Cake and presents may be the main attraction of your little one's birthday party, but you'll want to have some exciting party games planned to keep the kids entertained. Devising games can be daunting, so we asked some party planning experts to give us a few hints on how to pick ones that are sure to be a hit.
Laura Riggs, owner of PartyGamesPlus.com, advises parents to avoid competitive games with younger children, since they don't always grasp the concept of sportsmanship and feelings are easily hurt when they don't win. Bridget Parry, an event stylist and party blogger at BridgeyWidgey.com, always likes incorporating crafts and games around the party's theme.
Here are eight great game ideas that are sure to get the party started and keep everyone in a celebratory mood. Get your spouse, nanny and the birthday kid's siblings involved, so you aren't running around trying to oversee everything all at once.
BYOB Bike/Tricycle Race (Ages 2 and Up)
Kids will stay happily occupied with this obstacle course bike race, which includes a bike decorating contest and award ceremony. Just note on the invitations that it's a BYOB (or bring your own bike) party, and be sure to ask parents to bring their kids' helmets along, too. Have some extras on hand for those who forget.
Create a short obstacle course and time each rider separately, or if it's a large area, they can all go at the same time. This game can also be made into a relay race. The race can take place in a park, vacant lot, cul-de-sac or driveway. Have kids decorate bikes with streamers, pennants and noisemakers made from playing cards placed between the spokes. You can find traffic cones at any major home improvement store and plastic skateboard ramps at local supercenters. You can also have a water spray at the end of the race course during summertime parties. At the end of the race, hand out prizes like plastic trophies, water bottles and bike accessories, such as spokesters, horns and pennants.
Prize Walk (Ages 2 to 4)
This game is similar to a cake walk (a popular carnival game), but instead of winning a cake, kids win prizes. Write numbers from 1-30 on squares and tape them to the ground in a circle. Make small numbered squares to correspond with the numbers on the ground and keep them in a basket. Start the game by having each child stand on a number and begin walking around the circle when the music starts. When the music stops they have to stand on a number. If their number is chosen from the basket, they win a prize. This game can continue until everyone wins a prize.
Bubble Wrap Races (Ages 3 and Up)
This game is fun and will having everyone giggling. Buy a large roll of bubble wrap and lay out a 5-foot piece of it in the yard or in an open space. Have each child cross the bubble wrap barefoot -- the object is to get all the way across without popping any of the bubbles. If you want to make it more competitive, line up three sections and have teams race across to the other side. The team who cross without making a peep (or making the least pops) wins!
Photo Scavenger Hunt (Ages 4 and Up)
Photo scavenger hunts are fun and easy to adapt to any party's theme and the ages of the guests. There are two ways you can do a photo hunt. Sketch out a map and give kids pictures of the clues to be found along the route. Along with each clue they find, there will be a small reward. If you're having a pirate theme party, then clues could be chocolate coins, with a treasure chest of prizes at the end. Alternatively, kids can bring their own digital cameras or cell phones and take pictures of items or scenes on a list -- whoever finds the most items wins the hunt. Hunts can take place in a mall, a park or around your home. Lists of items to hunt can include things in nature, shops and food at the mall or items that relate to specific letters. You can send kids off in small groups with an adult chaperon if they are in public places.
Balloon Burst (Ages 4 and Up)
This is one of Riggs' favorite games. Kids bop a balloon in the air to music until the music stops, then whoever was the last to touch the balloon must pop it and complete the challenge that's inside. Write challenges on paper and insert them into balloons before inflating -- have enough balloons to continue the game for as long as you decide.Challenges can be anything from trivia questions to physical tests, like trying to lick your elbow or sing a song with a mouthful of crackers.
Mummy Wrap (Ages 4 to 8)
Incorporate this game into an October birthday for a Halloween-themed party, along with bobbing for apples. Divide kids into small groups and have them pick someone to be the mummy (or have an adult be the mummy). Pass out rolls of toilet paper to each group and whoever wraps up their mummy using all the toilet paper the quickest wins.
Origami Boat Races (Ages 5 and Up)
This game is played by blowing through a straw to power paper boats across a plastic pool, with the winner being first to make it across. If you play this in groups, then the winners from each group or race can continue to play each other until a final winner is declared. The boats are easy to construct using origami paper that can be found at any craft supply. Older kids will enjoy making them, but parents may need to help younger ones with this craft. You'll find these instructions on making the boats easy to follow.
Drama Game (Ages 6 and Up)
In this game, kids get to create their own entertainment. Start by giving each child or group of children a grocery bag of props, which can include anything from kitchen items and costumes to make-up and assorted clothing. Then give them an allotted time for planning their skits before you tape their performances. After everyone has finished, have a screening and award ceremony where each child receives a trophy for their part in the skit. Skits can entail anything from a talk or cooking show, to a TV commercial.
With a little bit of creativity, planning and prep work, you can give your kiddos a birthday they'll never forget. The more unique the idea, the more memorable the party and the more fun everyone's sure to have.
Ilene Jacobs is a freelance writer in Dallas, Texas. Her work can be found here.