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Challenge: Happy Birthday!

Party Games with a Purpose

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Once upon a time, I hosted birthday parties at my home. Planning would go on for weeks, I would be up until all hours the night before making a cake that looked like a brain or a Barbie or the nine planets (Team Pluto!) or the ocean complete with sugar cookies cut freehand to look like fish.

We would surprise our birthday kid with a visit from the “Girl with a Backpack and The Monkey with Red Boots” (trademark protected) or the Cinderella who looked like she’d been rode hard and put up wet, and after they had read the requisite story-with-a-message, twisted a few balloon animals and impatiently posed for the group photo, we would arrive at game time.

These games were never as successful as I had envisioned partly because none of the kids would stand still to listen to the rules and partly because they always seemed sort of pointless. Sure, walking across the backyard with an ice cube on a spoon sounds fun…no, no it actually doesn’t sound fun at all.

A good party game should be simple to play individually or in teams, should foster healthy, good-natured competition, should be somewhat challenging and, most importantly, should eat up as much time as possible between the entertainment and the cake.

A great party game will do all this but will also in some way benefit the host or hostess.

Here are a few suggestions off the top of my head:

Party Game #1 – Sweep It Up – In which guests tie Swiffers to their feet and search the house for hidden treats. Prizes awarded for dirtiest individual Swiffer, most Swiffers used to capacity and Swiffer that got into all the crevices behind the toilet. Can be adjusted for outdoor games such as leaf pile building, weed pulling or pet "parcel" pick-up.

Party Game #2 – Matching – In which teams are provided with laundry baskets full of unmatched socks. The first team to accurately match and ball each pair of socks in their basket wins.

Party Game #3 – Make A Snowman – In which guests make a snowman using only the snow from your unshoveled driveway and sidewalks.

Party Game #4 – Relay – In which guests race to place clean, folded clothes in their rightful locations.

Party Game #5 – Bottles, Cans and Papers – In which guests challenge each other to sort recycling efficiently and accurately.

Party Game #6 – Pick a Prize – In which party guests reach into a bag of previously discarded, ignored or outgrown toys and pick one to take home with them. When each child has had a turn, start another round! The toys will, of course, double as party favors. Bonus!

No, no please don’t thank me. I just like to do what I can to help out my fellow moms. And remember, if all else fails and the games have been played, the icing has been licked off the cake and the natives are still restless, a rousing game of Hide and Seek works wonders.

Just practice these words and you'll easily buy yourself 15-20 minutes so you can continue to seagull the (icing less) cake off the discarded plates, “Wow! You guys are great at hiding! I can’t find any of you!” Believe me, the party will be over in no time.

At least until next year.

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