Party Games and Why They Rule

Bouncers, also known as bounce houses, are lame. There, I've said it.

This is something I've been thinking for years now. Somewhere along the line, a paradigm shift occurred in party giving from the old model of games, party hats, cake, and presents to throwing a bouncer in the backyard (or the front) and leaving the kids to fend for themselves while the adults sit around talking. I've seen bouncers collapse and I've seen kids actually fall out of them. Okay, I admit, we did have one once for one of Charlie's last-day-of-school parties. I was a nervous wreck with 20 seven-year-olds running around like crazy and caroming off of each other in a none-too-careful manner. Husband and I did have fun bouncing in it after the party was over, but I vowed never again.

So what do kids really want? They may not know this, but what they really want is old-fashioned party games (such a nice alternative to watching the little darlings huddled around their iPhones and handheld Nintendo whatevers). Last Saturday, as we celebrated Charlie's 12th birthday, these almost, but not quite, jaded tweens had a blast with the water balloon toss, watermelon seed spitting contest, and balloon stomp, among other games. It's great fun, and the best part? They're free! All it takes is a little bit of organization and someone with a strong voice and good herding instincts (because gathering children together is somewhat akin to herding cats).

Husband expaining party game rules. What are those on those "tweens" faces..? Smiles..?

Here are some great games we've played at various parties:

Simon Says. This is about as old school as you get. When we played Simon Says, we had everyone, adults included, in on the act. We had them line up in rows and the leader would call out commands. "Simon says stand on one foot…" Oops! I didn't say "Simon says."

Hot Potato. Simply pass an object around in a circle while a song is playing on your CD/radio. The object is not to end up with the object when the music is turned off. We used a real potato. Why not?

Musical Chairs. This one is pretty self-explanatory and always fun. Simply start with one fewer chairs than participants. Stop the music; the one without a chair is out. I like Ellen Degeneres' version where the contestants play blindfolded and have to feel their way to a chair. This should be done on a soft surface though.

Watermelon seed spitting contest. We played this and had the contestants spit watermelon seeds from the second story of Charlie's fort into a big metal bucket (that way you can hear if the seeds land in the bucket). Whoever gets the most seeds in the bucket wins.

Balloon stomp. Each participant ties a balloon around their ankle, then they try to pop the others' balloons.

Water balloon toss. Participants line up in two lines opposite each other facing their partner. One side tosses the balloon to the other. Each time this is done, one side steps back. The object of the game is to be the last pair standing with the intact water balloon.

Three-legged race. Pairs are joined together by tying a torn piece of sheet or other fabric around their ankles. They put their arms around each other and the teams all race to be the first to cross the finish line.

Shoe toss. This one is so simple and, frankly, hilarious. The participants take off one of their shoes and throw it. The person who throws their shoe the farthest wins.

These are just a few simple ideas. They really work. So next time you throw a children's party, just say no (to the bouncer).


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