Today’s parents have a lot to keep up with. From the latest gadgets to the endless list of games and innovations that are sprouting up left and right, most parents scramble to keep pace with it all. Then birthdays come around, and there are even more challenges to overcome.
On top of choosing a venue, guest list, food and cake, choosing a party theme for boys or girls means staying up to date with the latest characters and concepts your child is interested in. But perhaps one of the most challenging issues to resolve when planning an event is finding birthday party games and activities that will be engaging to everyone in attendance.
Games are the natural answer, but then comes the issue of age appropriateness. After all, the bowling birthday party that your ten-year-old and her friends enjoyed is definitely not going to float with the four-year-old’s gang of pals. In this guide, we’ll consider a brief list of age-appropriate party games for kids from ages one to 12. Age-appropriate birthday party games and activities will help to ensure that everyone has a good time no matter what the theme, location or menu.
NOTE: Most of these ideas are for home-based parties rather than a party event in a place designed as the activity itself. For example, pottery painting parties are a fun activity for kids over the age of eight, and that alone is enough to keep them busy and satisfied for an hour or more. However, a house full of eight-year-olds is unlikely to be at peace without some fun birthday party activities on hand, and it is for such parties that this guide has been created.
First Birthday Party Games
As the experts at PBS noted, “Make no mistake: The first birthday party is really a celebration of the anniversary of your becoming a parent.” As such, you will want to focus on the adult guests since most one-year-old children are not able to conceive of the idea of “party”. Other babies should be welcomed, and even a play area mapped out for them.
If babies do participate, some fun ideas include:
For one-year-olds, it’s best to keep your birthday party games short, simple, and baby-proofed! Don’t forget to take lots of photos, particularly if you allow your child (and any babies in attendance) to have free reign over their plate of cake and ice cream!
Age 2 Birthday Party Games
What a difference a year can make, and perhaps the transition from one to two is the most distinct. When trying to plan birthday party games for this event, you realize you may be dealing with a serious situation. Even a small group of two-year-olds is fraught with challenges.
Organized games and activities are still not a good idea, nor is opening the presents in front of the kids. Instead, keep the children attending happy with adult-monitored activities like:
- Sand or child-safe clay games (i.e. “cloud” dough made of flour and oil)
- Outdoor games like rolling a ball or playing in a sprinkler
- Sensory games (remember that two-year-olds are not great at sharing, so individualized games are a good choice here). The Artful Parent site has a nice array of birthday-appropriate sensory games for toddlers, including water scooping games, paper games that can include tearing wet paper or playing in large amounts of shredded paper, and shallow tubs of wheat berries with small toys such as a farmyard scene or zoo full of animals. (a few items below!)
Birthday Party Games for Age 3
This is a great age as it is likely that your child is about to experience their first birthday party in terms of really understanding what a party is. Again, you’ll notice a tremendous leap in development, and by this time they’re going to really enjoy birthday party games with a few friends.
Party games for kids around this age include:
- Play dough games or crafts
- Singing songs
- Games played in circles, like passing or gently tossing a ball to an adult in the center of the circle who then moves to the next player
- Super-easy games like Simon Says
- Dancing games and sprinkler play
Age three can still be tricky, so it is best to avoid opening gifts at the event and to try to keep the party to a time span of two hours or less.
Age 4 Birthday Party Games
While a child at age four is very interested in parties and getting much better at socializing and sharing, they also have a lot of energy. This can be very tiring for adults, so try to limit parties to that two hour time frame when possible, and plan birthday party games and activities that don’t ask for players to wait a long time between turns.
Good game ideas include:
- Song singing games
- Play dough games or crafts
- Treasure hunts are now possible for kids this age, but think of them more along the lines of Easter egg hunts than maps with clue hunting experiences
- Fort building with boxes or sofa cushions is a great activity from this age onward
- Drawing or painting games may be possible (coloring books are great like the one below!)
Birthday Party Activities for Age 5
Kids in this age group are serious party fans. Many will already be familiar with the parties hosted by friends and really have a lot to say about what games will be played, what themes will be used, and even what sort of cake or food to have. From this age onward, parties can get a bit longer, involve more complex games and presents can now be opened in front of the other kids.
Good kids’ party games for age 5 include:
- Make-believe games such as playing firefighters, pizza makers or grocery store – just be sure you have plenty of costumes and props for each child
- Dancing games like the Hokey Pokey and regular games like Simon Says
- Hide and Seek
- You can now add arts and crafts to the list of things to do and many five year-olds can enjoy finger painting, over sized bead stringing and even using safety scissors
- Homemade slime is also perfect for this age and older
- Treasure-digging games are fun and can be made with kiddie pools or large plastic tubs. Fill them with playground sand and bury party favors and little treasures. Give each child a turn with a shovel or plastic sand rake and replenish if needed
Birthday Party Games for Kids Ages 6 to 8
Kids in this age bracket are the most enthusiastic about birthday parties and should be included in all parts of the planning. What theme do they want? What sort of cake and food? What gifts should be given to their friends? What activities seem like fun?
At this age, out of the home birthday party games are an option, including active games like bowling, visiting children’s play sites (i.e. Chuck E. Cheese and similar locations), and even going to a kids’ movie are options. Pool or beach parties are also a lot of fun, but need constant adult supervision.
If you want to stay at home, this age loves activities like:
- Potato sack racing
- Water and sprinkler activities (don’t forget water balloon tossing)
- Three-legged races
- Egg and spoon races
- A good outdoor game for this age, and one that makes a big mess is the “Find the…” game. It could be gummy bears, worms or another firm candy. Each player is given a plate that is piled high with whipped cream from a can. Inside the pile, three candies are hidden. The goal is to “find” those three candies first, but the trick is that you cannot use your hands! Definitely an outdoor game!
- These ages are just fine with time spent watching a movie together
- Easy board games are great
- Musical chairs
- The “freeze” game or “Red Light/Green Light”
Birthday Party Games for Ages 9-12
Things get tricky here as some kids feel like they are getting too old or start aging out of the idea of a “children’s” party. You can ensure they have the best time imaginable by focusing on more mature birthday party games and activities.
While it is entirely possible for this age to have a great time doing a pizza party and a matinee, or one of the “outside of the home” options like the bowling party, pool or beach party, or even the amusement park event, if you are budget-conscious or wish to stay at home, these are some ideal birthday party games and activities:
- World’s Worst Makeover – In a nutshell, this game is played by one blindfolded player and one willing “victim”. The blindfolded person is given makeup and makeup brushes and then applies the makeup to the victim. This yields hilarious results!
- Pass the Bag – Play this by filling a large garbage bag with an array of unusual, outdated and just plain ugly garments. Then, each player has to take the bag, reach in and pull out one item (without looking). They then wear that garment throughout the game. The game does not end until the bag is empty, leaving kids with hilarious outfits. Have the cameras ready.
- Bat and Balloon – This is great for younger kids, too, but may be more fun for the older crowd. You make “bats” by gluing paper plates to the end of a paint stirring stick (duct tape works well, too). To play, 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”. Players form teams and bat a large and sturdy balloon across the net. When the balloon touches the floor, the opposing team earns a point.
- Hands-Free Donut Eating – As the name implies, the goal is to eat an entire donut without touching it. You play by hanging donuts from clean twine – you can do this from a tree branch, laundry line or by stringing twine across a doorway and hanging donuts from the twine. The game is a lot more fun when eating is done as a race, but one by one can work well, with the fastest eater winning the game.
- Pass the Story – Older kids love this one and it is great if your birthday is on a rainy or cold day. You just use an over sized drawing pad and large Sharpie to play. The first person chooses a sentence from a page of a book, such as the opening line of a famous story. They then pass the pad and marker to the next person who has to continue the “story”. Each person adds a line, but it can be a lot of fun to just continue around a few times. Then, the birthday boy or girl has to read the entire tale – no matter how ridiculous or silly – out loud.
Keep in mind that you can always use the previous year’s games if they were a hit, and blend age-appropriate games across the groupings above. For example, it is not odd that a group of nine-year-olds might want to play the egg and spoon race or that a group of 12-year-olds enjoys a game of musical chairs.
The point is to never push any kids beyond their current age appropriateness as that can lead to frustrations and a birthday party with a few tears or frowns.
Remember too that having prizes for winners and party goodie bags for all who attend can be a lot of fun and incorporated into the games.
For instance, if you play a “World’s Worst Makeover” game with a group of 11-year-olds, it is a nice idea to have some beauty products or items in their goodie bags. Lip balms, nail polish, and other items would be a good match. You can do this sort of “themed” gift/prize to add more fun.
Bonus Birthday Party Activity for All Ages (Parents Included!)
Don’t overlook the fun potential for indoor and/or outdoor photo booths. Kids of any age love to wear props and costumes and have their photos taken. Outdoors, you can suspend over sized frames from tree branches or the crossbar of a swing set (having guests stand behind the frames). You can also build a “photo booth” from a refrigerator box or by framing out a space with a large sheet or colorful background and use that indoors or out.
Then have any adult run the camera, taking photos of guests all dolled up in whatever fun props or costumes you make available. We also offer a number of different themed photo prop sets. The image below shows four different themes we have to offer so, click the image to browse!
Use Discount Party Supplies for Your Birthday Party Activities
As you can see, kids’ birthday party games and activities have to be age-appropriate to be the most enjoyable. Don’t forget that most ages also enjoy the participation of parents and adults, but as kids age they may want a bit of their own time together, which can also be part of the activities planned.
Movies, makeovers, video games, and other activities let kids go off on their own, yet still have a great time celebrating a birthday.
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