Fun for kids
September 10, 2012 4:16 PM   Subscribe

Please provide me with creative ideas for Fun but Cheap ways to entertain a gaggle of kids during a wedding weekend!

I am getting married in less than a month. (Eek!) The Betrothed and I are middle-aged folks who never intended to get married to anyone and are now doing so with abandon, to the shock and amusement of all who know us. Recognizing that it is the attendance at weddings and funerals that people often view as compulsory, we have decided to take this opportunity to have a massive, two day party on the grounds of a Bed and Breakfast and reconnect with hordes of people whom we have not seen for years and sometimes decades. These are fascinating, smart, cool and funny people and the combinations of said personalities in one place are going to be glorious. We each have many friends who have not yet met our partner. Last weekend I went to a party several hours away to meet a bunch of Beloved’s friends from Junior High and High School and it was sooo cool to meet people who had known him since he was a puppy. As is usually the case, however, the friends were largely engaged in caring for their young children and we didn’t get to schmooze as much as any of us would have liked.
For the wedding we are trying to hire babysitters to help entertain the children and keep them safe so that the parents can relax a bit and actually converse, an all-too rare luxury. This is proving challenging as we do not live in the area, but we have a couple of leads. The kids will not be segregated, just happily engaged, hopefully. There will be a gaggle (like, at least seven) of 4-8 year olds and some younger and older children as well. We are going to set up a couple of small “kid’s tents” to house games and crafty things, so herein lies my question: What super fun but safe things can I stock these tents with that won’t break the bank (so I have more to spend on childcare providers!) and will help the kids enjoy the event without poisoning or maiming themselves or dying of boredom? We are not parents so we don’t have any toys or games on hand to contribute without buying them ourselves. We will ask people to bring stuff but don’t want to depend on it. Please help my Beloved and me hang with our dear friends and family and ensure the enjoyment of people of all ages!
posted by mynamemeansmoon to Human Relations (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"Make & takes" are fun crafts that commonly use recyclables. You can search on that for lots of ideas. There are also books with great projects.

You can get games inexpensively at thrift stores (and, if you like, donate them afterward to a shelter or non-profit daycare).

You can use craft sites (like Don't Eat the Paste) to print out a bunch of colouring sheets, boxes, and other crafts.

Provide heaps of balloons and bunches of bubble-making supplies. It's cheap and easy to make loads of homemade modeling dough.

A couple of soccer or kickballs would be brilliant, as would a couple of baskets for improvised ball games.

If there are going to be very small children (like toddlers on down), setting up a corral (maybe with baby gates or an improvised partition) so they aren't able to get into the age-inappropriate things (and keep them out of the traffic paths of oblivious kids trucking around) would be a very good idea.
posted by batmonkey at 4:27 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Bocce ball, croquet, cornhole (throwing a beanbag into a board with holes in it), are all fun outdoor games that kids seem to enjoy, even if they aren't strictly following the rules but just whacking the balls around. You can often get inexpensive sets of outdoor games at stores like Target and they might even be on sale since it's the end of the season. Bubbles and all kinds of bubble makers are always popular. Sidewalk chalk is fun and can just be hosed off once the party is over.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 4:40 PM on September 10, 2012

For the older ones, you could make wedding scavenger hunt lists. Wedding-themed Mad Libs are fun too.
posted by Fig at 4:43 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cheap fun games: walk across the room with popcorn on a butter knife; scoop cotton balls from a bowl with a spoon while blind folded; drop clothespins into a bottle while kneeling on a chair. Dollar stores will have lots - crayons, coloring books, glow sticks, etc. maybe make each kid a goodie bag?
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:15 PM on September 10, 2012

I've found that a good place for cheap & colorful is Oriental Trading Co. (; they've got plenty of both toys and crafty stuff.
posted by easily confused at 5:48 PM on September 10, 2012

You could put together a little neughborhood of these and let the kids go to town with watercolors (small rollers even?), glitter glue, decals, craft paper and glue... Maybe pair an older and a younger kid to be owners of each house.

It seems to me I've seen more interesting variations on this somewhere, like a castle and a rocketship, so look around before you buy a whole bunch of the same one.
posted by lakeroon at 5:50 PM on September 10, 2012

This sounds like a wedding I want to go to! A fun kid's game I recommended on AskMe not too long ago was having a kid wear a shower cap topped with Cool Whip, and having his/her partner toss Cheetos at his head which will stick onto the Cool Whip. Then reverse - other kid wears a shower cap with Cool Whip on top and gets Cheetos tossed onto his head. Whoever gets the most Cheetos on the shower cap wins.

Another fun game - wrap a rope around each kid's waist. Dangle a potato from the rope so that it almost touches the ground. Put a small plastic ball on the ground. The kids have to twist and move their bodies in a way that the potato hits the ball across the room. First one with a ball across the finish line wins. I saw this at a party and we all fell over laughing so hard at the sight of 10 kids doing this.

Of course, this means that you have to have a child coordinator on hand to oversee the madness. Is there a local college nearby who might have college kids majoring in education who would do this?
posted by HeyAllie at 6:13 PM on September 10, 2012

Also: drop in the contents of a glow stick into a bottle of bubble solution. Voila! Glow in the dark bubbles.

Pinterest, I hate you.
posted by HeyAllie at 6:15 PM on September 10, 2012

lakeroon's post reminded me of the fabulous cardboard rocket -- maybe recruit a couple of friends and make your own? I once created a horrible-looking rocket out of an appliance box and my kid thought it was the best thing ever. Stood in our living room looking horrible for a couple of weeks, he loved it so much. The idea of it was enough. :)

We went to a wedding this summer with a game area on a side lawn - bocce ball, beanbag toss, frisbees, etc. Lots of fun for grownups, too. A nice idea. Have a fun wedding!
posted by hms71 at 7:06 PM on September 10, 2012

A classic thing to do at a wedding reception is to provide a bunch of disposable cameras. At the weddings I've been to where this has been done, the best pictures where always taken by the kids. Sure, there's the occasional up-someone's-nostrils pic, but those had their charm as well.

This could get expensive though. Maybe you could find a deal online or in bulk or at a warehouse place like Costco?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:29 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know what kind of wedding you are having, but 2 things I learned from my own typical dinner/dance reception are:

1 - Kids love dancing. They will tear up your dance floor. If you have a DJ, no need to entertain them for that portion.
2 - (related to SuperSquirrel's suggestion) Kids are THE best photobooth participants. There are DIY versions all over the internets, if you have crafty time left to make one. I highly suggest this, everyone has fun, and you end up with great pics of your guests.
posted by Fig at 7:52 PM on September 10, 2012

I had bride and groom pinatas at my wedding for the kids.
posted by padraigin at 8:26 PM on September 10, 2012

At our wedding, a bubble machine and a giant Jenga set kept the kids entertained for ages.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:40 AM on September 11, 2012

If I can make a suggestion, you probably want to set this up with some kind of structure, like planned, supervised activities on a schedule. You can do an hour of games (Jenga, Twister), an hour of pumpkin carving, an hour of crafts (spend $20 at Oriental Trading), an hour of outdoor games (red rover, spoon races), a pinata hour with a sing along, story + madLibs hour, etc. It is helpful if the parents know what the schedule is because:

1/ 4 year old Janey will refuse to be left with these kids but will come for drawing with Mommy

2/ Mark's mother will refuse to let him do any outdoor games because he's allergic to grass seeds

3/ The twins's dad won't let them play pinata because they are a non-violent family and object to beating things with sticks.

Suggestion: you don't actually want babysitters. You want camp counselors. Babysitters watch individual kids and play Candyland. Camp counselors deal with large groups of kids and come with the advantage of being able to improvise against group bordeom. And you need two of them at all times because someone has to be able to take the kids who need potty breaks to the toilet.

When I organise day camps and conference childcare, our policies are that activites take place somewhere with open, visible access (your tent makes me hesitant; I don't know what kind of tent it is, but something with transparent sides would be my criteria); and that children are escorted to the toilet in pairs, even if only one kid needs to pee (we never leave an adult alone with a child, ever.)
posted by DarlingBri at 9:59 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Water colors
Washable crayons
Ball to play catch
posted by stormpooper at 10:02 AM on September 11, 2012

We had a ton of kids at my wedding around that same age range. To keep them occupied, we went to the dollar store and stocked up on coloring books, bubbles, balls, stickers, etc. We also brought a bunch of old games (hungry, hungry, hippos; rock 'em sock em'; go fishing) that we found at Goodwill. And while most of this stuff was enjoyed, the kids spent more time on the dance floor than anyone else.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 3:53 PM on September 11, 2012

Thanks so much everyone for great ideas.
I particularly appreciate DarlingBri 's cautionary advice about bathroom rules and am surprised that I (a worst-case-scenario maven from way back) did not think about the evils that lurk within tents. I am interviewing a couple of people who have been coaches, camp counselors and elementary school teachers, which sounds like the right avenue to pursue.

OK HeyAllie, you're invited! You can be the Queen of the Cheeto Heads!

Thanks again!
posted by mynamemeansmoon at 8:21 AM on September 12, 2012

Depending on where you are, you could always reach out to the local Girl Scouts' Troupe -- proper child care (as in, designing a curriculum and activities) is something you can apply towards a merit badge when you are a Cadet (I think it's a Life Skills badge -- you gotta learn about cars too). Anywho, if there's a camp near you, like Camp Bonnie Brae, they'll know the network of troupes and be able to put you in touch with counselors or Cadets who might be interested in working with you.
posted by spunweb at 4:59 PM on September 13, 2012

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