Children at outdoor party playing tug o war.

5 Party Games for Children

A little planned entertainment can go a long way at a children’s party. Games encourage children to engage one another, whether they’re cooperating or competing. There are plenty of old standbys such as Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Hot Potato, and Musical Chairs, but the kids might be looking for something new, and you’ll be the hero of the party if you can provide it.

Scavenger Hunt

The great thing about scavenger hunts is that they are easily tailored to the age range of involved children. For small children, items should be fairly obvious and available on the premises. Older kids may be able to scour the neighborhood. Teenagers might be challenged with puzzles in order to identify the intended items.

Dress Up Relay

For Dress Up Relay, divide children into two teams and line them up. At the end of the relay course, place a collection of clothing big enough for all the children to wear. The first child in line runs to the clothes and puts all of them on over their own clothes. Then, they remove the clothes and run back to their line where the second child repeats the exercise. First team to have all players complete the task wins.

two group of kids playing with colorful hoops and throw them on cones while competing with each other during a summer children's party

Greetings, O Great One

It’s always a good idea to have some indoor games on hand, even if the party is planned to be outdoors. Weather is a fickle thing. Greetings, O Great One does not take up a lot of space and does not require children to run around.
Place one child in the center of a circle, blindfold them, and spin them around three times. Then, one by one, the other children say “Greetings O great one!” in a funny voice. The child in the center needs to guess who the speaker is. If the child guesses correctly, the child who spoke now goes to the center and another child in the circle repeats the phrase.

Team Balloon Pop

For Team Balloon Pop, divide everyone into two teams and line them up. On the other end of the game space, place enough blown up balloons so there’s enough for everyone. There should also be a chair for each team near the balloons. The first child in the line runs to the balloons, places one of them on the chair, and attempts to pop it without using their hands. Then, they run back to their team and the next person in line repeats the process.

Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story allows children to create their own collective story. The first child gives the first four words. The second child picks up where the first left off, adding four more words. This is continued until every child has had a certain number of turns.

Children can often entertain themselves, especially when there are distractions such as toys or a playground. However, organized games keep children on their toes even when other entertainment is limited or they have lost interest in it. Most games require little to no preparation and are light on the wallet, so you can make sure everyone at a children’s party has an enjoyable experience.

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group of happy kids on children playground

How to Throw a Playground Birthday Party

Outdoor birthday parties are great for kids born in the summer months, but the size of a backyard can seriously limit the number of guests which can be invited. One alternative is to move to a local park with a playground, which offers both space and entertainment for your birthday party.

Find the Right Location

Not every park will suit your specific needs. Consider:

  • Is the play equipment age appropriate?
  • Are there picnic tables? If not, you’ll need to bring blankets, and things are likely to get more messy.
  • Is a permit necessary? Some parks require permits for large groups of people. They generally do not cost much, but you may need to file the application several weeks in advance.
  • Are there potential dangers? For example, a park on a lake may not be the best place for a party of toddlers.
  • Does it offer grills? If it doesn’t, are you allowed to bring your own?
  • Does it offer restrooms? Many parks do not have restrooms, and those which do generally only have them open for part of the year.
  • Is there a pavilion? Certainly, you do not need a pavilion, but they offer plenty of benefits. They contain numerous benches, which might be difficult to get a hold of if you’re organizing your event outside the shelter. They also generally have drinking fountains and restrooms. Finally, they provide relief from the sun, which may be welcomed more by the adults than the kids.

Bring Enough Supervision

Since the kids are not confined to a backyard, you’ll need even more adults helping keep the children corralled. Again, this is most applicable with very small children who can easily become lost or injured.

photo of a beautiful mother and her daughter blowing soap bubbles on the playground at the park

Bring Entertainment

Kids like variety. Some may play on the play equipment the entire time, but others may want multiple distractions. Balls, sidewalk chalk and bubbles are all good distractors.

Plan Transportation

Remember that everything you want at the park has to be brought there. The cake will need to be boxed up, and nothing can be put on top of it. Helium balloons take up a ton of space. If space considerations are an issue, do a test run the day before to make sure you can fit everything (including children) into the car. If there’s too much, ask one of the other parents to swing by and transport some of it for you.

Plan for Rain

The biggest downside to planning a party at a park is the danger of rain. You can’t simply bring the party indoors. Watch the weather forecasts. You should cancel at least a day in advance to make sure you notify everyone.

Playground parties are an affordable way to entertain sizable numbers of kids. Planning is pretty minimal, but it is important. Make sure you know your location: the amenities it offers, possible dangers, and rules and regulations. This can make for a great summer birthday for the kids without overly taxing the adults.

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Little girl jumping inside a bounce house

Are Bounce Houses Safe for Children’s Parties?

Bounce houses are becoming increasingly popular for private parties, in part because of their growing affordability. Not only are rental rates reasonable, but small units can be bought for just a few hundred dollars.

But there are drawbacks. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, injury rates have been steadily climbing, from about 5000 in 2003 to over 18,000 in 2012. This increase significantly has to do with the growing number of children using the amusement. To put those numbers in perspective, 270,000 children were injured on playgrounds and 114,000 on skateboards in 2012.

Most injuries sustained in bounce houses are sprains and broken bones in the arms and legs. Rarely do they require hospitalization, and only a handful of deaths have been associated with the use of bounce houses. Still, there are ways of making them safer.

Properly Set Up the Bounce House

If you’re renting a bounce house, the company will set it up and take it down. If you’re doing it yourself, be sure you know what you’re doing. The bounce house should always be well anchored in an open area away from power lines and other structures.

Supervise the Bounce House

A bounce house is not a babysitter. An adult should watch from outside it to make sure children are behaving appropriately and to respond to any incidents. If the house starts to deflate, all the children should be promptly removed.

Boy playing on inflatable slide in bounce house

Separate Children by Age

Children should be sorted by age before going into a bounce house. If an older child runs into a smaller one, even accidentally, the smaller one can easily be injured. The mass of older children jumping on the bounce surface also makes it harder for smaller children to keep their balance.

Children under 6 shouldn’t be allowed access to a bounce house at all.

Limit Roughhousing and Flipping

Many injuries happen not because children are simply bouncing but because they are roughhousing, wrestling and flipping inside the bounce house. Many injuries can be prevented by making these activities off limits.

Beware of Weather

While weather-related injuries are rare, they can be dramatic when they happen. There have been several cases of severe winds blowing bounce houses away or throwing them into the air with children still inside. Don’t wait for a powerful gust to come through your party: if the wind picks up, promptly evacuate the children.

Rain should also be avoided, even if wind isn’t involved. Getting water inside the bounce house will create an overly slick environment which will encourage accidents.

Sharp Objects

No matter how careful children are, there will be collisions. To minimize the chance of injury, jewelry, shoes and pocket contents should be removed before entrance.

No activity is completely safe, and a significant number of injuries are sustained in bounce houses every year. However, diligence on the part of parents can vastly decrease the chance of injury at their event. Help make bounce houses an enjoyable yet safe amusement at your next kid-friendly party.

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happy friends in winterwear looking at camera while having fun outside

Celebrating a Child’s Winter Birthday

Summer birthdays practically plan themselves. Set the kids loose in the backyard and maybe hire some entertainment. For larger groups, there’s always the local park or swimming pool.

However, millions of children in the US have birthdays when snow is commonly on the ground. How do you let them celebrate the same way as their summer-born friends? It’s not as simple as bringing the party indoors: most households just can’t handle that many kids under one roof. There are, however, options.

Kid-friendly Restaurants

If the kids are small, any McDonald’s with a sizable PlayPlace can be a great birthday destination. It’s good for the chaperons too, as the kids are confined to a room with a self-explanatory jungle gym. McDonald’s offers party options which include a party host, cake and food. Prices are reasonable, and everyone gets a toy with their happy meal.

For the slightly older, there’s Chuck E. Cheese’s and similarly themed restaurants. Children have access to dozens of arcade games, so everyone can find exactly what they like best. The games do take tokens, but party packages provide a certain number of tokens per child. Packages also include soda and pizza.

happy child kids group have fun with art

Arts and Crafts Party

A growing number of artistic business allow customers to create their own pieces of art. Supplies are all included: clay, paint, kiln firing and so on. Kids can learn about the processes involved in the craft as well as take something home at the end of the day.

Some of these businesses even allow you to bring in food, so kids can eat some pizza and cake while they’re waiting for  projects to dry.

Winter Activities

You may not be able to go swimming, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun outdoors in January! Sledding, ice skating and more are locally available at many parks.

joyful little girl playing on a trampoline.

Bouncing Locales

Check to see if you have some sort of bouncing establishment near you. These businesses provide fun activity through a variety of springy surfaces. Bouncy houses, trampolines and more can be available to let kids burn off energy without going outside.

Bowling and Roller Skating

Both bowling alleys and roller rinks provide an afternoon of entertainment as well as affordable food to feed your gaggle of partying children.

Museums

Some museums have special birthday party programs. Kids learn while being entertained, usually through interactive displays. Crafts, games and more are also provided.

There’s no reason a winter birthday needs to be glum. Look around your town for alternatives and you’ll probably find more exciting options than you were expecting.

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Small child opening present

Buying the Perfect Children’s Present

Heaping presents upon children at birthday parties is a time-honored tradition. However, gift options are nearly limitless. How do you go about selecting an appropriate gift that the child will love?

Of course, asking the parents is one option. However, they’re probably giving the same answer to everyone, so there’s a chance you’ll end up copying someone else’s gift. Instead, consider a couple ideas, and then run them by the parents to see if it’s likely the child will enjoy them.

Educational Gifts

But where to start? Kids get showered with dolls, action figures and video games. These are all great, but the child probably has lots of them. Consider adding a little practicality with your gift and buy them something educational.

“Educational” can sound very boring, but there’s a ton of options that are also loads of fun. Science kits, building sets, puzzles, electronic sets, and educational games are just a few of the options out there. They’re also options for every age, such as toys which encourage shape recognition for toddlers to complex projects for older kids.

And, of course, there’s books. Fiction’s great for encouraging reading skills, and non-fiction helps inform a child about something they may already like. Books encourage kids to enjoy learning.

Girl playing with a building toy

What Not to Give

Don’t provide gifts that can be obnoxious to parents. Yeah, Jimmy might love that toy saxophone, but remember you’ve just condemned his parents to listening to it morning, noon and night.

Unless you’re very intimate with the family and know exactly what is appropriate, steer away from religious gifts. Even if the child likes it, the parents may find it completely inappropriate and may well dispose of it. Just because you’re well meaning doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do.

Animals are never appropriate presents without explicit parental approval. The child must be responsible enough to care for the pet, and the parents have to be willing to pay for its upkeep. There’s also issues like allergies which can be a huge problem.

Things that make messes like markers, clay, glitter, Play-Doh and paint can become a huge burden on parents who have to clean up after their child. The package may say ages four and up, but that doesn’t mean every four year old is actually both responsible and coordinated enough to do so. It also depends on the child’s temperament. Some actively choose to smear it on the walls even though they know better.

Messy children with paint

Costs

Gift giving is not a competition, and this is, if anything, even more important with buying gifts for children than for adults. Buy something in line with the price of other gifts. In particular, don’t overshadow the gifts of the parents. You may think you’re doing the family a favor by giving an expensive gift, but it can make people feel inferior, and it may set up unrealistic expectations for the child.

Like all gift giving, buying for children should be considerate and thoughtful. Unlike other gifts, however, this scenario means considering the needs and wants of more than just the recipient. The needs, wants and temperaments of the parents are just as important as the child’s . With a little thought, you can provide a gift which is both fun and meaningful for everyone.

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Kids having fun in the kitchen baking

Sweet Treat Baking Parties

Looking for a non-traditional party idea for kids? Want to make it educational, even if the children don’t realize it? Consider a baking party, where kids can build their own treats and be entertained while doing it.

First, prep the work area. This is going to get messy. Also, this is likely a birthday party, so let’s dress it up to celebrate! For your own sanity, cover work areas with plastic table cloths or butcher paper, then decorate with strips of colorful wrapping paper.

Second, prepare all of the needed tools. Make sure you have enough bowls, spatulas, sprinkles, cookie cutters, whatever is appropriate for your project. You’d hate to discover something is missing halfway through preparations, forcing things to stop or limiting how many children can participate.

Once the kids arrive, get them dressed for the part. Buy paper chef hats and cheap aprons, then get out the markers, glue, glitter, even scrapbooking materials. Every child gets a keepsake that just might encourage them to continue cooking long after the party’s over.

Father cooking with two children

Make sure your project is age appropriate. Younger children are going to be more messy, have shorter attention spans and need more supervision. Older children, on the other hand, will want a challenge. Plan your project accordingly. Possibilities include:

  • Cookies. Cookies are a great project for all ages. For younger children, buy store bought dough, then let kids roll it out, cut it up with cookie cutters and decorate with sprinkles. Older kids can make dough from scratch. And, of course, there will be enough for kids to bring a few home.
  • Cupcakes. Cupcake projects can also be adjusted by age. Buy a mix or make from scratch, prep some of the ingredients beforehand or let the kids do all the work.
  • Personal pizzas. Pizza is the ultimate is baking party personalization. Kids can decide which ingredients to add and how much. You might want to ask parents what toppings their kids like so you’re prepared. You’ll want to use store-bought dough: making your own is extremely time consuming.

If you have a sizable number of children, break them into small groups when each group having its own project. These projects might all be the same, or they can differ from one another, so that every group makes a different kid of cookie, for example. Small groups allow every child to be actively involved in their project rather than being relegated to observation. You may want an adult assisting each group, depending on the complexity of the project and the ages of the children.

Baking parties are great year-round activities that teach kids to love a skill they’ll need for the rest of their lives. They’re affordable and scalable, able to be tailored to any number of kids and their ages. Just remember this is one of the more messy options for a party, so plan accordingly, prepping the space and potentially employing other adults for assistance.

sisters playing Pokemon Go

Turn Pokemon Go Into a Great Party

Pokemon Go is already a phenomena. If your friends or kids have a love of the game, why not turn it into an enjoyable event?

First, you’ll need someplace worth playing. Some areas are loaded with Pokemon, others hardly at all. Good places are generally high traffic locations like downtown areas or locations of cultural significance. You can use PokeVision (when it’s running) to see how many creatures are spawning at a specific place. Then check it out in person. You may find Pokemon there are spread more or less far apart than they looked on-screen.

If this is for children, safety is an issue. Are the children old enough to not wander into the street while looking at their cell phones? Consider how much supervision these children will need in public and make arrangements with some of the other parents.

One drawback of Pokemon Go is it’s difficult to eat or drink while playing. At the very least, you should plan breaks where players can get drinks. You may also want to plan for a meal. This gives everyone time to recuperate and regain energy to keep playing. If it’s particularly hot out, it also gives everyone a respite from the heat.

Adults sometimes turn Pokemon parties into pub crawls. Players will wander the streets catching Pokemon and duck into bars for a drink. Besides merging two things many people love, there’s also a good possibility of meeting like-minded individuals. Just be safe about it. Pub crawls generally happen at night, and that offers complications. And public intoxication is a crime even if you are playing Pokemon.

Children playing Pokemon Go at a PokeStop
Group of smiling children posing at urban street with mobile devices

There are a few benefits of planning a group outing. One, people can coordinate to find more desirable Pokemon. Two, it’s a social outing like any other. Three, lures are amazing,

Free lures are rare, but you can buy them for less than a dollar. Drop one on a Pokestop, and Pokemon are attracted to the location for the next 30 minutes. It gets really fun if two or three Pokestops are close together, and you can drop lures on all of them. People just sit down, hang out, and gobble up Pokemon.

Active lures are visible in the game from some distance, so a great way of motivating people to keep moving is to keep dropping lures ahead of the group.

Critics have complained that Pokemon Go interferes with socialization. Instead, players obsess over a game on their phones. In fact, people can do both. Plenty of people, adults and children, play the game in groups, and there’s lots of goofing around in between Pokemon catches. It’s a hobby like any other, and lots of people plan parties around common interests. So why not Pokemon?

Older Kids Jumping with Pool Toys

5 Ways To Keep Your Pool Party Safe

Summer is here, and what better way for the kids to enjoy the sun than with a pool party? But let’s keep everyone safe around the water. Here’s 5 ways to keep everyone safe at your next pool party.

1. Require Parent Attendance

Parents should not be dropping their children off at a pool party. Make it clear on the invitations that parent attendance in required. There is no way you can safely supervise numerous small children all at once.

For children who cannot swim, a parent needs to be with them in the pool at all times, even if they are supposed to remain in the shallow end where they can stand. It’s easy for a small child to slip and not be able to stand up once fully underwater. They can also easily wander into deeper water or be pushed by other children.

For parents of older children who can swim, it may be fine for them to lounge at the side of the pool and socialize. The just need to remember to keep an eye on their kid.

2. Designate a Lifeguard

Even with parents in attendance, it’s a good idea to have someone acting as lifeguard, watching the entire pool rather than being focused on a single kid. This should also be someone who is a strong swimmer who can perform a rescue if necessary.

3. Clear the Area of Non-Swimmers

Children should be kept well away from the pool area if they are not getting into or out of the pool. This avoids the potential for slip and falls. The area should also be kept free of toys, drinks and other objects which are tripping hazards.

Little kid at the pool in inflatable ring

4. Require Parent Permission to Get in the Water

It’s vitally important for children to approach the pool only when an adult knows they are going to be there. There may come a time when everyone expected to get out of the pool, such as for food. Children sneaking back to the pool without supervision creates a dangerous situation. This reinforces the need for parents to keep an eye on their children even when they are not expected to be in the pool.

5. Cover Pool Rules at the Beginning of the Party

Before anyone goes into the water, review all rules with the children. They can’t be expected to know them if no one tells them, and you shouldn’t presume they’ve been taught by other sources. Besides things already mentioned here, rules might include:

  • No running near the pool
  • No jumping into the pool, or only jumping in designated areas
  • No pushing people underwater
  • No pushing people into the pool
  • No drinks in or near the pool
Happy Children at Birthday Party with Presents

5 Things to Remember in Planning a Child’s Birthday Party

You probably knew planning your child’s birthday party would take time and effort. However, you might have only envisioned the best case scenario. Lots of things can go wrong when you gather a small group of energetic children. Take the time to plan ahead so you, your child and your child’s guests all have an enjoyable afternoon.

1. Pick a Theme

You are probably going to have dozens of things to buy, and you are going to have to debate the details of every one of those things, even if only with yourself.

Unless you have a theme. Decide on a theme, and you automatically know what colors the hats and the plates and the invitations should all be. The theme might also suggest what kind of games you play, what sort of entertainer to hire and maybe even what location to hold your party, if you’re not holding it at home.

Choosing a theme also keeps your child involved in the planning process, which is important. This is his day, after all. It will feel more like his party if it reflects whatever he loves at the moment, whether it be Iron Man, the Little Mermaid, or ninjas.

2. Have Enough Adults

Even super-parents have their limits. Make sure you have enough adults willing to help keep the party properly organized.

This isn’t just about keeping the kids disciplined. It’s about the hundred things little kids need help with. If you’re running games, someone may need to be at each game to keep score, remind players of the rules, and arbitrate when there’s a disagreement. If someone bumps their head or scratches their knee, he may need a shoulder to cry on, and if you’re paying attention solely to them, you’re not paying attention to everyone else.

3. Plan Your Time with Flexibility

Have activities planned for the duration of the party. If not, the kids might come up with their own entertainment, and you won’t necessarily like it.

That said, there should also be some flexibility worked into your schedule. It can take time to transition children from one event to another. Some may need more encouragement to put down what they were previously doing to embrace whatever comes next in the plan.

Children with Cake on Faces at Birthday Party

4. Collect Contact Information

Be sure to have contact information for an available parent of every child, just in case. This isn’t just about emergencies or misbehavior. Some children simply get homesick very quickly, particularly if they’re in an unfamiliar place or surrounded by unfamiliar people.

5. Understand Medical Conditions

Reach out to parents and ask if there are medical issues you need to be concerned with, and, if so, what to do if something occurs. Even if the answer is simply “call 911,” you’ll know with certainty what to do if an emergency happens.

This includes any food allergies children might suffer. Getting the information ahead of time will allow you to order only food that is not hazardous to the health of your young guests. Even learning at the last minute, however, lets you ensure the child in question knows which foods he can and can’t have.