When planning a children’s party, one of the biggest challenges can be timing the length of the activities to take up enough time. It’s always good to have a few easy games in your back pocket to fill up time as needed. These 15 Classic Party Games work well in a pinch and require little prep. Or use these to fill time while kids are waiting for cake and ice cream to be served or for their parents to pick them up after the party.

1. Ring Around the Rosies: Have party guests hold hands and walk in a circle while singing “Ring around the rosies, Pocket full of posies, Ashes, ashes…” All the kids in the circle fall to the ground as they end with “We all fall down.” Stand back up and repeat.

2. London Bridge: Two party guests hold hands in an arch, high enough for the other guests to walk under, while singing “London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady-o.” The other guests walk underneath the arch, circling around so that they continue to go under again and again and hurrying to get safely by. As the last verse is sung, “Take the key and lock her up, lock her up, lock her up. Take the key and lock her up, my fair lady-o” the arch comes down around one child and she is locked up while they sing the rest of the verse. That child is released and the game starts over.

3. Duck Duck Goose: Party guests sit in a circle as the birthday child walks around the outside of the circle, gently tapping each child on the head and calling them “Duck, duck, duck…” until he decides to say goose. After he taps a child on the head and says “goose” he runs around the outside of the circle. The “goose” jumps up and chases him. If the birthday child reaches the empty seat in the circle and sits down before the goose catches him, he is safe and the goose starts over. If the goose catches the birthday child before he reaches the empty seat, he remains “it” and repeats the game.

4. I Have a Little Doggy: Much like Duck Duck Goose, the party guests sit in a circle while the birthday child walks around the outside of the circle. She lightly touches a handkerchief or bandana to the head of the party guests while saying, I have a little doggy, but he won’t bite you, he won’t bite you… but he will bite you.” At that point she drops the handkerchief on 1 guest and runs around the circle to sit in the newly vacant spot. The child who it lands on chases the first child around the circle. The game starts over with whomever didn’t get to the empty spot first.

5. Hot Potato Present Opener: Party guests and the birthday child sit in a circle with the presents in the middle. Using music or a parent as the caller, start the kids passing around a bean bag, stuffed animal, or something that relates to the party theme. This item is “hot” like a hot potato and they must pass it quickly. When the music stops or the parent says stop, the child holding the “hot potato” gives their present to the birthday child to open. That child moves out of the circle and the game continues until all the gifts are opened.

6. Red Light, Green Light: The birthday child is the stoplight and the party guests are cars (or anything else that fits your party theme). The stoplight stands 10 or 20 feet away from the starting line and the cars line up behind the starting line. With his back to the cars, the stoplight calls out “green light” and the cars walk toward the stoplight to tag him. The stoplight calls out “yellow light” and the cars go faster. The stoplight calls out “red light” as he turns around to face the cars. The cars must stop fast for the red light. If the stoplight catches a car moving after he says red light, then the car must go back to the starting line. Whichever car tags the stoplight first is the next stoplight.

7. Mother May I: Let the birthday child pick who will be the “mother.” Everyone else stands 10 to 20 feet away from Mother. They take turns asking Mother if they can take some step forward, such as, “Mother may I take 3 steps forward?” Mother then says “Yes you may” or “No you may not.” The player that reaches Mother first becomes the new Mother and the game starts over. If a player doesn’t say “Mother may I” then he must go back to the beginning.

8. Clothes Pin Drop: Place 2 different clean jars on the floor and have party guests line up in 2 lines behind the jars. Give the children at the front of each line a handful of clothespins. Holding the clothespin to their nose, standing straight, and not bending over the jar, they try to drop as many clothespins as they can into their jar. After they have dropped all of their clothespins they can go to the back of the other line for another turn.

9. Simon Says: Let the birthday child be Simon and have the party guests stand about 10 feet away from her. The guests do everything Simon says, IF she says “Simon says” first. If she doesn’t start with “Simon says” and they still do it, they are out. For example if she says, “Simon says clap your hands”—everyone should clap their hands. If she says just “clap your hands”—no one should clap their hands and wait instead for another command. The last one left gets to be Simon.

10. Red Rover: Best for bigger groups, divide the party guests into 2 even teams. Each team holds hands to form a line and faces each other standing at least 20 feet apart. Let the birthday child’s team go first. Whispering to each other, they choose a player from the other team to run over. They call out “Red rover, red rover, send [insert name] right over” while holding hands and swinging their arms. The chosen player from the other team runs over and tries to break through a pair of hands. If he breaks through the hands, he takes a player over to his team. If he doesn’t break through, he stays on that team. Then the other team takes a turn. The team with the most players at the end wins.

11. Bucket Fill Up: Using 2 buckets per team (one empty and one filled with water), place the full and empty buckets at opposite ends of your yard, maybe 10 feet apart. Divide the party guests into 2 teams and have them line up behind the full buckets. Give the first guest in line an object to carry water in to take to the empty bucket. This can be a sponge, cup, spoon, etc. The first one in line fills the item with water from the full bucket and runs to pour it into the other bucket. You can mark a spot on the empty bucket as the winning line, or have a timed competition, seeing who can get the most water in the empty bucket within the given time.

12. Stuck in the Mud: Let the birthday child decide who is “it.” This person will try to tag the other party guests by chasing them. When a person is tagged, they are “stuck in the mud” and must stand with their feet far enough apart for another person to crawl under them. The other players who are “unstuck” can free stuck players by crawling between their legs. The last player tagged becomes the next “it.”

13. Freeze Tag: Let the birthday child choose who is “it.” This person will chase the other party guests until he tags them. When someone has been tagged, they must “freeze” and remain frozen until an untagged party guest frees them by touching them as they run by. The last person tagged is “it” for the next round.

14. Musical Chairs: Count how many party guests you have and put that number of chairs, minus one, in a circle with the chair backs to each other. The party guests stand in a circle around the chairs and once the music starts they walk in a line around the chairs, sitting on a chair when the music stops. (A parent stops the music randomly.) Party guests must try to sit on the seat closest to them. The player left without a chair is eliminated and one chair is removed from the circle. Repeat until one player is left. You might have a prize for each guest as they get eliminated or let them take their chair to a table to eat cake and ice cream.

15. Water Balloon Toss: Fill enough water balloons, plus a few extras, to give one to each team of two. Pair off party guests and have them face their partner about 3 feet apart. On your count of three, have them toss their water balloon back and forth, taking a step back with each successful catch. Eventually someone is going to get wet! The winning team is the pair who catches their water balloon standing the farthest apart without popping it.

I thought I’d round up a few of the guest posts I did for other blogs last year. I hope you enjoy a little classic OCP. Photos by Nicole Hill Gerulat.


  1. Great post, I’d forgotten about so many of these!

    Sweet Scarlet    Thursday, September 15, 2011
  2. too cold for pool party after school TODAY …we needed something to do…perfect timing

    Therese    Thursday, September 15, 2011
  3. So many of these bring back memories of summer days as a kid. Great post!

    Sonja    Thursday, September 15, 2011
  4. Thank you! So many of these also could be tweaked to fit different party themes, as well. And the hot-potato game for unwrapping presents is genius. I think you just saved me from having to nag “please sit down, please sit back so everyone can see!” when my son has his party on Saturday!

    Holly    Thursday, September 15, 2011
  5. Super!!!! Thank you so much!

    Fenia Kouvara    Friday, September 16, 2011
  6. A classic collection of games that will never go out of style.

    Larissa    Monday, September 19, 2011
  7. Red Rover is really fun! Loved it when I was young

    80s Party Decoration    Tuesday, September 27, 2011
  8. How fun! I saw this on pinterest – we are always looking for fun kids activities for play dates!

    BusyWorkingMama    Wednesday, July 25, 2012
  9. I need to to thank you for this good read!! I absolutely enjoyed every little bit
    of it. I’ve got you book marked to check out new things you post…

    shower pods    Wednesday, November 20, 2013

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Seven « Stitch-Craft on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 10:46 am

    […] days before the party, I read this list of classic party games at One Charming Party, and immediately decided I would do the “hot potato present opening” game. One of my […]

  2. […] 5. Classic Party Games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey or Musical Chairs (for more games, check out my list of 15 Classic Party Games) […]

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