Host a variety of races for the players. Race examples include running races, sack races, crabwalk races, hop-on-one-leg races and swimming races, if you have access to a pool. Set up a start and finish line about 100 feet apart. Have players line up at the starting line and race to the finish line. Award medals to first, second and third place. If you have several players, have each player sign up for only one race. Tell them to select their favorite race. This can keep the games from becoming too crowded.
Hang Hula hoops from a clothesline wire or from a tree. Mark a standing line about 15 feet away from the hoops. Give each player 10 beanbags to try to toss through the hoops. Players earn one point for each beanbag they make in a hoop. The player with the most points wins the game. You can adjust the standing line closer or farther away depending on the ages of the players. For another toss game, have the players toss a flying disc as far as they can from a standing line. Give each player three throws and mark each throw. The player who throws the farthest distance wins the flying disc game.
Place several marbles in a small plastic swimming pool with water. Players must take off their shoes and socks. Each player has to stand in the pool and pick up the marbles with his feet. He must place the marbles in a bowl on the outside of the pool. Players have one minute to pick up as many marbles as they can. The player who picks up the most marbles with his feet in one minute wins the game. For another water game, set 10 empty cans on a table in a pyramid shape. Give players a water gun to shoot the cans off the table. The player who knocks down the most empty cans wins the game.
Create a sand relay race by dividing players into two teams. Have the players stand in a single file line and give the first player in line a bucket of sand. When you say, “Race,” the first player must grab handfuls of sand and pass it to the next player in line. Each player must pass the sand down the line using only her hands. The last player must place the sand in an empty bucket. After two minutes, the team with the most sand in its team bucket wins the race. Players do not have to wait until the sand gets all the way down the team line to grab more sand. For a variation, give each player a small plastic cup and use water instead of sand.
Horseshoes and Huzzlecap
In the 1700s children played horseshoes using real horseshoes. As today, the shoe was pitched at a post in the ground. Players got points for tosses that resulted in the shoe encircling the post. Lower points were given for shoes that lean on or touched the post. Children played a game called "huzzlecap" in the 18th century using pennies, when they were available. The goal was to "capture" pennies by tossing yours to land on top of your opponent's.
Jackstraws was a game played by Native American children and taught to colonial youngsters. Native children played the game using wheat straws. This game is similar to today's game called pickup sticks, which uses plastic or wooden sticks. The object of the game is to drop a bundle of sticks -- usually 31 -- and pick them up, one at a time, without moving another stick in the process. The child with the most sticks at the end is the winner.
Games of Dexterity
Girls played skipping rope, London Bridge, hopscotch and blind man's bluff -- games still played by children today. Whipping tops was a game boys played by themselves while other boys stood by, waiting for their turn and admiring the player's abilities. Players of whipping tops used a small whip and a wooden top. A player used the whip to launch the top and keep it spinning, and the goal was to have the longest spin. Boys often practised alone to improve their ability. The game required much the same skill as using a yo-yo, a game also played by children during the 18th century.
Nine Men Morris
Nine Men Morris was a board game. The square board was flat and consisted of three squares in progressively larger size, one inside the other, each having eight holes drilled into it, three holes to a side, for a total of 24 holes. Each of the two players would get 12 pins in one of two colours. The object of the game is to take turns placing your pins so as to form a straight line of three of the same-colour pins, while you prevent your opponent from doing the same.
Spelling bees were competitions played in the 18th century, the same way they are now. Students played in school and at gatherings of sufficient numbers of children. All children lined up and were given a word to spell. If correct, they continued in the game; if incorrect, they sat down and observed for the remainder of the game.
Gleek was a card game that required three players. Players bid, drew cards, and vied for the ruff -- the highest point card. Twelve hands were played, with points collected for having sets of three or four cards, except 2's and 3's, which were omitted from the 52-card deck.
Playing marbles was a common children's game in the Elizabethan era. Marbles were made of glass or wood. The game was played much as it is today; a circle was formed using chalk or a piece of string, with the marbles placed in a group inside. Children used the shooter, or a larger marble, to shoot the other marbles out of the string. Prizes for winning often included the loser's marbles.
Another popular children's game in Elizabethan times was hopscotch. The game has not changed much in 500 years; children drew numbered squares with chalk and threw a pebble onto one of the squares, and attempted to alternate jumping on one leg to that square.
Blind Man's Bluff
A popular pastime for both children and adults in the Elizabethan era, Blind Man's Bluff involved blindfolding one person and having him stumble about trying to find the other people playing the game. This game was played mainly outdoors, in gardens for example, where children were kept out of the way of adults.
Ninepins was an early form of modern bowling and was played by children and adults. Ninepins was played on a bowling green. Balls made of leather or sheep and pig bladders were popular toys and served as a source of almost limitless entertainment for children in the Elizabethan age.
How to Play Charades
To prepare for the game, divide the players into two teams. Each player writes down one phrase to act out on a slip of paper. Fold the slips of paper and put them in the corresponding team’s bowl. Draw images or cut out pictures from magazines if there are children playing who are too young to read or write. When playing the game, a player chooses a slip of paper from the opposite team’s bowl. The player acts out the words and syllables with non-verbal actions. Team members must guess the phrase within an agreed-upon time limit. Play the game until each team member has had a chance to act out a phrase. Keep score of correct guesses to determine the winning team.
Write down different names of animals for family members to act out. Choose animals that are easy for young players, such as dog, lion or rabbit. Write down animals that are more difficult to act out when older children are playing, such as anteaters or polar bears. Expand this category to include insects, such as butterflies, bees and mosquitoes. This category is ideal for a game night after a trip to the zoo. Family members can act out all the animals they visited to reinforce the learning that took place at the zoo.
In addition to being entertaining, acting out feelings can be used as a learning experience for children. Teach children how to recognize feelings and act them out through facial expressions and actions. Write down familiar feelings for young children, such as sad, happy, hungry and mad. Players will have to get creative to act out more complex feelings, which can be written down when older children are playing. Write down feelings such as perplexed, sympathetic and optimistic.
Write down simple actions for young family members to act out, such as singing, vacuuming or cooking. Older children have a larger vocabulary, so you can also include phrases in the game, such as “milking a cow,” “going on a date” or “first day of school.” Movies, television shows and books can also be included in your charades game. Write down things you have watched or read together as a family so everyone feels included and has a good chance at guessing the right answer.
A flat stretch of lawn, plastic bottles, and a basketball are all tweens need to create a bowls game. The activity requires 10 "bowling pins" made from plastic soda bottles, two litres each, filled one-fourth full with water. Each player throws the basketball "bowling ball style" and tries to knock down the pins. Players can take a single turn per game if there is a large group, or they can play a traditional bowling set if there is a small group.
Turn everyday items into valuable treasure by holding a scavenger hunt. This activity can be done with two or more teams or with individual players. Participants are given a list of items. The harder the item is to find, the more points it is worth. For example, a blue pen may be worth one point and an orange striped sock may be worth five points. Outdoor scavenger hunts can be held as well, with items such as pine cones, unusual rocks, and types of leaves. Teams/players try to find as many of the listed items as they can in a given time period, such as one hour. The player or team with the most points at the end of the hunt wins the game.
Mini marshmallows are a sweet treat that can be used as pieces for an indoor game that both boys and girls will enjoy. The game requires a rectangular open area with a starting line along the bottom and a tape measure along the side. Players line up their toes at the starting line and blow a mini marshmallow out of one nostril. The player that shoots his marshmallow the farthest wins the game.
Use a penny and cardboard to create an indoor table hockey game for a kid to play alone or with friends. A large piece of poster board forms the field and a cardboard arches form the goals on the left and right sides. A single player can use the penny as a puck and flick it with a finger to get it in a goal. Two players can each use one finger as a hockey stick to hit the puck and protect a goal. The player that scores the most goals wins the game.
Entertain 10-year-old kids indoors on a rainy day with a game of superhero charades. The game consists of 10 or more pieces of paper with different superhero names written on each one. Players split into two or more teams and take turns selecting a piece of paper. Each player silently mimes clues about her superhero as her team tries to guess the name. The team with the most correct guesses wins the game.
Blindman's wand involved a group a children. One child was blindfolded and then held out a stick called a wand. The other players took turns holding the opposite end. The child who wore the blindfold asked a certain number of questions, (it was typically three), and then tried to guess who the other person was based on the sound of their voice. When Victorian children played this game, they were allowed to answer questions with animal sounds to make the game harder.
Jackstraws was a game Victorian children played similar to modern day pick-up-sticks. It was considered a popular parlour game since that is where games were often played. Children would sit around a table and drop wood sticks or splinters in a pile in the middle. The goal was to remove a piece of wood without disturbing any of the other sticks. An alternative way to play the game was to roll dice. Whatever number came up was the number of sticks the child had to successfully remove.
The Name Game was played by older children. Every player wrote down anywhere from five to 10 famous people's names on pieces of paper. The papers were then put in a basket and the guests sat in a circle. One child pulled out a name and gave the child sitting to their right three guesses about the character they had chosen. Their friend had to guess the identity. Once they did, the basket was passed around to the next player. If one guessed incorrectly, they had to sit out until the next game commenced.
Ball of Wool
Ball of Wool started by rolling wool into a ball and placing it in the centre of the table. Children sat around the table and tried to blow the wool off the table. If the wool was blown into a child's lap, that child lost the game. A game similar to this was called Blowing the Feather. Typically played outside, a feather would be tossed in the air, and children would race around, blowing at it to keep it airborne. If the feather landed on a player, they had to sit out the rest of the game. The last child standing was the winner.
Thinking of Something
Children would mentally pick an object or location that the other children would know about in Thinking of Something. Examples were the ocean or a castle. They would then drop clues about what they were thinking about. For instance, if they were thinking about Westminster Castle, they might say that what they were thinking about something that came with a tower. The other children would ask Yes and No questions. Whoever guessed correctly was the next one to take the lead.
In the Mystery Game, children play detective by following clues to solve a make-believe mystery. The format of this game can vary. You can create a murder mystery---or another type of mystery if you feel murder is too brutal for this age group. Children are given a fact about the crime when they arrive at the party. Working individually or as teams, children follow the facts as one clue leads to another. In one version, parents hid clues inside balloons around the house. The winner is the child or group of children that solve the mystery the fastest.
Twenty Questions can easily be modified to create a fun party game for 9-year-olds. Gather a list of names of people, places or things and write each name on its own index card. Place the cards face down. The first player draws a card. Each child tries to guess the name on the card by asking one yes or no question when it is his turn. He can try to guess the name on his turn; however, if he is incorrect, he is out of the game. The group is allowed 20 questions to reach an answer. The first child to correctly identify the name wins the round. If no one guesses the name within 20 questions, the cardholder wins the round.
Entertain active 9-year-olds with a game of Crab Soccer. This game works well if you have a large backyard or play area for your party. Divide children into teams. To play, the children put their hands and feet flat then push up off the ground, facing upward. They then move around, trying to kick the ball into the other team's goal. The team that has scored the most goals at the end of playing time wins.
Balloon Burst is a great outdoors game, but can be played indoors with enough space. Tie a balloon to the ankle of each player and let kids try to pop their opponents' balloons while keeping their own balloon safe. The last child with an intact balloon wins.
Consider whether or not the game is actually inappropriate and if you want to stop the entire game or just a specific action that occurs during the game. For example, if your child is younger than 7 and playing house with a group of kids the same age, and you catch the kids playing mommy and daddy kissing, it's not necessarily as inappropriate as you might think. According to the Advocacy Center for Child Sexual Abuse, kids this age may simply be mimicking what they see in real life. If their parents kiss when greeting each other after work, these children are very likely mimicking the action the same way they are pretending to cook and clean.
Interrupt the game and talk to the kids if you feel that the game has become inappropriate. Maybe wrestling has gotten out of hand or you're not comfortable with quite so much kissing. Be firm, but calm. For example, tell the kids they can continue to play house if they want to, but kissing is not allowed. You can discuss privacy issues and personal space issues if you feel it is appropriate.
Put an end to any inappropriate game entirely by telling your kids they can no longer play it. According to Iowa State University psychologist Craig A. Anderson, you should know what games your kids are playing and what those games are teaching your child. If you are uncomfortable with the message, tell your child it’s time to stop. For example, if you find your child playing a video game you determine is far too mature and violent for him, take the game away. However, you should explain your reasoning to help him understand.
Make sure you keep your words calm and neutral so you don’t send the wrong message to your kids. While you may want to put an end to an inappropriate game, you do not want them to think they are bad or feel ashamed. For example, if your 4 year old is playing doctor with her sister and you catch them taking off their clothes, you don’t want to make them feel ashamed of their bodies or their curiosity about their bodies, you simply want them to know what activities are acceptable in polite company and appropriate personal space boundaries.
A big activity book full of brainteasers for all ages is sure to have something for everybody. Look for a book that contains an assortment of brainteasers with escalating difficulty levels, or print free brainteaser games from the Internet for both younger kids and teens. Make a family game night out of it by seeing how many brainteasers everyone can complete. Brainteasers promote cognitive skills, such as pattern recognition and problem-solving skills.
Gather the family in the back yard on the next warm and sunny day, and hold fitness challenges to promote exercise and physical development. Have hoop and jump rope contests to see who can go the longest or jump the most times. For kids with more than a few years’ age difference between them, assign point values to each rep completed. Allow teens one point per rep and younger kids two or three points per rep to keep things fair.
Word games are perfect for long car rides with the family, because they keep everyone occupied and engaged and do not require any equipment to play. Play the chain game, which begins with one player making a statement and continues with other players repeating and adding new elements to the story. Player one, for example, might say, “Yesterday, I went to the store and bought an apple.” Player two would then repeat player one’s statement and add “and a magazine.” Player three would repeat the extended statement and add yet another element. Play continues until one of the players misses an item or forgets the order. Another word game suitable for all ages is “Password.” The game facilitator thinks of a word and gives the other players a clue. The other players must use the clue to guess the word. Players take turns making one guess at a time until someone guesses the correct word. The facilitator must give another clue after each incorrect guess.
Sketchpad charades is ideal for mixed age groups, because older kids will provide more advanced drawings for younger ones to decipher, while the younger kids will make guessing pictures more challenging for teens. Create teams, pairing younger kids up with older ones. Make a draw pile of words to illustrate -- such as “love” and “cow” with index cards. One team member takes the sketch pad and attempts to draw the word, while his teammate has one minute to guess it. Correct guesses earn a point. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.