There is nothing better than a good game to get the party off to a flying start. Despite living in times of consoles and iPads, it is amazing how modern children still embrace traditional party games.
Games are a great way of involving everyone and, if you have the space, physical games are perfect for expending energy and letting off steam! Here are some ideas for party games including some old favourites and some fun variations.
Our top 7 easy party games to do with children:
- The chocolate game
- Pass the parcel forfeits
- Pin the tail on the donkey and variations
- DIY pictionary
- Pass the balloon
- Kim’s game
1. The Chocolate game
This was my favourite party game as a child and has endured the test of time. There is something wonderfully gratifying about consuming large quantities of chocolate in a comical, undignified fashion with a knife and fork and without having to remember your manners!
- Dressing-up clothes including a hat, scarf and gloves
- Two dice
- A wrapped bar of chocolate,
- A plate, knife and fork
How to play
- Put the bar of chocolate on the plate with the knives and forks nearby and sit the children around it in a circle. Throw the pile of dressing up clothes into the circle. Give one child the dice.
- The children take it in turns to roll the dice on the floor in front of them, passing them around the circle to their left.
- If a child rolls a double, they move into the centre of the circle, put on the dressing up clothes, and start to unwrap, then eat, the bar of chocolate – but only using the knife and fork.
- That child continues until another child rolls a double (the same number on each die), at which point they must hand over the dressing up clothes to the next child.
- The game continues until the chocolate is finished
Don’t underestimate the ability of some children to expertly unwrap and eat copious amounts of chocolate with only a knife and fork – you may need a few spare bars of chocolate!
For a larger number of children divide into two teams and provide each team with a bar of chocolate, clothes and dice. Signal the start of the game and the first person in each team rolls the dice. The winning team is the first to finish the whole bar!
Lastly, don’t forget to take pictures as the children dress up to eat the chocolate. It will make for a great souvenir in a couple of years.
Instead of using a knife and fork and bar of chocolate, use a pair of chopsticks and small sweets like M&Ms. This can be more difficult for younger children but can be a lot of fun once they have grasped the knack.
2. Pass the parcel with ‘forfeits’
Most people know the basic concept of pass the parcel. For this party game, people sit in a circle and pass a pre-wrapped, multi-layered parcel containing a present, from one person to the other while music plays. When the music stops, the person with the parcel unwraps one layer and this process is repeated with the person who unwraps the final layer getting to keep the present.
The modern trend seems to be to include an additional, smaller present between each layer which means that multiple children get to win something.
However, an even more fun and involving variation is to include a silly activity or ‘forfeit’ between each layer. The person who unwraps the layer has to do the‘forfeit’ in front of everyone.
- A present and a box to disguise its shape (optional)
- Wrapping paper, scissors and sticky tape
- Pen and paper
- Source of music – this can be any recorded music or even live music such as a piano
Wrap the gift at least as many times as you have children participating Between each layer, write a note for the person to do when they unwrap that layer. Some examples are below but you can vary the complexity of the forfeits to suit the age of the children and their level of confidence:
- Sing Happy Birthday like a dog making woofs for each word
- Sing the song ‘Heads and Shoulders Knees and Toes’ backwards. (ie Toes and Knees Shoulders and Heads, shoulders and heads etc).
- Pretend to be a chicken with its bottom on fire
- Sing Gangnam style and do the actions – or sing your favourite song
- Hop on one leg ten times while patting your head and rubbing your tummy.
- Recite the alphabet in a silly voice
- Do 10 star jumps counting backwards
- Pick a TV theme song and hum it so that the other players correctly guess it
- Sing a nursery rhyme
- Tell a joke
- Say correctly “She sells sea shells on the seashore” or other tongue twisters
- Dance with a friend
How to play
- Sit the children in a circle. Players should be seated close enough to the person each side of them that they can pass the parcel easily
- Designate the music player. This person will be responsible for turning the music on and off.
- The music- player starts the music and stops it when least expected.
- The player holding the parcel when the music stops unwraps a layer. If the parcel was midway in the air between exchanges, the parcel goes to the player it was being passed to.
- The player reads the forfeit out loud (or gets adult help if necessary) and has to do whatever is written.
- Restart after each layer is unwrapped. The music-player starts the music again. This continues until all the layers have been removed.
- The player who unwraps the last layer keeps the item.
If you want the game to be more inclusive have a prize that that can be shared by everyone in the group. For example, a bag of sweets or multiple small toys
It’s more fun when each child gets a turn to unwrap and do a forfeit so the adult controlling the music may need to surreptitiously time the music stopping to land on particular children as the game progresses
Some children can feel self-conscious doing activities in front of a group, especially younger children, so have some simpler alternatives in mind for those that feel uncomfortable doing what has been suggested. Or try writing forfeits so that everyone can participate. For example instead of having one child mimic a chicken, have everyone do it at once and see who is the best
If you don’t like the idea of wasting so much wrapping paper, use newspaper for a more environmentally friendly but less pretty parcel!
3. Pin the tail on the donkey
Pin the tail on the donkey is another crowd pleaser that has been around for years – it is said to have been first played in 1899. It is great fun played in its original form with an image of a donkey and multiple tails but it’s also easily adapted to whatever theme of party you are throwing.
- Image of a donkey on poster board
- Cut out ‘donkey tails’ with adhesive
- A prize for the winner
- Draw a donkey or stick a printed donkey image on poster board. Make the donkey at least 30cm wide and 45 cm tall.
- Cut out a donkey tail for each of the players and attach adhesive tape to each
- Mount the donkey image on a vertical surface, such as a wall. Place the image at an appropriate height for all participants
- Mark your donkey. Draw an “X” on the picture where the tail would normally be placed, as a reference point for determining a “winner
Alternatively, it’s possible to purchase a ready-made pin the tail on the donkey game from PartyWizz.
How to play
- Blindfold the first player. Use a dark coloured cloth to thoroughly cover the participant’s eyes and prevent cheating. A bandanna works well.
- Spin the blindfolded player. The player is spun in a stationary circle five to ten times to make the guessing harder and more amusing for those watching. You may consider not spinning young children.
- Let the player pin a tail. Hand the blindfolded player a tail and allow him or her to attempt sticking or pinning it over the “X” on the donkey’s rear end.
- Help the blindfolded player to face the image of the donkey before beginning to walk forward.
- The remaining players are blindfolded, spun, and allowed to pin a tail, one-by-one until everyone has had a turn
- Leave all of the donkey tails pinned to the location they have been placed, until every player has had a turn.
- Use a pen or pencil to write player initials at each tail placement, as they are pinned
- Determine which tail is “best placed.” The “winner” is the player whose tail is closest to the marked “X.”
Use adhesives such as blue tack or sticky tape on the tails to avoid using sharp pins.
Use the preparation of the donkey and tails as a party activity. This adds additional fun but also saves you precious preparation time! Allow the children to draw or decorate a group donkey and personalize donkey tails so each player makes and decorates his or her own. Use a variety of materials, such as string, paper, and ribbon and write each player’s name or initials somewhere on the tail if they are not easily distinguished.
Tailor the game to your party theme. Pin the Tail on the Donkey is adaptable to fit the theme of virtually any birthday party. You can have pin the Tiara on the princess, pin the spade on the pirate treasure. PartyWizz has a few variations to suit different themes.
4. DIY ‘Pictionary’
Pictionary makes for a great party game and meets our criteria for easy-to-do. You don’t need to buy the game to play your own version of this fun drawing word-guessing game for groups of any age.
- A big pad of paper or flip chart and marker, a chalkboard and chalk or a wipe-off board and dry erase marker.
- Slips of paper with words written on them – for younger children use easily drawn nouns like sea or cat
- A hat or bowl to put them in
How to play
- With a larger group, divide players into two teams
- Players take turns to pick a word and must silently draw their word while their team tries to guess what the drawing is. Teams compete against each other to have the most guessed words and win the game.
- If you have one drawing surface, have teams take turns sending up a player to pick a word from the hat and draw it in a pre-designated amount of time. If the team guesses the word before the time runs out, they get a point. Then the other team takes a turn.
- If you have two drawing surfaces, you could have each team send up a player and have them draw the same word at the same time (hiding their drawings from the other team). The first team to guess the word wins the round.
- At the end, tally up points and announce a winner!
For a faster-paced game, instead of having a player draw one word before the time runs out, you could let team members draw as many words as their team can guess before the time runs out.
You could assign different point values to different words to add some variety in the scoring system
But if you want to keep it really simple, you also don’t have to keep score or keep time if you want. You don’t even need two teams. You could just play with a big group of people and take turns drawing, with slips of paper or with players thinking of their own words to draw. Players take as long as they need to draw. The first player who guesses correctly gets to draw next.
5. Pass the balloon
Laughs come thick and fast in this wonderfully silly game of agility and teamwork.
- 2 inflated balloons and/or other round objects
How to play
- Create 2 teams with team members standing in a line
- The first child on each team starts with a balloon between their chin and their chest.
- They then attempt to pass the balloon to the next team member using no hands and the next person must also hold the balloon using their chin and their chest. This continues until the last person gets the balloon.
- If the balloon is dropped (or bursts) the team must start again at the beginning. The first team to finish wins.
If there are older and younger children try to balance the teams
Try using other round objects of different sizes, for example oranges. The smaller objects create closer contact with teammates which can be even more amusing. You can use a variety of different sized objects for different rounds and make it that the best of 3 rounds.
6. Kim’s game
Another of my favourite games from my childhood, this simple memory game is great party calmer when things might be getting overly hectic.
- A variety of 20 small objects – for example apple, scissors, fork, glove, egg
- Pen and paper for each player
How to play
- Give each child pencil and paper
- Let them look at the tray for a minute
- cover the tray with a scarf
- The children have to write down as many items that they remember on the tray
- The one with the most right answers is the winner
An alternative method of play is to take away one item at a time while the kids aren’t looking and get them to call out what’s missing. The first person to call out what’s missing gets a point with the winner being the one who scores the most points at the end
How low can YOU go? Originally a dance performed at wakes in Tinidad and Tobago, don’t underestimate how much fun you can get from limbo in a party setting.
- A broomstick, or any other long stick
How to play
- Two players hold the limbo stick while the other players take turns going under it in any way they wish.
- After each player goes under once, the bar is then lowered a few centimetres
- Players keep ducking under the limbo stick, as it gets lower and lower.
- If they touch the stick with any part of their body, they’re out.
- The last person left is the winner.
Best played outside
Another game that tests flexibility uses an empty cereal box such as Cornflakes. The idea of the game is that each player takes it in turn to pick up the cereal box from the floor using their teeth only and without their hands touching the floor.
After all the players have had a turn a centimetre or 2 of the top of the box is torn off before all players try again. Those that cannot pick up the box from the floor are out. The winner is the last person left. Adults love this game too and it can get rather competitive!