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Trying to keep a group of three, four, and five year-olds entertained at a birthday party can tax even the most patient mother or father.  Between the excitement of being around their friends, the sugar, and the mere thought of presents can send any preschooler into a frenzy. 

So, how do you keep the crazies at bay and stop the mob of sugar-crazed preschoolers from wrecking your house?  Have party games ready and waiting, of course!

Here are a few games suggestions that are perfect for a preschooler's birthday party:

Musical Chairs

Where? - indoor or outdoors

How Many? – depends on how many chairs you have

Supplies? – chairs and kid-friendly music you can turn on and off

There are two ways to play this game:

1) Competitive – This is the way that you probably played it as a kid.  Count how many kids there are and lay out that number of chair minus one.  (You should always be short a chair).  Turn on the music and have the kids circle the chairs.  When the music stops, the kids dive for the chairs.  The last kid standing is "out" and stands aside to watch the chaos.  Remove a chair and start the music up again.  Repeat until you're down to one kid sitting down and one kid standing.  The kid sitting down is the winner.

2) Non-competitive – This version is more kid-friendly for the younger set since no one is ever "out".  Set up the chairs as in the version above and turn on the music.  The goal is that when the music ends, the kids are to pile on top of the existing chairs, either by sharing seats or sitting in each other laps.  Each time, remove a chair and start the music again.  By the end, you should have a bunch of preschoolers trying to pile up onto one chair.  This version works best with a small number of kids since preschoolers can sometimes forget where their elbows, knees, and feet are at.


Treasure Hunt

Where? – indoors or outdoors

How Many? – small group is best

Supplies? – picture-based clues, a final goal, and prizes for the winners

A day or two before the party, make a list of picture-based clues – maybe a picture of your child's favorite toy or the doghouse out back.  Transfer these to 3" x 5" cards that will be easy for small hands to handle. 

Before the party guests arrive, place the trail of clue cards throughout the house and / or yard where no one can see them easily. Make sure that each clue leads to the next in a logical form. 

When game time starts, give the group of kids the first clue and let them go at it.  Make sure an adult (or a few adults) trail along to make sure no one gets lost or sidetracked.  At the end of the treasure hunt, place a chest (or plastic container) full of candy and party favors for the kids to share. 

This is a great game since the clues and prizes can be tailored to the theme of the party and age group of participants.

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What Is it?

Where? – indoors or outdoors

How Many? – small group is best

Supplies? – a selection of "mystery items", a "mystery box" with a hole large enough to allow the largest "mystery items" to be pulled out of it with little hassle

Before the party, wrap the "mystery box" in cool wrapping paper (maybe stars and moons) and toss the "mystery items" inside.  Make sure the items are things that your preschooler can easily identify, like a bath duck, pencil, car, candy, etc. 

When it's time to play, place your preschooler guests in a circle, blindfold them, and have the first person pull an item from the box.  Give them a set time to try to guess what it is.  If they can't, they pass it on to the next person to guess.  The person that guesses correctly places the item under their chair and you start on the next one. 

This goes on until you run out of items.  You can let the guests keep the trinkets or recollect them and reward each winner with a small piece of candy for every one that they guessed correctly.


Relay Races

Where? – Outside

How Many? – enough to make at least 2 small teams

Supplies? – something to relay with (tube, scroll, egg on a spoon, balloon on a wire hoop, etc), and a safe place to run back and forth.

Before the party, lay out a safe, flat course where the kids can run without hurting themselves. 

When you're ready to play, have the kids divide up into groups and explain the idea of a relay race.  Kids take turns running back and forth, passing the paper/scroll/egg and spoon/balloon to one another as they complete each lap.  The first group to get everyone around the course wins. 

This is a great game for when the kids are super-hyped up on candy/sugar and need to run off some energy.

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Bubble Fun

Where? – Outside

How Many? – As many as you want as long as you have enough bubble wands

Supplies? – Small wading pool, bubble solution, bubble wands – store-bought or homemade from coated electrical wire.

Right before the guests are scheduled to arrive, set up the pool in a clear spot in your yard and fill it with about one inch of bubble solution.  Place the bubble wands in or around the pool for the guests to use as they want.  (Some of the smaller kids may not know what to  do so have someone nearby to help them.)

This is a great distraction when you have other activities running or a lull in the activity, like before or after food is served.  Also, if you have enough bubble wands, you can send them home with your guests as party favors along with a small bottle of bubble solution.


Animal Safari

Where? – Best outside but can be done inside in a pinch

How Many? – A small group is best to lessen fights and general chaos

Supplies? – a collection of small plastic animal toys and baskets/party favor bags for the guests to collect them in

You should think of this game as an "Easter egg hunt" with animals.  Before your party, hide the animals all over your yard.  Try hard to keep the kids out of the area until everyone has arrives, bags/baskets are distributed, and the rules are explained. 

When you're ready for the event to begin, explain to the kids that they are going on a safari and they need to find as many animals as they can within five minutes (make the time limit a long time to make it easy for little ones).  Let them at it and stand out of the way – chaos will ensue!  When they're done, let the kids play with the figurines.  Later on, you can divide the animals up between the kids' party bags or let the birthday boy / girl keep them.