Games are an essential part of any toddler party. It is important to remember that 3-year-old children generally don't have big attention spans, so avoid games that aren't quick to complete or are overly complicated to explain. If awarding prizes, it is a good idea to figure out a way to give all the children a prize so that no one becomes upset. One solution is to award prizes to all the children at the end of the games, rather than for individual games played.
Unwrap the Gift
Fill a small box with little trinkets such as sunglasses, whistles, bouncy balls and stickers. Have enough items in the box so that each child can pick an item. Wrap the box. Place the box into a slightly larger box and wrap that box as well. Put the box into another box and wrap again, repeating the process until you have five or six wrapped boxes inside each other. At the party, have the kids sit in a circle and give the birthday boy the box. Turn on the music and have the kids pass the box clockwise until the music stops. When the music stops, the child holding the gift unwraps the top layer and opens the box to remove the one inside. The music resumes and play continues until the last box is opened to reveal the goodies inside.
Balloon Popping Relay
Blow up several latex balloons -- enough to have one for each child at the party. Separate the blown-up balloons into two sets and place each set into a large container. Divide the kids into two teams and have them line up at the start line. Place the containers of balloons at least 20 feet away. On "go!" the first child in each line runs to the container, removes a balloon and attempts to pop it by sitting on it or stomping on it. Once the balloon has popped, the child runs back to the start and the next kid in line goes. The winning team is the one who pops all of their balloons first. Alternatively, rather than popping the balloon individually, each child can run and collect a balloon and return to the start. Once all the team members have returned with their balloons, they all attempt to pop their balloons at the same time. The first team to have popped all their balloons wins.
Count how many children will be attending the party and divide the total in half. (For an uneven number, round up). You will need one matching pair of items for each number. For example, if you have 20 kids attending, divided in half gives you 10; so you will need 10 pairs of items. Spoons, socks, pencils or gloves are a few ideas of things to use. Place the individual items into a brown lunch bag and fold the top down to close the bag. Have each child randomly choose a bag. When instructed to, the kids should look in their bags to see what they have and then set out to find the child with the matching item. The first pair who matches up wins, but play can continue until everyone has found a match. (If playing with an uneven number of children, ask an adult to play to keep it even.)
Separate the party guests into two teams and have them line up. Place a full set of adult clothing for each team about 20 feet away. The set of clothes should include a pair of pants, a pullover shirt, socks, a hat and gloves. On "go!" the first child on each team races to his pile of clothes and puts all of the clothes on over his own clothes. Once dressed, have him pose for a photo and then undress and return to the start. Each child in line gets a turn and the first team to finish wins.
Classic Party Games
Classic party games are always a hit and many of them can be customized for your party theme. "Duck, duck, goose," pin the tail on the donkey, musical chairs and hot potato are all common party games that are suitable for 3-year-olds. To customize the games for your party theme, substitute an element of the traditional game with something that coordinates with your theme. For instance, pass a plastic firefighter helmet for a firefighter-themed party or play "pin the mask on the superhero" for a superhero-themed party.
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