This easy relay race can work at a birthday party of any size. We think it's most fun with four to eight players.
- First, you'll need to make two pairs of shoe cups. Use a pushpin to poke holes in the bottom of plastic cups. Push a wide rubber band through the holes, and secure it inside the cup with a paper clip.
- To play, split the birthday party guests into two teams. The first player straps cups on her shoes and fills them with popcorn from a bag at the starting line. Then, she hustles to a basket on the other end of the lawn. After she dumps out her popcorn in the baskets and races back, the next player follows suit.
- The race is over when one of the bags of popcorn is empty. Measure the popcorn in the baskets to see which team actually got the most in.
Put a birthday-worthy twist on tug-of-war by elevating the game.
- Players stand on upended milk carts placed six to 12 feet apart.
- Then have players pull or relax a rope, attempting to force their opponent off of her crate.
Silly Sack Race
Kids want to move! This sack race will burn pent-up party energy and get lots of laughs along the way.
- Decorate plain potato sacks (found at online party supply stores) with felt cutouts to suit the party theme. Use fabric glue or fusible web and an iron to adhere the shapes to the sacks.
- Give each child a potato sack. Line the kids up in a grassy area. At the starting signal, have kids hop down a marked path (include a few curves to add a little challenge) to the finish line. Keep the path clear to prevent injuries.
Clothes Pin Tag
Combine playground tag and flag football in this easy birthday party game.
- Let each child decorate a clothes pin with markers, craft foam, and googly eyes.
- Clip the decorated pin on the back of each child's shirt.
- When you say "go," the kids can try to snatch other clothes pins without losing their own. The child with the most clothes pins at the end wins that round.
Supersize tic-tac-toe is perfect for an outdoor birthday party. Flying disks and a shower curtain transform into an easy party game.
- Use duct tape to block out squares on a shower curtain liner. Use more tape to mark which disks are Xs, or use color to divide the teams.
- Players stand behind a throw line and follow the rules of tic-tac-toe. If the disk lands off the board or in an occupied square, the player can throw again.
Pool Prize Search
On a hot summer day, the coolest party games involve water. This wet-and-wild game gives kids a great excuse to get soaked.
- Fill an inflatable pool with water. Hide a weighted ring or other treasures on the bottom of the pool. Fill the pool with inflatable balls and toys to make it difficult to see the bottom.
- Have a few kids at a time wade around the pool looking for the hidden treasure. Provide them with goggles, or make it more challenging by allowing them to only use their feet.
Editor's Birthday Tip: Add a twist by blindfolding the contestants. Have kids wade through the pool using only their feet to discover the underwater treasures. Encourage the onlookers to shout out advice. Make sure to supervise so everyone stays safe.
Nature Scavenger Hunt
Bugs and bark, pinecones and pebbles, dandelions and dried leaves -- kids adore the wonders found in the great outdoors. Set your child's birthday party outdoors, and organize a scavenger hunt.
- Arm each child or team with a list and a treasure box or bag. Offer tools, such as binoculars, magnifying glasses, and disposable cameras to inspire close observation. Set a time limit, and let them explore.
- Display the kids' finds for the remainder of the party. Offer prizes for completing the list and finding unique or difficult items, or let the children select other award categories.
Editor's Birthday Tip: Do some research before you make the list to make sure it's challenging yet achievable. Check out our free Nature Walk Guide below for tips and ideas.
A rowdy game of rocket toss is easy to put together.
- Use colorful duct tape to decorate 15-ounce metal cans.
- Fill three small socks with about 1/2 cup of rice, and tie the top with a ribbon. This will be the "rocket" that kids can toss at the cans.
- Give each birthday party guest three tries to knock down all the cans.
Make a maze-like pathway through fallen leaves, and birthday party attendees can race through it. No leaves in sight? Use rope or grass clippings and sticks to form the maze.
- Rake a curving path through fallen leaves.
- Have kids race together through the maze, or use a stopwatch to time each child.
Oversize Pickup Sticks
An old-fashioned favorite, pickup sticks gets a gigantic twist when the sticks are as big as the kids.
- Start with 30 wooden dowels; 1/2-inch-diameter dowels in a standard length, such as 48 inches, work well. Paint the ends with bright colors: red, blue, green, yellow, orange, and purple, for example.
- To start the game, drop the sticks on the ground in a big messy pile, and let the kids take turns picking up a stick. If a stick other than the one the child is removing wiggles, the child must return the stick and forgo his or her turn. At the end, the player with the most sticks wins.
Editor's Birthday Tip: Add a challenge to the game by assigning each player a color. The first player to successfully remove all the sticks of the assigned color wins the game.
Water Gun Game
Make a splash at your child's party with a fun water game.
- For each team, string a plastic bucket on a length of clothesline; make the lines the same length to be fair.
- With the buckets at one end of the clothesline, arm each team with a hose or large squirt guns. Using only water, the teams must race to move their bucket to the other end of the line.
Editor's Birthday Tip: Make this game even wilder. Arm a team with water balloons to use as obstacles and distractions while the other team tries to push its bucket across the finish line.
Flower Tic-Tac-Toe Game
Nature is calling for a game of tic-tac-toe.
- Set up simple tic-tac-toe boards on your lawn with small twigs or wooden dowels.
- Provide flower heads from your garden, or let children explore your yard for flower heads, stones, leaves, or other bits of nature to use as game pieces.
Editor's Birthday Tip: Alert parents about your plans for an outdoor party and ask about their children's allergies. Make sure to have silk flowers on hand, just in case.
Outdoor Checkerboard Game
You may not have a built-in checkerboard in your backyard, but it's easy to set one up for a birthday party.
- Cut large squares from sturdy poster board, and tack them to the ground in a checkerboard pattern. Use plant stakes or other stakes with rounded tops for safety. Or, chalk up your driveway to create the board.
- Make big beanbags or use two colors of Frisbee disks for the checkers.
- Have kids take turns moving their pieces across the board. Set up teams to involve everyone in the fun.
Editor's Birthday Tip: You can also use large square flooring tiles to make the board. Inexpensive tiles are available at home improvement stores.
Wild Wheels Obstacle Course
On-the-go kids will love wheeling and squealing on this obstacle course.
- Ask each child to bring his or her favorite set of wheels. It's also a good idea to have a few extra vehicles available.
- To create the course, arrange orange cones or other soft items in your yard or nearby park. Include curves, turns, and small hills, depending on the age and abilities of your racers. Fuel the kids' excitement by timing each racer as he or she pedals to the finish line.
- To make the course more challenging, set up stations along the way where children must stop to perform a task, such as twirling a Hula-Hoop for 10 seconds or blowing bubbles.