Birthday parties have become increasingly elaborate over the years, but one thing has remained a constant: You’ve got to find a way to keep all those kids busy.
Enter the classic birthday party game. Many of these old-fashioned party games shaped our own childhood memories, whether it was Pin the Tail on the Donkey in our younger years or Spin the Bottle in our older years. While your own child’s birthday celebration might be held in a community centre instead of the backyard, party games can still be a big part of the day’s activities.
Here are 12 kids’ party games, suitable for children of various ages and abilities, that are simple to plan and execute and a lot of fun.
1. What’s in the Bag?
Fill an opaque bag with a few items related to the party theme (for example, if cooking or baking is a party activity, put in various kitchen utensils). Each child has to reach into the bag to choose an object without pulling it out and guess what it is by touching it. This is a good game for younger kids that doesn’t require a winner.
2. Pin the Tail on the Donkey
Hang a photo on the wall and get the kids to “pin” an item in place while blindfolded (use tape or sticky tack instead of a pin for safety). You can go with the original donkey-and-tail combo or get creative and play Pin the Nose on the Clown or Pin the Carrot on Olaf to suit the birthday theme. The child who gets the item closest to the intended location wins.
3. Musical Chairs
The rules here are simple: Set up chairs or pillows to sit on, with one fewer than there are party guests. Start the music and when it stops, the last person standing is out. Remove a seat and continue until there’s a winner. If your party has a theme, you can match it to the music (for example, if the party has a Moana theme, play the movie soundtrack).
4. Egg-and-Spoon Race
If you are able to have an outdoor party (or have a high tolerance for messy floors), set up an egg-and-spoon race. Each kid has to race to the finish line carrying an egg on their spoon; if they drop their egg, they’re out! You can set up heats for a larger group and have a tournament-style showdown with the finalists.
5. Freeze Dance
This is a good way for kids to burn off some energy during an indoor party. Put on music (maybe a soundtrack if a movie or TV show is part of the party theme) and encourage the kids to dance like crazy. When the music stops, everyone freezes. If they move while the music is off, they’re out!
6. Punch Piñata
A piñata can be a lot of fun, but it can also lead to hurt feelings if some kids don’t get to the candy haul fast enough. This is a fun alternative for children who don’t have the strength or mobility to whack a piñata or get on the floor to grab treats. Full instructions can be found here, but you can put this together with supplies purchased at a bulk food or dollar store.
7. Balloon Stomp
Buy balloons in two colours, and divide the group into two. Use twine to tie a balloon to each child’s ankles. The kids have to stomp on and break the other team’s balloons to win. Plan this game for last, and use the balloons as party decorations until it’s time to play. This one is best for older kids who aren’t in danger of putting balloon pieces in their mouths.
8. Hot Potato
This is probably a game you played as a kid, but you can customize it to any party theme. Use a potato or an item related to the theme of your party, like a stuffed character for a Paw Patrol party. Sit the kids in a circle and pass the item around while the music plays. Anyone holding the item when the music stops is out, and play continues until one child remains.
9. Sleeping Lions
This one can also be called Sleeping Princesses or Sleeping Superheroes, depending on the theme of the party. All of the children but the birthday kid are sleeping lions, and they have to lie as still as possible on the floor. The birthday kid’s job is to try to wake the lions by making them laugh or move—they can tell jokes, sing, tell a story or ask questions, but they can’t touch them. As the kids “wake up,” they join the birthday kid, until one especially sleepy lion wins. Bonus: It gets the kids to calm down and take a break from all the excitement.
10. Sticky Note Challenge
Pick up a few inexpensive packages of sticky notes at a dollar store. Divide the kids into pairs and give one package of sticky notes to one of the members of each pair. When the music starts, the kids with sticky notes must try to put as many of them as possible on their partners. The pair with the most sticky notes in place when the music stops wins.
11. Pass the Parcel
This is a variation on Hot Potato, but the winner is the person with the item in the end. Wrap a prize in multiple layers of wrapping paper (this is a good way to use up all those odd scraps!). Make sure that you have enough layers for each kid at the party, and wrap a small treat, like a candy or sticker sheet, between each layer. Sit the kids in a circle and pass the gift around while the music plays. When the music stops, the child holding the parcel removes a layer and gets the treat it contains and then leaves the circle. The last child left gets the prize under all the paper.
12. Traffic Yam
Set up straight lines on the floor with masking tape. Divide the kids into teams (one member for each tape track), and give a sweet potato and a wooden spoon to each child. Each kid races to be the first to get their sweet potato from one end of the tape to the other by using the wooden spoon to roll it (not shove it!) along the tape. If their yam leaves the tape line, they have to put it back to where it rolled off and keep going. The lumpy sweet potatoes make this fun because you never know how they’ll roll!