Party games

We’ve provided some party game ideas with basic instructions below and given some tips on what games are suitable for each age group.

  • Indoor Party Game Ideas
  • Outdoor Party Game Ideas
  • Which games are most suitable for each age group?

Indoor Party Game Ideas

Pass the Parcel

There are many variations to this old favourite, use the one most suitable for your child’s age.

  • The central parcel can contain a small gift (chocolate frog, party tooter, balloon etc.) for each child. A carefully planned game will have the final parcel landing with the Birthday boy or girl to open.
  • Add each layer and place a small/ token gift between each layer of paper.
  • Ensure that each child has the opportunity to open one layer of wrapping and possibly receive a gift.
  • For older children, you can include a small instruction that they have to follow when they have their turn. For example, “Sing Baa Baa Black Sheep” or “Hop on one leg”.
  • The children then sit in a circle and pass the parcel around until the music stops. Whoever is holding the parcel when the music stops gets to open one layer of paper.

The Hokey Pokey

This is a song that uses actions:

  • Children (and adults) gather in a circle and follow the lyrics with the actions. Start with the “left hand”, “right hand”, “left foot”, “right foot”, “head”, “bottom”, and finish with “yourself”.
  • Action for “You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn around” is to place hands under chin and turn around on the spot.
  • Action for “OOOOHHHHH the hokey pokey” is for the circle to join hands and all walk towards the middle of the circle while raising hands.

Here are the full lyrics for the Hokey Pokey – for those of us who can’t remember it.

You put your right foot in
You take your right foot out
You put your right foot in
And you shake it all about
You do the hokey pokey
And you turn yourself around
That's what it's all about

You put your left foot in
You take your left foot out
You put your left foot in
And you shake it all about
You do the hokey pokey
And you turn yourself around
That's what it's all about

You put your right hand in
You take your right hand out
You put your right hand in
And you shake it all about
You do the hokey pokey
And you turn yourself around
That's what it's all about

You put your left hand in
You take your left hand out
You put your left hand in
And you shake it all about
You do the hokey pokey
And you turn yourself around
That's what it's all about

You put your whole self in
You take your whole self out
You put your whole self in
And you shake it all about
You do the hokey pokey
And you turn yourself around
That's what it's all about

Musical Statues

  • Get all the children into a group and get the music playing.
  • Every so often turn the music off and everyone has to freeze. If anyone moves, they are out. The last person in is the winner.

Musical Bumps

  • Get all the children into a group and get the music playing.
  • Every so often turn the music off and everyone has to sit down as quickly as possible. The last person to sit is out. The last person left is the winner.

Musical Chairs/ Cushions

This game can be played with chairs or cushions. You will need one less chair or cushion than there are children:

  • Arrange the chairs/cushions in a central area.
  • Start the music playing while the children circle the arranged chairs.
  • When the music stops, the children have to find a place to sit. The child left standing is out of the game.
  • Remove one chair/ cushion after each round.
  • The winner is the child who gets the last seat at the end of the game.

Simon Says

This game requires children to follow your instructions, but only if you preface it with “Simon Says”. For example, you would say:

  • “Simon Says touch your nose”
  • “Simon Says touch your toes”
  • “Simon Says jump up and down”
  • “Run on the spot” – won’t count because you didn’t say “Simon Says”!
  • The children that follow this final instruction would be out of the game.
  • A modified version may include you using your own name to avoid confusing the little kids “Betty says?” and also no child would be removed from the game.

Outdoor Party Game Ideas

Fruit Salad

  • Each child selects (or is given) a fruit name that they need to respond to. For example, bananas, strawberries, apples, etc.
  • The children gather on one side of the garden with one person (usually an adult to start) in the middle of the garden.
  • The aim is for the children to get to the other side of the garden without being caught. Of course the trick to making it fun is to let the young children think that you can’t catch them because they are too fast.
  • The person in the centre calls out a fruit and only those children try to run across to the other side of the garden.
  • When all the children have made it across to the other side, you call fruit salad and all the children run together with lots of squealing.
  • For the older children you can actually catch one and they become the person in the middle.
  • There are no winners, just lots of noise.

What’s the time Mr Wolf?

  • One person, “Mr Wolf” (again usually an adult) stands facing a wall, or away from the children, while all the children gather on the other side of the garden.
  • As a group the children call out “What’s the time Mr Wolf?”
  • Mr Wolf replies with 7 o’clock (or whatever time you wish it to be).
  • The children take the same number of steps towards Mr Wolf.
  • This goes on until the children are reasonably close to Mr Wolf and Mr Wolf responds with “It’s dinner time”. At this time Mr Wolf turns and chases the children back to the other side of the garden while trying/pretending to catch the children.
  • You can continue this game until the fun stops.
  • Some small children can show concern about the concept of a wolf. A variation on this theme is to have a “Miss Fairy” and ask “How many fairy steps?”.

Lolly hunt

  • This requires some pre-planning to hide the sweets around the garden. These should be individually wrapped.
  • Give each child a paper bag to collect them in with their names on them.
  • It’s as simple as letting them run around and grab as many as they can.

Pin the Tail/ Nose on the…

You can purchase this game or you can make one yourself:

  • Draw the outline of an animal (pig, dog, horse, donkey etc.) or a face, and place a large mark on the spot where the child needs to aim for.
  • Have stickers labelled with each child’s name.
  • Cover the child’s eyes with a cloth/ mask and ask them to place the sticker where they think the tail/ nose should be.
  • The closest sticker to the mark is the winner.

Duck, Duck, Goose

  • The children sit in a circle. One child is selected to be the goose.
  • The Goose walks around the outside of the circle and taps the children on the head. With each tap the goose says “Duck” until they say “goose”.
  • This new goose chases the old goose around the circle and tries to beat them back to the vacant space.
  • The new goose continues the game.

Snake Races

  • The children form a line across the garden and a jelly snake is placed across their noses, which they have to balance.
  • They then walk/ run to finish line while keeping the snake on their nose.
  • Everyone is a winner as they get to eat the snake.

Egg and Spoon Races

If you’re not worried about the mess you can use uncooked eggs, but once dropped they cannot be reused. Boiled eggs are your best bet, or you can replace the eggs with any item:

  • The children stand in a line with their eggs balanced on their spoons.
  • They walk/ run to the other side of the garden.
  • The winner is the child who reaches the other side first with their egg still balanced on the spoon.

Captain’s Coming

The children gather around an adult and follow a few simple instructions called out by the adult:

  • “Captain’s Coming”- the children stand to attention and salute.
  • “Climb the rigging”- The children act as if they are climbing a ladder.
  • “Scrub the decks”- The children crouch down and scrub the floor.
  • “Captain’s girlfriend’s coming”- The children wiggle their bodies and call out ‘WOOHOO’.
  • There are no winners or losers in this game, just a lot of laughs.

Shop

  • Pieces of tinfoil moulded to look like coins are hidden round the garden. Or you could use chocolate coins – but chances are they’ll eat them before getting to the stall.
  • The children then find these and bring them back to a stall.
  • Here an adult will have laid out goodies that cost different amounts, i.e. 2 coins.
  • The children can choose to go to the shop at anytime.
  • Coins from the shop can be taken and hidden again if necessary.
  • This is a good way for children to ‘earn’ their party bags, instead of just giving them out at the end.

Which games are most suitable for each age group?

First Birthday

Let’s face it, most 1-year-old birthday parties are about the adults. You don’t need any advice on how to cater for them. One thing to keep in mind though is, if you are serving alcohol, ensure that it is kept out of reach of children and also ensure that there is a designated adult responsible for the other children. Accidents can happen all too quickly and when you least expect it.

Party games for very small children can be difficult to co-ordinate. An alternative is to set up some activities similar to a playgroup format:

  • Sand pit
  • Play dough
  • Water trough
  • Provide a general toy area

Second Birthday

The second birthday celebration will still need a number of extra moms or dads to be on hand. Most people are reluctant to drop their children off at a party at this stage any way, so you will also need to provide some catering for parents. Don’t go over the top with the catering and do ask someone to help out if you plan to serve drinks. Remember, if you’re serving tea and coffee, to keep this away from the toddlers.

Adult assistance during the games will be crucial and games should be non-competitive. By keeping everyone involved in the game, hopefully you will reduce boredom and keep everyone focused and in one spot. If you have a child that is not willing to join in, don’t worry this is normal behaviour at this age. Just keep asking if they would like to join in, but don’t put too much pressure on them.

Some Party Games ideas:

  • Pass the Parcel
  • Musical Statues
  • Musical Cushions
  • Simon Says (modified)
  • Fruit Salad

Third Birthday

You may find that some parents will “drop off” at this party. Ask them to let you know when they RSVP and ask them to leave a mobile phone contact just in case.

Three-year-old children will still need encouragement and assistance to play many party games. Here are a few ideas of what will be suitable:

  • Pass the Parcel
  • Musical Statues
  • Musical Bumps
  • Musical Chairs/ Cushions
  • The Hokey Pokey
  • Pin the Tail/ Nose on the animal or face
  • Fruit Salad
  • Shop

Fourth Birthday

The fourth birthday may involve more children than previous parties, so you will need to be quite organised. Parents are also more likely to “drop off” at this party, so you will have your hands full. You may find that you have a couple of non-conformists who will not participate, don’t force the issue but be firm in your encouragement.

Here are a few party game ideas:

  • Pass the Parcel
  • Musical Statues
  • Musical Bumps
  • Musical Chairs/ Cushions
  • The Hokey Pokey
  • Pin the Tail/Nose on the…
  • Duck, Duck, Goose
  • Snake Race
  • Egg and Spoon Race
  • Fruit Salad
  • Shop

For more information see Kids party ideas or Parenting.

For more party game ideas: Birthday Party Ideas for kids

 
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