Children (and adults) love parties. Birthday parties in particular are a great way for children to interact with their friends. For me, parties are all about the cake, but when I was growing up, I also loved the games. They provide an easy way for kids to enjoy themselves, to have fun, and to learn. We often host parties at church and we also run a weekly kids’ club during the school year for children aged 4-11. The games we run are incredibly popular.
I’ve compiled a list of some great children’s party games, some of which will be familiar, but hopefully there will be some new ones you can try out too.
Energetic Children’s Party Games
In this game, everyone is working on a boat. The children have to listen for instructions and the last person to follow it is out. The four edges of the room correspond to the four areas on a boat – bow (north), stern (south), starboard (east) and port (west). The children have to run to the correct side if one is called out. Other instructions include:
- Captain’s coming! – They have to do a salute and shout back “Aye aye, Captain!”
- Captain’s lady – They have to pose as a lady and shout “Ooh la la!”
- Scrub the deck – They have to pretend they’re cleaning the deck
- Climb the rigging – They have to mime climbing
- Submarines – They have to lie flat on the floor with a leg in the air
Have a few practice rounds before catching people out, and call out the instructions at random. The last person remaining is the winner.
This is a new take on the classic game of dodgeball. Spread some plastic hoops (of varying sizes) around the floor. These are islands, which are safe from the sharks. The idea is that the kids are fish swimming in the sea who have to avoid being caught by sharks, who are adults with soft balls. The kids start running around the sea and when they hear “Shark attack!”, they have to run into a hoop without being hit by a ball. Those who are hit are out. Before a shark attack, you could also shout “It’s getting choppy!” to indicate sharks are about to strike and they should run faster. As children are caught out, gradually remove the hoops until one is left. Whoever makes it into the remaining hoop on the final shark attack are deemed the winners.
This is an energetic, fast-paced game involving teamwork. Place two benches at either end of the room and divide the children into two teams. One person from each team stands on a bench. The idea is for the teams to get the ball to their teammate on the bench. If they catch it, they earn a point for their team. They’re not allowed to run with the ball and after each point, the person on the bench could swap with someone else in their team if they so wish. It’s best to have a referee to keep score and to throw the ball into play after each point. Decide on either a time or score limit to determine the winning team.
Asteroids / Snowballs
This is another energetic, fun game played in teams. All you need is lots of newspaper balls, which can easily be made by scrunching up newspaper sheets and taping them so they stay in shape. Divide the room into two, preferably using benches and split the children into two teams, with one on each side. Spread the “asteroids” (or “snowballs”, or whatever you wish to call them) around the room across the two sides. The aim is for each team to throw the asteroids onto the opposing side. At the end of the time limit, the team with the least amount of asteroids on their side is the winner.
In teams, the idea is to get from one side of the room (river) to the other using only a few sheets of newspaper (stepping stones). This game encourages teamwork as they have to work together to get everyone across. The first team to do so is the winner. Use your discretion to determine how many sheets to give each team, depending on how many are in each team and the age of the children.
Circle-based Children’s Party Games
One Knee Two Knee
I learnt this simple game from an American friend. All you need is a (soft) ball and everyone standing in a circle (adults can join in too). The idea is to catch people out by throwing the ball to them without them expecting it. If they drop it or fail to catch it, they have to go down on one knee. If they fail to catch it again next time it’s thrown to them, they’re on two knees, and then one hand, and then they’re out. However if they catch the ball successfully and were on one knee, they can stand up again. Likewise, if they were on two knees, they would then be on one knee, and so on. It’s a fun game that keeps children on their toes. You could add another ball during the game to make it harder.
Also known as Follow the Leader, this is a fun game for kids of all ages. Have all the kids stand in a circle and send one of them out of the room. Meanwhile, choose someone to be the leader and get them to start doing actions of some kind. They could clap, dance, do star jumps, etc. Everyone else starts to copy them. The child who sent out then comes back in and stands in the middle of the circle. They have three attempts at guessing who the leader is. The leader should change actions every so often, but not when the guesser is facing them to avoid being caught. Once the leader has been guessed correctly, they then go outside to become the guesser and the process repeats.
There is no winner as such, but it’s nice to ensure everyone has a go at leading and guessing. The nice thing about this game is that no one can be out, so everyone is always participating.
If you’re looking for a calm and quiet game, perhaps after some active games, this is ideal. Gather all the children and have them sit in a circle on the floor. In the middle of the circle, place a chair (though this isn’t essential). Get a volunteer to sit on the chair and blindfold them. Place a set of keys under the chair and then walk round the circle and tap a child on the head. This child has been chosen to get the keys without being caught by the child in the chair.
The idea is that they have to walk round the circle, and then into the middle from where they were sitting and attempt to grab the keys and take them back to their place. Meanwhile the person on the chair has to listen out for where the key-grabber is. If they hear them, they simply point to where they think they are. If they’re right, the key-grabber is caught and they can remain in the middle. However if the key-grabber is successful, they go into the middle, are blindfolded and the game repeats.
As with Copycat, there is no declared winner, but be sure to let everyone have a go at grabbing the keys.
This quick-fire game is great for children of all ages. Gather everyone in a circle (standing) with you in the middle. Point at a random child and shout “Splat!” The child ducks, and the two either side pretend to shoot each other and shout “Bang!” Whoever shouts it first wins, the loser is out and has to sit down. Note that if a child you select fails to duck, they are out. The process repeats until two children are left in the circle, at which point a special final round takes place to decide the winner.
The two finalists stand back-to-back. Choose a trigger word (such as monkey) which when you say it, the two will turn round and shoot each other, shouting “Bang!” Start saying related words (such as lion or tiger), with the two finalists taking one step away from each other after each one. When you feel the time is right, say the trigger word and see who wins.
Food-related Children’s Party Games
After Eight Game
This is a great one for parties as children love games involving chocolate. Everyone starts with an After Eight chocolate on their forehead and they have to manoeuvre it into their mouth without using their hands. The first person to do so is the winner.
Dice and Chocolate
This is another fun game involving chocolate. Have all the children sit in a circle and place some gloves, a hat and a scarf in the middle, along with a plate of chocolate and knife and fork. The children take it in turns to throw a dice. If they throw a six, they have to go to the middle, put on all the winter clothes, and then start cutting the chocolate and eating it. Meanwhile the dice keeps being passed round, and when someone else rolls a six, their turn is over. They have to stop eating the chocolate and take off the clothes so that the next person can have a go. Keep going until everyone has rolled a six, or the chocolate is gone.
This fun game involves moving Skittles (the edible kind) from one bowl to another using only straws. Organise the children into two teams and have a bowl of Skittles on a table in front of them, with a table at the other end of the room with empty bowls. In teams, they must get as many Skittles as they can from their bowl into the empty one at the other end within a given time limit (say three minutes). They must use the straw to suck a Skittle onto the end of it, and then transport it to the other bowl. The team that moves the most Skittles wins.
Doughnuts on a String
This is another great children’s party game involving food. Hang some doughnuts on a string and challenge the kids to eat one without using their hands. You could either have adults holding the stringed doughnuts, or hang them across the room. You could also vary the height of each one to make it easier/harder depending on the ages of the children.
Classic Children’s Party Games
Pass the Parcel
One of the all-time classic children’s party games. Beforehand, wrap a small gift in multiple layers of wrapping paper. Have all the children sit in a circle and begin passing the parcel round when the music plays. When the music stops, the person holding the parcel has to take off a layer of wrapping paper. The child who ends up removing the last layer is deemed the winner and gets to keep the gift. You could add sweets in between each layer, or forfeits to keep it interesting (such as ‘behave like an elephant for the rest of the game’).
Another classic party game but a firm favourite. Play some upbeat music that the kids are familiar with and can dance to, and stop it at random intervals. As soon as it stops, the kids have to freeze. Whoever moves while the music is stopped is out. The last child remaining is the winner.
Set out chairs in rows so that there is enough for everyone bar one person. Play some music for the kids to dance to and stop it at random intervals, at which point they have to find a chair to sit on. Whoever is left without a chair is out of the game. Remove a chair and then repeat until two children are left fighting over one chair. The child who sits on the chair first when the music stops is the winner.
Other ideas for children’s party games include sit-down volleyball, tag, Stuck in the Mud, Simon Says, Duck Duck Goose, Chinese Whispers, relay races, obstacle courses, and hockey.
I hope you’ve found these ideas helpful in planning parties or church youth groups. Do let me know in the comments if you try any out and how successful they were. Please also feel free to suggest other ideas!