Free games to bring to life a 4 year old's birthday party
At four years old, a birthday party is very important. They want to do as the older children do, and play games that the older children play! Nevertheless, a few rules are needed. Use these games to make sure that that your party stays peaceful yet successful!
To download le livret de mes 4 ans (French version) click HERE, or read it in English just below!
At four, a child is a little person old enough to have a birthday party that lasts for two and a half hours. Choose fairly simple games with equally simple rules. Sing, dance and have lots of fun.
Whether it is a girl's or a boy's party, the games are the same: all you need to do is adjust the references (princess or pirate). Switch to a new game as soon as you perceive the slightest loss of interest. Alternate between quiet and active games. And remember, never leave the children to their own devices!
For the sake of peace, put away all the toys that may be borrowed by the little guests much to the despair of birthday girl or boy. It's nearly time, your little angel has transformed into a knight or a fairy and for the occasion you are wearing a tiara or a top hat (this will impress the children a lot).
The doorbell is ringing, here they are! Welcome the little guests with a touch of "kohl": draw a moustache on the boys and eyelashes on the girls. While you are waiting for the arrival of all the friends, sit down in a circle and get each guest to introduce himself or herself. You start first: "I am Tom’s mum, we’ll be playing together all afternoon..." Each child gives his name, his age, the name of his teacher, his favourite game, his favourite colour, his favourite cartoon. In a mysterious tone of voice, the super parent which you are will then reveal the afternoon's games and golden rule: we all play together.
To make sure that your gamble pays off, act as the master of ceremonies, explain the games and decide when the changes occur. Obviously, it is better if there are two of you. Everything has been said, everybody is here, let's party!
You will need:
• a soundtrack (with about ten songs) that appeals to your child and especially to you because you are the one who will have to make all the little ones dance!
- a broomstick
• printed images of familiar characters (Aristocats, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Spiderman)
• a small present wrapped up in 4 layers of paper
• as many paper napkins as guests
• and lots of enthusiasm!
— Everybody at home!!! (Designate a "home" area such as a wall or a piece of furniture where the children stand in line).
— Let me explain the game. I will choose the Grandmother who will stand facing the wall. Meanwhile you move forward mimicking steps that I will show you. Grandmother will have to count to five before she can turn around. All the players must then freeze like statues. If you move, you go back to the starting line. The child who is the first to touch Grandmother wins and becomes the next Grandmother. Are you ready?
— Come on! Wakey, wakey! Are you asleep?
— Fine! Tom, you are the first Grandmother. And for this round, I would like the other children to walk like little mice.
At each new round, you can vary the steps: bunny hops, giant strides, side steps, backwards… and make sure that everybody has understood by asking them to show you first.
To amuse them and add spice to the game, you can tickle them to check if they are real statues. And to help a shy or reluctant child, appoint him your tickling assistant!
Duck, Duck, Goose
— Let's form a circle and sit down cross-legged. On my count of three, everybody on the floor: 1, 2, 3! Do you know the game "Duck, duck, goose"? Tom, you are the fox. While you walk around the circle, touch each child gently on the head saying "Duck, duck, duck…" When you are ready, you tap a child and say "Goose". The goose then jumps up and chases the fox around the circle. Tom, are you ready?
— So on my count of three, let's start: 1, 2, 3!"
— It's you Henry! You are the goose, you have to catch Tom.
— Tom, run as fast as you can to sit at Henrys’ place. Let's cheer them on, "Come on Henry!"
— Well done! But maybe it was too easy for you! To make it more difficult, I will ask the fox to change his voice. What about a duck's voice? Can you talk like a duck? You just need to pinch your nose.
Make the fox change voices at each round, children love it! The fox can imitate a princess, a robot, a monster, a mouse. Have the children practice the voice before each round.
Pass the Parcel
— Stand up everybody! Let's sit down again in a circle. Do you know what it means to be "absent-minded"? I think I had my head in the clouds this morning. I have wrapped up a little present but I have completely forgotten how many layers of paper I used. Without opening the present, can you guess how many layers there are?
— There must be at least a hundred!
— We'll check that together. When the music starts, pass around the present very quickly as if it were a "hot potato". When the music stops, the child holding the present should open up one only layer of wrapping paper. Are you ready?
— Let's call for the music: "Music, music, music!"
Put a new song at each new round. For the first round, just have them passing around the present from hand to hand. Children often forget to pass it... For the second round, ask them to pass around the present and to mimic your gestures. Make simple movements like clapping your hands, waving goodbye, making your arms go round and round, slapping your legs… and stop the music. For the third round, you can all stand up and make movements like jumping, driving a car, flying like a plane, raising one leg then the other… For the last round, ideally the music stops on the birthday boy or girl.
My Favourite Characters
— I would like everybody to sit facing me. What are your favourite cartoons?
— Totoro, Mowgli, The Aristocats...
— In this folder, I have some pictures of your favourite characters. I would like you to stick out your tongue (mime the entire action while explaining it), to swallow your tongue and to close your mouth. Now, I will give you magic keys (you throw invisible keys). Do you all have a key? So take your key, close your mouth, lock it and throw the key away.
— Tom, come next to me. I will hang a picture on your back, you will turn around and show the picture to your friends. Then you will ask them questions that will help you guess who this character is. But remember, the other children can only answer YES or NO to your questions. Now listen everybody, put your hand in front of your mouth and don't say a word! (Of course, it only rarely happens that the friends answer more than two questions without giving the answer. In this case, start the game again with a new picture.)
— Is it a girl? Does she live in the forest? Has she got super powers? (You will have to help the child ask the questions.)
— Well done, here is the picture. Who would like to replace Tom?
And so on, while your stocks of pictures last or until you run short of interested children!
You can trick them by hanging Snow-White on a boy's back and Spiderman on a girl's back. This will amuse them a lot!
Musical Blind Man's Buff
— Let's now play Blind Man's Buff. With this scarf, I will blindfold one of you who will be the wolf. I will put some music on. The other children will be mice and you will be dancing around the wolf. You must stay close by but avoid getting touched by the wolf. When the music stops, you must "freeze" like statues. Once the wolf has touched someone, he will have to feel the face of the person and try to recognize him or her. If the wolf gets it right, he or she will be the next wolf (the children often remove the scarf just after having caught a prey). Are you ready?
— So, stand up everybody. Tom, come next to me, I will blindfold you. I will spin you around (a tiny bit) so that you feel slightly dizzy! Let's call for the music: "Music, music, music!" The little mice have to dance around Tom!!
During the game, you will have to help the wolf catch a mouse (being blindfolded, he cannot move forward alone) and identify his prey! You can choose a new song for each new round, and carry on the game while they still ask for more!
Earth Water Wind
— Let's form a circle again and sit down cross-legged. On my count of three, everybody on the floor 1, 2, 3! Do you know animals that live on the earth?
— A cat, a sheep...
— Yes, that's right and there are many more. Do you know animals that live in the air?
— An owl, a butterfly, a swallow...
— Well done. Do you know animals that live in the sea?
— A shark, a clownfish, an octopus.
— That's right! So, one at a time each of you will name an animal that lives on the earth, in the air or in the sea. But you must carefully listen to what your friends say because you should not repeat twice the same animal name! Here we go, Tom, you sit to my right so I will start with you. I would like you to say the name of an animal that lives on the earth.
— A dog.
— Lucy: an animal that lives in the air?
The objective of the game is of course to answer as quickly as possible and to encourage Tom and his guests to concentrate. Some of them may repeat the previous answers but it doesn't matter, just correct them and carry on with the game.
A Little Train Before Tea Time
— Do you know how to make a little train?
— So go one behind the other and tighten your seat belts (put the hands of the second child on the shoulders of the first and so on). You must make sure to not let go! Are you well fastened?
— I will be the train driver (put the hands of the first child on your waist). Let's start the music, here we go...
Move around going slower or faster. You can follow imaginary lines in any direction, curl up like a snail shell, zigzag and head towards the place where you will have tea. It does not last more than five minutes but children love it. Sit them down and lower the music. Background music is enough or none at all!
If you don’t have enough chairs or a table that is not big enough, do not hesitate to lay out the table on the floor as for a picnic.
It's Tea Time
— Sit down. Who would like some apple juice, some milk, some grenadine syrup? Who wants some sweets, cupcakes, tarts? Do you know what we usually sing for a birthday?
— Of course! Do you know this song in other languages?
When you are ready, initiate the countdown and start singing "Happy birthday to you" to let Tom blow out his candles.
Do not hesitate to make conversation around the children's favourite themes: if they have brothers and sisters, what are their favourite games in the park...
When everybody has finished tea, suggest a small detour via the bathroom and collect your little gang very quickly.
The Kissing Chairs
— Let's sit down in a circle. Do you know how to blow kisses (mime a kiss) and to pinch bottoms (mime pinches in the air)? I will choose two nice chairs (to be determined according to the number of children) that blow kisses. The others will be naughty chairs that pinch bottoms.
— I will choose a detective who will stay in the next room while I select the nice and the naughty chairs. Emma you are our first detective, let's all say: "Out you go detective, out you go detective!"
— Who would like to be a nice chair?
— To welcome the detective, we all blow him false kisses and pretend pinches with our hands.
— "Detective, detective, detective!"
— Emma, you must sit down on the chairs to find out if they are nice or naughty. You win when you have found a nice chair.
— Nina, you are the nice chair that has been found, so you are our new detective: "Out you go detective! Out you go…"
Encourage the detective to sit on his friends' lap or on yours to kindly pinch his bottom. The game continues until a nice chair is found.
— Now let's play "Simon says"!
— Remember, you should only obey me if I first say the words "Simon says". For instance:
"Simon says: touch your nose" is ok but if I say "jump" without "Simon says" it's not right at all! If one of you follows an order that doesn't begin with "Simon says", he will be out of the game. The last person left is the winner and becomes the next "Simon". Understood?
— I start: "Simon says, everybody stand up!"
You can also rename the game and replace "Simon" by the name of the birthday boy or girl.
Here are a few orders' suggestions: jump, hop on one foot, run, run on the spot; touch your feet, thighs, shoulders, head; spin round, lift your arms, your legs; mimic a hen, a monkey, a lion; sing "Polly put the kettle on", count very quickly up to 5 and so on...
— Let's hold hands and form a circle. Now, you can stop holding hands. We are 8 and I will put in front of you 7 paper napkins (unfold the napkins and position them).
— I will put some music on. When the music starts, you will turn around the circle of napkins. When the music stops, you will have to sit down on a napkin. The child who does not sit on a napkin will have to stay at the centre of the circle.
— Are you ready?
— So, let's call for the music: "Music, music, music!" (Encourage the children to dance while they are walking, and stop the music).
—Oh Paul, you are eliminated so you can sit at the centre of the circle and cheer for your friends!
At each new round, remove a napkin and encourage the children to cheer one another. You can ask them to make simple movements like clapping their hands or waving goodbye. When there are too many eliminated children inside the circle, ask them to form a circle around the children who keep on playing.
The Brazilian Dance
— As you can see I am holding a broomstick. Do you know what I'm going to use it for?
— It is very easy, stand facing me in a single line, one behind the other. I will hold the broomstick very high and you will have to go under it dancing. After each new round, I will lower the broomstick so that it will get more and more difficult for you to go under. Understood?
— Here we go, let's call for the music: "Music, music, music!!!!” Stay in a single line and cross one at a time.
If it becomes a scramble do not hesitate to stop them and settle them back one behind the other. Lower the broom down to ground level (8 to 10 cm from the ground). They love lying down on the floor and crawling.
— Let's form a circle and sit down cross-legged. Can you play different musical instruments like the piano, the flute, the guitar (mime at the same time)? Can you make this kind of movements (clap your hands, slap your legs, your shoulders, your bottom, the floor, move your hands in the air…)? Would any of you be able to make these gestures and change them often?
— So, I will choose a detective who will get out of the circle, and a conductor that you will all copy. Henry, you are our first detective, go and hide in the next room. When you come back, you will have to find out who is the conductor. Let's all say: "Out you go detective! Out you go detective!"
— Lily, you are our first conductor. Don’t say anything to Henry. Lily, you can start making movements, we will copy you. While we are making the gestures, let's call the detective: "Detective, detective, detective!" Henry, come at the centre of the circle and stand there. You must discover who our conductor is!
— Is it Lily?
— Well done!!! Lily, you are our new detective: "Out you go detective, out you go detective!"
The conductor often forgets to make new movements, remind him or her discreetly to do so.
— Do you like dancing?
— Can you freeze like statues?
— I will put some music on so that we can dance together. When I stop the music, I would like you to freeze like statues! Be careful, I will perhaps check if you are real statues by tickling you.
— First of all, dance like me. Let's call for the music: "Music, music!"
Make simple movements like jumping, waving goodbye, spinning around, flying like a plane, making the wheels go round and round, slapping your legs, your shoulders, your head, moving forward, backwards… Stop the music and have a close look at the statues.
— For the next statues, I would like you to pose as sportsmen, monsters, crocodiles, bridges… Are you ready?
— Now, let's all dance like Tom. Then like Lucy… And as you like!!!
You can stop the music every 10 seconds for one minute, especially when you have asked them to mime a crocodile or a snake. They love it!
My Favourite Songs
— I would like everybody to sit cross-legged on the floor facing me. We will sing a few songs or tell a story. Who would like to start?
— Me, me!
— I will choose the best at puffing out his cheeks. Lucy come next to me, you can bow and we will all clap for you. What are you going to sing?
— Hickory dickory dock.
— I will help you.
— Great!!! Would anyone else like to sing? And so on.
It is a quiet and moving moment. Some don't know how to bow, you will have to show them how. The children love to be applauded by their friends. Sometimes, they all want to sing the same song. Sometimes, some of them take offence because the other children sing along while others do not dare to sing.
When all the children want to take part in a game, you can tell them that you will choose the child who is best seated cross-legged, who raises his hand the highest, who sticks out his tongue the farthest, who makes the least possible noise... and let them all have a go in the end if they are not too many.
— Let's now open Tom's presents!!! I would like Tom to come and sit next to me and that you all sit down facing us. Here we go!
— Wow, a jigsaw puzzle! Thank you Margot!
— Tom, would you please give Margot a kiss?
If you have planned presents for the little guests, give them at the last moment when everybody is ready to leave. You may also write the names of the children on the party bags. This will avoid things taking a dramatic turn!
The party is over but it is not yet time to put everything back in order, you should make this unique moment last. Hang the garlands in the bedroom and leave the balloons lying about...