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At home kids birthday party games and activities - for all ages!

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Children wearing party hats and laughing

If you're having your child's birthday party at home, you'll want to have plenty of fun games and activities to keep the excitement flowing. This list of fun party games for kids is exactly what you need!

Rest assured that most of the activities here work just fine indoors, since you can't guarantee that you'll get good weather. In particular, if your child has a winter birthday in a cool climate you'll have to ensure all games are indoor anyway. I'm familiar with this because my youngest son has a winter birthday.

In addition, these birthday party activities are designed to keep kids of all ages moving and get their energy out.

1. Balloon hit

Hang balloons down from the ceiling and let kids whap them with their hands, jump up and down, etc. This is a great activity to have going when guests are arriving, as it immediately gives everyone something to do.

If you have a side room you can use for this, do it, since it means you can leave the balloons up there and they won't get in the way of other party activities. If you only have your sitting room available where you're having the other activities, don't worry - you can simply take down the balloons before the next activity. Enlist the kids for extra fun! - they'll love pulling down the balloons.

2. Nerf target practice competition

Instead of a nerf war, have them shoot targets for prizes. This has the added bonus of people being less likely to get hurt or for household items to get broken than it would in an out-and-out Nerf war.

3. Drawing on T-shirts

This is the perfect activity that doubles up as a party favor. Get a multi-pack of cheap T-shirts in kids sizes and one or two sets of fabric markers (kids will share the markers as they work). Then have each child decorate a shirt however they want. You can get the fabric markers and a multipack of T-shirts for this purpose from Michaels or from Amazon.com.

Important: you'll also need cardstock rectangles or something similar to put inside the T-shirts when they draw. This way the markers won't bleed through to the other side of the shirt.

I did a similar activity with pillowcases instead when I had a sleepover party for my child, and that was a huge hit with the guests.

4. Treasure hunt with clues

Have them do it as a group with a prize for everyone at the end. Creating and hiding the clues beforehand requires quite a bit of thought and planning on your part, but this can be a whole lot of fun for them. If a clue becomes too hard for the group, step in with a verbal hint

5. Scavenger hunt

This is a great alternative to a treasure hunt. Divide them up into 2 teams for this. If teams are uneven, the birthday child should be on the team with fewer people, since he or she is more likely to be able to find items easily in the home.

Please be aware that dividing the group into two teams can be a sensitive issue since all kids will want to be on the birthday child's team. It helps everyone if you are able to divide according to a clear and impartial criteria that you announce (e.g. girls vs boys, or oldest vs youngest, or something like blue, red and yellow shirts on one team; green, gray and black shirts on another team etc). Your child will probably have a good idea beforehand whether feelings will run high on team divisions or not. As a general rule of thumb, who is on whose team is more likely to be a big deal for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. Younger and older than that probably won't get too worked up, especially if you're dividing teams by an impartial criteria anyway.

6. Jenga or other object-balancing game

For some reason, even if the guests are not the type to sit around and play board games, the suspense of "will it fall?" makes even the most active kid likely to enjoy participating in balancing games. In addition to Jenga, there are several great options. Suspend is a big hit in our house whenever friends are over, even though it does not look fancy. For whatever reason it just grabs children's attention. Kerplunk is another good one.

Even though some of these games may say 2 - 4 players, they can all be played equally well with more kids, especially if you're not trying to keep score or anything. Keep it simple, ignore the rulebook. Simply make the rules be that everyone takes turns in order (as for any game) and they're all trying to see how many rounds they can go before it collapses.

7. Limbo

The limbo is a fun way to keep everyone moving. You don't need any fancy equipment - a yardstick or long broom is fine. Bonus points: decorate it by wrapping crepe paper around it.

If you have enough space, consider placing one end of the stick against a wall where you've put pre-measured markings via painter's tape or some other removable method. That way no kid can argue you held the stick too high or too low.

8. Indoor hide and seek

Need awesome kids birthday party ideas at zero cost? Kids of all ages love hide and seek, especially in large groups! If that's something you might normally do during playdates with a few kids anyway, why not do it with more kids at a party?! If you have lots of guests at your child's birthday party, appoint 2 seekers at a time instead of 1. Based on my experience, after one time playing this, they'll demand another round. So having 2 seekers at a time really helps get through it quicker if kids want to play multiple rounds or if everyone wants to have a turn as a seeker.

Do be sure to set parameters so the kids know where they're allowed to go (e.g. inside the house only, not outside) and make clear any out-of-bounds areas. If you're worried about kids forgetting, put up beforehand notes on doors that are out of bounds - for us this is the garage door, the utility room door and the master bedroom.

9. Indoor snowball fight

Kids love a snowball fight, and you can have one any time of year with these inexpensive soft pretend snowballs from Amazon.com. Just set a 10 minute timer with a buzzer for this - there isn't really a goal to this game, they just pelt each other with "snowballs". This indoor party game is a huge hit because it gets their energy out and it's a super-fun and memorable activity that they're not likely to encounter anywhere else.

And you can rest assured knowing that these soft snowballs can't do any damage to your items the way a ball would.

Outdoor games

If the weather allows for outdoor play here are some awesome yet inexpensive birthday party ideas for kids of all ages:

  • Backyard frisbee
  • Capture the flag - if you have older kids, switch to doing this close to dusk using this awesome glow-in-the-dark Capture the Flag kit at Amazon.com
  • Water blob
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • You can also adapt some of the previously mentioned indoor ideas for outdoor use such as hide and seek, limbo, treasure hunt and scavenger hunt.
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