Cake and presents may be the main attraction of your little one’s birthday party, but it’s important to have games planned to keep the kids entertained and out of trouble. Devising games can be time-consuming, so we asked some party planning experts to give us advice on how to pick party games for kids that are sure to be a hit — and are easy to set up.
Laura Riggs, owner of PartyGamesPlus.com, advises parents to avoid competitive games with younger children because they don’t always grasp the concept of sportsmanship and their feelings are easily hurt when they don’t win. Bridget Parry, an event stylist and party blogger, says she always likes incorporating crafts and games around the party’s theme. The only real rule with birthday party games, though, is that they should be fun!
Here are 20 birthday party games for kids of any age.
Kids ages 2 and up
1. Prize Walk
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.
2. Bubble Wrap Races
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 crosses without making a peep (or making the least pops) wins! This game is best for kids ages 3 and up.
3. Doughnut on a String
This one is simple enough for the younger guests and delicious enough for everyone else. Tie a rope to something sturdy, such as thick tree branches. Use ribbons to attach each doughnut to the rope so that the doughnut hangs freely and is at a good length for the party guests. On the count of three, each player must try to eat their entire doughnut without it falling to the ground. The big challenge: No hands allowed! The first person to finish their doughnut without it falling wins. There is really no need for prizes here because the doughnuts will be the yummiest prize of all.
4. Musical Statues
Play some upbeat music and let the kids dance like crazy. When the music is paused, each child must freeze like a statue. If anyone is caught moving, they’re out. This one is lots of fun for younger kids but tougher for those under 4 years old. Anyone younger than 4 can be encouraged to dance along in a separate area just for fun. Make sure to give out small prizes, like stickers, as players are eliminated so that everyone walks away happy.
5. The Bubble Game
This is one for your youngest guests and is perfect for toddlers and young preschool-aged kids. An adult will blow bubbles (or you could opt for a faster bubble machine) and the players race around to pop as many bubbles as they can. Once you’ve played a few times, let the kids start taking turns being the bubble blower. You’ll be surprised how many times young children will want to play this game. Hand out small prizes at the end to all your little bubble players.
6. BYOB Bike/Tricycle Race
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 (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.
Kids ages 5 and up
7. Balloon Burst
Riggs says this is one of her 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. Younger players will need a little assistance in reading the challenges.
8. Mummy Wrap
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. For non-October birthdays, this can be adapted to be a fashion show contest, with players wrapping their teammate up in their own design and having those players walk the runway at the end.
9. Treasure or Scavenger Hunt
These hunts are fun and easy to adapt to any party’s theme and to the ages of the guests. The difference between a treasure hunt and a scavenger hunt is simple. In a treasure hunt, you would sketch out a simple map and give kids pictures of the treasures to be found along the route. Along with each clue they find, there will be a small reward. If you’re having a pirate-themed party, then clues could be chocolate coins, with a treasure chest of prizes at the end. For a scavenger hunt, you would give the children a list of specific items to find in a defined area. The child (or team) that finds all of the items first, wins. 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 chaperone if they are in public places.
10. Origami Boat Races
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 origami boat instructions easy to follow.
11. Drama Game
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 makeup 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. Kids ages 6 and up are best for this one.
12. Bucket Toss
Line up six buckets or pails and number them from one to six. Put prizes in each of the buckets, saving the bigger prizes for the higher-numbered buckets. Have the kids line up and instruct each player to start by tossing a ping pong ball into the first bucket. If they get it in, they move on to the next numbered bucket. The highest-numbered bucket that a player lands his ball in determines which bucket he gets to pick a prize from. Each of the kids will likely land their ball in at least one bucket, so everyone will get a prize.
13. Rainbow Dress Up Relay Race
This one is ideal for a rainbow- or fairy-themed party, but you can adjust the clothing choices based on your party’s theme. You will need two similar sets of clothing that in total make up the colors of a rainbow. For example, a red shirt, a blue hat, a green sock, a yellow skirt, and so on. Divide players into two teams and have them line up at a starting point. Each team will be given one of the sets of clothing. The first player on each team has to put on all the clothing, run to a turnaround spot, run back to her team, take off the clothes and hand them off to the next player. Each teammate must complete this task. The team that has had all of its players return to the starting point first wins!
14. Egg and Spoon Race
You only need some hard-boiled eggs and some tablespoons for this classic party game. Have each of the children line up with an egg and a spoon. Tell them to place the egg onto their spoon and race across to the finish line without dropping their eggs. If an egg falls, that child must start the race over again. The first person to reach the finish line without dropping their egg wins. This game is a test of balance and coordination that will have the kids laughing all the way to the finish line.
Kids ages 10 and up
15. Photo Scavenger Hunt
Divide the players into teams. It doesn’t really matter how large or small the teams are, you just need to have enough phones to give one to each team. (Make sure the phones have a protective case on them!) Give the teams a list of things that they need to capture photos of in order to win. These can be as simple as taking a picture of something blue, a photo of one teammate giving another a piggyback ride or a selfie of all of them in front of a specific tree. Use your imagination and whatever is available in your location to come up with the list for the teams. Whichever team completes the list first wins. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to collect a bunch of birthday party photos to share with friends and family.
16. Head Pop
For this giggly favorite, you will need balloons of two different colors (around 20 per color is ideal) and two hats with pins sticking out of the top of them. Tie the balloons at various heights from the ceiling. They should be at least high enough that the kids are able to pop them with their heads. To start, one player from each team is given a hat to put on and 15 seconds to try and pop as many of their team’s balloons as possible. When their 15 seconds is up, the next players from each team are given 15 seconds to try. A new player from each team tries to pop the balloons every 15 seconds. The first team to pop all of their balloons wins.
17. Glow-in-the-Dark Capture the Flag
This game kicks an old favorite up a few notches and is perfect for a tween or teen sleepover birthday party as you will need it to be dark outside to play. This game follows the same rules as a traditional Capture the Flag, except that, in this case, the glow sticks are the flags. You will need two different colored glow sticks and enough matching glow bracelets for each team. Divide the players into two teams and give them the bracelets that match their glow stick. Designate an area of play and divide the area into two sections using something like a rope or a line of shoes and have the teams hide their “flag” on their own side. Each team has to find the opposing team’s flag and bring it back to their own side of the playing area. Players are free to run around anywhere, but the trick is to not get caught in the other team’s section or you could be tagged and sent to “jail.” If a teammate is in jail, another teammate can free them by going over and bringing them back to home base without being tagged. The first team to capture their opponent’s glow stick and bring it back, wins.
18. Truth or Dare?
Truth or Dare is a classic party game, and no one loves playing it more than tweens and teens. Put at least 20 truths and 20 dares on individual pieces of paper and then place them in their corresponding labeled buckets or jars. Each kid will take a turn choosing from the “Truth” or the “Dare” bucket. They will need to complete their tasks until all of the papers have been used. You’ll want to keep the truth or dare options age-appropriate while still fun, so here are 100 truth or dare questions for tweens that you can use in your game. Once the game is over, give each player a small prize for being so brave.
19. ‘Fear Factor’ Games Course
Yes, it’s been a while since “Fear Factor” was on our television screens, but your kids don’t need to have watched the show to enjoy this terrifyingly fun course. Set up a line of games that each kid has to complete in order to win. These games can range from Egg Roulette where players are given an egg and must crack it against their heads in three seconds (they will think the eggs are raw, but they will actually be hard-boiled) to a Blood Chugging Contest where they are asked to drink cups filled with “blood” (actually V8 or or tomato juice with some added gelatin for texture). In most of these games, it’s the idea of what they think they’re doing, not the reality of it, that makes it such a good time. Here is a lengthy list of “Fear Factor” game ideas for kids and the top 10 “Fear Factor” games for birthday parties.
20. ‘Minute to Win It’ Course
Based on another television show, “Minute to Win It” games are exciting for smaller kids, tweens, teens and even adults. Set up a course made up of five to eight “Minute to Win It” challenges. The players have one minute to complete a specific task at each station. Once they’ve completed it, they can move on to the next station. Some examples are Cookie Face (you place an Oreo on each player’s forehead and she must get the cookie into her mouth without using her hands), Junk in the Trunk (players have a tissue box or sandwich bag box filled with eight ping pong balls strapped onto their backs and they must shake out all eight balls before the minute is up) and Stack Attack (players must stack a set of plastic cups into a pyramid and then back into a single stack). These challenges are so popular with kids of all ages that you can find an endless supply of “Minute to Win It” game ideas all over the internet. Here is a list of 10 popular “Minute to Win It” challenges and 200 more game options to get you started.