How to keep the neighbors entertained?
May 14, 2007 7:25 AM   Subscribe

We have a block party in our (Chicago) neighborhood every year and I've been asked to help with kids' games. I'm not a fan of traditional competitive games. So, I'm looking for some unusual ideas that will appeal to kids and adults alike...

I don't want to play "Julie McCoy, Kids' Games Director" and be herding people all day. So I want to create some activites that everyone can play in a self-directed way. I'm pretty handy at woodworking and somewhat crafty. Here are a few ideas that have been thrown about:

-Since we block off the street, making miniature road signs and chalk "roads", let the kids go to town on their tricycles/bikes and use their imaginations to play.
-A very large bean bag toss board with bean bags. (Adults can also do this.)
-Life-size bowling? But I'm not sure how I'd pull this one off. (Though if I could, adults could do this one too.)

The kids range in age from 18 months to 16 years old, with most of them being between 3 and 8 years old.

Any creative, carnival types out there? Please share!
posted by jeanmari to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You could try creating a mini carnival, and recruiting the older kids to run the games. It wouldn't be too hard to set up a ring toss stand, a ball-throw stand, maybe an apple dunking site, etc. You get the point. Most carnival games are very easy to emulate. And as prizes, you could have parents pitch in a bit of money for token gifts like keychains, pens, notepads, or just go with plain old candy.

The 16 year olds would be able to run it, no problem, and they might even enjoy the chance to be recognized as the 'older kids' rather than being thrown in the same pot as the 3-8 year olds.
posted by Phire at 7:31 AM on May 14, 2007

Water balloon toss (adults only, kids only, and adult and kid combo), toss once, take a step back, toss again, take a step back.

Egg on a spoon race.
posted by gramcracker at 8:10 AM on May 14, 2007

Best answer: For our block party last year one of the neighbours created a pinata which went over well with the under 10s.

You may find that just having the street closed off will be enough for kids to have freedom & space to enjoy themselves without too many structured activities. Being able to ride bikes, play street hockey etc without having to worry about traffic is great. However, it might be worth making sure that big kids on bikes aren't too close to little kids who could get hurt.

You may need more structured activities for younger kids. We have a plastic sandbox in our backyard that a few of the guys just picked up and carried to a shady area on somebody's front lawn. You could do the same if somebody has a plastic play structure.

Bubbles! Buy or make a 'giant bubble' wand & make a big pot of bubble mix. Kids will chase them & have fun trying to make them. Caution - wherever you do it will become a slippery mess so clean up when you're done or do it somewhere where it won't be a hazard to bikes / pedestrians.

Water! If it's hot, set up a sprinkler / water toy on somebody's front lawn. Kids on our street spent about 2 hours last year playing in the sprinkler.
posted by valleys at 8:12 AM on May 14, 2007

When my kids were younger and we hosted parties with groups of kids across a range of ages, we always did a treasure hunt. I'd sit down with a pad the night before and write out a bunch of clues on little slips of paper. Each slip had a little riddle or math problem or something and led to the next slip. Then you go plant them in hiding places around the block. At the end there was a hidden bag of candy (those gold chocolate coins were favorites). Make some of the clues harder so the big kids can lead, but make some of the clues about TV shows only younger kids would know so they get involved. Depending on how many clues you do, they'll run around for quite a while chasing the prize.
posted by lpsguy at 8:28 AM on May 14, 2007

Best answer: Invite them to draw with sidewalk chalk. You could set it up as a contest, or if the competitive thing doesn't appeal, call it a gallery.
posted by nita at 8:31 AM on May 14, 2007

Best answer: I don't know about carnival party. But for our block party this year, I was responsible for the sand painting table. Check the kinderart page for more information on this and other ideas. I was awfully popular! Face painting was also very nice, you can get the older kids paint the little kids' faces.

We also had a small petting zoo with bunnies and a couple of ponies and chicken etc. You can call up some places that organize that for children's parties. Kids loved it. Even the adults. I just googled "petting zoos for birthday parties + chicago" and got lots of answers.
posted by carmina at 9:09 AM on May 14, 2007

Response by poster: These are all good so far, please keep them coming!

I probably need to emphasize that I'm looking for low touch solutions for the day of the party. I am ALWAYS asked to run something for these things because people say, "You're so outgoing! You're a teacher! You work at home and we work outside of the house!"

This year I have a 15 month old and I just want to relax and enjoy myself (D*mmit! I want my margarita and deck chair! I've just restored 40 wood windows, I teach graduate school and I'm running a small company from my guest room. I want my day off.)

So stuff that I could set up and walk away from would be ideal. If the other parents want more interactive, let THEM pony up some time and effort next year. I don't want to bail out totally (because it isn't their kid's fault that they aren't helping out), but I'm definitely going to take it down a few notches from my usual cruise director activity.
posted by jeanmari at 9:32 AM on May 14, 2007

I understand that you don't want to be the cruise director here, however, some of my suggestions from our annual block party may require some set-up, don't be afraid to ask for help from the other parents (or older kids) before the party.

1. Scavanger Hunt, with a twist. We write out questions that the kids have to answer: Who lives at house #15? What house does the policeman (nurse, accountant, whomever) live? How many "insert name here" live in the neighbourhood? Who has a birdbath in their backyard? Fun if they do it in teams.

2. Facepainting...the older "young" kids love doing this.

3. Sponge/Water race...fill a bucket with water, kids line up, dip a sponge in, and try to fill an empty bucket set up a few yards away, set up is easy.

4. Bycycle decorating contest (can keep the kids busy for a couple of hours before the party).

5. Street hockey game (Chicago used to have an NHL team ha ha)

6. At dusk, we show movies/videos on our garage door.

7. Whipped cream eating contest (fill up aluminum pie shells with one cherry covered in whipped cream, kids have to find the cherry, can't use your hands!) Messy, but fun fun fun!

8. Don't be afraid of the old standbys...three legged races, freeze'd be amazed at how much fun kids have at these retro games.

Once again, try to get the older (11 and up) kids to help, they get a kick out of helping.
Anyway, good luck, and have fun.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 10:09 AM on May 14, 2007

Best answer: Also, contact your neighborhood fire department. They come out to our block party every other year and the kids (and sometimes the adults if we are lucky) get to use the firehose to knock down orange traffic cones.
posted by rosebengal at 10:50 AM on May 14, 2007

Straws & rings - teams of 4 to 10 people get in a line with a straw in their mouth. Pass a ring between the straws. Young teams get big rings but adult teams get tiny rings.

Hat race - buy several sets of cheap and flimsy hats at a dollar store; teams are lined up on one end and the hats are in a box on the other end. Players race up, put on a hat and try to run back as fast as possible without using hands to hold the hat on. Can be really funny if its a breezy day.

It's not the season for apple bobbing so try orange bobbing instead (it's also easier for smaller kids) The water could be refreshing if its a hot day.

Depending on your budget, you could buy a few disposable cameras for the older 'cool' kids and ask them to record the day.

If you have more dogs than bicycle riders, how about a dog costume parade?
posted by jaimystery at 11:22 AM on May 14, 2007

Response by poster: I was emailed some more ideas by friends. I'll record them here for posterity:

-Life size checkers or chess. Draw the board on the street and let the older kids/adults have at it. Though using the smaller kids as pieces could be chaotic and fun.

-Rent a moonwalk thingy.

-Life size bowling pins could be made of foam core (?) Use a soccer ball for bowling ball.
posted by jeanmari at 1:50 PM on May 14, 2007

Best answer: Bocce. It's an easy game to learn and ages, for the most part, don't matter. All you'll need is a decent sized front lawn and a bocce set.
posted by deborah at 7:17 PM on May 14, 2007

Best answer: What about art type games with clak where people finish and continue other people's drawings?
posted by electric_bonzai at 11:18 AM on July 2, 2007

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