Preteens are always a hard group when you're party planning. They can no longer cope with "cutsie" and have to live up to "being cool." I spent time planning my twin boys' birthday this year. They wanted to invite their whole class and we have a small house, so we rented out a church gym and developed the Chester Challenge.
I found some of these games on a great Web site www.funattic.com. The rest we figured out ourselves. The 75 kids divided into teams. Each team had a facilitator and was awarded points for achievements, cooperation and positive behavior. They carried a poster board with their point tally from station to station. At the end of night, those with the most points were given money to contribute to the charity of their choice.
Gum Art Game You need: gloves, gum, toothpicks, trays What you do: Each team member must put on the gloves, pick a piece of gum from a bucket, open it and put it in his mouth. Once everyone on the team is chewing gum, they go to a table with a tray and toothpicks. Using all the gum and toothpicks, create a work of art. Points go for the best creation: 100 for first place, 75 for second, 50 for third and 25 for fourth.
Blanket Volleyball You need: four sheets, two volleyballs What you do: The object of this game is to volley the ball to the other team, continuing until someone drops it. Points will be awarded on your serve only. But all players must hold onto the sheet and together serve and catch the volleyball. A coin toss will determine who gets the ball first.
Lava Walk You need: cardboard cutouts, two less than team members What you do: A volcano has erupted and your team has been stranded by a lava flow. You must rescue yourself and your team by crossing the lava river with only the cardboard circles to help. Step across until everyone is safely on the other side. One person sets the cardboard circles down, another picks them up. You have five minutes and a circle melts every minute, so you lose one at the four, three, two and one minute marks. The team gets 1,000 points for finishing.
Skittle Lotto You need: Skittles, tally sheet and score card What you do: This takes luck. Team members sit in a circle. A bag of Skittles is passed from player to player. Points come according to color: five for purple, 10 for green, 20 for yellow, 25 for orange and 30 for red. You have one minute. If you eat the Skittles before the tally, you lose points.
Hippie, Hippie Shake You need: broom, rope, tape and packing peanuts What you do: Two players sweep packing peanuts into a taped-off square. But they have to tie the broom to a rope and wear the rope around their waist so that the broom swings between their legs. You must move your hips to make the broom sweep to move the packing peanuts. Other team members should cheer. Each player has two minutes. Ten points are awarded for each packing peanut in the square.
Magic Carpet You need: shower curtain What you do: You all get on the "magic carpet." You start to fly and discover you are unable to control the flight, the carpet is upside down. Turn the carpet over, in mid-air, without having any of your team mates fall to their death. If you do it, you earn 500 points. You have five minutes.
Pass the Pretzel Relay You need: pretzel rods and twists. What you do: Pass a pretzel twist from one end of your team to another using only a pretzel rod. You compete against the other teams. If you drop your pretzel twist and it breaks, or you break your pretzel rod, points are deducted. The first team to pass the twist gets 100 points, 75 for second, 50 for third and 25 for fourth.
Whipped Cream/Cheese Puff Toss You need: garbage bags, shower caps, whipped cream and cheese puffs What you do: Cover a volunteer's face in whipped cream. The team stands at the line, and has 30 seconds to throw cheese puffs and have them stick to the face. You get 50 points for each "stuck" cheese puff. Each player throws one at a time or you lose points.
Kelly Chester, who lives in Chicago, is the mother of Claire, 8, and Brian and Tommy, both 12.