Ideas for the Party Human

Posts Tagged ‘party planning

We’re now going to start a new segment–one about games.  In the following posts, we will list instructions for as many games as we can, but it should not be considered a comprehensive list.  There are thousands of games out there, and many times the best games are those you make up yourself.  Use these posts to help when you need some filler ideas for your party agenda.  We have tried to make the instructions clear, simple and concise, and we hope that they will work well for you.  As always, you are welcome to add a comment with instructions for games you think are fun, which we haven’t listed.

The game descriptions are divided up into four categories:  Icebreakers, Active Games, Quiet Games and Water Games.  In each category the games are listed alphabetically, and following the name of the game is a code to suggest the age group that would most enjoy that game.  The codes are as follows: YC = Young Children, ages 3-8; C = Children ages 8-12; T = Teens, ages 12-18; YA = Young Adults, usually single, ages 18-30; A = Adults, ages 18 on up; and E = Everyone, all ages.


     Now we come to Chapter Four of my party book:  Holiday Themes, Showers and Anniversaries.      

            For many of us, parties connote celebrations for special times.  Somehow a holiday or milestone event is made more memorable by festivities shared with friends and loved ones.  For this reason, I have dedicated this chapter to celebrations uniquely suited to holidays, showers and anniversaries.  In the party descriptions that follow, you will find a wide variety of offerings.  Some events are for family gatherings, some for teens or young single adults, others for couples.  Each party, however, can usually be adapted easily to fit any kind of group.

            Starting with Valentine’s Day, Iwill take you through a year of creative holiday parties, followed by descriptions of bridal and baby showers and wedding anniversary celebrations.  Again, I would be happy to hear from you about some of your unique, special celebrations.

A Veritable Feast of Festivities

            I  have lumped teens and adults together because I feel most parties can be adapted successfully for either group.  You can also adapt them in other ways:  A young woman’s birthday party can be expanded into a church youth social; an adult church social can be tailored into a community youth activity, or a social for a large organization can be scaled down to a personal party.  For this reason, I will describe all kinds of events in coming posts,  many taken from the originals that were actually given.  You may read one description of a teenager’s party, followed by a description of a large social for families.  I will include comments about adaptability on occasion, but you can probably figure out how you want to use the ideas for your own event.  And so, let the festivities begin. . . .


            The partying sector of society over twelve is probably the one most guilty of losing the art of throwing a party.  It is from this group that the image of the “party animal” originated, and yet this age-group is the one that can most benefit from partying like human beings.  Following are a few tips on giving parties for teens or adults, beyond the information discussed in my Party-Planning posts.  Later I will describe many actual parties (both Indoor and Outdoor) in detail for you to copy, or simply to use as a jumping-off point for your imagination.

 1.         When giving a party for your teenager, be cautious.  Depending on his or her personality, you don’t want to push your ideas too much.  Kids want to make sure they’re doing what they want to do and only that!  Make a few suggestions; perhaps have him look at this blog, and then ask him to make the decisions.  Give him a deadline, or he may not give you time for the necessary preparations.

2.         When your teen gives a party, take a back seat and let him or her be in charge.  You can be a shadow putting food on the table, or, if she wants, you may play a role of some sort–but never try to control the party.  A few whispered suggestions to your son or daughter when you see problems arise should be sufficient.  However, you must be there as a chaperone, in case you’re needed.  Never let a youth party take place when no adult is present.

3.         Make use of your public, school or church library when developing your theme.  It’s a wonderful resource for ideas and props.  Check books, tapes, pamphlets and magazines.

4.         Invite whom you want to your party.  Be a friend to everyone there.  If all the guests do not know each other, use mixers and icebreaker games to get everyone acquainted.

5.         For birthday parties in this age group, be sure to print on the invitation “No gifts please” or “Gag gifts or white elephants only.”  It is generally not appropriate for teens and adults to have to buy nice presents for a birthday party.

6.         You may wish to start a file or notebook of favorite party ideas.

7.         Be enthusiastic about your party and the things you have planned.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  Your guests will catch your excitement, and it will add a great deal to the success of the party.  Be confident; hesitancy foretells failure.

8.         Sometimes with teens, giving prizes to the winners of games may cause too-intense competition, loss of perspective, or other problems.  One way to get around this and keep an “all-in-fun” attitude among the guests is the old-fashioned practice of redeeming “forfeits” from losers and giving “recognitions” for winners of games.  Some ideas for forfeits might be to require the losing player to do some seemingly impossible task, such as sit on the ceiling using only a pencil and paper (the answer is to write “the ceiling” on the paper and sit on the paper); or to dramatize some action, such as catching a fly ball or painting a fence; or to act out a nursery rhyme or well-known proverb.  Some ways of recognizing the winner of a game might be to name him or her as the leader in the next game, to give the winner a round of applause, to ask the other guests to stand up and curtsy or salute to the winner, to pin a blue ribbon on the winner, or to ask the winner to be the judge to call for redemption of forfeits.

     I have always loved mermaids, and this is the fantasy party I never had.  The idea for the mermaid tail is not proven, so if anyone has ever made one, I’d love to hear about it.  This party description was written long ago, before Disney’s The Little Mermaid, so it could be changed to contain references to that movie in the invitations, activities and decorations. 





THEME:  Mermaids

INVITATIONS:  Regular card-type with a picture of a mermaid on the front, or shaped like an oyster shell, opening to reveal a plastic pearl glued to the inside.  Ask guests to bring swimsuit and towel and any other apparatus they might require for swimming (such as ear or nose plugs).  This party is recommended for slightly older girls, aged eight to 12.  Some swimming skills are necessary to play the games.

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES:  Mermaid tail(s)–described below; mermaid story; stop watch; whistle; treasure article(s) for diving; air mattress or inner tube for floating; prizes (if wanted) and favors such as small seashells, plastic leis, or candy necklaces; paper and crayons.  Oh, yes–and you’ll need a swimming pool, too!

FOOD:  Round layer or oblong cake of child’s favorite flavor, decorated as follows:  Most of the top of the cake will be a beach; simulate sand with brown sugar sprinkled over off-white frosting.  One small area will be frosted blue, to represent the ocean (blue decorator’s gel can be used).  On the beach place a small, nude fashion doll (5-7 inches tall is best), sitting up.  Using blue-green icing and a shell decorator tip, create a mermaid tail covering from the waist to the feet of the doll.  You can also appropriately place frosting seashells on the doll’s chest for modesty.  Other decorations on the beach might include tiny seashells (real or icing), a treasure chest or a plastic palm tree.  For ice cream, use lime sherbet or child’s favorite flavor.  Lemonade or a tropical fruit punch would serve for drinks.

DECORATIONS:  Try to create a seaside atmosphere.  Hang large fish nets strung with seashells, starfish, driftwood and the like.  Set a large potted palm on the deck, if available.  Hang a large sign near the pool reading “Mermaid Lagoon.”  Perhaps you could make use of a sandbox for a mini-beach.  You could also display island artifacts, like native masks or costumes.  Large posters of ocean beaches and skin divers over coral reefs would be excellent.  If you or a friend has a nice fish tank, that would make a good display also.

BLOW-BY-BLOW:            The guests arrive and sit in the shade on the deck.  You (the parent), dressed in tropical island style, read a short, exciting mermaid story and then explain that today each girl will get a chance to be a mermaid.  (If there are boys present, they can be mermen.)  The guests go change into their swimsuits and return for the first activity.

            First, you must teach the children how to swim like mermaids, so tell them all to jump in the shallow end of the Mermaid Lagoon (a.k.a. swimming pool).  (If you don’t have your own pool, you can reserve the pool at a local club or public park.  A shallow lake with a good beach would work, also.)  Having now donned a swimsuit, you or the child hosting the party demonstrate the method of swimming with legs together, kicking as if with one leg.  This is most effective underwater, but can be done with almost any stroke.  The guests now try it, and you act as a watchful lifeguard.  The child who appears to have the most mermaid ability has earned the right to wear the mermaid tail for the next activity.  (If you have made tails for all the guests, they can now put them on.)

            (The mermaid tails can be made simply in the following manner:  Have your child lie down on a large piece of butcher paper and draw a pattern of a simple mermaid tail on the paper around her, leaving about a 6″ border around her body.  Gauge your child’s size relative to her friends and leave generous room for the tail to fit everyone.  [If you love sewing and want to make tails for all the guests, then it might be wise to get waist and waist-to-foot measurements from their mothers.]  Cut out the pattern and pin it to the folded, right-sides-together fabric [any blue-green material suitable for swimsuits].  Cut out and sew around edges, leaving waist open.  According to your desire, you can put in an elastic or drawstring waist, or simply hem it and have large diaper pins available to pin the tail to the child’s swimsuit.  Or, if you’re inviting boys, you may want to make suspender-like straps to keep the tail on.)

            Now comes a series of contests to determine who may wear the tail.  (Or, give prizes for the winners, if you’ve made tails for everyone.)  There is more than one parent supervising, to ensure safety during the games.

            First will be an Underwater Living contest.  Using the stopwatch,  time each guest to see who can stay underwater the longest.  (This contest should be done in water that is not over the children’s heads.)  The winner gets to wear the tail (or receives a prize).

            The next activity is the Mermaid Race.  The children gather at one side of the Mermaid Lagoon and get set.  On the signal, they swim to the other side using the mermaid swimming technique.  The first guest to reach the other side receives the mermaid tail (or a prize).

            The winner of the Mermaid Race is now given the honor of being the Queen (or King) of the Floating Island.  Set her adrift in the Mermaid Lagoon on the air mattress or inner tube.  The other children jump in the pool and try to relieve her of her throne.  This is a water version of King of the Mountain, and the first player to knock the Queen into the water and climb onto the Floating Island is the new Queen and may wear the mermaid tail.  Play this game as long as the guests enjoy it.

            When the children tire of the Floating Island game, they get out of the pool for Diving for Treasures.  Toss a string of plastic pearls or some other such trinket into the deeper area of the pool (deep enough to dive in safely).  Tell the children they must use the mermaid swimming technique or be disqualified, and  then signal them to dive for the treasure.  (If your group is large, you might throw in three different treasures and give first, second and third place prizes in order of retrieval.  Another way might be to give each guest a turn at diving for the treasure and use the stop watch to see who returns it the fastest.)  Again, the winner gets to wear the mermaid tail (or receives a prize).

            After these games, allow the guests free swimming time, if they have any energy left.  After a specified amount of time, close the Mermaid Lagoon, and ask the children to dry off and change clothes.  They gather on the deck or in the house for the birthday cake and presents.  If there is extra time while waiting for parents to pick up their children, the guests may use paper and crayons to draw mermaid scenes.

 Variations and Comments:  If you have just one mermaid tail, make sure that every child gets a chance to wear it at least once.  Try to make it with good, stretchy swimsuit material that dries fast, so they won’t cringe putting on a sopping wet tail.  If you have made tails for all the guests, those can be their party favors to take home. 

            If the pool used is indoors, a different decorating scheme might create the atmosphere of an underwater lair.  Use mood lighting with blue and green spotlights.  Drape seaweed (real, plastic, tissue or crepe paper) around the walls and over doorways.  Use the fish nets, shells and starfish as well, and maybe add a cardboard silhouette of a sunken ship off in a corner.  Use your imagination; what would the underwater domain of the mermaids look like?

THEME:  Dog-sleds, Eskimos, Snow

INVITATIONS:  Draw, print or glue a picture of an Eskimo and his dog-sled on the outside of a regular card-type invitation.  Write message inside and ask guests to dress warmly and bring their sleds, saucers, etc.  This party is good for children aged 4-9.

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES:  Lots of clear space with plenty of snow, whistle, prizes.

FOOD:  Serve hot cocoa with white-frosted birthday cake.  Decorate cake with an Eskimo scene, if possible.

DECORATIONS:  None needed outside, just set up the snow areas for the various games.  Inside, decorate with toy sleds and posters showing Arctic landscapes, Eskimos, dog-sled races, etc.  You could make it look like an igloo, with sheets of white paper covering the walls and blankets and a fake campfire set up inside.

BLOW-BY-BLOW:             As guests arrive, you (the parent) make sure they all have plenty of warm winter clothing, especially gloves or mittens.  (Have extras on hand.)  When all have arrived, the children choose partners.  Each pair will need a sled, toboggan or saucer, and they will take turns pulling each other, switching at each stop.  The sleds then line up like a train, and you act as leader, blowing a whistle to start them moving.

            You will have arranged the route ahead of time, and it forms a circle (more or less) that will end up back at the house for refreshments.  The first stop will have a large circular path prepared in a clear area of snow.  There are paths crisscrossing it so it looks like a huge wheel with spokes.  (Preparing these stops for the games is an excellent activity for the excited birthday child to do with his parents earlier in the day.)  When the “Eskimos” arrive at the first stop, the leader blows the whistle to signal them to stop. 

            Here the children will play Eskimo Bear Hunt.  Divide the guests into two groups, Bears and Eskimos.  The Bears get a head start, then the Eskimos try to catch them, but everyone must stay strictly in the paths.  Allow no short cuts.  When a Bear is tagged, he is caught.  He then helps his captor catch the other Bears.  When the children begin to tire of this game, you blow your whistle, and lead the group to the next stop.

            At the second place, the guests will play Snowball Tag.  (Omit this game if there is a community ordinance against throwing snowballs in your area.)  Play this in a place where there are several trees or things to hide behind, for the tagging will be done with snowballs.  (A small neighborhood playground might work well.)  Only the player named “It” may try to tag the others with snowballs.  When a player is hit with a snowball, then he becomes “It” and repeats the process.  When everyone has had a chance to be “It,” conduct the “Eskimos” to the next stop.

            The third game is a Sliding Contest.  It will need to be prepared in advance with a long slide of hard-packed snow.  If done the night before, the slide could be sprayed with a fine mist of water.  For this game, the guests must take the dog-sleds apart and take turns sliding down the slide with their sleds.  Mark a starting line a few feet from the beginning of the slide.  Each player may start however he wishes, whether running and jumping on his sled, or having someone push him, but he must be sliding alone when he crosses the starting line.  The object is to see who can slide the farthest or the fastest.  You may give prizes for this contest.

            After the Sliding Contest, lead the Eskimos to an open area where they will have a Dog-sled Race.  Each pair will choose who will pull the sled and who will sit on it.  The sled teams line up at the starting line and, on a signal, race to the finish line, yelling “mush!” as they go.  The first team across the finish line may win a prize.

            When the race is over, the group returns to the “igloo” and parks their sleds there.  The children go inside for some much-needed warmth and sustenance.  After the refreshments, the guests can play games like “Musical Chairs,” or “Simon Says” while waiting for their parents to pick them up. 

Variations and Comments:        A fifth outdoor game can be added, if snowballs are legal in your area and the supervision is adequate to prevent injury.  This would ideally be the last stop and would need to be prepared in advance.  It should be relatively close to home, so the group won’t have far to travel in their wet and snowy condition after it’s over. 

            You will need two barriers, such as ditches or fences.  If these are not available, you can build two walls of snow about two feet tall and a few feet apart.  When the group stops, have the children choose sides for a Snowball Fight.  Each team takes a stand behind one of the barriers and begins the assault on the other team.  Whenever anyone is hit, a point is scored for the other side.  Set a score limit of 10 or 25 points, depending on how long you want the game to last.  When one side gains the score limit, they win the game.  Back at the house, the winning team should receive a prize they all can share, like a box of candy.

            Part of the Flexibility Principle for this party would be to take the children back to the house as soon as they complain of the cold, whether they have finished all the games or not.

THEME:  Circus, Clowns

INVITATIONS:  Shaped like a clown, perhaps holding an unfilled balloon that the child can keep.  Or, send a balloon invitation:  Blow up a jumbo balloon.  Pinch end closed with one hand; with the other, write your invitation around the sides of the balloon with a waterproof oil-based felt-tipped pen.  After the ink dries, let the air out.  Insert balloon in envelope and mail.  The guest blows up the balloon to read the message and keeps it as an early party favor.  Ask the children to come dressed as their favorite circus performers (including animals) and to be prepared to imitate that performer for 1-2 minutes.  This party is good for children aged 7-10.

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES:  Circus “set” described in DECORATIONS section, perhaps a “fishing” booth and/or a silly fortune-telling tent, circus music, rented clown or magician (or capable parent disguised as such), favors (such as bags of peanuts or popcorn, small boxes of animal crackers, or circus-type souvenirs).

FOOD:  Birthday cake can be made in a special clown-shaped pan, or a sheet cake could be decorated with a frosting or plastic clown, holding balloons.  Another idea could be to make a round layer-cake into a Balloon Cake:  Decorate frosted cake with gumdrop balloons.  You will need 15-20 flat, round, fruit-flavored gumdrops.  Cut end of gumdrop off to give balloon a bright fresh color.  Arrange on cake, add short strands of black or red shoestring licorice for strings on each candy balloon.  To make the cake an exciting centerpiece, anchor strings of one or more colorful helium-filled balloons around it.  Or use a Bundt-shaped cake and anchor strings to center of cake.* 

            Perhaps the easiest thing, for those mothers who are not cake decorators, would be to buy small plastic figures of clowns and animals and place them on top of the cake.  Colorful ring-shaped candies make good birthday candle holders.  Neapolitan ice cream or the orange sherbet/vanilla ice cream combination might be good choices, if the birthday child agrees.  Drink pink lemonade (or child’s favorite punch).  If you’re going to serve an entire lunch–which might be a nice idea–what better than good ol’ hot dogs for a circus party?  Potato chips, carrot and celery sticks (with or without peanut butter) could round out the meal.

DECORATIONS:  This party is best given in the summer in a large, grassy backyard.  You can go as big as you want to with this; I’ll describe the biggest.  Hang bright-colored posters, flags, balloons and streamers on back of house, on fences and trees.  Have a sign at the entrance:  “Welcome to the Circus!”

            Involve other parents and big brothers and sisters and have them dress as various animals (complete disguise is not necessary), the bearded lady, the sword-swallower, etc.  They can sit at booths or in makeshift cages and do their impersonations as the children arrive.  Or, if you prefer, put family pets in cages and advertise them as ferocious, wild animals.  (You can  let them out when the party gets going.) 

            Booths and cages can be concocted from large appliance boxes or card tables.  A little paint, construction paper and streamers can transform them into circus originals.  You will also need an area for the audience to sit on chairs or benches and an area for the children to perform.  You could make three large rings out of strips of cardboard placed in the grass, but one would probably be sufficient.  Have on hand props for the circus “set” that the performers can use, like a beam of wood for a “tightrope,” a swing-set or tree swing for trapeze artists.  You can make barbells for a Strongman act using a cardboard tube with balloons on each end.  Write “1,000 pounds” on each balloon.*

BLOW-BY-BLOW:                         As the children arrive, they look at the “impersonators” in the booths and cages until everyone has come.  If you use pets in the cages, then the other helpers can dress as clowns and greet each child with a balloon.  The guests might be allowed to feed the animals something.  When everyone has arrived and seen the displays, they take their seats.  (The helpers can sit in the audience, too.) 

            You (or another parent) dress as the ringmaster and invite each child, one at a time, to come up and do his circus act, which you announce loudly and with great fanfare.  Play typical circus music in the background.  The helpers in the audience give support to the performer with cheers, whistles, applause and gasps at the death-defying feats.  When every child who wants to perform has done so, the birthday child opens the presents (if any) and serves the cake, ice cream and drinks.  As the children finish eating, the professional (or volunteer) clown or magician comes out to perform.  At the conclusion of his performance, give the guests their favors to take home.  If necessary, play a game like “Pin the Nose on the Clown” until parents arrive to take them home.

 Variations and Comments:        If you have a large rec room or other such area in your house, this party could conceivably be done indoors.  In this case, it would be possible to rent a video of a circus or magic show, which would probably be less expensive than hiring the performer.  Instead of the large cages with live “animals,” you could set out miniature ones on a table, made from animal cracker boxes.  The animals inside could be made with marshmallows, toothpicks and licorice.  There could be one for each child to take home as a favor.

            Another game the children could play instead of “Pin the Nose on the Clown” or one of the other activities is “Ringmaster.”  One child is chosen for Ringmaster.  The other players form a circle around the Ringmaster without holding hands.  The Ringmaster turns and moves around in the circle, calling the name of some animal.  The players in the circle immediately imitate the animal, both as to its movements and sounds.  For instance, for a monkey, they might walk swinging their arms and making noises like “ooh, ooh.”  The Ringmaster, at his discretion, may announce, “Join the circus parade!”  At this call, each player chooses some animal he would like to represent and gallops around the circle in characteristic movements.

                                                                          * * *


[1]From Today’s Tips for Easy Living, by Dian Thomas (Holladay, UT:  The Dian Thomas Company, 1982).

[2]From Today’s Tips for Easy Living, by Dian Thomas (Holladay, UT:  The Dian Thomas Company, 1982).

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