VirginiaLynne is a mother of five. She writes about parenting, crafts, and games for children, family fun, and Christian ministry ideas.
Party Cake and Game Ideas
Birthday Party Game Ideas
Why re-invent the wheel? We've found the best birthday party games are familiar ones. Take a game everyone knows and put a "theme" twist on it. The best part is that you don't have to spend a lot of time explaining the rules (which can be hard to do with a bunch of excited kids!). Here are some examples that always work for us:
- Pin the ____ on the ____: Use a poster board to draw something from the party theme and then cut out the pin-ons. Often we have the kids color their pin-ons as the first party activity. You can make this funny and non-competitive if you want: Pin the dots on the ladybug, pin the Dalmatians on the fire truck, pin the spider webs on Spiderman, etc.
- “Egg” Hunt: This game always works. Instead of eggs, attach the candy with tape to a paper shape in the party theme: bones for a dog party, flowers for a luau, rocks for Rescue hero, etc. Scatter over the yard or house. This is an alternative to a piñata.
- "Hot" and "Cold": Can you Find it?: Choose something that fits the party theme and is about the size of a kid's hand. You can do this either inside or out. Luckily, this is one of those games that you can still play if your party gets rained out. In fact, it is so easy that it is a good "backup" party game. My friend Tanya did this for her daughter’s Cinderella party using a glass slipper. You could use a Lego car for a Lego party, a stuffed animal matching the party theme, a Barbie or even a video that you might be watching later. Send the kids to another room and then hide the object. Call the kids back to find it. The group tells the child who is searching "hot" or "cold". The child who finds the object gets to choose the next child to be the searcher, and they get to hide the object. Or if you have a lot of kids, you might choose another child to hide it so that everyone gets a chance to either search or hide.
- Find the Object in the Sand (or Play Pool): If you have a sandbox, this is a lot of fun. It can work especially well for a pirate party, a military party, or a dinosaur party. We've also done it for a jungle safari party, using plastic animals. Hide a bunch of plastic things in the sand and have the kids go and find them. If you have a big group, you may want to have them go one or two at a time and limit the number they can find. It is fun for the kids to watch as well as to find. This is another fun way to give out the party favors. If you have a water party, you can do this in a play pool or regular pool for older kids. Sometimes the kids have so much fun, they want to put them back in and do it again!
- Dress up the Stuffed Animal Contest! For a lot of my girl's parties, we've had some sort of "dress-up" the doll or stuffed animal game. We use fabric, ribbons, hair bows, and even foil and pipe cleaners. We give each girl a doll or a stuffed animal (or have them bring their own) and let them "dress them up!" Then we have a stuffed animal fashion show. Each girl gives the name of her animal and then tells about the outfit. We give fun prizes to everyone (either giving out certificates or just announcing the prize and giving a piece of candy), like "most creative!" "most original!" "best use of pink!" "craziest design!" "silliest hat!", etc.
- Treasure Hunt: We usually do this for the party favors. Hide the favors someplace, then give the kids one clue which leads them to someplace in the house or yard where they find another clue. Usually, we have enough clues for every kid to do one. It gives the kids a chance to run around a bit. Kids love this game.
- Obstacle Course: Use your yard or house to make a simple obstacle course for kids to follow going over things, under things, walking a beam, throwing a bean bag in a bucket, etc. You can have kids do this individually or in pairs.
- Dress-up Parade: Have an assortment of dress-up items for your party theme. Have everyone get dressed up and then parade around, maybe to music or using some musical instruments, or banging spoons on plastic containers. You can also have a place set up to have pictures of each child taken. For a girl’s princess party, you can have some fabric draped over a door and have each princess come in and be announced and twirl around and pose.
- Fortress, Castle, or Tent play: Set up some sort of special place for kids to play. We made a castle out of boxes for my daughter’s birthday. We had the girls dress up and gave them plastic tea sets to use for a "castle tea party."
Home Birthday Game Tips
Have a Designated Game Person: I am not a game person, so my favorite suggestion is to let your husband handle the party game planning, especially for a boy’s party. Guys are great at thinking up crazy games and your husband may have a fun time inventing games for the party. You can also enlist the help of an older sibling or a neighbor child, perhaps your babysitter.
Let Kids Play with Theme Toys: Another idea, especially for younger children, is to pull out toys that go along with your theme (or are just favorite toys at that age) into your birthday room (probably your living room) and let part of the party be playing with the toys. You can also just let the kids outside in your yard to play for a while.
Your child will love being able to share their house with their friends and their friends will get to know them better by playing at your house. Of course, you will need to supervise the play and mess, and be sure to put especially valuable and breakable toys away. You also may want to be ready, if things get a little chaotic, to pull out an easy relay race game, or start in on the party activities.
Easy Home Birthday Party Ideas
Benefits of an At Home Birthday Party
- Home Parties Build Family Togetherness: Before I even had kids, I read an article in the newspaper which talked about a family that hosted home parties every year based on a theme they chose as a family. I remember thinking, "I'd love to be that sort of family." Some twenty years, five kids, and over fifty birthday parties later, I can say that having home parties is one of our favorite family activities.
- Kids Love Sharing their Home with Friends: What I enjoy about home parties is that they allow my kids to share our home and who we are as a family with their friends. Although I have to admit that the clean-up before and afterwards is sometimes not my favorite part, the fact that the whole family is drawn into the celebration makes it worth it. After my oldest daughter had been invited to several elaborate "Sweet Sixteen" parties, I was wondering what she would want for her own special day. Even though we offered her other possibilities, she chose to have an English Tea Party with crafts, foods, and decorations she had designed herself.
- Having a Home Birthday is a Gift to Your Kids: We've only had a couple of birthday parties that weren't at our house, and even those utilized a lot of the ideas that we've come up with over the years. Right now we are coming into "birthday season" at our house and all of the kids are thinking about what they want to do for their parties. Even though I have offered to do some "fancier" out of home parties, they tell me that they like home parties best.
- Home Parties Give Kids a Chance to Shine: We re-use the same game ideas for most of our parties, just changing the theme. As a result, my oldest daughter was able to plan, organize and run most of our 5 birthday parties by the time she turned 11! It took some “giving up” of my own ideas of the perfect party, since my kids often plan a party which is a unique combination of their current interests, such as the Luau Chinese Princess party we has a couple of years ago.
- Children Learn to Be Party Hosts and Planners: I’ve gradually learned to “let go” of the perfect birthday, which included letting my son help decorate his fireman cake for his 4th birthday, and my daughter to make an all orange cake for the Luau party decorated with orange candles she had made herself (no one wanted to eat it, but she was very proud). I’ve now become convinced that part of what we are doing in giving birthday parties for our children is teaching them how to be hospitable and how to plan and execute an “event,” which as anyone in a church or any other organization knows is an essential life skill! Here are a few of our favorite ideas.
Fun and Easy Birthday Theme Ideas
- Doggy Party: Make doggy ears using elastic around head and felt ears attached on either side. Have kids stick on circles of black self-adhesive felt. I've used this theme several times for a pink poodle party, a dalmatian party, and a puppy party. One time, I also made T-shirts of a pink dog made of felt on a purple shirt. That year, I used the same theme for three kids parties, which made the planning easier.
- Fair and Rodeo Party: Dress up like cowboys, have stick pony races and lassoing contests. Play “fair” games like dartboard, put balls in bucket, knock over cans with ball or beanbag, drop clothespins in a bottle, throw ring around a soda bottle, bob for apples, make caramel apples, and serve cotton candy, corn dogs and popcorn.
- Training Camp: This is a great way to do a boy’s party. Have the boys be recruits in training for being firemen, rescue heroes, Lego brick masters, train engineers, race car drivers etc. Have them do a series of activities for training. My husband basically makes these games up the morning of the party by looking around at what we have in the yard. For example: throw balls into something; run a race around some theme obstacles; knock down some bad guys (old McDonald’s toys) perched on the trash cans with balls, locate and “rescue” hidden party theme toys (use lots for kids to all get one or two); build something out of Lego, block or pieces of wood; race cars or other theme toy down a ramp made of a sheet of board or cardboard.
- Tea Party: Have girls get dressed up and bring their stuffed animals or bears. You can use plastic or real glass tea sets. For “tea” you can use pink lemonade or milk with hot chocolate powdered mix to stir in for the “sugar”. Serve small pieces of food. Play music and sing some kids songs.
- Pretend Sleepover Party: This is an early evening party where the kids dress in pajamas, do make-up and nails, watch a movie and have snacks.
- Safari Party: Dress up as explorers and track the wild animals around your house and yard. Use stuffed and plastic animals.
- Bible Character Party: Have kids dress up as Bible characters. Act out some Bible stories, have stories read aloud, or watch short Bible story movie. Play games based on Bible story themes (pin animals on Noah’s ark). We've sometimes combined this theme with a tea party, or a princess party (dress up as a Bible princess? Well, O.K. most of them end up as Ester).
- Lego Party: My son is such a Lego fan that we've had many, many Lego parties. One of our favorite games for this is to give everyone a set of wheels and other assorted bricks and have them build a car. Put a length of wood at an angle and use a 1" by 4" board as a starting block. Lift the starting block and see whose car is fastest! This is actually a game we got from Legoland California. Another fun game is to take out your box of bricks and give everyone a certain amount of time to make a creation based on a certain theme like plane, person, animal, or something like that. You can have prizes or certificates for everyone like funniest, craziest idea, best use of _____ colored bricks, etc. The funnier the better.
- Gun Party: O.K. I only have one boy but I've learned my lesson. Boys like guns. We had a great time one year hosting a party which involved nerf wars, airsoft shooting (the boys made paper targets then had a certain number of shots to try to hit their target), nerf target practice (set up Barbie dolls or stuffed animals and let 'em at them), and marshmallow gun wars. The marshmallow guns were the party award. We got PVC pipe and showed them the basic design. They built their gun and used electrical tape to decorate it. We gave every guy a bag of marshmallows and set them out in the yard. They had a blast. This was one of our favorite parties ever.
- Glow-in-the-Dark Party: My daughter did this for a high school birthday party. We bought glow-in-the-dark paint and she and her friends made paintings on canvas. They also did body art and used glow sticks. We researched glow-in-the-dark ideas on Pinterest too.
- Movie Party: Have a favorite movie? Either attend a new movie at the theater and then come home to theme games, or better yet, have a show at home. You can have a trivia quiz on the movie, eat popcorn and movie candy and maybe even dress up as movie characters and act out scenes.
Fill Your Heart Edible Memories from USA on October 08, 2013:
Very creative ideas! My favorite is the Doggie Party!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on October 18, 2011:
Thanks Shazia--I'm getting ready right now for four parties--my kids mostly have Nov.-Dec. birthdays so they all come at once. We've done a lot of different themes, so I need to write up some Hubs on how to do different types of parties. This year the plan is a Movie party, a Rio party, a rodeo and an Airsoft party!
shazia on October 18, 2011:
i love this planning