Potato-Sack Race: Hop your way to victory in an old-fashioned sack race! In the past, this game was played using large, burlap potato sacks. Since those aren’t easily obtainable anymore, good quality burlap bags can be purchased from coffee roasting companies. You could even use King-Sized pillow cases (if you don’t mind them getting grass-stained!) Or buy them online. To play, have each kid step into his or her bag, pulling the top edges up around the waist. They must race to the finish line by holding the sack up and jumping inside of the bag. Game instructions at Parties 4 Me.
Three-Legged Race: This race is more about cooperation than speed. Divide party guests into pairs and have them stand side by side. Then, tie each couple’s inside legs together with a bandana. Duct tape also works well in place of a bandana if all participants are wearing jeans. To play, the three-legged pairs must race to the finish line. Have two adults stretch a length of crepe paper across the finish line, and let the winning team break through the paper. From Run the Race: The Blog.
Limbo: How low can you go? Historically, the Limbo was danced as a part of wakes and funerals in the Caribbean Islands. More of a dance than a game, modern-day Limbo is a celebration. To play, line the kids up, single file. Two adults stand on either side of the limbo pole or stick and hold it up horizontally in front of the line. If you don’t have a pole, use a pool noodle or broom. Start the music — any music with a strong island beat will do. The object of the game is to pass under the stick by bending backward, without touching the stick or falling. The two adults start with the stick held high enough for the kids to walk underneath, and then lower the stick a bit each time the first person in line comes around again. Keep going until the stick is too low for anyone to pass underneath without touching it. “Limbo Rock” is a great song for this game from the CD Party Songs for Kids. Background, rules, and song suggestions are available at Making Multicultural Music.
Catch the Tail on the Dragon: This traditional Chinese game is best played with a large group. To play, arrange kids in a single-file line, and instruct each to hold onto the waist of the person in front of them. Tuck a bandana into the pocket of the last one in the line. The “head of the dragon” (head of the line) leads the line in chasing the “tail” (the last in line) as they try to grab the bandana without anyone letting go of the person in front of them. The middle of the line tries to keep the head from catching the tail, resulting in lots of tangled-up fun! Once the bandana is captured from the tail, the tail becomes the head and they play again. From InCultureParent. Photo by Jane Stein.
Balloon Stomp: Before the party blow up balloons, at least one per guest, plus a few extras. Cut string into 16-inch lengths and tie one end of each to a balloon. Curling ribbon or yarn works well. To play, tie a balloon to one ankle of each child. Then, tell the kids run around trying to “stomp” or break everyone else’s balloon while keeping their own from getting popped. The last guest with a full balloon wins! From How to Have it All.
Egg and Spoon Race: This fun game is often played at Easter events, but it makes a great birthday party game, too! Before the party, put aside large spoons and eggs. You can use hard-boiled eggs, plastic Easter eggs or even purchase a wooden-egg-and-spoon game kit. Whatever type of egg you choose, for small groups plan on one egg and one spoon per kid, and for larger groups, have one set per team. Either way, be sure to have a few extra eggs on hand! To play, line up party guests side-by-side and give each a spoon and egg. The object of the game is to cross the finish line while balancing the egg on a spoon, without dropping the egg. It’s harder than it sounds! If you have a large number of players, play this game as a relay race. Divide the group into teams, each team member must race while balancing the egg on the spoon to a certain point, then turn around and go back to the start. Mark the turning point with a traffic cone or other object. They then must pass the egg to the next member who does the same. First team to finish without dropping the egg wins! You can purchase a painted wooden set at Oriental Trading. Photo by MCMRBT.
Outdoor Photo Booth: Everyone loves to take silly pictures! To create an outdoor photo op, gather or buy two or three frames in various shapes and then remove the glass and mat from each. Thrift shops are great places for finding inexpensive frames. Spray paint the frames in bright colors if you wish. Hang the frames at the eye level of your guests. Options for outdoor frame hanging: a tree branch or the cross bar of a swing set with the swings removed. To take pictures, instruct guests to stand behind the frame with their face in the center and snap away! This could also easily be done with one frame, and/or guests could hold the frame up if you don’t have a place to hang it. Optional: have “props” available for guests to wear such as funny hats, sunglasses, feather boas, etc. Check out the full tutorial over at Party Blueprints.
Goal Kick: Here’s a great game idea from Stacy Salazar at Seven on a Shoestring. Create a goal or target on your fence. Using sidewalk chalk, draw goalposts on the fence at different heights. Mark each with a number which corresponds to the number of points that the goal is worth. To play, each guest tries to hit the targets by kicking a rubber ball at the goal. Give them three chances, and add up the points earned from all three tries. You could also make this more interesting by drawing different shapes as targets instead of goal posts. For younger children, throwing the ball at the targets might be easier.
Treasure Dig: This game can be played using an existing sandbox, or if you don’t have one, fill a plastic bin with play sand. Before the guests arrive, “seed” the sand with fun toys or trinkets that go with the theme of your party. Example: small plastic dinosaurs, plastic jewelry, hot wheels cars, tiny bottles of nail polish etc. To play, give kids plastic shovels and let them dig for treasure! Hint: if you have enough treasure, guests could use this game to fill their goody bags.
Rainbow Paver Hopscotch: This super-sized hopscotch game would be fun on its own for younger kids or as part of a backyard obstacle course for older party guests. Heidi of Happiness is Homemade created this by spray painting twelve-inch pavers, and then adding numbers to each. To play, set the numbered pavers up in a hopscotch pattern and let kids hop, skip and jump! If you don’t have pavers handy, cut out large squares from brightly colored poster board and draw on numbers with a permanent marker. Punch holes in each corner of the squares and secure to the grass with garden staples.
Pass the Bag: Fill a large garbage bag with a variety of clothing items such as aprons, men’s and women’s shoes, scarves, hats, socks, ties, shirts and skirts. To play, have guests form a circle and pass the bag around as music plays. When the music stops, whoever is holding the bag must take something out and put it on. No searching! They must take the first thing their hand touches. Continue until the bag is empty and all the kids are dressed in ridiculous outfits. Take pictures of the funny results!
Eat the Doughnut: The object of this game, from Opaque Canvas, is to eat a dangling doughnut with no hands! To play: hang doughnuts on strings from a high place, such as a doorway or tree branch. This game can be played in two ways. You could have the kids try to eat their donuts individually, one at a time, or if you have room, it could be played as a race to see who finishes their doughnut first. Have at least one doughnut per party-goer plus a few extra. Frosted chocolate donuts produce the messiest—and funniest—results. Have a package of moist towelettes handy for the aftermath!
Toilet Paper Fashion Show: Give each guest a roll of toilet paper and some clear tape. To play: tell the guests that they have 20 minutes to make an outfit for themselves. When everyone is finished, put on some music and let them “walk the runway.” Ask each kid to name their creation (such as toga or mummy). Announce each model as they strut down the catwalk and strike a pose! Give prizes for the silliest, most creative, etc.
Round Robin Story: Pass out pens or pencils and instruct kids to sit in a circle. Copy the first line from a book onto a page in a notebook. Pass around the notebook, and each person adds a line or paragraph, depending on how much time you want the game to take. Each guest should continue the story from the last line written. When the story is finished, the birthday kid or party host can read the story out loud. Photocopy the results for each contributor.
Blind Makeover: Group kids into pairs and give them a few cosmetics such as blush, powder and lipstick. Blindfold one guest in each pair and have the blindfolded one apply makeup to the other’s face. Then, switch roles so that everyone gets a makeover. Be sure to have baby wipes or make-up removal cloths on hand for after the game is concluded!
Balloon Bat: Before the party, make paddles by taping or gluing paint sticks to paper plates, one per guest. The paddles can be kept simple by using white paper plates, or you could use plates to match the party theme and decorate the wooden “handles” with matching Washi or Duct tape. To play: For younger kids, have them stand in a circle and throw an inflated balloon in the air. Kids must use their paddles to bat the balloon back and forth while keeping the balloon from touching the ground. For older kids, set up two chairs on either side of the room and stretch a string or piece of crepe streamer in between the chairs to form a “net.” Guests can then team up and bat the balloon back and forth across the net. When the balloon touches the floor, point goes to the opposing team.
Bingo! Put your own twist on this old-fashioned game by using an online custom Bingo game generator such as Print-Bingo.com. At the site above, you enter your own items into the Bingo squares and the site makes cards for you. Or, many printable theme Bingo games are available on the internet, both free and for purchase. The game card pictured is from DLTK - Growing Together. Before the party, print Bingo cards in the theme of your party. You may wish to “mat” the printed game cards onto card stock for sturdiness. For extra fun, use edible candy or crackers as markers, such as goldfish or gummy snacks. Be sure to have small prizes on hand for the winners. Freeprintable.com is another resource for printable Bingo cards.
Pass the Present: Before the party, gather together small gifts, pieces of candy or packages of treats. Examples: bookmarks, sticker sheets, tattoos, snack-size packages of gummy treats or goldfish, candy bars. Wrap the first “gift” in wrapping paper. Place the next gift on top, and wrap again. Continue wrapping until you have enough gifts and layers for each guest, plus an extra. Try to alternate the colors of wrapping paper so that it’s easier to see each layer and guests don’t accidentally unwrap two layers. To play, kids sit in a circle and pass the present around the group as music plays. When the music stops, the one holding the gift unwraps the top layer and keeps that gift. Continue passing until everyone has a prize. For extra fun, change the passing direction every now and then.
Spin the Nail Polish Bottle: This one is fun for a sleepover party. Gather several bottles of nail polish in different shades. Instruct guests to sit in a circle and then they can take turns spinning a tightly-closed bottle of nail polish on its side in the center of the group. The person the handle on the polish bottle points to after it finishes spinning has to paint one nail with that color. Keep spinning and playing, changing the color frequently until everyone has crazy nails!
Indoor Photo Booth: Create a photo booth for fun pictures! Tori Tait at Thoughtfully Simple created the pictured photo booth for a circus-themed party out of a refrigerator box, paint and fabric. But you don’t need carpentry skills or a giant box to make a photo booth. Simply choose a spot where guests can have a photo taken that is not in a high-traffic area, such as a corner of the party room. Place a chair or stool in your photo area. Create a backdrop for your photo booth by using a solid colored sheet, piece of fabric, or length of wrapping paper, and secure to the wall behind the sitting area with painter’s tape. Now, grab a basket and fill it with props. These can be anything from dollar store crowns and sunglasses to printed mustaches on a stick. Check out the free printable photo booth props at Catch My Party. Once everyone has taken a photo, print out the pics for guests to take home.