26 Birthday Party Games for Kids to Get the Party Started (And Keep It Going)
The presents have been opened and the cake has been devoured...now what? When you’ve got a bunch of kids gathered together and hopped up on sugar, you need a game plan. Good news: Our round up of the best birthday party games for kids of all ages will burn off some of that energy while keeping the party vibes going.
1. Pass the Parcel
Fast-paced and fun, this classic party game will be an instant hit with kids—and all you need is one present and plenty of wrapping paper (i.e., enough to wrap said present multiple times) to pull it off. To begin play, simply start and stop music as the guests pass the parcel around in a circle; whenever the music stops, the person holding the present gets to remove one layer or wrapping paper before the passing resumes. The game ends when one lucky partygoer sheds the final layer of wrapping and wins the prize. Hint: You might consider putting candy or a small prize in between each layer of wrapping paper so that no one walks away empty-handed.
2. Water Balloon Toss
Head outdoors with a bucket of water balloons for a test of hand-eye coordination that’s sure to make a splash. The rules are simple: Guests divide into pairs and toss a water balloon back and forth, taking one big step back with every successful catch. If the water balloon bursts, the pair is out of luck (and out of the game). Needless to say, the last twosome standing wins the toss—though that doesn’t mean they're safe from the water balloon fight that will likely ensue.
3. Hide and Seek
This popular game for kids has stood the test of time, so we probably don’t need to tell you how to play. Suggest a round of hide-and-seek at a birthday party and children will eagerly scatter to various hiding spots in and outside the home. As for the seeker, his mission will grow stronger with each uncovered partygoer that joins his team.
4. Treasure Hunt
Make the kids work for their goody bags with a good old fashioned treasure hunt. To organize it, simply hide clues around the house or yard that, little by little, disclose the location of the loot. You can even create a map if you prefer—either way, the difficulty level can be tailored to the age of the guests in attendance so it’s sure to go over well with any crowd.
5. Musical Chairs
Chances are you already know how to play this classic party game, but just in case you need a refresher: Kids pace around a circle of chairs—one chair less than the number of guests—while music plays, and then compete for a seat when the tunes are put on pause. The kid left standing is out and one chair is removed before the next round begins. By the end of the game, two kids will be competing for a single seat...and the title of musical chair champion, of course.
A miming-and-guessing game known and loved by all, this activity promises to entertain kids and adults alike. That said, you should probably steer clear of charades at parties for the preschool crowd, since it’s highly likely a 4-year-old would curl up in a ball on the floor and then get disappointed when no one guesses ‘toaster’ (for example).
Another beloved guessing game for players of all ages, Pictionary is also particularly well-suited to larger groups. The gist of this game is that guests are divided into two teams and one person from each team is nominated to bring one word to life with a sketch while their teammates try to guess what’s being drawn. Exciting, creative and often uproariously funny (particularly when unskilled artists are involved)—this one is a winner. Bonus: This one can also be adapted for play without the board game.
8. Red Rover
Red Rover is basically a childhood rite of passage, so it’s sure to be appreciated by both the young partygoers and the parents watching from the wings. In case you’ve forgotten, Red Rover consists of two human chains of tiny people, who then take turns calling for an opposing teammate to be sent over to try to break the link. This one is a ton of fun, but it’s best played outdoors, and a rather large group is required for the full experience.
9. Relay Race
Relay races are a reliably exciting addition to the party game lineup—not to mention, an excellent way to wear out a group of energetic kids. This track and field event consists of two teams competing against each other in a race with multiple legs. Each team member completes one component of the race and then gets relieved by the next teammate in line. There are endless variations on this one, so you can get creative and even add some silly challenges for good measure.
10. Balloon Waddle
This party game requires only one prop—and if there’s a birthday celebration happening, you likely already have it on hand. Best of all, the balloon waddle—a game in which participants race one another whilst trying to hold a birthday balloon securely between their legs—is as fun for grown-ups to watch as it is for little kids to participate in. Yep, try this one out and hilarity will surely follow.
11. Freeze Tag
In freeze tag—a well-established variation on the classic game—there are two players, designated as ‘it,’ who must run around trying to tag the rest of the fleeing partygoers. In this version, a player is neither out nor ‘it’ upon getting tagged—instead, a tagged player must freeze in place until another player comes around to unfreeze them with a double high five, at which point they can rejoin the game again. Given the amount of running involved, it goes without saying that this party game is best played outdoors. That said, it’s a great way for kids to burn off the post-birthday cake sugar high.
12. Marco Polo
You’re probably familiar with Marco Polo as a popular water game, but you needn’t be throwing a pool party for the guests to get in on the fun. Indeed, Marco Polo can be played in much the same way on land with one blindfolded child calling out ‘Marco’ and the rest of the players forced to reveal their location by answering ‘Polo’ in response, whilst trying to escape being tagged.
13. Capture the Flag
This traditional kid-friendly sport involves two teams, two markers (flag, bandana or basically anything else) and one objective: capture the opponents flag. All players who get caught (i.e., tagged) during an attempt to capture the flag get sent to “jail’—a cone-marked boundary on the opposing team’s side of the field—until a teammate makes a mad dash to set them free. The game continues until someone successfully captures the flag and brings it across to their team’s side of the field. Bottom line: If you have access to a large grassy field on which to play, this one promises to serve up plenty of entertainment and exercise to boot.
14. Hot Potato
Hot potato is a shoo-in for the preschool birthday party crowd, and all you need is a ball to play. To start, simply have the young guests gather round in a circle and start passing a ball to each other as quickly as possible while a quick tune plays—whoever is caught holding the ball when the music stops has to sit out the game in the center of the circle (i.e., where hot potato soup is made). This fast-paced activity is plenty engaging for little kids and will likely bring lots of laughter, too.
15. Truth or Dare
It’s not a tween party without a round (or several) of truth or dare—the game that challenges players to choose between spilling some deep, dark secret or opting to complete a wild or daring task. Hopefully the partygoers have enough good sense to not take this one too far—but in the age of dangerous TikTok trends, parents might want to keep an eye on how the game goes down—you know, in case something a tad too reckless is suggested as a dare.
16. Pin the Tail on the Donkey
Pin the Tail on the Donkey is a must at any birthday party for little kids. This one requires little explanation: Just hang a poster of a donkey or some other character—there are plenty of variations on the theme—and give each guest a turn to pin the tail in the proper place after being blindfolded and spun in circles. It’s no easy feat, and the failed attempts sure are funny to watch.
17. Potato Sack Race
A bunch of happy hoppers trying to cross the finish line with their legs confined to a single potato sack is a recipe for one entertaining race. Any birthday party for kids that’s taking place outdoors, or has the option of backyard access, will benefit from this goofy game.
Is it even a birthday party if there’s no piñata? We think not. String up one of these paper mâché wonders—preferably one that corresponds to the theme of the party—and watch as the young savages take turns bashing it in an effort to claim the candy inside. It’s a whole lot of fun with a decidedly sweet reward.
19. Obstacle Course
There are no shortage of ways to set up an obstacle course so feel free to get as creative as you’d like with this one (think: stepping stones and makeshift balance beams). The activity can also go down inside the home or outdoors, so there’s flexibility there—just be sure to design the course with safety in mind and tailor it to the physical ability of the age group that will be participating.
20. Balloon Keep-up
Make sure you have a few helium-free balloons among the party decorations, because a game of balloon keep-up will keep kids entertained for quite a while. The game is exactly what it sounds like—a frantic effort among a group of kids to keep a balloon (or several) from touching the floor. Lively and energetic, balloon keep-up can be played outdoors or in the home—provided you remove any breakables in advance.
21. Simon Says
Charades might be a miss with Pre-K crowd, but Simon Says certainly will not. An adult can play the part of Simon, or you can even put the birthday kid in the position of power for this one—either way, the whole gang will have a blast following along...and then realizing that they shouldn’t have. (Oops...Simon didn’t say!)
This game is essentially a novel twist on hide-and-seek in that only one person hides and everybody else seeks. However, when one seeker discovers the location of the hiding kid, he doesn’t blow up her spot. Instead, the two players hide together in the same place and wait for more seekers to find them and do the same. At the end of the game, you’ve got a bunch of kids packed in like sardines, and the search party has dwindled down to one seeker with the (presumably easier) task of finding the whole crew.
23. Fishing for Prizes
This birthday party spin on a classic carnival game involves kids fishing in an inflatable pool for a bunch of magnetic toys. It’s easy enough to buy magnetic fishing wands for the purpose, and there are a range of cool trinkets, like foam bath toys, that kids can effectively catch and take home as a prize.
24. Egg and Spoon Race
Kids are sure to have a grand time with this one, whether you include it as a leg in your relay race or leave it as a stand-alone event. As for the rules of play, each kid competes to cross the finish line first while balancing a hardboiled egg on a spoon. Fortunately, a dropped egg will not make a mess or remove a player from the race. That said, any competitor who fumbles does have to go back to the starting line to try again...which isn’t eggs-cellent news. (Sorry, we had to.)
25. Minute to Win it Games
There are a whole host of minute to win it games out there to choose from and they all go down exactly as you might guess (i.e., 60 seconds to complete some type of task before another partygoer beats you to it). One example, pictured above, is a game in which kids compete to eat a whole donut, dangling from a string and swaying in the breeze, before the clock runs out. No matter which minute-to-win-it you go with, though, you’re guaranteed some fast-paced fun.
26. Corn Hole
You’ll need to purchase a cornhole set (i.e., board and bean bags) for this birthday party diversion, but the investment is well worth it—namely because corn hole doesn’t have to be an organized event. Instead, this game of hand-eye coordination can be set up for casual play so that guests of all ages can give it a go at their leisure. In other words, this is low-maintenance entertainment at its finest.