When you are planning a birthday party it is easy to leave the games until the last minute. Do this at your peril! Here Maddy Carrick – founder of bespoke party organiser Dreamcatcher Parties – shares her top tips to ensure a happy party atmosphere and avoid the chaos that boredom can create!
When planning your child’s party you can spend plenty of time organising the invitations, ordering the tableware and slaving over the princess tower cake extravaganza, that it can be easy to forget what the little ones will actually do whilst they’re at the party. Perhaps Dad says he’ll stick on some tunes and they can play musical statues followed by pass the parcel, but this might not fill the 2 hour time slot and suddenly those 2 hours can feel like the longest hours ever….
However, with a bit of pre-thought and planning, the party can fly by and you’ll be left with a sea of smiling faces and a very happy birthday child. Here are my top tips for playing party games and which games to choose:
1.) Appoint someone who will lead the games, it can be confusing for the children if there are lots of adults instructing them to play. In the classroom, there will be a teacher and an assistant – the same applies here.
2.) Don’t start games until 15 minutes into the party or when you feel most of the guests have arrived, if you start dead on time with only a handful of children you will have to keep stopping and starting whilst other guests arrive. This can break momentum and short attention spans.
3.) Put some colouring-in sheets out for early guests, so they have something to entertain them before the others arrive. You can print out themed colouring sheets to get them excited about the games that are to follow.
4.) Warm the children up with an introduction and a name-game, explain to the children what is about to happen and why you’re all here. If the children are all from the same class, you might find that the shy children hide at the back whilst the more confident ones are happy to engage; or if the children don’t know each other they maybe wary to take part. A good idea is to tell a few silly jokes, children love nothing more than when a grown-up gets in a muddle – pretend you think it’s the birthday child’s 100th birthday or keep calling them Cinderella or Ben 10, and they will all enjoy laughing together.
5.) I wouldn’t play games with prizes with little ones, it can really spoil the fun when they start to get upset if they haven’t won. It’s fine for the birthday child to win pass the parcel – most children expect this and are happy for the birthday child to win. I also wouldn’t make children ‘out’, if the game requires that – give them something to do, for example tell them to be noisy cheerleaders at the side of the dancing.
6.) Vary the tempo during the party, kids can arrive raring to go and bounding with limitless energy but this can soon waiver and little ones can tire quickly. I suggest playing running around/dancing games (musical statues/shipwreck) at the beginning of the party followed by sitting down games later on (pass the parcel, guess the missing object).
7.) If you child has decided on a theme for the party, incorporate this as much as you can into the games: games like Duck, duck goose can easily be renamed after famous pirates or princesses, What’s the time, Mr Wolf can be re-born as What’s the time, Cinderella?
8.) For toddlers and pre-schoolers, they find complicated games tricky to grasp. Stick to dancing games involving animals, for example put on noisy music and ask them to dance like scary lions, squeaking mice, snappy crocodiles. Sing familiar nursery games with them, and play simple games that involve picking things up, they can differentiate colours – put balls on the floor and ask them to pick up different coloured balls.
9.) For key stage one (4-7 years), they like big games that involve running around, dancing, and a sense of silly chaos! If you’re having a pirate party – print out pictures of desert islands, give each of the child an island to stand on and when the music stops they have to stand on an island, remove an island each time.
10.) For older children, an activity is a good party option. They will have a clearer sense of their social group and invite a smaller number, arts and crafts are always popular, or a silly cookery party is fun – stuff pitta pockets, ice fairy cakes, make pizza toppings.