Here is a collection of tips to help you survive the birthday games portion of your child’s next party.

Every kid birthday party is different. Indoors, outdoors, five guests, fifty-five guests, boys, girls, Army theme, Princess theme. But one thing’s for sure – at some point they’ll be playing birthday GAMES.

Now, I’ll decorate, I’ll bake, I’ll wrap all the gifts and hand-deliver all the invitations. Heck, I’ll even clean up after everyone leaves.

Just don’t put me in front of a throng of kids when it comes time to entertain them!

At least that was my initial reaction when first faced with the BIG question – how am I going to survive an entire hour (at least) trying to entertain a mob of children at my daughter’s birthday party?

I had two options: Either PAY an arm and a leg and have a professional entertainer do it for you. Or, take a deep breath, prepare myself as best I could and do it myself (and risk the loss of an arm and a leg in the process.).

If you’re a devout adventurer and choose the latter (like I did), here are a few observations (e.g., survival tips) that may come in handy next time you take on the challenge:

Prepare in Advance

During the party you’ll have so much on your mind that it’s best to prepare as much as possible in advance. Make a list of birthday games and write them down in the order you plan to play them. If any of the birthday games involve music (like musical chairs, hot potato, etc.), prepare the music ahead of time with the stops so that you don’t have to deal with it during the party.

As mentioned above, you’ll find the BIG list of kid party games with over 200 birthday game ideas (way more than you’ll ever need.) organized into easy-to-find categories and themes, but…

Not Too Many Birthday Games

Don’t be tempted to play fifty games in sixty minutes. Kids’ll usually become bored quickly if they are asked to play too many games. You’ll need only a handful of birthday games, so choose those that fit your party theme, and…

Stick to the Classic Birthday Games

Creative and original birthday games are fun, but they may also be a bit risky because the kids are required to learn something new. I’m not saying DON’T play new games, just make sure there are a few classics in your arsenal. Musical Chairs, Hot Potato, Pass the Present, etc., were around when we were children. And they work. So don’t be concerned that you’ll “bore” the kids with the “usual” birthday games. You can always add a special twist to make them look and sound more attractive.

Now that you’ve got a list of birthday games and the music is ready, how do you make sure the kids participate and have fun?

It’s a Birthday Party, Not a Democracy

Avoid asking the kids if they WANT to play any of the games. They may just say NO. Tell them what the next game is – without any questions and without any options or room for deliberation – and make it sound intriguing. For instance, what sounds better?

“Who would like to play Hot Potato?” or “Our next contest is Blazing Potato where you can all win some great prizes just by sitting in a circle”.

And if they still object…

Be Firm

One child voicing his objection to a certain game can become an instant epidemic. And suddenly you’ve got a group of little protesters on your hands. The first time this happens, be firm (in a kind sort of way) and just let them understand that they were invited to the party and they need to play. This may sound a bit too harsh for such a fun gathering, but it lets the kids understand that you’re in charge and you’re not about to let them ruin the fun by sitting out and distracting the others.

And now that you’ve got everyone ready to play, remember one of the most important factors to making the birthday games work…

Don’t Rush

Give the kids ample time to play each of the birthday games and that way you don’t need a zillion birthday games. Take Hot Potato for instance. The kids all sit in a circle and the hot potato is being passed around to the sound of music. Let the music play a few beats before it stops. Sometimes, because you may be nervous to get things going, the music is stopped so fast that the kids don’t have time to enjoy. Choose music that the children know and can sing along and have them pass the potato under their arms, above their heads, across the circle, etc. Find ways to make it fun and you’ll be able to turn this classic into a long-lasting game.

Then, there’s one thing you should beware of:

The ‘Danger’ of Sit-Out Games

Let’s go back to Hot Potato. The kids pass the potato and whoever is “stuck” with it when the music stops is usually out. And as the game goes on, there are more and more children sitting around just watching (if you’re lucky.). And that may translate into trouble. So instead, you can play the game without anyone being out. How? Place a bunch of giveaways in the center of the circle and the child who is “stuck” with the potato when the music stops gets to choose a prize. This way you also have control over the length of the game because you can finish whenever you like and not when only one kid remains. (If there’s a game in which you can’t work around having the kids sit out, turn them into judges and have them help.)


Prizes don’t have to be large and expensive. They can be trinkets or sweets. It’s the challenge of winning the prize and not the prize itself that most appeals to the kids.

Consider handing out the prizes at the end of the party instead of right away. Show the winner their prize, and just tell them that it’ll be put in their favor bag. This way, the prize won’t become a distraction during party time. And, at the party’s end, everyone gets a prize – the favor bags – so if a few kids have a few more goodies, it really doesn’t matter.

Ask for Help

I have 4 kids, including one set of twins (who always get bigger parties than the other two) and have put on 16 birthday parties. I have learned that you need at LEAST 3 adults to have a successful birthday. One person is facilitating the activity, one is preparing for the next activity, and one is taking pictures and video (and writing who the gifts are from). All of the adults should know everything about the whole party though, so they can fill in as needed (each adult should now their job, whether it be refilling the drink and food table, helping the kids go to the restroom, turn the music on and off, etc.). Try not to have the parent of the clingy kids help – their job might not get done because their kids are just clinging on to them too much. Make sure they are thanked very graciously! Submitted by Heather from Ohio – (Thanks!)

Make a Clear List

After I pick all my games and schedule, I make a LIST of the names in a huge, easy to read font, and hang it where all the adult helpers can see it. I also email the list and the instructions for the games and how I want everything to run to all the parents I know are staying or any helpers. So on the party day, we can see the name of the game, and play in order. Nothing gets forgotten, every one knows what to help with, and when fires need to be put out (because there are always things that come up) you can deal with it and the party can go on! Submitted by Heather from Ohio – (Thanks!)

Get Someone else to Take Photos

As lead game organizer you cannot run the games, deal with kids, photograph the event and sit back and enjoy the event. Unless you have a willing children’s entertainer you will be in charge of running the games. You have no chance to sit back and enjoy so get someone else to photograph the event. Modern digital cameras can take hundreds of photos at no cost and with a dedicated photographer you’re more likely to get some great shots which will allow you to sit back and enjoy the event after it has all finished. They build memories to last a lifetime and enable personal thank you cards to be sent. Submitted by Marie C. from Spofforth, North Yorkshire, England – (Thanks!)