Birthday parties for young children create anticipation weeks beforehand, so party games should live up to kids’ expectations. In addition to providing fun, games are an important part of a birthday celebration because they keep kids occupied until it’s time to blow out the candles and slice the cake. Kids from 5 to 8 years old are old enough to take part in competitive activities and young enough to be willing to try new ones.
If kids with a range of ages between 5 and 8 make up the guest list, it’s important to keep in mind that the skill levels will vary. For example, party planners should keep in mind that while most 8-year-olds could play simple word games, those games would not be appropriate for 5-year-olds.
Kids this age do not always understand and/or appreciate the concept of prizes only for the winners, so it works well if one child can receive the winner’s prize with everyone else receiving runner-up prizes.
If possible, active games can take place outside where kids can run freely and play games that wouldn’t take place in the house. In “Bashes on a Budget-Kid’s Birthdays,” author Jenna Higgins suggests setting out a few buckets of water balloons for kids to throw at each other’s feet; the thrower is “out” if a water balloon lands above a player’s feet. Hat and Go Seek, a game from their book “Play It,” Wayne Rice and Mike Yaconelli’s idea is to have one player wear a hat and search for the other players who have hidden. The hat-wearer searches for a hidden player who then puts on the hat, closes her eyes, counts to 20 and starts another search. The authors also suggest a shoe kick in which kids take off one shoe, hang it at the end of their feet, and see who can kick the shoe the farthest.
Simon Says gives a player a chance to be Simon and direct kids to take action but only if he remembers to say, “Simon Says,” at the beginning of his direction.
Similarly, for Whistle Stop, a game suggested at the Party Games website, the leader blows a whistle once, signaling the players to raise one arm; at two blows from the whistle, however, kids do nothing. If anyone makes a mistake, that player is out. Kids sit on the floor for a game of Rolling Categories. The first player rolls a ball to another player who must grab the ball and say the name of an animal (or other category, such as TV shows, fruits, colors and so on). That player then rolls the ball to another player; no names can be repeated.
Kids can have fun with Scribble Art. Players sit around a table. Each one makes a small scribble on her paper and passes it on to the person on her left. The next person adds to the scribble, incorporating it into a drawing that must be completed by the time each player receives her scribble back. Kids are grouped for playing elephant, and the first group is blindfolded. The other kids watch as players on the first team try to draw an elephant; one team member starts by drawing the body, and each of the other members in turn add legs, a head and so on. Other teams then get a chance.
Active games can alternate with quieter ones. As an honor, the birthday child, or his team, gets to go first in games, and, when possible, his name is inserted into game play. For example, instead of Simon Says, the game would become “Marcus Says.” Plan a game that doesn’t require team play for the first party activity as a way to draw everyone in as soon as guests arrive.
- birthday cake image by Cherry-Merry from Fotolia.com