Toddler Party Games

Ideas and tips for planning toddler parties, including children's games and activities.

It has always been frustrating for me to attend parties "for toddlers" where they just eat cake and ice cream and open presents. These types of parties aren't FOR the toddlers"¦ wait, let me take that back, they are for the toddlers - BORING FOR the toddlers! When having a gathering in honor of a tot, you need to celebrate the fact that the child is a toddler. Toddlers love to explore, they love sensory activities, and they always get dirty! They do not, however, have very developed social skills- they are very egocentric. So don't expect them to have a great deal of interaction with the other children at the party. This is perfectly normal!

I recommend starting with a theme. There are many that are suitable for toddlers, some great ones include: bubbles, balls, colors, music, building, mirrors, art, down on the farm, and the beach. Go crazy with this theme, utilizing it for invitations, decorations, food, and activities. For my son's first birthday, we had an "Undersea Adventure" theme. I used fish invitations, put blue cellophane on all of the windows, hung green streamers from the ceiling for seaweed, and inflated 25 giant fish shaped balloons at their eye level. I moved all of our living room furniture out of the way and put down tarps. Then I inflated two pools and filled one with sand and one with water, and requested that the parents accompany their children. This is a must for most any type of toddler party, unless you only invite one or two. The children played for quite a long time at the indoor beach, with digging and sifting toys in the sand, and sponges, cups, and floating bathtub toys in the pool.

For birthday number two we went with a building theme. Again we covered everything with tarps, to make cleanup a breeze. We covered the walls at their level with brown Kraft paper and yellow caution tape. They used paintbrushes and rollers to paint the walls. They pounded golf tees into Styrofoam with rubber mallets and toy hammers, and mixed "cement", which was gray playdough. They had wheelbarrows with dirt in them that the children played in, digging with shovels and filling various containers. They also each had some blocks that they each stacked up and knocked down.

Let's look at some of the other theme suggestions and games or activities that would coincide with each one:

BUBBLES - Toddlers LOVE bubbles and so a bubble theme would surely be a hit. You can blow bubbles for them to pop and fill washbasins with warm soapy water (add a few drops of food coloring for colored bubbles). Large white inflated balloons representing bubbles will provide entertainment as the little ones bat them around - just be sure to immediately pick up any pieces if any balloons pop!

BALLS - Balls come in all shapes and sizes, try to find as many different kinds as possible. Bowling with bumpers, a small tee ball for toddlers, and buckets for balls are good starters. One game that you could have the tots play would be to give each one three balls and see who could get theirs into a pail or laundry basket. Another idea is to paint with the balls by putting a little paint onto paper and letting each child roll a ball or balls through the paint. They also would enjoy it if you had balls of different weights and a container of water, some will float and some will sink.

COLORS - A brightly colored parachute would be an ideal accompaniment to this theme. The children can toss balls with it, walk in a circle with it, or raise it up high and go under it. They could play with a variety of playdough, finger or brush paints, or colored ice. See if the children can match a blue ball with a blue bucket, a red ball with a red bucket, etc. You can also use balloons and balls of various colors.

MUSIC - Music appeals to children of all ages, including toddlers. You can use children's music or adult, they really don't care which - they just love the rhythm! Gather a variety of age appropriate instruments, or make your own - maracas, drums, sticks, whistles, bells, and keyboards are all excellent choices. The kids can jam, or they can march in a parade. For this age fingerplays and action songs are extremely appealing. Some traditional favorites include "The Wheels On the Bus", "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes", and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider".

MIRRORS - At this age they are just beginning to become self-aware and love to look at themselves in mirrors. You can place mirrors all around the room, as well as offer some unbreakable hand held versions. Reflective paper that mimics a mirror is available at most craft stores and the kids can use this to paint on, or paint on actual mirrors. You can also make some silly hats for them to try on in front of the mirrors.

ART - There are so many artistic activities that appeal to the tot. Painting, with fingers, brushes, bubbles, colored whipped cream, ice cubes; playdough and clay sculpting; painting glue onto paper and letting them use shakers to shake on glitter or paint; even painting their feet and letting them toddle across paper. Despite the fact that they always get dirty, not every toddler likes to make a mess. For these little ones you can mix cornstarch, water, a little liquid starch, and food coloring in a Ziploc bag and they can squish it around.

DOWN ON THE FARM - Use plastic eggs and scatter them around the room, making sure they are all very visible. Let the children gather them and place them into a basket in the center of the room. Give them cotton batting in squares or tubs of cotton balls to play with. Stick a picture of a cow made of felt on the wall, give the wee ones pink felt udders to stick on the cow, some will, some wont - or stick the tail on the pig. Provide a variety of stuffed animals, make sure there are more than enough for each child - they have not yet developed the ability to share yet.

Toddlers are at such a fun age, finding fascination in even the simplest of things. Any party for them should be short and uncomplicated, with their needs in mind. A few simple games and activities will be completely enthralling to them, while allowing the kids to be kids. Remember though that toddlers often have their own agendas, so don't get frustrated if they only want to play with the wrapping paper! Celebrate your toddler's birthday; celebrate your toddler's curiosity; and most of all"¦celebrate your toddler!

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