12 classic kids’ party games


Rebecca Miller Ffrench

posted in Life & Home

Do you remember a time when there were no bouncy castles, clowns, or dress-up characters at kids’ birthday parties? It was just lots of good ol’-fashioned homespun fun. Sadly, party games are facing extinction.

Before these games completely fade away, it’s time to revive the classics—they promote camaraderie, physical activity, and intellectual stimulation, plus lots of laughs. You’ll be amazed at how little it takes to create some homemade interactive fun. Each game requires only inexpensive or household items. And you can amend them to fit any theme. Below is a refresher of the games we played as kids; they’ll evoke a nostalgia that makes you feel five again. And the best part, your kids will carry on birthday traditions so these games aren’t lost in the computer age.

1. Pass the Parcel

What you Have: Gift wrap and music What to Buy: Small prize such as train whistle, bubbles, or book


Before the party, parent wraps a small prize as many times as there will be guests. Children sit in a circle. Music plays. When it stops, child holding parcel unwraps a layer. Play continues until all layers are gone. Child to reveal the prize wins (make everyone a winner and include prizes for all in the box!).

2. Clothespin Drop

What you Have: Clothespins, chair, and jar What to Buy: Nothing


A large-mouth jar is placed at the base of a stable chair. One by one, children stand or kneel on the chair (facing the back) and try to drop clothespins into the jar. Clothespin must be held at chin level before dropped. Children may have five tries with an extra turn for every clothespin that goes into the jar.

3. Suitcase Relay

What you Have: Suitcases, dress-up clothes What to Buy: Nothing


Fill two suitcases or overnight bags with silly outfits (sunglasses, wigs, large pants, susupenders, etc.). Divide guests in two teams. One at a time, have each player run to a designated spot with the suitcase, put on all the items, return to the line with the suitcase, undress and put items back in suitcase. Continue until all guests have had a turn.

4. Peanut/Tootsie Roll Hunt

What you Have: Brown lunch bags What to Buy: Bag of peanuts or Tootsie Rolls


Hide lots of peanuts or Tootsie Rolls in a specified area (making some obvious and others more difficult). Give children small paper bags and when you say “go,” the hunt begins. Allow five minutes for children to seek. Then have kids count their finds. Have extras on hand to even out the stash.

5. Steady Eddy Egg Relay

What you Have: Eggs and spoons What to Buy: Nothing


Place plastic spoons of two colors in a bowl times the number of guests. Have each child choose a utensil. This determines which team he’ll be on (or you can just use conventional silverware). Give each team an egg and have kids race one by one to a marked location and back with the egg on the spoon. (If you’re indoors, use a hard boiled egg.) Have a bowl of extra eggs on hand so players can grab an extra one if necessary. First team to finish wins.

6. Balloon Bust

What you Have: Hot air What to Buy: Balloons and small prizes such as mini erasers, small wrapped candies, etc.


Possibly the simplest game on earth but it guarantees laughs. Place a small prize in each balloon before inflating. Blow up balloons an hour or so before the party and place in a laundry basket. Let kids pick a balloon and on your count, let kids sit on the balloons to pop it. They can use the floor, chairs, or even the couch, but no hands, just their bottoms!

7. Smell it, Hear it

What you Have: Jars, spices, notions What to Buy: Nothing


Wrap small jars with paper to block contents’ view. Fill with items such as cinnamon, vanilla, paperclips, and pennies. Seat kids in a circle and pass the jars around to smell or shake and guess contents. (If you’re worried about spillage, you can hold open jars under each child’s nose.) After each jar is passed around the circle, let each child guess what it is. Then reveal the contents.

8. Musical Chairs

What you Have: Chairs and music What to Buy: Nothing


Set up chairs in two rows back to back or in a circle facing outward. Have every child stand in front of a chair. Start your child’s favorite music. Children walk around the chairs. Remove a chair. Stop music and have everyone take a seat. The child/ren without a seat can help you remove two chairs the next round and so on. Last man seated wins.

9. Memory Tray

What you Have: Household items, tray, scarf What to Buy: Nothing


Collect recognizable objects (shell, block, toothbrush, etc.) and place 7-10 on a tray (less objects for younger kids). Have children view the tray. Place a scarf over the tray and remove an object. Have children name the missing object. Child who names the object can remove the next item. Repeat until all kids have had a turn.

10. Sock ‘Em 

What you Have: Socks What to Buy: Song from itunes


Place at least six times as many socks as guests in a basket. Have children sit in a circle. When music starts (download a fun song like “Shoe Bandit” by Uncle Rock) and have kids try to put on as many sock as possible (one over the other). When the music stops, the one with the most socks on wins

11. Button, Button

What you Have: Button What to Buy: Nothing


Children sit on the floor of a room. The birthday child leaves. A parent hides the button in the room. When the child re-enters, he tries to find the button. The onlookers tell the child whether he’s hot or cold (near or far from the button). After he finds it, he chooses another child to leave and hides the button. Continue until everyone has a turn.

12. Bucket Toss

What you Have: Buckets What to Buy: Ping-pong balls, small prizes


Bozo circus anyone? An all-time favorite, line six buckets up in a row, filled partially with small prizes. Mark a line that kids’ feet must not cross. One at a time give children a ping-pong ball to toss. If a child makes the bucket, she receives the prize. After three misses, it’s the next child’s turn.

For more party ideas, check out my celebration posts at sweet-home.com or follow me on Pinterest and Twitter.

This post was originally published March 1, 2013