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Children's party games

by Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

Have you forgotten all the games you loved and played as a child?

Here are a number of traditional games to spark your memory and help you run a party for your own children.

Pass the parcel

A well loved game where everyone gets to open a present, not just the birthday child.

Having a little gift in each layer can make the game more interesting for all involved. Alternatively, put a gift in some layers to increase the excitement.

Some play the game by including clues about who is to open the parcel, eg ‘who is wearing blue?, who has green eyes?, who is the eldest? Try to include something so each child is the answer to at least one question.

Start the game randomly, but make sure each child has the opportunity to open a layer. It’s not always easy to time the music stops, but well worth the effort to keep all the guests happy.

Pin the tail on the donkey

The basics of this game stay the same, but the donkey can change. Make the game suit the party’s theme or the child’s interest. Some suggestions are

  • Tail on the mermaid
  • Trunk on the elephant
  • Patch n the pirate
  • Wand on the fairy
  • Honey pot on Winnie the Pooh
  • Crown n a princess
  • Basket on Red Riding Hood
  • Hammer on Bob the Builder
  • Nose on the clown
  • Shoe on Cinderella

Before the game, make sure the blindfold is effective – the kids won’t admit they can see! Younger children may find it hard to wait their turn so maybe have them dancing or singing as a group at the same time as playing this.

Arrange a way to record who pinned the thing where … It may be a pen mark with the child’s initials, a coloured sticker or a tag.

Although the game is called “pin the…” you don’t actually have to use a pin. For safety, a dob of blu-tack or double sided tape can be put on the tail.

Musical chairs

Lots of fun and active, this is a great game. Little children usually grasp the outline of the game and have fun even if they don’t fully understand it.

It’s not easy finding the right number of chairs to set out, or the space for them all. Folding chairs are best avoided as they may collapse in the rush to sit on it. A safe and easy alternative is musical cushions. Some big cushions or pillows can be spread out instead of chairs.

Choose interesting music to play by – use one of the child’s favourite CDs instead of yours. Make the music bursts short and the changeovers quick so the game is fast and exciting.

It may be a good idea to have a small activity near by for those children who get out early, or they will be bored and try to rejoin the game. Otherwise, let little children play the game without anyone actually going out.

Bobbing for apples

Traditionally, a popular party game for children and adults, bobbing for apples hasn’t been played as often over the last fifty or so years.

It is best played outside and in summer as everyone will end up with at least a wet face.

A big barrel or tub is the best container for the water, but you can improvise with other containers.

Have some other fruit handy for those children who won’t or can’t eat apples. Not many other fruits work very well for the actual bobbing, though – you could try large strawberries, nectarines, peaches or plums.

Treasure hunt

Simplified versions can be used with younger children, but treasure hunts are more successful with primary aged children.

Treasure hunts can be done as a set of clues for the children to follow to a hidden treasure. The clues can be pictures, simple directions or a riddle depending on the children’s ages. Children can work individually, in pairs or as a single group as required.

Alternatives to this involve the children having to find items from a list. Again the list can be done in pictures, words or riddles. The winner is the child who collects the most correct items.

Musical statues

Children will come up with their own variations on this game. Instead of just freezing when the music stops, they may decide to make funny faces, pose in certain ways, make animal noises, balance on one leg or a multitude of other positions.

Make the music lively and cheerful, and something the children will like and preferably know. Keep it fast and unpredictable.

The first few rounds of the game can be for everyone before you start picking out the last person to freeze to be out.

This is a great filler game – to amuse them whilst food is served, parents are arriving, another game flopped or if they are getting annoyed at each other. It doesn’t take any preparation and relies on the children listening.


Obviously aimed at the youngest of children’s parties, ring-a-ring-a-rosie is poplar and fun. It is best if you join in, including falling down – the children will love to see you do this and you will be a role model on how to play.

Make sure there is plenty of space around the circle as children tend to spread out as they dance around.

Hokey Pokey

You don’t need any recorded music for this game, just sing along with the kids and have fun!

Depending on the children’s ages and interest, you can include both arms, both legs, the head, the body, the tummy, the bottom (children will giggle and love this one!) and various small body bits (ears, fingers, knees, noses and elbows have all been done before.)


It sounds simple, and it is!

Put on something bright music and get the children dancing. They will have fun and it is great to watch them express themselves in this way.

It is also good exercise for them (and you, if you join in) and helps them develop coordination and rhythm.

 Use any music you like – the Wiggles and Jelly Bugs are fun, but kids will also enjoy many of the danceable pop songs as well.


Tash Hughes is the owner of Word Constructions and assists businesses in preparing all written documentation and web site content. Tash also writes parenting and business articles for inclusion in newsletter and web sites.
© 2004, Tash Hughes

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