Simon Says Grown-ups make better "Simons" than kids (who get corrupted by the power and will never step down). Everyone must do whatever Simon says, as long as Simon prefaces his or her request with the phrase, "Simon says ..." So "Simon says, stand on one foot" must be complied with, but "Jump up and down" should not. Anyone who compliles at the wrong time is out. Last one in the game wins -- and, if you're willing to risk it, becomes the next Simon.
Red Light, Green Light You're in the middle, with your back to a lineup of panting kids. At "Green Light!" they'll creep/walk/run toward you -- until you spin and holler "Red Light." Anyone who doesn't instantly freeze is sent back to Start. First to touch you switches places.
Hot and Cold Hide a toy or other prize in a room with one person absent and everyone else in on the deal. Bring in the absent one, and as he looks around, the crowd hums like bees -- louder when the seeker is looking in the right place, quietly or softly when he's not.
Hide and Seek Try the sardine version, where one person goes off to hide, and the rest stay behind. After a count of 100, everyone scatters to look. If you're one of the lookers, and if you find the hider, you have to squeeze into the same hiding spot and keep quiet. Ditto for the next one who finds the two of you, until everyone is squeezed into the one spot, and only one looker is left. A great opportunity for the giggles.
Sneaky Patty Gather everyone into a circle with a chair in the middle. Under the chair, put a teddy. On the chair, put the birthday child, wearing a blindfold. Turn on some music. One by one, the guests try to sneak up (hands and knees) to snatch the teddy away. The blindfolded child has to stay seated, but can flail around with her hands, trying for a blind tag. If she gets somebody, that child has to switch places with her.
No-Reading Treasure Hunt This treasure hunt works for pre-readers. On 10 individual 3x5 cards, draw pictures of 10 things from around your house and yard. Hide all the clues but one before the party. When it's time to play, gather the group around you. Hand out the first clue and away they go. (Example: If the first clue has a fridge drawn on it, they'll race off to the fridge where they'll find the clue with the welcome mat drawn on it. Then they'll race off to the welcome mat where they'll find the clue with the next item drawn on it.) The last clue, of course, has a picture of you on it. When the group finally gets back there, it's probably cupcake time. If you can't draw, cut out pictures from magazines or photocopy some snapshots.
Continued on page 2: Circle Games