Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Let Me Entertain You: Party Game Survival Tips

Every party is different but one thing they all have in common is that they must include some form of entertainment to succeed. So how do you entertain your guests without hiring a professional and spending a fortune? Other than resorting to a talent search of family and friends you will need to come up with a handful of party games.

Here are some party game tips that may come in handy when planning your next party:

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 games and write them down in the order you plan to play them. Gather all of your props together including music, blindfolds, etc. and have them ready to go before the party begins.

Have Emergency Filler Games and Be Flexible.

It is hard to correctly judge how long games and activities will take. Sometimes the games that you thought would last 5 minutes are so much fun the guests want to do them the whole time! Other times activities you expected to take a half hour are over in 5 minutes and you are left with a large chunk of time and nothing to do. For this reason, I always have more games prepared than I really plan to use. Prioritize your games and play the best or most important games first and don’t stress if you never get to some of the games on your list.

Avoid Playing Too Many Games.

Although it is important to not run out of games, don't be tempted to play fifty games in sixty minutes. Kids will usually become bored quickly if they are asked to play too many games. Remember to be flexible and that it is OK if you don’t play every game you have planned. Most parties only need a handful of games to fill the time.

Stick to Classic Party Games.

Creative and original party 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 like Musical Chairs, Hot Potato, BINGO or Pass the Parcel.  These games were around when we were children and they work. Don't be concerned that you'll "bore" the kids with the "usual" party games. You can always add a special twist to make them look and sound more attractive.

Avoid Long Lines and Waiting Times.

Pin the Tail on the Donkey is a fun classic game that can be changed to fit any theme but it can also be totally boring for those waiting in a long line. If you have a large group or younger guests with little or no attention spans, play games that involve everyone simultaneously. Circle games like Duck, Duck, Goose are usually good for younger guests and games like Freeze Tag  and BINGO require everyone’s participation. Another thing you can do is divide the party up into smaller groups and play several games at once. You will need a few more helpers to accomplish this but it will be worth it.

Besides long line ups, another thing you need to be aware of is The Danger of Sit-Out Games.

Let's look at Hot Potato. The kids pass the potato and whoever is "stuck" with it when the music stops is usually out. 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. 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.

Click here for a list of party games for young kids, pre-teens and teens.

Once you've decided what games to play, how do you make sure the kids participate and have fun?

First of all remember that It's a 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, don’t say, "Who would like to play Hot Potato?" instead say something like, "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. Before you know it 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.

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 with 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.

Ask for Help.

I hate asking people for help but I know that I can’t do it all myself.  If possible, it is nice to have 3 adults at a party (teen helpers work fine for younger kid’s parties). It is nice to have one person facilitating the activity (usually you as the host), one to be preparing for the next activity, and one to be taking pictures and video (I admit I usually only have my husband and myself, which is why I don’t have better photos of my kids’ parties). If you can get someone else to take the photos, make sure you have plenty of room on your SD card or memory stick and encourage them to take a lot. You can always delete any shots you don’t want but it is impossible to go back in time and capture the moments you missed. All of the adults should know their job, whether it be refilling the drink and food table, turning off or on the music, handing out props, or taking the pictures. You can give your helpers a list of the games and party schedule with specific expectations and instructions on it. 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 you thank everyone who helps or offers to help and be willing to reciprocate the favor.

What are some things you have done to make the games go smoother at your parties?

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