Help me give a great kids' birthday party
July 10, 2006 3:26 PM   Subscribe

Who knows of any fantastic outdoor party games for a group of about 10 kids (and several grown kids) that don't need much in the way of expensive equipment?

My daughter will be seven this weekend, and we want to have a cookout in the park with a bunch of pals. There's a great picture in my mind's eye of a delightful picnic with tasty food, icy drinks and a cake... you know, checkered tablecloth etc. (There's also pictures of arguing children, burnt food, and it all being fun until somebody gets poked in the eye, but we all start out with the best intentions...)
So, I guess the question is pretty vague... What makes a great kids' birthday party? Know of any great outdoor games with little or no props?
I was thinking about a hunt of some sort, kids following a clue to another clue until they find a something-at-the-end-of-all-of-the-clues, but holy cow... we've got three hours to fill with fun & games.
oh yeah- and what goes in an awesome goodie bag?
posted by cometwendy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by mattbucher at 3:38 PM on July 10, 2006

This thread may give you some ideas.
posted by blackkar at 3:42 PM on July 10, 2006

Divide the kids into two teams and give them a stack of newspapers and some masking tape. See which team can make the tallest structure. Modify the materials as necessary. Perhaps have the kids team up against the adults.

My neighbors and I used to love playing spud.

Miniature decks of cards are always fun to get in goodie bags, they're not too expensive and are actually useful.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 3:43 PM on July 10, 2006

Statues is great to play. It's that one where you spin people around and then freeze them and then tell them to do things. Do you remember that? It's free, needs no equipment, and it's awesome. Some people call it Charades.

Dodge Ball
Monkey in the Middle
King of the Hill (requires hill)
Baby in the Air (does not require baby)
Extreme Hopscotch (I have no idea what that is exactly, but it sounds cooler than plain old hopscotch)
Mother May I
Ring Around the Rosie

racing games and relays
blowing bubbles
drawing with chalk (if there's any blacktop)

Party bag stuff they might like - bubbles, gum, candy, coloring books, books, yo-yos, hackysacks, tattoos, stickers, colored pencils.
posted by iconomy at 3:46 PM on July 10, 2006

Some successful ideas from my daughter's 7th birthday:

1) Instead of a goodie bag my wife got a single small trinket for each child, then wrapped them all inside eachother, like nested dolls. The girls sat in a circle and watched as each got to open a present, and pass the next inner one on the the next girl. It was an activity in itself and everyone was thrilled.

2) The girls made their own paper butterfly hats and decorated them. As grownups we thought it would be goofy but the girls loved to wear them. I got the pattern off the web somewhere.

3) We set up a game from my childhood called spiderweb. Got several hanks of thick colored yarn, different colors, and 'spun the web' beforehand by criss-crossing each hank back and forth, around about trees, swingset posts, fence posts, anything, to make a big spider web of yarn. Then girls in teams started at one end and unravelled their color thread to the end. This is a simple idea but was very tedious to set up.

4) At the end of the thread was number to mix the girls into new teams for a treasure hunt, following clues just as you described. My very creative wife wrote the rhyming clues. on color-coded index cards.

4) Freeze tag, redlight/greenlight, duck-duck goose, are all good to burn off the sugar buzz from the cake and ice cream, and burn up any extra time as you wait for parent pickups.
posted by pgoes at 3:52 PM on July 10, 2006

I'm not making this up. I was at a picnic and a guy brought a game called cornhole. (I think it must means something different in the midwest than it does in San Francisco...)
It's kinda like horseshoes with bean... oops.. corn bags. It was a lot more fun than it sounds. Kids had a ball, as did older folks.
You have to make some stuff to play, but if you have time it might be worth it.
Just google cornhole toss game
posted by cccorlew at 3:59 PM on July 10, 2006

I love the balloon popping game.

For this time of the year, a watermelon seed spitting contest might be fun. The egg and spoon race, and clothespin relay is always fun and cheap. Of course, have prizes for the winner of each game. You can wrap them in festive paper.

Awesome goodie bag:
Lip Smackers lip balm
match box cars for boys
miniature slinky
fun sunglasses
Cool pens
anything sparkly for girls (check dollar stores and discounted items. You can find cool stuff at Target for cheap, and it doesn't have to be in the party isle).

I have skipped goodie bags in the past and gave out a big lollipop, like this, with a festive ribbon tied around it. Kids love these things.

You could serve popsicles after the outdoor games.
posted by LoriFLA at 4:01 PM on July 10, 2006

I've had a world of success with The World's Most Unhealthy Goodie Bags. I buy lots of different, cool candy - stuff *I* like, like Twizzlers, canisters of mini M&Ms, bubblegum lollipops, stuff like that. I set up a table with a colorful paper table cloth, and all the candy goes in clear glass containers - I raid the house for vases, jars, pitchers, so forth. The candy is arranged in the containers, and I add a stack of white paper bags (think lunch-bag-size) and some colorful markers. All the kids get to make up their own goodie bag, and the adults always want in the fun, too. I've easily done this a half-dozen times, and it gets rave reviews.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:35 PM on July 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

I found this while looking to see if anyone described any New Games on-line.

Lots of improv warm-ups might be suitable, too.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 5:19 PM on July 10, 2006

Classic and simple: volleyball with an inflatable beach ball and a clothesline or rope "net" that you attach to any two fixed points, even chairs. (It's okay if the level is low when the players are short, after all.) A good variation on the rules, if all the technical issues of volleyball are a bit much for the little ones, is just to volley back and forth with the objective of keeping the ball from hitting the ground.

There's also the classic freeze tag. When I was a kid, we used to play a variant in which unfreezing required that the unfreezers get down and crawl all away around the feet of the frozen person that was always silly and fun and invoked lots of laughter. We had another version wherein you were only frozen for as long as it took to sing (at top volume, of course) some kid song, "Row, Row, Row" or "Twinkle, Twinkle" or the like.
posted by Dreama at 5:45 PM on July 10, 2006

The old, "dangerous" lawn darts, if anyone has some in a basement. It's fun because they're banned.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:50 PM on July 10, 2006

Unwind - get the whole group together in a very tight circle and put all their hands into the center. Each person grabs someone else's hand with each hand (no pairing) and then you try and unwind yourself into one big circle without dropping hands.
posted by plinth at 6:16 PM on July 10, 2006

my favorite game as a kid was "who's your favourite girlfriend/boyfriend". one kid stands in the middle of the circle and everyone chants "who's your favourite girlfriend?" and he as to pick a girl. then they hold hands and walk around the circle and the chant goes "who's your favorite boyfriend?" and the girl picks a boy. It goes on and on until everybody is picked and you're all holding hands and the bonus is you get a line at the end which is the exact pecking order from most popular kids to most unpopular kids and everyone is embarassed because they've shown everyone who they had a crush on.

Probably wouldn't fly these days...
posted by dydecker at 6:39 PM on July 10, 2006

but seriously, play pass the parcel. Wrap a bar of chocolate (or some other gift), in a layer of paper. Now wrap it in another layer and repeat until you have about 10 layers. Finally wrap it in gift paper (so it looks nice).
Sit everyone in a circle and play a short snippet of music. When the music stops, the person holding the parcel removes one ayer of wrapping. Repeat until the last layer of wrapping has been removed. The winner keeps the present.
posted by dydecker at 6:45 PM on July 10, 2006

Cornhole is the safe alternative to lawn darts.

Water guns are good goodie bag items.
posted by Frank Grimes at 6:47 PM on July 10, 2006

Have a pinata!

I think the best party favors are something they're actually going to use/enjoy. Even as a kid I hated getting a whole bunch of junky little plastic toys I'd never play again. One party I went to, they gave out batons. I recall giving boxes of Crayola markers (color-change or stampy or something other than the regular 10 colors) one year. Another year it was crazy straws and cups (more of a table favor I suppose).

I was also thinking that one fun game could be a hula-hooping contest and the hula hoops could be the party favor.

Face painting is always a hit. Enlist a couple of friends beforehand so that no kid has to wait too long (or have another activity to do while they wait).

Kids loooove decorating tshirts. Kids undershirts are pretty cheap at Target or whatever. Get fabric markers, and puffy paint. You'll need to tape the tshirts to squares of cardboard (put the cardboard inside the shirt and tape the back so the front is tightly pulled) so there is a flat surface. If you do this craft, do it early in the day so they are dry when they go home (and write each kids' name on the tag or on a piece of tape on the shirt so there is no confusion!).

One thing my mom always did to help keep things going smoothly is to hire a helper to do your bitchwork. Usually it was one of my babysitters, but a teenage neice or friend's kid or whatever would do. That way you have someone on hand to do face painting, set up the next activity, set the table, etc, so you can spend more time enjoying the party.

Also, this sounds obvious, but making sure you have all the supplies way in advance and everything you need set up early will keep things running smoothly.

By the way, good for you for realizing that you don't have to spend gobs of money on a fancy party for it to be fun.
posted by radioamy at 11:45 PM on July 10, 2006

The one game I always loved as a kid was Red Rover. It's fun to play with adults & kids together, too, since adults can hold hands much tighter.

And yeah: a pinata. Always a pinata.
posted by dame at 6:16 AM on July 11, 2006

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