Now that school is in session, you’ll probably see an increase in birthday party invitations – especially for those in grade school. Are you looking for something beyond taking the kids to Chuck E. Cheese or the playing pin the tail on the donkey? We’ve got some ideas for you that are easy and fun to implement. Based on an unofficial survey (of our kids) these are winners!


Now that the copyright to the “Happy Birthday Song” has been ruled invalid, feel free to sing it while serving the cake or cupcakes and blowing out the candles.

You can also partake in some of these fun, and active, happy birthday activities for your grade school and middle school children.
  • Treasure Hunt. This is combination brain exercise, fitness activity and a way to make giving out the mandatory “party bags” a little more fun. Make sure you set the ground rules such as no running in the house and no pushing other players aside. For younger children, create little rhymes that lead from one place to the other throughout the house, and outside as well (weather permitting). We liked Doctor Seuss style rhymes and hid clues under beds, in the oven, in a closet and the last clue led to the party bags which were all in the washing machine. This is an annual event that kids look forward to. Middle schoolers can be taken to the school (after dark) and given flashlights to find clues taped to a slide, on top of a climbing wall, on the pitcher’s mound and other places from one end of the school to the other. Clues can be trivia-related and no longer need to rhyme. This even works in high school. Local merchants are in on the “game” and the partiers must say something or ask something to be given the next clue by a store merchant.
  • Birthday Olympics. Once again, brain games and fitness games work well in combination. Keep a “scoreboard” with names and event times or other stats. You can combine strength skills (# of push-ups), agility skills (# of times skipping rope), speed (time to run around the house or apartment complex once), ball skills (# of free throws made in 5 minutes) and eye-hand coordination (ball through a hoop toss). Make sure you also have brain skills such as solving an age-appropriate crossword puzzle, finding Waldo (timed event) and completing an addition and subtraction sheet (timed event). If you have nine children, have nine activities so there is a way to award a “prize” to each partier. If one child wins in seven categories, he or she can only be the official “winner” of one of them, so everybody wins a category all their own.
  • Traffic Lights. Best played outdoors. Have the party guests run freely, then call out “red,” “yellow” or “green.” Players must stop on red, sit on yellow, and go on green, but no one is called out if they forget. Mix things up by having them perform a different movement (dance, hop, crawl, etc.) for each round. The party gifts can be awarded by a parent for made up categories like “best dance moves,” “fastest hopper,” funniest crawl,” or “creative slithering.”
  • Group Juggle. The party kids start with guests standing in a tight circle. Give the birthday child a soft, mid-sized ball (one that all the guests can easily throw and catch). The first child tosses the ball across the circle to another player, then that player tosses it back to the child next to the birthday kid, and so on around the circle. For young players, you may need to help by calling out the name so the children know who is next. To make the game a little harder, you can widen the circle a bit. Next, add a second ball. Next, add a third ball. Add up to four balls total to create the very cool illusion that your circle is a giant juggling machine!
  • Shoebox Race. This can be played indoors – but clear the furniture to the side! You’ll need two shoeboxes per participant. Tape the lids securely to shoeboxes and cut slits in the top about 1 inch wide and 4 inches long. This can be a relay race if you don’t have enough shoeboxes to go around. This could also fit with a theme like outer space (paint boxes silver and call them astronaut boots), animals (decorate boxes to look like hooves or paws) or race cars (have kids draw wheels and racing stripes on the boxes).
  • Follow the (Secret) Leader. This is a good cool down game if the party is too wild or one that you could play right before the parents come to retrieve their children. Have the children sit in a circle. Choose one person to be the “guesser” and have that person leave the circle and go to another room where they can’t see the circle. By pointing, silently choose someone to be “it.” Do this by pointing at them so that the “guesser” can’t hear who you have chosen. The other children in the circle, however, need to see who you picked. The child who is “it” begins making a quiet hand or foot motion. He could pat his head, flap his legs like butterfly wings, or tap his feet on the floor, for example. As soon as “it” begins making a movement, the rest of the circle should imitate him or her. Every five seconds or so, “it” should change the movement to something different. The rest of the children all follow the (silent) leader and make the same movement. The “guesser” come back to the circle and has two chances to guess who “it” is. If the “guesser” can’t figure out who is leading the group, the person who was “it” becomes the next “guesser.” Those who make the correct choice, choose the next “it” when the previous “it” leaves the room. Repeat until everyone has had a chance to be both “guesser” and “it.”
Some of these games, like traffic lights and group juggle, are not hugely time-consuming, so you will want to combine two of them for a fun time.


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