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Party Game Ideas

Many games can be made from items you already have on-hand, such as balls, buckets, and brooms and therefore cost little or nothing. Other games may be worth purchasing, since you can use them over-and-over again.

Alternate boisterous games with quieter games to keep the children's energy at a reasonable level. Focus on noncompetitive games where all children can have fun.

Prizes aren't necessary for most games, but if you do provide prizes give one to each child for effort. For example, award a prize to each child who completes a relay race, not just to the team that was the fastest. Prizes call be small party favor items, such as stickers, coins, and award ribbons. A prize basket with an assortment of little items allows the child to pick the item he wants.

Be flexible. Don't require all children to participate and be ready to allow a game to go longer if children are having a good time or to change to a new game as needed. Be ready to help those who need it, such as a guest who can't read the clues well or a child who may need an extra hint.

Description & Materials
Ages Total Cost
20 Questions
Write topics on pieces of paper and have "it" select one. The other guests can ask up to 20 questions and "it" can only reply with yes or no. The child who guesses correctly becomes "it" for the next round. Have older kids think of their own topics (favorite movie, historical figure, etc.) 6-13+ $0
Ball Toss
Have children toss balls into buckets, laundry baskets, or through hoola hoops hung from a tree.
3-12 usually $0
Bean Bag Toss
Buy or make (painted wood or cardboard) a bean bag toss.
3-12 $2-20
Balloon Stomp
Tie a balloon on one end of a 4 ft piece of ribbon, tie the other end around a child's ankle. Outfit each child with their balloon. The goal of the game is to stomp on the other players' balloons (pop it), while protecting your own. 6-12 $2-3
Buy or make a bingo game. Use picture bingo for younger children. Allow winners to pick a favor item from a basket. 3-9 $2-5
Bubble Blowing
Buy or make (from rope, coat hangers, etc) bubble wands and bubble solution.
3-9 $2-10
Coin Toss
Have children toss coins into pie pans or targets drawn on the ground in chalk. Other object that can be tossed include: buttons, poker chips, peanuts, clothes pins, balls, playing cards, wrapped candy, sponges, dried beans, or washers (hardware). Objects can be tossed into mild bottles, drinking glasses, bowls, plates, muffin pans, egg cartons, coffee cans, jars, shoes, hats, flower pots, boxes, and even an open umbrella. For an extra challenge toss objects into pie pans floating in a kiddie pool.
3-9 $0-5
Buy a safe "dart" board that uses rubber tipped darts or velcro balls.
3-12 $10-20
Remove an object from the room or table and have children guess what it is missing.

Select one child to be "it". Have children take a good look at him before he leaves the room and then have him change something about himself (tuck in his shirt, untie his shoe, etc.). Have "it" return to the room and the children try to guess what's different.

3-9 $0
Dodge Ball
Play dodge ball with a soft ball (beach balls work well... basketballs do not!). Place half the children on the outside of a circle and the other half inside the circle. The children on the outside try to hit the children inside the circle with the ball and if they do they trade places with the child and move to the inside of the circle. Remind children that only hits below the knees "count". 6-9 $0-2
Drawing Games
Select a child and secretly ask him/her to draw a specified object on an easel pad or a large piece of paper taped to a door, fence or other vertical surface. Specify easy objects for younger children (cat, sun, ball, etc.) and more difficult objects for older children (sunset, bulldozer, ear of corn, etc.). As the child draws, the other children try to guess the object. The child who guesses first, becomes the drawer for the next round.

Have children lay down on large pieces of paper and trace around their bodies with a pencil. Have each child color her silhouette to look like him (hair, eyes, clothes, etc.) and hang these on the wall or fence.

6-13+ $2-5
Duck Duck Goose
Play variations on this old favorite to fit your party theme, such as ghost, ghost, witch for a Halloween Party. 3-6 $0
Duck Pond
Float rubber ducks or other floating objects in a kiddie pool. Write numbers on the bottom and child receives a prize based on the number (example: 3 marbles or 3 stickers for a duck with a 3). 3-9 $0-20
Fishing Games
Tie a string to a wooden stick or pole and tie a magnet to the end of the string. Cut shapes (fish or another shape) out of paper and attach a paper clip to each shape. The magnet on the pole will attach the paperclip on the shape. Alternately, you can just put a paperclip on a sticker and the child gets to keep the sticker he/she "catches". 3-9 $2-10
Guessing Games
Put an object in a box, give clues, and have children take turns guessing what it is. For younger children put the object inside a pillowcase and let them feel it.

Play "who is the ghost?" One child leaves the room and one child in the room puts a sheet over his head. The child who comes back in the room tries to guess who the ghost is.

Give clues related to people or objects that tie in with the party them, such as famous baseball players (Baseball Party) or types of dinosaurs (Dinosaur Party) and have guests try to guess the correct answers.

Select "it" and have her leave the room. Then select a secret leader who makes motions (waves hands, winks, claps, etc.) that the other children in the room follow. "It" returns to the room and tries to figure out who is the secret leader.

For a birthday party you can have the gift givers provide hints and have the birthday child try to guess what's in a package.

3-9 $0-5
Gym Balls
Giant-sized rubber play balls make for fun soccer style games. Balls with handles (children sit and bounce on them) can be used for relay races. 3-9 $20
Draw a hopscotch "course" that ties in with your party theme.  Example: for a St. Patrick's Day Party draw a leprechaun in the start box, a pot of gold in the end box, a rainbow from one end to the other, and have children toss a gold coin on the course to play. 3-9 $0-2
Hot Potato
Have children sit in a circle and pass around an object (a stuffed animal works well) until a timer goes off. The child holding the object when the timer goes off is "the silly monkey" or whatever fun name ties in with your party theme or the object the children are passing. 3-9 $0-2
Jokes & Riddles
Buy a joke and riddle book. Write the riddles on individual pieces of paper and write the answers on separate pieces of paper. Give half the guests riddles and half answers and have them try to find their "match". Then have each group read their riddle and answer to the rest of the guests.

Check out for jokes and riddles.

6-9 $2
Musical Chairs
A friendly variation on an old favorite... instead of pulling chairs from the circle and making kids sit out when they "lose", have enough chairs for each child, but decorate one special chair and whoever sits in that chair receives a special treat. If you don't have chairs, just make paper "spots" on the floor and make a special spot. Another variation is musical balloons where children throw balloons into the air until the music stops.
3-6 $0-2
Musical Gifts
For a birthday party have children sit in a circle and pass gifts until the music stops. The birthday child opens the gift he/she is holding when the music stops.
3-9 $0
Musical Party Favors
Have children sit in a circle and pass one favor bag until the music stops. The child holding the favor bag when the music stops keeps it and steps inside or outside the circle. The game is repeated until every child has a favor bag.
3-9 $3-7 (cost of favor bags)
Obstacle Course
Use items you already have to create an obstacle course. For example: children might need to crawl through a box, walk across a board, do a hula hoop, jump rope, ring a bell, etc. before they reach the finish line. Time each child with a stop watch and encourage her to try to beat her own time on the 2nd try (instead of worrying about the other children's times). Give ribbons or stickers to each child.
3-13+ $0-20
Parachute Play
Have children stand and hold the edges of a large blanket, place one stuffed animal or one lightweight ball in the middle of the blanket and have the children try to bounce it as high as they can, but without bouncing it off the blanket. Add more animals and balls to make it more challenging. 3-6 $0-5
Buy or make a pinata and fill with treats, such as candy and small toyss. Hang pinata on rope that can be raised and lowered. Blindfold older children to make it more difficult. Pinata can be filled with loose treats and everyone scrambles to pick them up or filled with favor bags and everyone only gets one. If you're not crazy about kids swinging a stick around, try a pull string pinata. 3-12 $20
Pin the Tail
Customize the traditional pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game to fit your party theme, such as pin-the-tail-on- the-zebra for a Jungle Safari Party and pin-the-horn- on-the-unicorn for a Princess Party. Draw your own or use pictures from magazines, coloring books, or clip art programs and have these enlarged at a local copy center.
3-9 $3-15
Design a silly race. Have children run as fast as they can with while doing something silly, such as holding a balloon between their knees, holding a spoon in their mouth with an egg balanced on the end, or balancing a stuffed animal on their heads. If they drop the object they have to start over.
3-12 $0-10
Relay Races
Similar to races above, but divide children into teams and have them transfer objects to their teammates. Racers could have to run backwards, jump rope, hula hoop, draw something, put on funny clothes, blow ping pong balls or balloons, or roll a ball with a broomstick.
3-12 $0-10
Ring Toss
Buy or make a ring toss. Make it more challenging (smaller rings and stand farther away) for older children. 3-12 $0-15
Scavenger Hunts
Divide children into groups and give each group a list of 10 things they can probably find in the party area. For example, if the party is at a park the list might include a pine cone, a feather, a rock the size of a penny, etc.
3-13+ $0
Play table top shuffle board. Have children slide coins to see who can get closest to the edge without falling off. Allow children to keep coins at the end of the game.
6-12 $1-5
Simon Says
Play Simon Says, but change Simon to a name that fits in with your theme.
6-9 $0
Stomp Rockets
Buy a stomp rocket game for an outdoor party. Buy extra rockets... they tend to disappear.
3-12 $20
String Surprise
Tie small prizes to the ends of a very long pieces of yarn or twine and hide object so it's not visible. Unroll yarn in twist-and-turn patterns around the room or yard. Have each child start at the beginning of her piece of yarn and roll it up until she finds the prize at the end. 3-9 $5-10
Design a game of tag to tie in with your party theme, such as freeze tag for a winter party. Or include "bases" such as planets for a space party. Remember to state a 10 second time limit for the bases to give "it" a fair chance.
3-9 $0-2
Treasure Hunts
Have children follow clues, a map, or footprints, or arrows (made from sticks or small rocks) to find a special treat (favor bags or food). To make footprints, cut a stencil out of paper and then sprinkle flour inside the cutout area. Younger children can dig for treasure (coins, small plastic animals, etc.) in a sand box.
3-12 $3-20 depending on prizes
Tug of War
Fun if done on a hot summer day with a sprinkler in the middle, so the "losers" get wet.
6-13+ $0
Make or buy a "twister" game. Customize board to party theme with stickers. 6-13+ $20
Water Balloons
Divide children into two groups and have groups stand in a line about 3 feet from across from each other. Give the children on one side a water balloon and have them toss it to their teammate. After each successful through have the teammates take one step backwards so they are throwing farther each time. If their balloon breaks they have to start over 3 feet from each other.
6-13+ $2-5
Water Games
Have children splash or blow plastic boats or ping pong balls across a pool (kiddie or full size).

Have a raft stack game in a pool. Divide children into teams and see which team can get all their members on a raft first.

Sprinkler toys (we have a hilarious "wacky wiggler" that attaches to the end of a garden hose) . Slip-and-slides are fun, but make sure you've got enough flat, soft space in your yard.

6-13+ $2-30
Word Game
How many words can the group make out of the letters in the work Congratulations Graduate or Happy Birthday? Write original word or phrase on large piece of paper and write "formed" words underneath.
6-13+ $0-1
Word Scrambles
Make word scrambles out of words that tie in with your party theme. For example: "tanustora" is "astronaut" for a space party.

Word scrambles can also be found on the internet. Use Google to search on "animal word scramble" or whatever fits your party theme.

6-13+ $0.25-$1
Word Search
Make a giant word search on paper or drawn with chalk on the driveway and have the children work together to find all the words. Select words that tie in with the party theme like (Mars, alien, space shuttle, etc for a Space Party).

Many word searches can be found on the internet. Use Google to search on "train word search" or whatever fits your party theme.
6-13+ $0.25-$1