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12 CLASSIC PARTY GAMES FOR KIDS AGES 4-11 YEARS, (LOVED BY MILLIONS OF KIDS OVER THE DECADES)

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12 KIDS’ PARTY GAMES THAT HAVE STOOD THE TEST OF TIME TO BECOME ABSOLUTE CLASSICS

There are so many different games and activities to choose from when planning a birthday party, that sometimes the most simple but effective ways to entertain a bunch of kids can be overlooked. Which is why I thought I’d round up some classic kids’ party games that always delight 4-11-year-olds.

These are the games that have been tried, tested and loved by kids over the decades and have stood the test of time.

And they’ve stood the test of time for one very good reason…. they are really fun games that kids love to play.

Plus, if you are looking for an easy and affordable way to throw your child a brilliant party, one that doesn’t involve Kardashian-kids’-party-style bougie-ness, these games will guarantee that the party is a hit.

HOW MANY PARTY GAMES DO YOU NEED FOR A KIDS’ PARTY?

I often get asked about how many games you need for a kids’ party. Unfortunately, the answer has some variables!

Ideally, parties for kids aged four to 11 years should be around two hours long. So, you need to work out what else you will be doing during the party. Is there going to be an entertainer? Will you have a craft activity? Are you planning a big party feast or a more simple quick bite to eat?

My suggestion is to have a handful of group games prepared, things like Pass The Parcel (or a version of it), Musical Chairs, Egg and Spoon Race, Balloon Relay and Simon Says. Plus another game, where kids need to take turns, like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, or Piñata.

Then have some easy, no-prep, backup games to hand in case you burn through all the games quickly. So, games like Duck Duck Goose, Musical Statues, Musical Bumps, Follow the Leader and Sleeping Lions.

Oh, and speaking of Sleeping Lions, it is a great game to play towards the end of the party to calm all the kids down.

12 CLASSIC PARTY GAMES THAT CAN ALWAYS BE RELIED UPON TO KEEP KIDS ENTERTAINED

I’ve divided the list up into games that need a few props and games that don’t, have a browse and take your pick.

GAMES THAT NEED SIMPLE PROPS

Here are a few classic games that need simple props or a little prep beyond having music to play.

1. BALLOON RELAY RACE

Balloon relay races are fun to compete in and hilarious to watch because balloons never do what you want them to do. As relay races are team games, a balloon relay race is a great party game to get a party started and the kids interacting with each other.

Props: Balloons and boxes or baskets for the balloons

How to play:

  • You will need two (or enough for however many teams you plan to have) baskets or containers to put an equal number of blown-up balloons in. 
  • A child from each team has to run from a starting point to their team’s basket and grab a balloon.
  • They then have to sit on the balloon until it pops, at which point they run back to their team, and the next child sets off.
  • The first team to pop all their balloons wins.

2. EGG AND SPOON RACE

You can’t get much more classic than an Egg and Spoon race. The first race of its kind was in the UK circa 1894 and it went on to be played as part of the party celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897!

Props: Eggs and spoons! Either the real deal or buy an egg and spoon race kit like this one.

How to play:

  • Boil some eggs until they are very hard. Or, you could buy an egg and spoon race kit.
  • Provide paints or coloured pens for the kids to decorate the hardboiled eggs if you want to add an extra party activity to this game.
  • Line the kids up at one end of the room/garden and give each child a spoon and an egg to balance on it.
  • The children race to the finish line.
  • Each time they drop the egg, they have to go back to the start and start again.

3. MUSICAL CHAIRS

Musical Chairs is a fun game of jeopardy that’s good to play once the kids have warmed up and aren’t feeling shy.

Props: Enough chairs for the number of kids at the party. NB: Make sure the chairs are sturdy so there aren’t any accidents.

Rules:

  • Set up a line of chairs back to back with enough chairs for every child.
  • Play some music as the children dance and move around the chairs.
  • When the music stops, each child must sit down on a chair.
  • When the music starts for the second round, remove one or two chairs so that one or two kids end up without a chair to sit on when the music stops.
  • The aim of the game is for the kids to rush to a seat so that they aren’t the ones left without one.
  • Give the kids who are out a small prize.
  • The last child left is the overall winner. You can also play this game using cushions if you don’t want to use chairs.

Tip: Play Musical Bumps using cushions if you feel this game is a bit too full-on for younger kids.

4. PASS THE PARCEL

Now, Pass the Parcel is a classic among classic party games. However, there are tactics you can employ, dependent on the size of the group and the age of the kids, to ensure it’s lots of fun.

Pass the Parcel tips:

  • Have a small treat, like a sweet/candy under each layer alongside a big prize in the middle, so every child wins something
  • For large groups of younger kids have more than one parcel to pass. I’d suggest having one parcel per five kids.

Props: Tissue paper or newspaper, wrapped soft sweets/candy and a large prize for the centre of each parcel.

How to play:

  • Sit the kids in a circle, play some music, and when the music stops, the child/children holding the parcel/s unwrap a layer and find the small prize.
  • Continue the game until all the layers have been unwrapped and the winner/winners have unwrapped a slightly larger prize at the centre of the parcel. 

5. PIN THE TAIL ON THE DONKEY

Pin The Tail on the Donkey is such a classic! It’s also a great game for adapting to suit a party theme, think Pin The Hat on the Pirate or Pin The Horn on the Unicorn.

Props: Draw a donkey on a large piece of paper and make a tail from a separate piece of card. OR pop over to my Pin the Tail Printables roundup post for five fabulous printables. Plus, have a blindfold/scarf ready.

How to play:

  • Blindfold the children one at a time. Then get the blindfolded player to try and attach the tail with Bluetak or a pin to the picture.
  • Write the child’s name in the spot where they pin the tail.
  • The child who gets closest to where the tail should be is the winner.

6. PIÑATA

Piñatas have been hugely popular in the US and South America for years, and they have gained in popularity in the UK over the last few years.

Props: A piñata (!) stuffed with candy/sweets. You can either opt for a piñata with pulls or one that has to be bashed with a stick. If you want to try making one yourself take a look at my roundup of lovely, easy-to-follow piñata making tutorials.

How to play:

  • Buy or make the piñata. Stuff it with sweets.
  • Hang it up and let the kids take turns to whack it with a stick (pull the tags) until the sweets come tumbling out.

GAMES THAT DON’T NEED PROPS

Here are some absolute classic games that don’t need any props.

7. WHEELBARROW RACE

Wheelbarrow races are hugely entertaining and often involve more giggling than racing.

How to play:

  • Divide the party guests into pairs.
  • One child is a wheelbarrow, which means that they have their hands on the ground and their legs held by their partner.
  • Line all the pairs up on the starting line and challenge them to race to the other end of the racecourse.
  • The first pair across the line wins!

8. DUCK DUCK GOOSE

Duck Duck Goose is a traditional game that is often played at preschool or nursery. It also works well as a group party game.

How to play:

  • Get all the kids to sit in a circle. One child stands up and walks around the outside of the circle saying “duck, duck, goose” over and over until they pat someone on the head as they say “goose”.
  • The child who has been ‘goosed’ has to jump up and try and catch the child who has just ‘goosed’ them.
  • If the child being chased manages to run around the circle and take the seat of the ‘goosed’ child, then the child who was ‘goosed’ starts the game over.
  • If not, then the original child goes again.

9. SIMON SAYS 

Now Simon Says is a particularly interesting game to play in an era where everyone’s attention span is equivalent to that of a goldfish! The key is to notice whether the caller says ‘Simon Says’ before issuing a command.

How to play:

  • A parent or other willing adult needs to be ‘Simon’ and issue commands to the kids
  • If Simon says, “Simon says….” ahead of telling the kids what to do next, the kids MUST do what they’ve been told.
  • If Simon doesn’t say “Simon says…” ahead of telling them what to do next, the children MUST NOT do it.
    • For example,
    • “Simon says jump up and down”
    • The kids all jump up and down.
    • “Wave your arms”
    • The children should stay doing the previous activity.
    • Any kids that get it wrong have to move to the side.
    • The game continues until there is either a single winner or a handful of winners. 

10. MOTHER MAY I?

Mother May I was traditionally a schoolyard game, but it’s long since been played as a party game. It’s very similar to What’s The Time Mr. Wolf?

How to play:

  • A parent or other adult is ‘Mother’ and stands with their back to the players
  • Get the children to line up at the other end of the room/garden.
  • Each child, in turn, asks, “Mother, may I?”
  • In response, ‘Mother’ gives the kids a command…
  • For example, “You may take X number of giant footsteps”.
  • The first child to reach ‘Mother’ and tap her on the back wins.
  • Mother May I commands include X number of the following steps either forward or backward:
    • Giant footsteps
    • Tip-toe steps
    • Pigeon steps (small, quick steps that resemble a pigeon walking)
    • Hops
    • Strides
  • For example:
  • “You may take X number of giant/regular/baby/steps… either forwards or backwards.
  • The first child to get to ‘Mother’ and tap her on the back wins.

11. FOLLOW THE LEADER

Follow the Leader is probably the most simple game on this list, but it can be so. much. fun.

How to play:

  • Line all the children up with the birthday child as the leader (or a willing parent/adult if the birthday child is too shy).
  • The kids have to follow the leader around the room.
  • You could create an obstacle course for the kids to go around.
  • Or you could have different things that the leader has to do at certain points – like blow a raspberry or wiggle their bottom – and then everyone else has to do the same.
  • Change the leader at various points during the game.

12. SLEEPING LIONS

Sleeping Lions is a wonderful game to use to simmer kids down towards the end of a party or before you serve food.

How to play:

  • Ask all the kids to lie on the floor
  • Ask them to lie as quietly and still as possible (i.e. to behave like sleeping lions)
  • A parent or willing adult then walks in amongst the kids, stopping to look over kids to make them extra nervous about moving or making a sound!
  • Any child who moves or makes a noise has to move to the side. Perhaps give them a sweet treat for trying hard!
  • The last child left on the floor is the winner

Before you go…

I’ve got a whole section full of party game ideas for kids of all ages.