Welcome to Part 4 in the Planning Children’s Birthday Series. Part 1 was a 10 Point Birthday Party Plan Check List. Part 2 focused on family strategy for birthday parties, party themes and birthday party invitations. Part 3 was centred around Guest and Food Lists.
Today I will be looking at ideas for activities to entertain the kids and accessories to decorate a child’s birthday party.
Activities 1 – 3 Years Old
For this age group, I like to have a beautifully prepared environment for the children and allow them to play freely with this. I have found that organising games for this age does not always work so well.
Given age appropriate props, children this age will explore, play and entertain themselves quite easily. Adults need only to keep a watch on proceedings and lead examples of play ideas if it seems that the toddlers are unsure of what to do.
With the Luau themed party we had for Possum when she was two, I had two little blow up pools full of water (it was before water restrictions!) and water play toys like funnels, jugs, scoops and buckets.
I also had two child sized tables set up with tea sets for those children who did not want to get in the pools and play with the water. The toddlers could get water from the pool and make “cups of tea” etc. I also had child sized watering cans, so those who wanted to could also walk around the garden and water the plants.
A beautiful prepared environment that I set up when I had primary coloured theme party for a one year old, was to have helium balloons in these colours tied to decorative weights around a cleared room. The balloons are a natural draw card for little ones and then in different corners of the room I had primary coloured toys set up: mega blocks, little people, a tea set and balls.
Activities 4 – 6 Years Old
At this age group they are able to participate more cooperatively in games and activities and I find need to have a combination of free play and structured activities to ensure that the party remains calm and happy.
As with the rest of the party, where possible I try to relate the activities to the theme. I will go a through two themes and the activities we played with the kids:
– Upon arrival each child had the opportunity to write their name and draw a number on a new t-shirt (provided by us) with fabric crayons. An adult then ironed the print, covered with a cloth and this would be there team top for the games and also their take home gift.
– We had enough children to have three sides of six boys, so we played a round robin of 15 minutes soccer games. We managed three games of this before the rain became to bad and had to retreat inside.
– Musical statues – the music was the choice of Little Rascal and to my amazement the boys all danced and really loved it.
– Balloon Handball – We used the same soccer sides (easily identifiable as there were three different coloured t-shirts we had bought) and each team had to try and not let the balloon touch the ground.
– All sitting down together on blankets on the floor inside (due to rain) with their individual footy pack lunch box.
– Cake, lolly bags and home.
– On arrival we had the long table set up so each child could make themselves a cardboard sword and shield. We tried to make this as open ended as possible, with a whole range of materials for them to use: large sections of cardboard, cardboard cones and tubes, sticks, boxes, plain and coloured foil, textas, elastic, staplers, and sticky tape.
– A treasure hunt. The treasure they were hunting for was little figurines of knights.
– Lunch was eaten banquet style, with food they could eat easily with their hands and every one sat around a long table.
– Potion making – This a particular request of the birthday boy. We had a table set up where a couple of children at a time could make a fizzing potion.
– Tug of War
– Cake, lolly bags and home.
With the above activities, I always aim to have time where the kids can come up with play ideas themselves. This does need a level of monitoring though, because when you have 12 boys with homemade swords it can get a little rough! Stepping in at the right time with some direction, can allow them to enjoy themselves safely.
Activities 7 – 9 Years Old
At this age depending on the number of children you have, you can set the children up with a comprehensive activity aligned with the theme. If there are lots of children though, I find that the more active style parties, like the soccer party outlined above, work better with a larger group.
Can have two separate activities that the children can do. One is a wooden kit that can be put together using the wooden pieces provided and glue. Once created they then paint the model and can take it home with them.
The second activity is more open ended and allows for the children to make whatever they want from the materials provided. using a long table, we create a “work bench” and have a range of wooden bits and pieces, nails and enough hammers for each child. The start of this activity starts with a discussion of safety and expectations and then the adults simply help where needed, but we try to be as hands off as possible to allow the kids to create freely.
I tend to keep decorations to a minimum with parties as I am quite conscious of the waste that a party creates. Theme coloured balloons, table cloths, paper plates and cups tend to be enough for us.
I tend to do two different types of treat bags depending on the age of the birthday child:
I am not a massive fan of confectionery, so for this age, I tend to try and find some cute little box, bag, container that fits in with the theme of the party and then place in it a toddler fruit bar, dried fruits or home made cookie type of thing. I find that they like this just as much as a bag full of lollies and it lasts longer.
By this age, I am no longer to get away with a healthy treat bag and allow the kids to make some decisions about the what they would like to go in it. I try to encourage for a small theme aligned toy and a few lollies, but sometimes the children themselves decide they would prefer not toy and more lollies. Thankfully this is not that often though.
I tend to use either brown paper bags or small cardboard noodle boxes to put the lollies in. I also get the children to decorate these using the theme of the party for inspiration. The night before the party I let them also fill them up themselves, showing them an orderly process for doing so and they love doing this.
So what about you? Do you plan games for little ones? What has been your most successful party game or activity? Look forward to hearing your thoughts.