Some of the best birthday party games and activities for kids are simple and inexpensive. These kids’ party games are fun and easy to set up at any party. Most work for both indoor and outdoor parties.
Toddler Party Games (1–3 years)
Nothing gets kids laughing (and moving!) like a game of freeze dance. Pump up the volume, and let your party peeps shake their groove thing until the music stops. The children still boogying after the music stops are “out” for that round. Repeat until only one child remains the winner! Dole out prizes for the winner, as well as the silliest dancer, the best dancer, etc.
Bubbles are always a hit with toddlers. If you’re throwing a backyard bash, fill containers with an inch of bubble soap, set out a selection of oversized bubble wands, and let the tots dip and blow their own bubbles. Or control the chaos by assigning an older helper—a willing sibling—to be the official bubble-blower. Even without prompting, the kids will chase the bubbles as they float away.
Have each guest place a balloon on a spoon and walk from one end of the backyard or family room to the other. Or partner up pairs and challenge them to tap the balloon back and forth without letting it touch the ground. Keep the competition gentle—let everyone win a small prize just for taking part. And keep an eye out for popped balloons (or uninflated ones), which are choking hazards for kids under 8.
You can use a pool noodle (or a broomstick) for the limbo bar. The children can walk, crawl and wriggle under the noodle bar and they can also try jumping over it. Keep the children going in one direction to avoid accidents. It might be a good idea to have more than one limbo pole if you have a large number of children.
Set up a table with play-dough, sparkles, paper and markers and let them at it. Toddlers are just beginning to find their creative spark so why not encourage it?
Pre-Schooler Party Games (3–4 years)
You need at least six players to participate and some chairs (there must be one chair less than the total number of players). Players walk around the chairs when the music is on and once the music stops, all players race to sit in the chairs. The one without a chair is out. One chair is taken out and this goes on until one person remains and he/she is the winner of the game.
Get ‘Em Guessing
If your party guests (or you) need a slightly quieter activity, pull this game out of your party hat. Place a few (easily) recognizable items—a board book, a chunky toddler fork, a teddy bear, a rubber duck — inside a hat or a basket. Cover it with a little blanket, and let kidlets reach in and grasp one object. If a tot can guess what he’s grasping (or even if he can’t), he wins a small prize. To stave off tears, use as many objects as there are guests, and give everyone a chance.
An adult or older sibling can be “Simon” and will give commands such as, “Simon says, sit down,” and everybody sits down. But the players will only perform the action when they hear, “Simon says.” Otherwise, they’re out. The player left at the end of the game is the winner.
Children sit in a circle. One child whispers a message into the ear of the child sitting next to them. That child repeats the message and it goes all around the circle. If the message in not understood, a child can say “operator” and the message will be repeated. The last child to receive the message says it out loud. Compare with the original message.
Sock It To Me
Place at least six times as many socks as guests in a basket. Have children sit in a circle. When music starts have kids try to put on as many socks as possible (one over the other). When the music stops, the one with the most socks on wins.
School-Age Party Games (5–8 years)
Pass the Parcel
Make a parcel in advance by wrapping a prize. Wrap it again with as many layers as there are kids at the party (plus a few more for good measure), using a different colour of wrapping paper for each layer. Seal each layer lightly so that the children can remove the paper without tearing the other layers beneath. To make the game more exciting, add a small prize to each layer.
Have kids sit in a circle. When the music starts, the package gets passed around the circle. When the music stops the child holding the parcel unwraps the first layer of wrapping paper. When the music resumes, the parcel gets passed around again. This goes on until the last layer is unwrapped. The child holding the parcel keeps the prize.
Egg and Spoon Race
All players are positioned at the start line with one teaspoon and a hardboiled egg (or a golf ball). Have them place the egg on their teaspoon and put the other arm behind their back. They need to move as fast as they can towards the finish line without the egg rolling out of their spoons. If the egg rolls of, the player is out. The player who crosses the finish line with the egg still balanced in their spoon and an arm behind their back wins the game.
Hunt for Treasure
Kids love the chance to decipher clues and dig up buried treasures. Draw clues to familiar hiding spots (the living room sofa, the large plant) that lead to the hidden loot. Can’t draw? Snap pics and print them out. Got a sandbox? Fill small bags with inexpensive treasures — rings, necklaces, temporary tattoos, small cars — and bury them before the party. Arm each guest with a plastic shovel and map, and let the digging begin. Stash a bunch of buckets and sand toys there, too. After they’ve dug up the goods, the kids may want to spend the rest of the party playing in the sand.
Use foam swords for this fun relay race. Divide kids into teams. Give teams a container with 20 gold plastic coins. Set two baskets at one side of the room. Give the sword to the first kid on each team and have them balance a gold coin on their sword while running to the basket at the other end. After they deposit the coin they run back and give the sword to the next one in line. First team with all of their coins in the basket wins. If a coin is dropped they must go back and place their coin back in their container. Then the next person in line grabs a coin and begins.
Fill a jar with small candy (like jelly beans, Smarties, gummy bears, etc.). Ask guests for an estimate, recording names and guesses. At the end of the party reveal the correct number and help the group figure out which guess was closest. There can be prizes for everyone and the closest person gets the jar filled with candy.
Tween Party Games (9–11 years)
Drama on the Spot
Put five items in several large shopping bags. A shoe, hat, party favour, etc. Make sure the items in each bag are different. Divide into teams and then give the team one bag. Send them to different spots away from each other. They have to create a skit that incorporates every item in their bag. Give them 15 minutes to practice their skit and then they perform them for everyone. You might want to film the finished skits. Variation: have them create a commercial or a song with the items.
In the party invitation, include a request that each of the party guests bring a wrapped item or inexpensive gift. Something under $10 or even a gift that they received that they want to re-gift. Give each guest a certain amount of play money. Begin an auction by holding up the first gift and auctioning it off to the guests. With any other leftover auction money they can bid on who gets the first piece of cake to who chooses the music.
Before the party starts hide lots of candy all over the party area. When it’s dark give out flashlights and have kids search for the candy using the flashlights.
Nail Polish Spin
Place several bright and fun nail polish bottles in front of girls who are sitting around a circle. Have the first girl choose a colour and then lay the nail polish bottle on its side and spin it. When it finishes spinning whoever the cap of the nail polish bottle points to has to paint one of their nails that colour. When they are done they pick a colour of polish and repeat the process so someone new has to paint their fingernail the colour they chose. Keep playing until all the girls’ fingernails are painted in a crazy colour pattern. Paint your toes along with your fingernails to extend the game.
What Are You Doing?
Have the kids sit in a circle and the first player starts by acting out an action like combing their hair. The person next to her asks “What are you doing?” and they answer with something other than what they are actually doing (like “riding a horse”). Then that person has to act out what the first person said, but when they are asked what they’re doing they have to say something they’re not doing…and so on and so on. Try to get them to go as fast as they can without messing up.