Children's Party Games Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Children's Party Games

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Do you remember going to a party as a child? A proper party with jelly, games and goodie bags? You'd start off by handing your coat over to your friend's mum, feeling a little bit shy, all your clothes clean and well ironed. Then, on hearing a cheesy sing-a-long soundtrack played in the background, somehow the devil in you triggered (or perhaps it was the tartrazine in the orange squash). For the next hour you whooped happily and ran round in circles. In an effort to calm the afternoon, everyone sat down diving into the piles of cheesy Wotsits and iced gems...

We asked after the details of the party games you played back then. Below is your phenomenal and highly informative response.

A Few Old Favourites

What better way to start an entry on party games than with a section of those tried and tested favourites that you remember from your own childhood? Let's see how many memories these bring back...

Musical Chairs

The children dance round some chairs, then when the music stops they all try to sit down. Any child who is without a chair has to sit the rest of the game out. Gradually chairs are removed until there's only one left.

Pass the Parcel

A many-layered parcel is passed around. Whoever has it when the music stops gets to remove one layer. In the middle is a prize. If you don't want anyone to lose, put a prize in each layer and rig it to ensure everyone wins at least once. Alternatively, put some forfeits in as well.


Fill a large bowl or bucket with water, throw an apple in. Let the kids grab an apple without using their hands but only their teeth only. Adult supervision is well advised. Variations can include strawberries, plums, or whatever is in season.

On a Picnic

This game is good for two or three or more older kids. I remember playing it in the car when my friends and I would go out driving on a weekend, but it would work well for parties or sleep-overs.

The idea is to bring things on a picnic starting with consecutive letters of the alphabet. One person is chosen to start, and would say 'I'm going on a picnic and I'm going to bring apples.' The next person would say then 'We're going on a picnic and I'm going to bring beans, and [Katy's] going to bring apples.'

On a person's turn they have to name an item that starts with the next consecutive letter, then list all the items that have already been 'brought' back to 'A'. Not all items have to be food.

The game can be varied in a number of ways. You can rule that no items may be food, all items must be food, or you can go on a 'campout' instead of a picnic and all items can be camping-related. You can start with letters other than A, and once the alphabet's gone through you can keep going or start over.

A word of warning: make sure the letter B goes to a reasonably well-behaved kid, else the game will go 'My granny went shopping and she brought a 'bra', and you won't get anything but giggles out of the children for a good 15 minutes. Then everyone who has a turn after that gets to say 'Bra' as well.

When I used to play it, it was traditional to have A as an articulated lorry - to get everything home in!

Any Number

The group is divided into little groups of around three or four, and given a piece of A4 paper and some crayons. The piece of paper is folded from top to bottom so that there is a section for each player. Next, take it in turns to draw a section of a body - human or animal or monster- so that when unfolded these parts make a whole creature. The 'best' is judged and a prize given.

The Mummy's Corpse

This is a little grim but will generate squeals of delight from the little monsters. It may be a bit messy though...

... were blindfolded you are given a bowl of cold cooked spaghetti (the Mummy's brain), a bag with grapes inside (the Mummy's heart), and then finally your fingers were squidged into a small pot of jam (the Mummy's eye).

Right spooky for kiddies!


This is much less complicated than it sounds. It works for numbers from eight upwards and is suitable for kids aged eight onwards.

  1. Kids stand in a circle, adult stands in the middle.

  2. Adult makes custard pie gesture towards one child, shouting 'Splat!'.

  3. That child ducks.

  4. The children on either side of this child in the circle shout 'Splat!' at each other, and make a splat gesture. No physical contact!

  5. The slowest child of the two is out and sits down, but stays in the circle. If it's a tie, they both stay in.

  6. Eventually, you'll be down to two kids. They have to have a 'Splat!-off'. They stand back to back, and take a step forward every time an adults says a word. When the keyword (eg, 'Splat'!) is shouted, they have to turn and splat each other. The winner wins, the loser is second.

Optional rules: when they get the hang of it, kids can also be out for not ducking quickly enough, or for shouting 'Splat! at the wrong time.

Boy Scouts

The following games are one Researcher's favourites from his time as a Boy Scout - fun and easy to prepare, they are guaranteed to keep kids quiet for extended periods of time.

Kim's Game

Arrange a bunch of items on a blanket and cover them. Then gather all the kids around and uncover the stuff on the blanket and give them two minutes to memorize everything they see there. Then recover everything and give them paper and a pencil to write down all the items they remember. The winner is the one who remembers the most stuff.


This is another old game from Boy Scouts that's fun for kids aged five and up.

  1. Blindfold a person and sit them on a chair with a set of keys underneath.

  2. Then the rest of the group lines up and tries to walk up quietly, steal the keys and return to the starting line.

  3. The person in the chair points at people he hears and they are 'out'. It works in a large room or outside.

It's pretty fun. The winner gets to sit in the chair next. Or when everyone is 'out' you can just pick another. Kids will play this for hours if you let them - and the object of the game is silence.


This is fun for older kids, age ten or so and older, and for groups of five to eight.

Two kids start out acting a scene which can be anything at all: playing ball, dancing, eating a meal, driving a car, anything. While the two are acting, one of the rest of the group (who are watching) calls 'Stop!' or 'Freeze!'. The two who are acting stop in mid-motion, and the person who called 'stop' takes the place of one of the people frozen, but has to replace them in the same pose they were in. The person that was removed joins the rest of the spectators, and restarts the scene by saying 'Go!'.

The game continues until everyone is bored - this may take some time.

Four Corners

The more people you have for this game, the better (more than ten, preferably). Find a room with four corners, and number them one to four (make sure everyone playing knows what corner is what number). Pick one child to be 'it' and blindfold them, then have everyone run to a corner (any corner, but make sure people split up). The kid known as 'it' calls out a number from one to four. The people in that corner are all out, then everyone scatters to another corner, or stays in the same one (it's okay to go to the corner that was just called, but it might get called again, so watch out!). Play like this until one person remains, or everyone is out. It's fun and exhilarating, especially if you're a youngster.

Heads up Seven up

You need at least 14 people for this, another reason why this game was often played in school. Pick seven people to be 'it'. Everyone else puts their heads down and their thumbs up. The chosen seven sneak around and push down the thumb of any person they choose. (One to one ratio). Then, when everyone has made their selections, someone calls out 'Head's up, seven up!'. The seven people who had their thumbs pushed down stand up, and each person gets one guess to pick who chose them. If they get it right, they take the person's place. If they don't, they sit down, and their chooser stays up. To play with fewer people, have three or five people be it.

Both of these games are good for about six years to ten, but even older children will enjoy them. As far as keeping children entertained, don't allow any downtime. Have breaks for snacks, but not enough time for milling around and getting into trouble. Prizes always offer an added thrill, but don't leave anyone out!

Hot Potato

This works well for Christmas parties or other gift-exchange parties, or perhaps would be a good way to distribute goodies. You will need a wrapped gift for every child that will be playing and music - a CD or cassette player will work best.

All the children sit in a circle and a wrapped gift (goodie) is given to one child in the circle. Start the music, and while the music plays the gift is passed around the circle like a 'hot potato', quickly so it doesn't 'burn' fingers. Randomly stop the music, and whichever child is holding the 'hot potato' when the music stops is out, but gets to keep and unwrap the gift.

What's the Time Mr Wolf?

Ideally played in a fairly large space. One child or an adult is Mr Wolf and stands at one end of the allocated space with their back to the children who stand at the other end. They chant 'What's the time Mr Wolf?' Mr Wolf replies for example, 'Four O'clock'. The children then take four steps towards Mr Wolf. This continues until Mr Wolf replies instead 'Dinner time', turns and runs to try and catch one of the children. The captured child then becomes Mr Wolf. If the children reach Mr Wolf before he calls dinner time, then the game is repeated with the same Mr Wolf.

Duck, Duck, Goose

The children sit in a circle with one standing to start the game. This child walks round the outside of the circle tapping each child on the head saying 'duck'. At a random point he/she changes this to 'goose' and runs off round the circle. The 'goose' must jump up and run in the opposite direction. Whichever child reaches the vacant place first sits down and the loser continues the game.

Singing Games

There's nothing better for generating a great party spirit than a rip-roaring sing-a-long. The thing to remember is to keep the lyrics short, sweet and easy to remember and also to get some action to accompany your tune. The following should give you a little inspiration.

Farmer's in his Den

Children stand in a circle with one child selected as the farmer in the centre. Sing/chant:

The farmer's in his den
The farmer's in his den
e-i-adio, the farmer's in his den.
The farmer wants a wife
The farmer wants a wife
e-i-adio, the farmer wants a wife

The farmer then chooses another child to go into the centre as 'the wife'. Continue with the following verses 'The wife wants a child', 'The child wants a dog', 'The dog wants a bone' (and any others you wish to invent), then each character chooses the next child to join them. Finish with 'We all pat the dog', patting the child on the head who is being 'the dog'.


This nursery rhyme is surprisingly enduring. Hold hands in a circle and sing:

Ring-a-ring-a roses,
a pocketful of posies,
a-tishoo a-tishoo,
we all fall down

Everyone then sits down on last line.

Oranges and Lemons

For 'Oranges and Lemons' you'll need to choose one child to be an orange and another to be a lemon. They hold hands to form an arch through which the other children process while singing the song:

Oranges and lemons
Say the bells of St Clements
You owe me five farthings
Say the bells of St Martins
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey
When I grow rich
Say the bells of Shoreditch
When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney
I'm sure I don't know
Says the great bell at Bow

At this point the arch starts chopping down to 'Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head, chop chop chop chop'. With the last chop they seize a child who has to choose to be an orange or lemon and stand behind the appropriate child, holding their waist. Repeat until all have been 'chopped'. Then you can have a 'tug-o-war' to see which team can pull the other over/let go first.


Often referred to as tomorrow's chip paper, newspapers can serve a much more functional and fun purpose at a children's party. The following are truly inspirational.


This works best with a large group of kids, and you only need newspaper and music! You could even play it with a group of older kids or adults!

Basically, you need a sheet of newspaper for every five players (although one or two extra won't hurt for larger groups), spread around the room. Ideally, there should be a reasonable amount of space between each sheet. Similar to musical chairs (see above), except that whenever the music stops, everyone has to stand on a bit of the newspaper. Anyone not standing on newspaper after a few seconds (or failing that, the last person to get on the newspaper) is considered out - they then get to help with judging the next rounds.

Every couple of rounds, you can either take away one sheet of newspaper or tear half off each sheet. If they didn't know each other before the party, they will by the end of it.

Dressing Up

Divide the children into pairs or small groups. Provide newspaper, sticky tape and scissors (supervision will be required). One child of each pair/group is the mannequin to be dressed by the other(s). You could specify a theme in advance or have winners of different categories eg, most original, practical.

Newspaper Quiz

Get several duplicate copies of a paper or magazine. Prepare a series of questions relating to the contents of the paper, suitable for the age of participants (suggest over 7s). Divide the children into teams of about three or four. Ask the questions one at a time - the first team to provide the answer wins a point, the team with most points at the end is the overall winner.

A note about winners - my mum used to have a big tin of sweets and the winner had first choice, but everyone else had a sweet too to avoid anyone failing to get anything.

A Treasure Hunt

This is recommended for an enclosed space, or at least with adult supervision.

Write out the clues as simple as possible, so the little darlings aren't stumped and tempted to throw a tantrum. Invest in a tin of sweets and chocolates, and make up your own prizes with one of each type of sweet, bagged and tied with ribbon.

Award prizes for the amount of clues found, as well as the big prize for solving the hunt. Also award a prize for anyone who didn't win a prize so there's no disappointed little faces and to be fair.

Always award extra prizes for 'tidier-uppers' - they'll save you time later.

Shark Attack

Get the children to form a circle but place two chairs close together in the circle with a slight gap between them. Give each child a fish name, ie, cod, haddock, plaice, salmon and after each cycle shark. Tell a story of how the fish left the harbour (the gap in your circle is the harbour entrance). When they are mentioned as going for a swim they go out the entrance and walk in the direction of all the other fish.

  • If the tide turns they must change direction.

  • If a storm hits they start to run.

  • Never let the sharks come out of the harbour.

When you shout 'Shark Attack!' all the sharks don't have to leave by the harbour entrance but can walk over the walls. However, the fish have to return via the harbour entrance. Any fish that are caught will become sharks for the next attack. So some of the kids will want to be caught just to become sharks.

Musical Statues

You play the music and when the music stops they have to stay dead still while you walk among them until you have eliminated enough because they have moved. Be fair and don't pick favourites and allow the statues to breathe.

For an added twist, you can shout out a theme for the statue such as a type of animal or action. Best to do this before the music stops though.

Knights, Roundheads and Cavaliers

You need roughly equal numbers of both sexes. You can either pair them up or make them grab the nearest available member of the opposite sex (depending on how much of an ice breaker this age group will allow you to have). A caller shouts out a succession of either 'Knight', 'Roundhead' or 'Cavalier' as the music stops.

When 'Knight' is called the male half of the pair has to give his partner a piggy back (an alternative is for the female to give the piggy back, or to get down on all fours). For 'Roundhead' the male partner has to lift the girl in his arms (at speed this will be a sweeping round motion).

For 'Cavalier' he gets down on one knee and she sits on it. The winning couple are the two left at the end.


Or 'Räuber und Gendarm' used to be a very popular party game at my birthday party age. My dictionary (German-English) tells me 'Schnitzeljagd' is translated as 'paper-chase', while 'Räuber und Gendarm' may be translated as 'Brigand and Constable' or something.

Although probably well known, here is a short description of the game:

  1. Divide the group of kids in two, usually not equal in size (the hunters/constables may be the bigger group). The hunters or constables have to hunt the other group that gets some more or less significant lead - depending on age and number of kids. You may want to have an adult accompany each group.

  2. The hunted group has to reach a certain place or the starting place, before the other group catches them. Both to lead and to irritate the hunters, the first group has to leave marks made of paper scraps (Schnitzel) or stones or branches or drawn on stones with chalk. They must always indicate the right way but are allowed to fool the hunters by leading them other ways as well. At the end of a false way there always has to be an X-mark.

  3. Standard signs are:

    • --> (Arrows) to lead in a certain direction (either right or false).

    • Also, a star of arrows is possible to show different possible directions.

    • |-> (Anti-Arrow) to lead in the opposite direction than the pointed one.

    • X (Crosses) to mark the end of wrong ways.

Other signs may be arranged (before starting), like a string knotted to a branch on a bush beneath the way, for example. If the kids are in the mood, they will truly be exhausted - at least for a while - depending on the time permitted as lead, on the distance and on how tricky the groups are.

Scavenger hunts

My birthday falls in August so when I had parties they were always held outside away from the house. My parents decided it was easier to cope with a gang of noisy children outside and as result parties took place in the fields at the back of my home.
Things usually kicked off with a scavenger hunt. Small squares of coloured paper were hidden in hedgerows and scrubby bits of coppice in the morning and the idea was that each of us found one square of each colour (usually about ten different colours). We helped friends and traded squares as we needed to. Everyone who found all ten colours got a small prize (usually sweets of some sort), and of course with a bit of help everyone won something.

Any number can play, although it helps to have a rough idea of numbers prior to the party so that the squares can be scattered. The game can be made more challenging by dividing players into teams and awarding points for the number of squares collected, and more challenging depending upon how well the squares are hidden.

A good way to follow up a scavenger hunt is an egg drop. You will need: black bin bag, small box or container, string, sticky tape, balloons, everything else you can think of, and an egg. You need all this for each team. Points from the scavenger hunt can be used to 'buy' the above.

Teams (threes work well) have to construct a device into which an egg can be placed and then dropped from a height by an adult. This can be from a window or from a step ladder. The aim is to prevent the egg from breaking. Prizes can be awarded to everyone for various spurious reasons (egg not breaking, most broken egg, best idea, best looking device, noisiest team etc).


  • An adult should drop the device, and another adult should open the device at the bottom to see if it's broken - keep the kids away from the landing point! Put surviving eggs back in the box and hide it!!

  • Get the kids to shout a countdown, cheer for surviving eggs, and shout 'Wipeout' (or something) when they break.

  • Give the kids the egg as late as possible in the construction, and make sure you've got some spares.

  • Adults can play too!

  • Don't give them scissors.

  • Don't use your best carpet as the landing point.

Good luck!

Fairy Tale Walk

I obviously used to think this game was hilarious when I was young, although it's mostly suitable for children under 10 and can't have many players (and besides, a grown-up must act as the story teller), but I remember it was a good way to keep the b****rs entertained

What you do, is to chose a well-known fairy tale (Goldilocks is a good example) and each kid gets a character from the story (costumes may heighten the fun) and all the kids are to sit on chairs that are faced outwards in a circle. As the storyteller mentions each of the characters, the child playing the part is to run one time in the circle as fast as he/she can. If you forget yourself and don't stand up and run, you (and your character) is out of the game.

The game could go like this:

'Oh no,' said the little bear (run, sit down again) 'Goldilocks (run, sit down again) is sleeping in my bed!'. The little bear (run, sit down again) fetched Mama bear (run, etc.) and Papa bear (run, etc.)...
As far as I can remember, the funniest part was when there was just a few characters and the grown-up had to alter the story completely. Example; The story of 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' has to change drastically when there's no Goldilocks.

Fascinating how simply we are entertained as children...


Are there any children who do not like pizza?

One of the things we did at the last two birthdays (six and seven) for my eldest daughter was to have the kids make their own pizzas. A few days before we rolled out the dough and got it ready for them so on the day of the party, they could put on their own toppings - sauce, cheese, pepperoni, sausage, chopped green peppers, mushrooms, and sliced black olives.

While the pizza is cooking, you can play a party game or open gifts and within 15-20 minutes the pizzas are ready to come out of the oven.

Make the pizzas small little things 4-6 inches in diameter, but enough to fill their bellies. And they're more likely to eat it since they helped to make it. Smiley face pizzas are very popular - with kids using toppings for eyes, noses, mouths and hair.

One of the kids got really creative and made a 'lion' pizza where she put pepperoni around the outside of the crust like a lion's mane and then made a smiley face in the centre.

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