No parent wants to plan a children’s party without lots of entertainment up their sleeve. Here's our pick of party games, from new versions to old classics.
Planning a kid’s birthday party? Searching for fresh inspiration beyond Simon Says and Pass the Parcel? These child-approved ideas are quick, easy and won’t break the bank. Most of them use materials you can pull together from a look around your child’s bedroom or a rummage in the recycling bin, and all are guaranteed to become firm party favourites.
If you want to win top party points, a slime-making lab is sure to be the talk of the town. Use our simple slime recipe and set the individual ingredients out in bowls so each child can follow the chief scientist's simple instructions. Let everyone put an individual twist on their slime by leaving the pots of biodegradable glitter in the middle of the table for them to choose from. Do ensure that all children are aware that this is a play toy and NOT EDIBLE. The slime can also double up as party bag gifts if you save it until the end of the party.
Over the rainbow
Send the children on a quest for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Get shiny coloured card in the colours of the rainbow and hide it throughout the house for the children to retrieve. Write a series of age-appropriate clues guiding the children from red to orange to yellow and so on, and read them out one by one. For example: ‘find red at a door that leads to the garden’, or ‘find green where Fido the dog likes to sleep’. The final clue should lead the children to a surprise, a rainbow-shaped piñata (make your own or buy readily available online) filled with pots of gold chocolate coins – their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
If your child is a sports fan, host a mini Olympic Games complete with mock gold medals and certificates as prizes. Kids will love getting involved with egg & spoon races, bean bag throwing contests and dribbling footballs around cones. Be sure to check out our full guide to hosting your own mini Olympics with more games and recipe ideas.
Hook the rubber ducky
Buy a set of rubber ducks on hooks, plus a stick with a hook (all readily available online) and put them in a paddling pool or big tub full of water. Get another tub or bin and fill it with shredded scrap paper salvaged from your recycling box. Wrap simple presents (stationery, books, party bag fillers) and bury them among the paper to make a lucky dip. Let the children take turns to try and hook a duck. Once they succeed, they can pick a mystery gift from the lucky dip.
Hang a piece of string across the room within reach of the children. Count out as many A4 envelopes as there are children, draw a big question mark on each and label with a number, then write a challenge on a piece of paper and place it inside – for example, ‘do a silly dance’, ‘sing a song’, ‘pretend to be the Queen’. Stick a little plastic toy to the front of each envelope with tape (the toy could match your party theme, such as fairies or dragons). Hang the envelopes along the string with wooden pegs. When the children are ready to play, they each take a turn to pick a number. One at a time, they unpeg their chosen envelope, open it up and read the challenge to perform in front of the group. After a round of applause they get to keep their toy.
Giant 3D sliding puzzle
Put some of the delivery boxes or cereal packs in your recycling bin to good use. Collect similar-sized boxes, stick plain paper to the front of each box and arrange them in a horizontal grid on a table or the floor. Draw a simple picture across all the boxes so that each box in the grid displays just one part of the whole picture, such as a dinosaur, fairy, castle or whatever matches your party’s theme. It’s easiest to sketch this in pencil first then firm up in marker pen. Colour in your picture, then jumble up the boxes. The children must work as a team to put the scrambled image back together again in the right order and win a reward. Try stacking big cardboard boxes on top of one another in a grid to make a jumbo vertical version of this game. If you don’t have enough boxes, you can just do this with card.
Wind-up wacky races
Raid your children’s room for little wind-up or clockwork toys in various shapes and sizes. Make a course in a straight line on a table or the floor with a clear start and finish. Construct the start line with two pencils or chopsticks stuck down with a bit of Blu Tack and joined together with ribbon or little paper bunting, and do the same for the finish line. The children can pick a toy to race and cheer on, with medals or rosettes on offer for the first past the post.
Label paper sweetie bags with the name of each child at the party, fill them with chocolate coins and put all the bags in a basket or box. Hide this treasure somewhere. Get a notepad and spell out the location of the hidden treasure, one letter on each piece of paper, like G-A-R-D-E-N-S-H-E-D or R-E-D-A-R-M-C-H-A-I-R. Hide these letter cards throughout the house and lead the children around the trail looking for them. As they get nearer to the trail’s end, they should start to be able to spell out the treasure’s location and hunt it down. If you want to make the game harder, jumble up the order of the letters along the trail so that the children must rearrange them at the end in the right order to reveal the treasure’s location.
Giant noughts and crosses
Use washi tape to stick an oversized 3 x 3 grid to a section of wooden floor, tiling or garden flagstones (you can also draw the grid outside with washable chalk). Draw giant noughts and crosses on to A4 card and let the championships begin. You can vary the game by matching to your party’s theme, such as drawing pirates and Jolly Roger flags instead of noughts and crosses. Or for a 3D version, use toys from your child’s bedroom instead of noughts and crosses – for example, trolls vs. toy cars – then challenge competitors to get three in a row of one or the other toy.
Tin can coconut shy
Raid the recycling box for cleaned-out tin cans. Remove all the labels, then stick washi tape or masking tape all along the sharp top rim and fold over the inside to seal off any sharp edges. You can leave the cans as plain metal, cover the whole tin in wrapping paper or stick on a picture matching your party’s theme. Set up a coconut shy on a garden table by stacking up the metal cans in a pyramid to be knocked down with a mini bean bag. Children line up to take a turn and win a prize when they knock down the pyramid.
Find more inspiration for your party
- 31 amazing kids' party recipes
- How to throw a kids' party
- Easy birthday cakes for kids
- Kids' party cake recipes
What's your child's favourite party game? We would love to hear your ideas below...