give each child a basket, they have to collect 10 paper eggs in their own colour. Reward them with a sweet when they find all their eggs. Those finished can help the stragglers.
- Pin the tail on the donkey Tack a picture of a donkey with a missing tail to a wall (not too high as the shorties need to reach it). One at a time, each child is blindfolded and handed a paper 'tail' with a drawing pin (or Blu-Tack for safety's sake) poked through it. The blindfolded child is then spun around a number of times. The child then tries to pin the tail on the donkey. The player who pins their tail closest to the donkey's rear wins.
- Hot potato Children pass an object around the circle. It can be a ball, beanbag or even a potato. The children imagine its hot and pass it quickly. When you call 'hot' whoever is holding the potato is out.
- Don't eat Tommy Smartie Seat the children in a circle. Take Child A out of the room. While they are out, pour a few Smarties onto a plate and get Child B to choose one to be 'Tommy Smartie'. Bring Child A back and send they to the plate in the circle. Child A eats the Smarties until she lifts 'Tommy Smartie' at which point all the children shout: 'DON'T EAT TOMMY SMARTIE!'
- Dressing up pass the parcel Fill a bin bag with fancy dress bits and bobs or adult-sized hats/gloves etc. Pass the bag bag around à la Pass the parcel but whoever has it when the music stops has to pick something from the sack without looking and put it on. You can award a prize for the silliest costume at the end.
Calmer party games
- Chocolate game The children sit in a circle and take turns to throw a dice. If they get a six they put on a hat, scarf and gloves then attempt to eat a wrapped bar of chocolate with a knife and fork. Meanwhile the other children keep on throwing the dice. When the next person throws a six they claim the hat and gloves etc and continue to try and eat the chocolate. It's helpful to have a few mini chocolate bars for anyone who doesn't get a stab at the big one.
- Make a face Give each child a balloon and a felt-tip pen. Each child draws the hair on her balloon, passes it on and draws the eyes on the next one, and the nose on the next and so on.
- Pass the (rigged) parcel Play pass the parcel to music. Hide mini-prizes between the sheets so everyone wins something.
- Blind drawing Blindfold half the guests. Give them a pencil and paper and tell them what they are going to draw - choose something that relates to the party theme. Give them 30 - 60 seconds to draw the object. The other guests can enjoy watching the drawings appear; then it's their turn.
- Blind pirate (or Key game) Blindfold a 'pirate' and seat them on a chair. Place a bunch of keys or 'treasure' under the chair. Another child (one at time) has to creep up, grab the treasure and return to the other end of the room without being detected. If the pirate hears a noise they can point and say 'Ahoy there' and score 3 points. If the pirate points at the thief they win. If the thief gets away with the treasure they become the new pirate.
- Sleeping lions All the children lie still as if asleep. A judge roams the room. If they see a child move that child is 'out'. The winner is the last child 'asleep'. (Perfect just before home-time.)
Party games for children aged seven and above
- Superfast drawing This is a version of the Pictionary board game. Before the party prepare some cards with words or phrases (could relate to the party theme eg if it's a pirate party then you could have cards with plank, skull, flag, treasure). You need at least 20 cards. Divide the group into teams of three or more. One person from each team comes to you and you show them a card. They must return to their team and draw the word so that their team-mates can guess the word. No gestures or speaking are allowed. You can award points if you want.
- Spot the leader Put the children in a circle. One child leaves the room to become the guesser. Put on some music and choose one child to lead the others in clapping along. They must change the rhythm regularly and the body part they hit. When the guesser returns they have to try and guess which child is leading the clapping.
- Double packers Children hold hands in pairs. Give each pair an object like a shoe-box or book, a sheet of wrapping paper or newspaper, sellotape and a ribbon. They have to wrap up the 'present' using their free hands. The first pair wins.
- Where am I going? Divide the children into equal teams and set up a small circuit. (Remove any dangerous obstructions). One child in each team is blindfolded and the rest of the team call out instructions to send them round the course. Whichever team finishes first wins.
What Mumsnetters say about party games
- Anything busy where they don't have to sit out too long is best. gillybean2
- If you have a pinata, get a big bucket and ask them to put all the spilled goodies in it so you can share it out for party bags. OracleOfDelphinium
- Tommy Smartie has become the stuff of legend in our family and to our daughter and her friends! Tikkabillajive
- Have some games that don't have a 'winner'. Four-year-olds can be sore losers! My daughter is constantly traumatised by Pass the Parcel, we usually have to play it again at home, just so she can win. Beamur
- Have loads of balloons for then to play with. BoysBoysBoysAndMe
- You needn't to bother about prizes for toddlers (other than Pass the Parcel), they don't take much notice when they are 'out' so no-one really knows or cares who won anyway, and if they do then a round of applause will do fine. stealthsquiggle
- I did my daughter's fourth party in our living room. I wrote a list of games and moved from one to the next with no gaps, then had 20 minutes at the end for food. SavoyCabbage
- We did Tommy Smartie with 10-year-olds using Minstrels and Maltesers. We called it 'Don't Eat Gnasher's Poo' (was a Beano party). Went down extremely well! PandaG
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