It’s easy to overlook the littlest kids during holiday festivities when many Christmas parties are geared to older kids and the games are not suitable for younger ones. However, when little ones are involved in Christmas games and activities especially designed to keep them occupied, children will have a better time, and they’re more likely to have better behavior as well.
The most effective Christmas games for little kids already bursting with holiday excitement are those with simple rules and those that only need one adult to help keep things moving along. Games should also be short in duration so they will keep the children’s interest and not conflict with other party activities. For kids younger than 7, games should not involve any reading unless it’s the adult who reads. In addition, it should be clear to the children what the link is between the game and Christmas.
Keeping the Christmas spirit of giving in mind can provide the basis for many Christmas games. To play “Christmas Elephant,” each child draws a number. A pile of small gifts in Christmas wrap sits in the center of the table; each of these is numbered as well. The child holding number “one” receives the gift labeled number one. Then child number two receives her package; however, before opening it she may elect to take the first gift instead. The game continues with each child choosing a previously opened gift or a wrapped one until all the gifts are opened and each child has a gift. Family Fun’s version of “Present Scramble” starts with an adult placing a prize appropriate to the Christmas holiday inside a small box and gift wrapping it; that box is then put inside a second larger box, and so on until the number of boxes exceeds the number of guests. Kids pass around a die trying to roll a six; the first person who does so unwraps one box. The game continues until one child reaches the prize. The Moms Who Think site suggests a wrapping paper relay in which teams of kids try to be the first to wrap a pile of presents.
Children in Brazil enjoy putting on the folk play Los Pastores or “The Shepherds.” In another version, there are shepherdesses rather than shepherds and a gypsy who attempts to kidnap the Christ Child. Mexican children sometimes make a ring around a star-shaped candy-filled piñata and take turns wearing a blindfold and trying to knock it down. Kids can try to memorize how to say “Merry Christmas” in several different languages; a list of these is available at the World of Christmas site.
Party hosts can turn many familiar childhood games into appropriate Christmas party entertainment by simply changing the theme or props, such as “Hide the ornament, or “Ring around the Christmas tree.” Kids can use cellophane-wrapped candy canes as hooks to fish prizes floating in water-filled buckets. Gingerbread houses created from graham crackers make the base for a contest challenging kids to decorate their houses with the most candy. Teams of kids can use green crepe paper streamers and compete to see who can be the first to completely wrap their “Christmas tree”–the tallest team member with his hands stretched low and wide.
Young children do well with hiding games, so hosts can design these with a Christmas theme. For example, kids can play the traditional hide-and-seek game with the “hider” wearing a Santa hat with jingle bells so that the slightest movement becomes a clue. Children can search the house for candy canes or chocolates wrapped like Christmas ornaments that were hidden before the party. Kids can also take turns hiding a plush snowman or other Christmas figure and call out “hot chocolate” or “freezing snowman” as the finder gets closer or farther away from discovering the hiding place.