The thought of kids party games can quite literally leave a grown man shaking in his shoes, let alone the mother person… The thing is: traditional party games are just that, traditional and modern kids, mostly have no idea how to play in the traditional sense… I am speaking generally here – you may have saints for kids, but keep in mind, their friends may not be saints. Otherwise, if you want to play traditional games you either have to have a really good story winding through your party, so that everyone is hooked, or play them with your kids for play dates (another whole topic!). I have found that modern kids are not very good at competition – they have grown up in a culture of “everyone gets a turn” and “everyone is a winner”. Also, they live in an instant society so they can’t be waiting around forever (read one second), for their turn.
The trick is: every one needs a turn and NOW and anyone kept waiting needs to be kept busy. And all the better if they have a common goal. If you have a wide age range of kids then the easiest way to keep the older kid from losing interest, and the little ones from wandering off, is to team them up. I make out “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” that the little guy must look after the big guy… all the while the big guy is being told to look after the little ones and make sure the little ones catch their turn and so on – it works really well for the big guys to have a job and the little guys feel more confident to perform… a win win situation!
That being said you cannot have kids round to your house for a couple of hours if you do not give them the opportunity to let off steam so to speak. They need to run and scream and shout and they will!!! So give them the opportunity to do so and everyone will be happier for it! I disguise most of our games in the form of training: training to be the best spy, penguin, clown whatever… I present these to the players as a number of challenges and as they get older so the challenges get harder.
Challenge 1: Collecting: They usually have some sort of checklist: a passport to stamp; a certificate to tick off; a new stripe on their cheek as they master a skill; a stamp or a sticker as they pass through a right of passage; an evidence envelope to gather evidence as they go; a map with spots along the route to tick off – whatever… something to keep their interest high, not to mention their motivation to move onto the next “step” in your party.
Challenge 2: Physical: Walking the tightrope – a rope on the ground – for clowns;
The gangplank for pirates;
Climbing the back wall for mountaineers;
Creeping through a laser (string) maze for a spy party;
Jumping from iceberg to iceberg (old cd’s) across the ocean.
Challenge 3: Mental: Here you can do simple games with them, let them solve puzzles and riddles… find pieces of a puzzle and put them together… solve a code, read mirror writing, make a giant maze… what about spot the difference on a grand scale.
Challenge 4: Food: Kids love a food challenge and if you can offer them something really disgusting they will love it… gulp a (marshmallow) fish for a penguin party, brush their teeth with mouse brains (sherbet) for a roman party. Munching feet from a rice bowl (rice cereal), for cannibals in an explorer party.
Challenge 5: Team: Here you can do a giant board game, sidewalk chalk is your friend!!! Use kids as the play pieces… if you land on the red square your space rocket is on fire… go back two places for repair and so on… If the weather turns… use floor tiles and matchbox cars or plastic animals as pieces. Otherwise anything that involves chasing the other team to a safe base and players getting captured for the other team are always a hit.
Challenge 6: Individual: If you do this as part of relay games then it is quite easy to get everyone to take their turn and achieve without annihilating their best friend!!! Each player must carry a teaspoon of water across a distance and eventually fill a bucket. Dress up as a character at one end and then cross the jungle, the ocean, space, whatever and pass all the gear onto the next member of the relay. Also, all kids love fishing… fishing in ponds – for underwater, fish or did I mention penguin parties; or with magnets for space and science parties.
Challenge 7: Traditional: A traditional game that worked surprisingly well was Pass the Parcel. I had this working really well with a group of kids aged from 2 to twelve, even I was astonished! Instead of a treat in every layer – in a culture of treat expecting kids, I placed a challenge between each layer: say a rhyme backwards, jump around the room like a frog, run around the house three times…the last thing was a shareable treat.
Apart from these sort of challenging games the best type of game that really works well is scavenging and treasure hunting – kids really go for this. I have never managed a party without one, in fact some parties have been one long treasure hunt from start to finish… but more about those further on in this series of Se7en Steps to a Good Party.