Even with kids who are old enough to handle winners and losers, there are things you can do to help ease the pain for kids who don’t win the prize.
- Consider handing out the prizes at the end of the party instead of right away. Show the winner their prize, and just tell them that it'll be put in their favor bag. This way, the prize won't become a distraction during party time. And, at the party's end, everyone gets a prize - the favor bags - so if a few kids have a few more goodies, it really doesn't matter.
- Move quickly on to the next activity once a winner has been announced.
- Have a Prize Auction.
Instead of having prizes for every game, award each guest some paper money which they can use to bid in a prize auction at the end of the party. You may like to give the winner $100, runner-up $50, and $20 for everybody else that participates. For games like pass the parcel or treasure hunt, have small amounts of money throughout the game, with one bigger prize pool at the end.
Your auction prizes can be really small and inexpensive, because the kids already feel like they have won a prize – the money to spend! It’s amazing how much of their play money they will bid to get a single lollipop or sheet of stickers, and they get so carried away with the bidding, that the auction becomes a game in itself.
To add an extra dimension, and make the prize haul a little fairer, you could wrap up each prize so that the guests do not know what they are bidding for. Remember, you will need to have a number of small prizes for each guest, as they won’t necessarily spend all their play money in one bid. Each prize can be as small or as large as your budget allows.
- Give out Points for Prizes.
Instead of buying prizes and consolation prizes for each game, make up one small prize packet for every child, and put them all into a big basket. As each game is played, award points to the winner and runner up, and write them on a big chart or whiteboard. If you like you can make up extra reasons to award points, such as nice behaviour or lucky seats.
At the end of the party, the person with the most points gets to pull a prize out of the basket first, followed by the person with the next amount of points, and so on. It’s a nice idea to have just one extra packet, so that the last child to choose still feels like they have a choice.Party prizes don't have to be large and expensive. They can be trinkets or sweets. It's the challenge of winning the prize and not the prize itself that most appeals to kids. Here is a list of possible prizes:
Certificates: Instead of prizes for each game, make some certificates on the computer and print them out on to coloured cardstock or parchment. You could change the wording of each certificate to match the game and the theme of your party.
Medals: Medals can be made out of coloured cardstock also. You can cover them with tinfoil or use silver spray paint to decorate jam jar lids. Punch a hole in the lid using a hammer and nail, and then thread through a coloured ribbon so that the medal can be hung around the child’s neck.
Home Made Prizes: Party prizes do not have to be store bought. With a little bit of imagination you can make some great prizes at home.
- Decorate some paper cups with glitter and full them with home made fudge.
- Decorate star shaped cookies and tie them in a cellophane bag, with the star shaped cutter attached to the ribbon.
- Make up a batch of play dough, and either put fistfuls into plastic containers, or tie them in a cellophane bag.
- Make up some bubble mixture with dishwashing liquid and water, and pour it into cute little bottles.
- Pet rocks make great party prizes. Simply paint garden stones with funny faces, attach googly eyes and some fake fur for hair.
- Download your child’s favourite songs onto a CD and make a special CD cover commemorating their party.
- Make miniature puzzle books by downloading activities off the internet, and stapling them into a book. You can design your very own birthday party cover for the guests to colour in.
The following items can be bought in packets, with 6 – 16 pieces in each bag.
Mini Chocolate Bars
Mini Chip Packets
Plastic Farm Animals or Dinosaurs
Packets of Glitter
Prizes for pre-teens and teens could include:
Gift cards for fast food (you don’t have to put very much money on them, I once gave a gift card from a doughnut/coffee shop for the price of a fancy doughnut plus tax)
Little bottles of nail polishes and nail files.
Scented soaps or hand sanitisers
Candy including chocolate bars, giant lollipops, or a small jar or box filled with any candy
iTunes gift card
Hot chocolate mugs
Chips, soda, or other junk food
Weather we want to admit it or not, most people like to win and winning a prize makes us feel special no matter what the prize is. What are some prizes that you have given or received?