Let the Games Begin

by Danielle Schultz

Previously Appeared in “Space Coast Parent” March 1998,
“The Portland Parent” May 1998,
“Chesapeake Family” May 1998,
Scheduled to appear in “Hudson Valley Family”
and “Washington Parent”,
Possible publication in “San Diego Family Magazine,”
“Morris/Union County Family.”


When planning a birthday party, most parents have one fear: extra time after all party games and activities have finished. Read on to find games and activities that may help fill that time with minimal supplies and effort. Some of the games are traditional favorites with a twist. A few games have supplies that you might want to pick up, and the treat is, they will be used around the house eventually even if not used at the party. All of the games are “no-loser” games. After all, a birthday party may not be the best place to learn how to be a good loser.

Hot Potato with a “Twist”
Supplies needed: Item for “potato”- any non-breakable ball-sized item; music. For a fun “twist” on the traditional game of hot potato, have every other child sit facing outside the circle. Then when it’s time to pass the “potato,” the children have to work a little harder to get it into the lap of their neighbor. You may then have the child left with the potato turn around instead of being “out.” You may also have the children say their age, name their favorite food or toy or the like when they end up with the potato.

Duck, Duck, Goose
Supplies needed: None. Play this in the tradional way, except forget the old “mush pot!” If a child is tagged after “goosing” a child, he simply “quacks” back to the open spot and the game continues.

Pop the Bubbles
Supplies needed: bubbles. Take the children outside with a bottle of bubbles. The catch to the game is that the children must not use their hands to pop the bubbles. As you blow the bubbles, watch as the children try and pop the bubbles with their heads, elbows, legs and other interesting body parts.

Wrap It Up
Supplies needed: several rolls of inexpensive toilet paper. Pair up the party guests. Give one roll of toilet paper to teach pair. One of the pair will completely wrap the other in the toilet paper using the entire roll. The first pair to finish wins. If time and amount of toilet paper left allow, have the children swap roles and play again.

Stand Up If…
Supplies needed: none. Have the children sit facing you. Play by giving a description and a direction. If the children fit the description, they are to follow the direction. For example, “If you are wearing red, stand up and touch your nose.” You may describe their clothing, physical features, letters of their name, and so on. Get faster and faster to make it a fun and crazy game.

I Believe You
Supplies needed: blindfold (handkerchief, towel, large napkin, etc.) Choose a child to come to the front of the group and be blindfolded. Then point to a child. That child says in a funny voice, “My name is (theirs or another party guest’s name.)” The blindfolded child says whether on not she believes the speaker said his/her own name. Continue having the children take turns being the blindfolded and speaker.

My Birthday
Supplies needed: ball. This game is similar to hot potato, but have the children stand in a circle. Give the children a ball to pass while music plays. Stop the music, and the child left holding the ball is to say their birthday (or birth month or age only for younger children) and how old they will be their next birthday.

Crazy Ankle Walk
Supplies needed: none. Gather the children outside, and show them a “turnaround point” (a fence, tree, etc.). Have the children stand in a line and reach down and hold their ankles with their hands. They are then to walk in that position to the turnaround point and back. Give a treat for everyone participating.

Don’t Fall in the River
Supplies needed: two sticks, jump ropes, or pieces of rope. Lay the sticks or ropes parallel to each other about 12″ apart. Have the children jump over “the river” without falling in (stepping in between.) After each round, spread the sticks/ropes a little further. If someone “gets wet”, let them “dry off” and keep trying.

Take the Ball
Supplies needed: a bowl filled with cotton balls, plastic eggs, small balls, candy or the like. Select a small item to be placed in the bowl. Divide the children into groups. This game is similar to hide and seek, but the object of the game is to get an item from the bowl before being tagged.

Cotton Ball Relay Race
Supplies needed: two bowls and one spoon per group, cotton balls or popcorn. Divide the children into groups and have each group form a line. Place one bowl filled with cotton balls or popcorn near the group, and another about fifteen to twenty feet away. Have the first child in each group move as many cotton balls or pieces of popcorn from the first bowl to the second bowl using the spoon. If any falls off, they must stop and pick them up. The first team to move all of their cotton ball/popcorn gets to hand out the treats to the rest of the group.

Can Toss
Supplies needed: balls, empty and clean soda cans. Gather the cans from your recycling bin. Allow the children to stack the cans into pyramids of ten cans. They then take turns trying to knock the cans down by throwing balls at them.

Keep on Skipping
Supplies needed: none. Hold a “skipping marathon.” See how long the children can skip as a group. Have them skip all about the yard. The object is to keep on skipping! The children will more than likely giggle as much as they skip.

Pitch the “Pinecone”
Supplies needed: a bucket or box; a pinecone, ball, bean bag, or the like. Give all of the children a turn throwing the pinecone (or other similar item) into the bucket/box. As they get better at it, move the children further from the bucket/box.

Happy Birthday Tag
Supplies needed: none. Select a first child to be “it.” The children run and try not to be tagged by “it.” Explain that there is no base in this version of tag, they are safe only if they stop and stand still and sing “Happy Birthday.” They may only sing the song one time through and then must begin running again. If “it” doesn’t tag anyone, select a new “it” every few minutes.

Hug Tag
Supplies needed: none. Play as above, except instead of singing “Happy Birthday”, the way to be safe is by hugging another child. The trick is, however, they may not hug the same child twice, and they may not run while hugging.

Stop and Hug
Supplies needed: tape player or radio. This game is similar to hot potato. Have the children walk about the room while music plays (a circle isn’t necessary). When the music stops, they are to find another child to hug. Groups of more than two are acceptable, and no one ever gets out!

Balloon Toss
Supplies needed: balloons (non-helium). Let the children toss several balloons in the air. They then work as a group to keep the balloons from hitting the ground. They may hit the balloons, or catch and hit the balloons volley-ball style, blow the balloons, hit with their heads, and so on.

Last but not least, don’t forget about some of the great traditional games we played as kids: Hide and seek, Charades, Mother may I?, Follow the Leader, Leapfrog, and Musical Chairs.


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