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“Old fashioned” party games

I’ve told you about this year’s birthday pinata (here goes the mighty angler fish!), but I have yet to tell you about the actual party.

Generally, birthdays around here have gone like this: one casual gathering with the family over a BBQ plus one birthday party just for the kids. I don’t know about you, but I’m not all Martha-Stewart-let’s-have-a-birthday-party kind of gal. In fact, I am all for forking out large sums of money to avoid having the party at my place. In fact, I’ll go ten steps further and say that I am philosophically against having parties at the house. Like if I had a religion, it’d be against it. I think you get the picture.

But this year, Stella starts going on about wanting to have a party at the house. I could very well have swayed her another way, but nooooo, hubby jumps in and says, “Great idea! We can do old-fashioned party games!” Oh, if looks could kill, the man would have evaporated on the spot. But alas, we all know that doesn’t work, now don’t we?

So, we had a party at the house. With old-fashioned party games. (“Old-fashioned” is kind of a funny adjective, because, really, we’re talking about games from when we were kids. Okay, well, it’s either funny or we’re just old.)

In case this grand idea is something you’d like to pursue, I’m going to do a refresher on party games for you.

#1: The three-legged race

Pair the children up and stand them facing forward. Then tie up the two legs of each child that are closest. Voila, now instead of having four legs, they have three! The pair that makes it to the finish line first, wins.

 #2: Egg and spoon race

Each child gets one spoon and one egg. The children need to race with the egg sitting on the spoon. The egg can fall off and be put back on — if it’s still in one piece! Once your egg is broken, you’re out of the race. The first to cross the finish line with their egg still in tact wins.

#3: Pin the tail on the donkey

In this case, we did “stick the teeth on the angler fish.” Each child is blind-folded and provided with a tail (or tooth!) that has their name on it. He/she then tries to pin (or tape!) it as close as possible to where it belongs on the large poster. The child whose tail (or tooth!) is closest to the right spot on the poster, wins. We used this game to determine the order of who gets to bash the pinata first.

#4: Pass the parcel

This was Stella’s favourite of the bunch! What happens is that there is one parcel, wrapped in many layers of paper (you can use newspaper, wrapping paper, etc.). The children all sit in a circle and the parcel starts to be passed in one direction, from child to child. When the parcel arrives to a child, it is his/her turn to unwrap one layer. The excitement lies in knowing that the person who happens to unwrap the last layer gets to keep whatever is in the parcel! To mix things up a bit, you can include notes between layers, such as “Pass the parcel to the next person who is wearing red!” or “Tell a joke or miss your turn!” We also tricked the children with the size of the parcel by wrapping a bunch of layers on a box, then hiding that box into a larger box and adding more layers. (Stella felt it wasn’t fair that only person got a prize in the end, and so our final box included a small prize for each child to keep.)

So what’s your personal philosophy on birthday parties — home or away? Do you have tips to share on how to keep the little angels occupied? Do tell!


  1. We did a party like this for The Boy a few years back. The kids really seem to love it. (We cheated and rented a room at the community centre.)

    Variation on the present game, (I actually saw this at a shower) is that you have to unwrap the present wearing over mitts.

  2. Heather Ann says:

    Aaaah, my person favourite is Red Rover – guaranteed to break someone’s arm. The three-legged race is a possible broken leg, but not anywhere near as certain as the broken arm(s)of Red Rover. I loved pin the tail on the donkey when I was a kid. I am glad you stuck with your theme on that one! You could also do guess the number of x in the jar. And then make X something the kids could take home.

    I get hives when I think about children and their parents in my home en mass. So we had the only big party we ever had at A Gym Tale. But, I know the kids really like people to come to their house. Congrats to you for not vaporizing anyone and making it through.

  3. Jules,

    This is awesome!

    Actually, it reminds me of when Mom organized an Indiana- Jones-themed party for me – to this day, I still remember that party vividly, and how excited I was for it, and sometimes catch myself daydreaming about it.

    I’m certain Stella will have the same sort of memories all her life – you and hubby rock!

  4. My philosophy is just like yours. Throw money at the party so that no one has to be in my house. That being said, that party looks like a lot of fun, so I would like to pay Julie and her Hubby a lot of money to come to our house to run the next birthday party. Thanks for the great idea! See you in the winter :)

  5. I was actually at a 2 years old birthday party on Saturday (my friend’s kid, and I was the photographer). It was indoor with plenty of games to keep the kids busy. Worked out fine! It wasn’t at their home though, but at a party room in another friend’s building. Much easier to set up and clean.

  6. I have almost always done parties at home due to food allergies. My most prized party was the pirate theme. I took lots of little dollar store items and wrapped them in tinfoil and hid them all over the basement. Voilà – scavenger hunt. When the foil was all over the floor, we had a race to see who could clean up the most. We threw larger foil meteorites at laundry baskets. We decorated planet cookies (round) and did the space freeze dance. Ahhhhhhh when they were younger….

  7. “Oh, if looks could kill, the man would have evaporated on the spot. But alas, we all know that doesn’t work, now don’t we?”

    Oh Julie. The number of times I would have accidentally vaporized my husband? It would be so annoying to have to replace them constantly. Maybe if we could set it to stun.

    I love home birthdays, and I’m in awe of people who pull it off gracefully.

  8. looks like an awesome time! i’ve actually done all of these games (except the parcel) with the my students. they love them! it’s funny how the simple, “old-fashioned” games will never go out of style, whereas computer and video games are constantly going out of style with the kids.

  9. Those are simply the funnest games ever! We played pin the tail on the shark at my son’s 5th birthday party this past August. The kids loved it! :)

  10. “So what’s your personal philosophy on birthday parties — home or away?”

    Lately, my husband and I have been celebrating our birthdays as a special dinner going out but I would love to have more parties at home or at restaurants.

  11. Now these are games!  I will always be a kid at heart and playing these games is what I remember most about childhood birthday parties   I still get that anxious nibble in my tummy when I think of playing pass the parcel.  :)

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  14. My 6yr grandson just had an at home dinosaur birthday party. From the “old fashioned games” to one’s we made up on the spot! He said it was his best birthday ever! Man, I love these kids! We’re all for at home parties.

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