While theme choice, food & drink and decorations all play an essential role in party planning, perhaps the biggest challenge for someone hosting a children’s party is entertainment.
A big hindrance when planning children’s birthday party activities is the age difference of those in attendance. Every party is different; there is likely to be a mix of parents, babies, toddlers and young kids. Very young children cannot participate in older children’s activities, and older ones simply have no interest in “kiddy” games! And, though it’s always fun to watch your child at play, adults will certainly need a mode of entertainment too.
So how does a busy party planner easily, quickly and inexpensively bridge the inevitable age gap of their party-goers and create inclusive party activities for everyone? This article offers some creative and budget-friendly party activities for guests of any age. The suggestions below are applicable to nearly any children’s birthday party and are fun, easy, hassle-free ideas that will help make your event a memorable one.
Pre-teen children, as young as one or as old as 12, all share a large commonality: stimulation. No matter the age, gender or cultural upbringing, children thrive on things that catch their attention and bewilder them. A child’s biggest source of learning and joy comes from his engagement with the world around him, whether he’s picking a flower or riding a bike.
Bringing stimulation and excitement to the forefront of your party is the answer to coming up with fun party activities for kids. Party games and activities should appeal to a child’s senses and trigger his imagination. Bright colors, upbeat music and fun/educational toys are a few elements that can be easily added to just about any party, regardless of the theme or occasion. Choose favors and decorations that can be easily identified by the kids, such as a cute Puppy theme or a fun Fire Truck theme.
A final component when trying to plan fun birthday party activities for kids is to provide a few fun, slightly challenging physical activities. Kids love to solve problems, practice their critical thinking, and be creative. As every parent knows, children have naturally high energy levels and they need to be able to exert that energy through physical activity. Working their bodies and minds at once in a fun, exciting fashion will ensure the ultimate good time of every pre-teen party-goer!
Putting a New Spin on Classic Party Activities
In this section, we outline some of the easiest party activities that can be altered to appeal to every age group. Although the activities’ concepts are rooted in traditional and well-known party games, we’ve come up with a few ways to revive these classics and give them a more exciting and stimulating edge.
1. A Scavenger Hunt
This timeless favorite is easy to tailor to various age groups and can be jazzed up in a number of ways. A few alterations to the game that can make it more fun for the kids include tailoring the hidden items/prizes to each age group, wrapping up the prizes in bright, fun packaging and making simple changes to the rules.
Try hiding small, brightly-colored bags filled with age-appropriate toys or goodies for each age group that plays. Hide stimulating or exciting items inside each bag. Consider noise-making toys such as kazoos or clickers, colorful items like light-up jewelry or bounce balls, or even candy like gold-wrapped chocolate pieces or chew-able tarts (you can even buy a pinata filler candy for a large assortment).
To help give parents and kids more direction, color-coordinate the bags to according to approximate age. Set out enough color-coordinated bags so that each child can hunt for three or so (whatever you feel is sufficient for a fun game). For example, if you have one toddler, two six-year-old’s and an eleven-year-old, you’d set out a total of 12 bags (three each) and tell each age group to go after their assigned color. So there could be three pink bags for the toddler, six orange bags (three each for the six-year-old’s) and three green bags for the eleven-year-old.
Make the game more interesting by challenging each age group to be the fastest at collecting their bags. To even the playing field, hide the older kids’ bags in harder-to-find locations and leave the younger kids’ bags more visible, or have the older children collect more bags than younger ones.
Toddlers & infants will need assistance and supervision with this game. Please be sure to provide safe toys for them that they will not choke on.
2. Pass the Ball
Have each child participating stand in a circle (parents with babies can hold them and play; parents of toddlers can stand outside the circle behind the child and assist them in playing). Have a designated adult turn on music and have the kids begin passing the ball around the circle. Have the adult stop the music in random increments; the child holding the ball when the music stops is eliminated from that round.
If the game gets boring, you can add a second, third and even a fourth ball to the circle, depending on the number of kids playing. Try to space it out so that each child gets a turn every few seconds to keep from getting bored.
3. Simon Says…
A simple and interactive game, this one is among a top favorite for party activities. Any willing adult can be designated as “Simon”. Have all the kids and Simon stand in a circle. Simon will then give simple, easy-to-follow gestures, such as “touch your nose”, “stomp your feet” and “put your hands on your head”, demonstrating the gestures as he speaks them. The trick is, though, that the participating kids must only follow commands that start with “Simon says…”. Anyone who follows a gesture not started with “Simon says…” is eliminated from the round.
Toddlers most likely won’t be able to understand the game’s rules, but they will have fun trying to mimic the movements. Infants may not be able to play the game, but they will certainly enjoy watching all the bigger kids make silly movements.
This interactive game helps children learn listening and comprehension skills, as well as promoting self-control and exercising their cognitive reasoning.
If older children are finding the game too easy, try changing it up. Speed up Simon’s commands, or each round reverse the commands to follow (Round 1, do only what “Simon says”, Round 2, do everything NOT begun with “Simon says”). Older kids will have fun competing against one another to stay in the circle the longest.
4. Balloon Toss
Balloon Toss is a simple, inexpensive way to create interactive fun for all the kids! Have all the children split up into pairs (age groups should be kept together if possible), then give each pair of kids an inflated balloon. Designate one adult to each pair and start a timer. Have the adults count how many times in one minute the kids in each pair can “toss” or smack the balloon back and forth.
Even babies love playing with balloons! They’re fun for them to chase, bat around and try to grab.
Playing this game with brightly-colored balloons that match your theme colors can really bring out the fun. Many party retailers also sell themed balloons, so check around and find out if you can find some decorated balloons to match your party theme.
Traditional latex balloons are a great choice for this game because they bounce easily and move quickly through the air, but a broken, popped or uninflated latex balloon poses a choking hazard to babies and small children. If a latex balloon pops during gameplay, be sure to pick up the pieces immediately so a little one can’t wander over and choke on it!
If you’re worried about the choking hazard, foil balloons can also work. It’s much harder to pop a foil balloon and the pieces won’t bust everywhere if one does pop. If you buy foil balloons for this game, you’ll need a manual inflation straw to inflate them. Lots of party places sell inflation straws. Don’t use helium to inflate these balloons, as they will float in the air and no one will be able to reach them!
5. A Relay Race
Last on our list of fun party activities for kids is another one that works for all ages, even crawling or newly-walking babies! An outside location is ideal for the game as it would provide more room for the racing, running, hopping and crawling contestants.
For older kids (probably 9 to 12), a somewhat fair racing distance, a finish line marker, completion prizes and a challenging element (like hopping on one leg or carrying an egg on a spoon to the finish line) would help optimize the game to its maximum fun potential.
For smaller kids (5 to 8), the same elements are ideal, only with a slightly shorter racing distance and an easier task.
For young kids (2 to 4), you’ll want yet a shorter race distance and an even easier task. Parents may need to assist their children in the race.
And lastly, for the babies, a finish line, cheering parent and enticing object such as a bright toy or balloon will have them crawling and laughing their way through the game. Keep the “racing” distance short, because as we all know, babies’ attention spans are extremely limited. The first one to crawl or wobble across the finish line wins!
The first child in each age group to cross the finish line first wins a grand prize! If there are many kids participating in each group, you can also hand out smaller prizes to second- and third-place winners.
Party Activities for Adults & Parents
When it comes to a children’s birthday party, attending adults and parents may be the hardest ones to entertain! Check out the ideas below to help get ideas for party activities for adults.
- Provide a simple photo booth. Allow kids and parents alike a fun way to remember your event with a Mommy & Me (or Daddy & Me) picture area. Intricate photo backdrops and cool props are available for a large variety of party themes. In a pinch, a table cover can also double as a backdrop. Inexpensive, easy-to-operate digital cameras make it easy to snap multiple pictures, upload to a computer and share.
- Provide an adults-only space. Setting up a relaxing spot just for parents/adults can be a really cool feature at your party. Make sure to set it up within visible proximity of the kids so that parents can still keep an eye out. You could play popular music, provide separate snacks and sodas, offer up some always-needed coffee and, if you’re comfortable with doing so, offer small amounts of alcohol, such as a glass of wine or a mimosa.
- Let willing adults help with party activities. For crafty or energetic parents, offer them a chance to help out with the kids! Most of the activities above need at least one willing adult. The more (voluntary) help you can enlist for the party, the more relaxed you’ll be.
- Offer a drop-off option if you have the means. There is hardly a better gift to a parent than free time! If you can, hire sitters or nannys to supervise the children and give parents the option to drop their kids off if they wish. Either way, it’s a polite gesture to list in your party invitation whether the kids can be dropped off or if parents need to stay so that parents may plan accordingly.
Try These Activities at Your Next Party
In summary, the key to hosting a party enjoyable for all ages is to provide easy, stimulating party activities that can be easily tailored to each age group. There are many, many more interactive children’s party activities available online if you need more ideas. We hope this article has provided you with some easy, realistic party activities that will help liven up your event and take some stress out of your big day!