So you’ve picked a theme for your kids birthday party and the decorations are going to look amazing. You’ve gone all out on the cake and can’t wait to see your little ones face when he sets eyes on it. Yes this year, you’re determined to get some fab photos to capture the happy occasion – and evidence all of your hard work – all you need are some happy, smiling children… But how do you keep the kids entertained at a party?
Ha, it’s easier said than done, right? You’ve planned a fabulous party but how do you make sure the kids will have a good time? Most parties last anywhere between two to four hours, yes HOURS, and if you haven’t thought about what the kids will do after they’ve devoured your cake and are bouncing around on a sugar high, then be prepared for chaos.
Even if you’ve hired a party entertainer, bear in mind that if the kids are just watching and aren’t actively involved in doing something then they will soon switch off. The ideal is to have everyone doing something fun for as much of the time as possible and I’ll show you a few different ways to achieve this. But first here are my top 3 tips for planning a kids party:
Split the guests into teams
Smaller groups help to manage a large party and mean you can simultaneously keep all kids entertained with different activities. Then switch the groups over after a set time. This works brilliantly for games and treasure hunts where a bit of healthy competition helps to get everyone participating.
To identify each team, use anything from stickers to party hats, silly glasses to face pace painting.
Plan a variety of things to do
When thinking about planning activities to keep the kids busy, it’s a good idea to have some different things to do, things they can do by themselves and things you coordinate or help them with. Even very young kids appreciate independence so its best not to be too hands on. Picture yourself as a facilitator rather than an entertainer.
I would definitely take charge of the party games, where a bit of instruction (and mediation) may be needed. And be sure to include some things the kids can do by themselves, like scavenger hunts, even crafts can be child led with a bit of prior planning. This has the added bonus of giving you time to get on with the food prep or plate clearing while they’re busy. Double win!
Use Timeblocking To Keep The Kids Busy
I’m not suggesting you work to military precision, it is supposed to be a fun day after all, but having a plan for what the kids will do and when will make things run much more smoothly.
Kids don’t have a long attention span, 30 minutes at a time is probably the max when it comes to focus and you’ll need to reduce this to 10 minutes for pre-schoolers. So it helps to be mindful of this when choosing what they’ll do.
Guests are likely to arrive and leave in dribs and drabs so have something they can do at the beginning and end of the party. This will free you up for the welcomes and goodbyes.
To give you a rough idea, the party day should look something like this:
1-1:30pm Arrival / Chatter sticks ice breaker
2:00-2:30 Party games
2:30-3:30 Craft activity / Treasure hunt
3:30-4:00 Party bags / Farewell
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from teaching kids, it’s to keep them busy, AT ALL TIMES. Remember how exhausting half term was? Let’s say no more. Because as soon as kids get bored, they will find their own ways to amuse themselves and this rarely ends well.
But if you don’t fancy donning a red nose and curly wig, fear not. There are lots of great ideas for keeping the kiddos busy and having fun so you get that good times party shot. The following examples are just a few brilliant ideas I’ve found.
Try Conversation starters To Break The Ice
Now chatter sticks / stones may sound cheesy but trust me, kids love these. They work equally well as get to know you or ‘would you rather…?’ type questions.
Remember that some kids will buddy up straight away but others may need a little help to mix, so ice breakers are a helpful way to get the party going.
Have a couple on hand as you greet them at the door and then send them on their merry way, armed with a stick and a new friend.
Create a quiet play corner For Kids That Need Some Down Time
A quiet corner with some fiddle toys or a reading nook is a great idea for kids who need a bit of time to warm up. This also works for those who peak too early and need some down time. Create a cosy spot away from the party madness for a lovely way to give an overwhelmed kid a discreet get out, without making too much of a fuss.
Organise A Fun Treasure Hunt To Keep The Kids Busy
A treasure hunt is a great activity that can easily be adapted for all ages. If your party is outside, then a nature hunt is so much fun for younger kids. Or how about a selfie photo hunt for the tweens?
Have the kids find their own party bag fillers and hide small toys or sweets – think Easter egg hunt. Or if you’re really clever, get them to find 5 plates, pieces of litter etc to help with the tidy up. What, too mean? Just a thought.
How to Set Up A Craft Activity At A Kids Party
Now this isn’t as scary as it sounds. There are some fantastic pre-packed crafts that you can buy off the shelf if you don’t fancy a full on Pinterest DIY.
As a Design and Technology teacher I have set up more than my fair share of craft activities and my advice to keep this simple and achievable is this:
- Have a go making it yourself to see if its achievable for the age group and discover any tricky bits so you can help if need be.
- Separate the materials into different pots – old takeaway containers with lids are ideal for this.
- Avoid white PVA glue and use glue dots instead, these are much less messy, stick almost anything and there’s no waiting for things to dry.
- Don’t use scissors, obviously you don’t want any accidents but there are never enough to go round and some kids will struggle with them (yes, even the teens I taught had issues here) so pre cut anything that needs it the night before.
- If, and only if you have time, photograph each step as you make it and print out some help sheets so the kids can see what to do. At the very least, leave your example on the table so they can see the finished result.
Organise Party Games To Get Everyone In The Party Mood
Party games give some structure to the party and are about getting everyone in one place – where you can see them – and joining in. It’s best to keep the skill level low to start with otherwise no one will want to play. You can always build on this as the games progress and their confidence levels grow.
I could literally write a book on different party games but the old favourites survive the test of time for very good reasons, they are quick to set up, easy to follow and anyone can play.
Signal The End Of The Day By Giving Out The Party Bags
The goody bag is always eagerly anticipated by the kids and they will be keen to find out what’s inside, which will prove a welcome distraction at the end of the day while you’re crawling around looking for that lost shoe.
The party favour doesn’t have to be a huge expense, usually parents spend between £1-£3 and each will have their own ideas on whether to include sweets, books or plastic toys. Each to their own I say.
“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.”
In my experience, winging a kids party is no fun for anyone and as our mission was to keep the kiddos happy, lets recap how you can achieve this.
- Use chatter sticks.
- Create a quiet zone.
- Plan a treasure hunt.
- Set up a craft activity.
- Organsie party games.
- Split the guests into teams.
- Plan varied activities.
- Timeblock the day.
- Don’t forget the party bag!
Remember that variety is the key to a successful party, you’ll be lucky if everyone will want to take part in any one activity at once. Set up an alternative to avoid leaving anyone out of the fun.
I hope that this has given you some fresh ideas for keeping the kiddos entertained at your next party. If you’re looking for more time saving party hacks, check out my Free Party Games Printables which will keep the party gang busy and you free to snap those happy, smiling children.
Have a fabulous party!