No preschool birthday party is complete without party games, but finding suitable games for preschoolers and toddlers can be a little tricky. They are still developing the skills required to take turns without a fuss, and their attention spans are fairly limited so traditional party games don’t always work. Many toddler and preschool kids — 2, 3, and 4 year old — also struggle to accept ‘winners and losers’, so it’s important to find games where everybody comes out on top. We provide some excellent fun games.

Party games for preschoolers

Musical chairs : Balloon stomp : Hot and cold, loud and soft : Funny faces : Follow the leader : Story sack : Water balloon toss : Arts and crafts

Remember party games don’t have to be elaborate to be fun. In fact the simpler the game, the more chance it will go off without a hitch. Birthday parties are suppose to be enjoyable – so keep things easy and flexible, and make sure everyone feels included. To get you started, here are some of our favourite party games for pre-schoolers in NZ.

Musical Chairs

I know what you’re thinking – there are definitely winners and losers in this game! While that’s true for the traditional version, there is a way to make musical chairs a win-win activity. Play the game as you always would, whereby children run to get a seat whenever the music stops. Each time the music restarts remove a chair, but instead of making a child ‘out’, everybody continues to play. As turns go by kids need to start sitting on each others’ knees, and eventually everybody is squeezing on to one chair at the end. It’s a lot of fun, and everybody wins.  You may also like to play Musical Cushions – which is easier and safer for the littlies.

Balloon Stomp

This is a great way to burn off some pre-school energy, and works well if you have a large space like a rumpus room or empty garage.

Poke a few sweets or treats into balloons before blowing them up and tying the knot. Let all the balloons free into the room, and have your pre-schoolers run around trying to burst them. At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, boys will probably enjoy jumping on the balloons, where as girls are likely to sit on them. Either way is fine, but if there’s going to be lots of jumping, it’s a good idea for everyone to remove their shoes first.

If you have smaller children present at the party, make sure the popped balloons are picked up quickly as the rubber pieces are a choking hazard for young children.

Hot and Cold – Loud and Soft

Have one child leave the room, and hide a little present for them while they are gone. When they return, everyone tries to guide them to their present by shouting out hot or cold, depending how close they are to their prize. While this is a ‘taking turns’ game, everyone is still involved so nobody misses out or gets bored in the meantime.

Another way to play this game is to clap loudly, or softly, depending on how close the child is to their gift.

Funny Faces

Put the children into pairs, and have them pull funny faces at each other until one person gives in and starts laughing. Once everyone is laughing, switch the pairs around and start again. Have a few of the grown ups join in to make it extra fun.

Follow the Leader

Play a game of ‘Follow the Leader’ which takes you all around the backyard. Hide a few tricks or surprises along the way to make it interesting, and make sure everyone gets a turn to be at the front.

Story Sack

Pre-schoolers love stories and a story sack is a fun way to get them involved in the story process. Fill a bag with all sorts of toys and props, and have the children sit in a circle ready to pass the bag around.

Begin by pulling out a prop, and start the story based on that object. Pass the story sack to the child next to you, and then continue the story based on the prop they pull out. You can either let the children keep their ‘prop’ as a party prize, or they can put them back in the sack for next time.

Water Balloon Toss

Give each child a handful of water balloons, and have everyone stand in a big circle around a bucket or large drum. On the count of 3, have everyone start throwing their water balloons into the bucket and start timing. If they miss, they have to pick up their balloon and keep trying. Once all the balloons are in the bucket or popped, the game is over and you can stop the clock. You can play this game over and over – trying to get quicker each time.

Some pre-schoolers may not like the idea of getting wet, or running towards hurtling balloons, but others will love it. With this in mind, consider what type of guests you have before introducing this game to the party.

Arts and Crafts

Having a fun art or craft activity for children to do is a nice alternative to competitive games, especially if it’s an activity with lots of room for imagination. Completing a keepsake craft is also a good change from traditional loot bags filled with sweets and treats.

Here are some great craft ideas for pre-schoolers.

  • Paint a pillowcase or T-shirt using fabric paints. Look for brands that are non-toxic and require no specialist setting. There are plenty of brands which you simply dry or heat to set, and they are available from good craft stores for approximately $4 per tube.
  • Paint a cup or plate using oven bake ceramic paints. These paints are available from good craft stores and can be used on ordinary dinner sets. The items are then baked in your kitchen oven and they’re ready to use. Ceramic paints are approximately $5 per colour.
  • Paint and decorate a terracotta flower pot using acrylic paints and natural treasures. If you like you could fill the pot with soil and plant some seeds.

Above all else, remember parties are for having fun. If everyone is happy playing with toys, or running around the backyard, try not to stress. There’s plenty of time to introduce organised games to your child’s parties as they get older.

More Birthday Ideas

If you’re looking for more ideas to help get your party sorted, try some of these great pages:


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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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