Keeping the kids occupied is child's play with these fun games.


Try one (or all!) of these suggestions for simple, great games broken out by age, as well as fun games for the outdoors.

Birthday Party Activities
Credit: Johnny Miller

Activities for Ages 4 and Up

Musical Islands

In a twist on Musical Chairs, players walk around "islands" made of paper while music plays. When the tune stops, each player scrambles to get on an island (several players might be able to fit on one). Anyone who can't place both feet on the paper is out.

Prize Pop

Before blowing up balloons, place a small piece of paper labeled with a number inside each one. Have the children pop their balloon by whatever means they can (sit on it, squeeze it, etc.). The number inside each balloon will correspond to a small prize.

Bridge Builders

Divide kids into groups and give them each an equal number of building blocks or Legos. Tell the teams they need to build a bridge strong enough to hold an egg (or a rubber ball, if you're not brave). When times up, they stop building and you'll test the structures.

Apples and Oranges

Form the kids into a circle. The group will pass an apple around the circle to the right while passing an orange to the left at the same time. However, the children can't use their hands to pass the fruit; instead they must use their elbows, feet, chin, and the like to keep it moving.

If they drop the fruit, they must close their eyes to keep playing. The game continues until only one person is left with his or her eyes open.

Jump the River

Set two pieces of rope on the ground to create a "river." Begin with the two pieces close together and have the children jump across. After each crossing, the river gets wider. If a child falls into the river, he's out. To make the game fun for older children, add challenges like jumping on one leg or leaping across with their eyes closed.

Personalize It!

Customize classic games to fit your party theme. 'Simon says' becomes a royal game when you replace Simon with Princess and let the girl in charge wear a crown. Swap the potato in Hot Potato for a topical object, like a toy car for an auto-themed fete.

Field-Day Games (With a Twist!)

Take the kids outside to play these games.

Backward-Forward Race

In this spin on a three-legged race, two partners' legs are tied together, but one faces forward and the other must walk backward.

Baby Crawl

Kids get on hands and knees to crawl across the field. For extra silliness, make them suck on a pacifier as they crawl!

Spoon Relay

Divide kids into teams; the first players all start with an equal number of dried beans to balance on a wooden spoon. They must race across and then transfer the beans onto the next teammate's spoon, without dropping any on the way.

Balloon Waddle

Place a balloon between each child's knees and have them race to the finish line. If a child drops the balloon or pops it, he must start over.

Sweeping Race

Give each team a broom and a ball, and have children sweep the ball to the other side, where they'll pass it to the next teammate. The first group to finish wins.

Birthday Party Activities
Credit: Johnny Miller

Activities for Ages 3 and Up

Doggy, Doggy, Where's Your Bone?

Gather everyone into a circle. The "bone" should be an object that is small enough to hide behind a child's back. One child plays the "doggy" first by standing in the center of the circle and closing his eyes. As the children pass the bone around the circle, a parent silently points to one child to hide the bone while the rest of the children also hold their hands behind their back, pretending they have the bone. The doggy opens his eyes and tries to guess who has the bone while the rest of the kids chant, "Doggy, doggy, where's your bone?" Once a successful guess is made, another child gets to play the doggy.

Corners Game

Mark the four corners of the room with numbers one to four. One player sits in the center of the room, closes her eyes, and counts. The rest of the players quietly disperse to the corners. When the counter reaches ten, she calls out a number from one to four. The players in that corner sit down. The game continues until all the players have sat down.

Surprise Parcel

For this twist on Pass the Parcel, wrap a box of small treats (one for each guest) in a layer of gift paper. Then wrap the box in another layer and repeat until you have at least as many layers as guests. Sit the kids in a circle and play music; when it stops, the child holding the present removes one layer of wrapping. Repeat until someone removes the last layer of wrapping. That child picks a treat and distributes the rest to the other children.

Crazy Socks

Fill a box with as many socks as you can collect and have the guests gather around the box. On the word go, the kids try to put on as many socks as they can until the parent says time is up.


Children as young as 2 can learn to play The Hokey-Pokey.

Parents Magazine