Quick and easy activities make planners and players happy By Marie E. CecchiniPhoto by Josh Hawkins Rachel Kosmos, 4, of Chicago.
Call me old-fashioned, but I've always preferred "homegrown" birthday parties. I enjoy taking an active part in my children's activities, and find entertaining a group of their friends a creative challenge.
The best-remembered party in our house is my daughter's 10th, which took place outdoors on a sunny June day. Activities included an old-fashioned peanut hunt, the breaking of a piñata, T-shirt painting, water pistol target practice with helium-filled balloons, bobbing for apples and make-your-own sundaes. The kids were busy and we all had a great time.
But parties don't have to be elaborate to be fun. The trick is to have enough to keep the kids active. When you need a few games up your sleeve that require little to no preparation and/or supplies, you need what I call "quick and easy."
Some of these do declare a winner. And remember, whenever there is a winner, kids may see a loser, which can mean they're inappropriate for younger children. So, choose the games to fit your group and try to emphasize "You all did a great job."
Whose Shoes? Have all party guests remove one shoe. Place all of the shoes into a large box. Shake the box to mix the shoes. Blindfold one guest at a time and challenge the guests to find their own shoes.
Peel-a-Present This is a rewarding version of Hot Potato. Place a small gift into a box. Wrap the box with several layers of different gift wrap. Have the guests sit in a circle and pass the gift from person to person as music plays. When the music stops, the person holding the gift must remove only one layer of wrapping. The person who removes the final layer wins—either a present or just a great round of applause. This game can be played with more than one circle of guests, or you can pass more than one gift around the same circle.
Cooking Race Have the guests race in pairs from a starting point to a finish line while balancing a sponge on the end of a spatula. This is also a great challenge for an obstacle course. Anyone who drops the sponge must return to the starting line to begin again.
Ring-a-Prize Cut the centers from large plastic coffee can lids to make rings. Place several small gift items on an open floor area. Have the party guests take turns tossing the rings to try and encircle a prize. Players keep the prize they circle. One prize per player.
60-Second Basketball For this game you will need pairs of socks, rolled up into balls, and an empty waste can or laundry basket. Party guests take turns standing back from the basket and tossing the sock balls into the can. The challenge is to see how many shots they make in 60 seconds.
Pop-a-Pop Blow up several large balloons and, before knotting them closed, stick a small lollipop inside each. Have each guest take one balloon and work at popping it by sitting on it to get to the lollipop inside. You can divide up into teams and have the two sides run to a chair, where they pop the balloon, run back and tag the next one.
Bottle Fishing Tie a string to the end of a stick to make a fishing pole. Tie or glue a small magnet to the end of the fishing line string. Place several paper clips into an empty soda bottle. Challenge the party guests to "fish" through the small opening in the bottle for the paper clips.
Bursting Bubbles This game is best played outdoors. Blow bubbles for the children to race after and break. The challenge is that they may use any part of their body except their hands to burst the bubbles. Blowing bubbles can last for a lifetime—at least five minutes—with some kids.
Mummy Wrap Race Divide the children in pairs and give each pair a roll of toilet tissue. At the "go" signal, one member of each pair will begin to wrap the other in tissue, using the entire roll. The challenge is to see who is the fastest wrapper.
These are just a few of the ideas I have used over the years. I'm sure you have a few of your own to add to the list. At-home parties can be simple and still be fun. Happy birthday!
Marie E. Cecchini is the mother of two and a freelance writer living in West Dundee.