Party ideas?
August 8, 2006 6:23 AM   Subscribe

I need inexpensive but fun ideas for a birthday party attended by 3-4 year-olds.

There will 8-10 toddlers at my son's birthday party. Last year, just letting them run around was entertainment enough. This year, I'd like to have some games and fun activities for them. I'd prefer if it wasn't too structured. Also, with the heat, I'd prefer no outdoor activities. Most of all, I want the activities to be fun stuff the kids and parents will enjoy, and I want it to be DIY if possible.
posted by eustacescrubb to Human Relations (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 6:50 AM on August 8, 2006

Musical chairs.

Races with ping pong balls balanced on spoons.

Give each kid a balloon and see who can pop their first by sitting on it. Alternatively, break them into two teams with one team popping all the red balloons in a room, the other doing only blue. (Throw in some purple ones for your amusement.)

I remember once as a kid we stood in front of a milk jug placed on the floor and attempted to drop a clothespin into the opening from x feet up. Nobody got it in and all the kids were pissed. Don't do this game.

Also, crafts. Have them use puffy paint on small bags. Fill the bags with candy and crap for their "goody bag."

Put them into teams of two or three and see who can build the tallest tower out of straws and tape.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:57 AM on August 8, 2006

My four year old and his friends at kindertime (a playgroup) are thrilled when (once every six weeks or so) they get to play with the dress up box. It's not costumes, just a box (a washing machine box, actually) filled with all kinds of hats and men's shirts and ties, beads and gloves and high heels and skirts that become princess dresses and so on. A big dress up party could be a hoot.
posted by Dreama at 6:57 AM on August 8, 2006

We have 3 & 5 year olds and I have been through the transition from "just run around" to "I need to entertain them!" Here are some things we've done.
*We got a large white play parachute and had all the kids draw on it with markers. We then played parachute games with balloons and small stuffed animals with it. It was fun and my son had a neat keepsake. You could also do this with a large sheet.
*I've put several cut outs (along the theme of the party) around the house and had the kids go on a scavenger hunt. We had bugs and I gave each of the kids a brown lunch bag with a jar drawn on it. Everyone took their bugs home with the other goodies.
*I love fun foam because it's pretty cheap and now comes in so many cool shapes. At a craft store I bought a big tub of foam shapes and some foam frames, book marks and door hangers. The kid's decorated their pieces and then had alphabet pieces to add their names.
*This year my son had a rain forest party. I got window markers from Crayola and drew a rainforest scene on our sliding glass door. I took a coloring page of a tree frog and traced several along the lower part of the glass. I gave the kids more markers and they went to town. We left it up for a month. It washed off fairly easily.

Good Luck!!!
posted by leahsmom at 6:58 AM on August 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

I gave the kids more markers and they went to town.

That's what I'd be afraid of. My favorite game for kids is Houdini, Jr. -- all you need is some rope or handcuffs for the kids, and BYOB for the parents. Hours of fun if you're good at knots.

But maybe that's not your style. How about dancing? Have a dance party. A disco. Everybody dresses up and dances. Parents, too, which means you have to have (or make! lots of fun!) hats and jewelry and boas and masks and makeup and so on for everyone, and then have the dance. Turn off the house lights, turn on the disco lights, turn up the music, and dance.
posted by pracowity at 7:31 AM on August 8, 2006

I work with special needs kids and I have done pretty much all of leahsmom's activities - and they've all been a hit. I have one little addition - be sure that you look for the fun foam shapes that have sticky on the back - certian glues (especially those wonderfully safe glue sticks) don't work on the foam if you plan to attach it to anything.

I've used a lot of the Oriental Trading crafts - they're awesome and there is one for just about every theme and age group. I've ordered crafts on Wednesday and they've arrived in time for my class on Saturday mornings (with rush delivery, of course, but still, that's quite a feat!).

Good luck - and have fun!!!
posted by MeetMegan at 7:45 AM on August 8, 2006

Bounce house? My daughter will be four in November and a bounce house is her most cherished wish. Every time we go to a party with one, it seems to be loaded with older kids, which wouldn't happen at a party we threw.
posted by padraigin at 8:20 AM on August 8, 2006

another vote for treasure hunt -- I've seen packs of 3- and 4-year-olds amuse themselves endlessly looking for "buried treasure" (chocolate coins, plastic jewelry, etc.) in the backyard. The bonus is once they've picked up the treasure, all you have to do is distract them briefly, scatter the treasure again, and send them back on their merry way. You will be amazed at how many times you can pull this same trick.
posted by scody at 8:23 AM on August 8, 2006

(sorry, I just realized what you said about no outdoor activities because of the heat. So perhaps bring the treasure hunt indoors to the living room?)
posted by scody at 8:44 AM on August 8, 2006

Two cheap kiddie pools were all it took to entertain my daughter and her friends at her 4th birthday party. Add a few squirt guns and water toys, maybe some bubbles, and you're golden.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:06 AM on August 8, 2006

This link is to part of a Real Simple episode where the kids were allowed to color on the table, put stickers wherever they wanted, and clean up afterwards was simple.
posted by jerryg99 at 11:22 AM on August 8, 2006

A (dry, empty) wading pool and a couple of those sets of magnetic fish/magnetic fishing rods were a huge hit with all twelve guests when my cousins turned three. The trick of course was tossing the fish back in when all of them weren't looking...
posted by posadnitsa at 4:57 PM on August 8, 2006

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