By Rob Grigor
"LET THE GAMES COMMENCE"
(Images of Gladiators and Lions spring to mind)
Well Amelia's parents did
And considering the odds, did quite well,
They'd played twenty five games by four thirty
But, the strain it was starting to tell.
What with cries of "I
don't want to play this"
And "I haven't won anything yet"
And Kid Super Glue running loose in the loo,
'Twas a day they would never forget.
We are now rapidly approaching the proverbial
"nitty gritty". As any good Home Decorating book will tell
you, the secret of getting a good end result lies in meticulous preparation.
The meticulous preparation which we have been looking at so far, should
help to ensure that you have no need of a good Home Decorating book.
However, "we've only just begun" (sounds like a good title
for Chapter 4) and deep down in your heart of hearts you know that sooner
or later the assembled throng are going to need entertaining. This invariably
Children enjoy playing games it's true.
What they do not enjoy however is playing:
1) Interminable amounts of games one after
2) Badly organised games
3) Games where they are sitting around
4) Games where they are caught out early
on and have to sit watching the others enjoying themselves.
It is for these reasons that the cry of
"I don't want to play this" is all too often heard signalling
the beginning of the end of your entertainment programme.
It is not my intention in this book to
bore you with endless lists of children's party games (what a relief
eh?) though you are welcome to visit the Party Games section of this website for some tried and tested ones. In practice it is often better to stick to the
traditional games which the children know and love. There are many books
available full of weird and wonderful new game ideas but remember that
what looks good in print does not always work well in practice. Some
children do not pick up new ideas as quickly as others and this can
lead to more problems and cries of "I don't want to play this".
It ain't what you play it's the way that
you play it (what do you mean here comes another song joke? Did I mention
a song?). Firstly let's deal with the "I don't want to play this"
brigade. A party with all the children joining in is a wonderful sight
but we all know that it only takes one child to voice his/her unwillingness
to play and, like magic, half of the others suddenly decide the same
thing. The quick answer to this is DON'T LET THEM. This may seem to
be over simplifying things but a firm "I'm sorry but as you were
invited to the party you have to play" can work wonders. This answer
in one fell swoop (whatever that means), lets all the children know
that there is no alternative but to join in. The little dears will have
been to so many parties where their pleas of not wanting to play have
gone unchallenged, that this response quite literally surprises them
into towing the line. What you are really doing here is making your
job much easier. If all the children are playing the game then you can
give them your full attention, without having to keep an eye on the
likes of "Kid Super Glue" (see above).
Similarly, avoid phrases like "who
wants to play....?" or "shall we play....?" or even "would
you like to play....?" as all of these leave the children with
the option of saying "NO". Referring to games as "competitions"
makes them sound more exciting and not mentioning the game by name can
also help. Some children will have decided, based on past experience,
that they do not like a particular game e.g. Pass the Parcel. On hearing
the question "Who would like to play the next game? It's pass the
Parcel", they will immediately call out, "I don't like Pass
the Parcel". Wonder of wonders, half a dozen other little souls
will suddenly chorus the exact same sentiments. Replace the above with
"Now here's a competition where you can win a prize just by sitting
on the floor". Followed by, "the only thing is you all have
to be sitting in a circle by the time I count up to five". Notice
there are no questions, no options, no mention of the game but you have
the children all sitting in a circle ready and eager to win a prize.
Aren't you the clever one?
If all of the above sounds a little devious, it's meant to be. Children, innocent as they are, are very adept at
getting their own way using, an instinctive form of psychology which
adults find very hard to resist. In order to "survive" a children's
party therefore, it is important to counter this with your own superior
Once you have mastered the art of getting
all the children to join in, it is of course important that they enjoy
the games themselves. This means that your programme should not fall
into one of the four categories mentioned at the start of the chapter.
Let's analyse them one at a time.
1) Interminable amounts
of games one after the other
Children will become
bored very quickly if they are asked to play too many games. Adults,
naturally a little nervous on party day, tend to rush through the games
and consequently need a large number to fill the time. When playing
musical bumps for example it is not unusual for the music to be turned
off so quickly that the children have hardly had a chance to stand up.
Little wonder therefore that the game is over in five minutes with a
minimal enjoyment factor. Choose music that the children know and can
sing along to and they will enjoy jumping for longer (nicely using up
some of that excess energy). Get them to jump in different ways each
time, sideways, forwards, backwards, round in a circle, hopping, etc
and you will see how extra fun (not to mention extra time) can be easily
added. Apply this principal to all the games, looking for ways in which
you can make them more fun, and you will be surprised at how soon you
will be able to fill the allotted time with far fewer items.
2) Badly organised games
A well organised games
programme is essential, so make sure that you have your list of events
worked out and written down clearly beforehand. Similarly have the music
and music player all set up and ready to go. If necessary spend a little
bit of time before the party making up a tape of suitable tunes to avoid
too many pauses while trying to find something different to play.
3) Games where they
are sitting around doing nothing
This category could have
been entitled "Pass the Parcel". Contrary to popular belief,
most children do not enjoy sitting round in a circle twiddling their
thumbs watching a seemingly endless array of assorted paper being ripped
off a parcel. True the first few goes can be fun but by the time the
fifteenth wrapper is torn away to reveal yet another chewy sweet it
begins to get a tadd tedious. Especially as by this time the adults
are, none to subtly, snatching the parcel from the hands of those who
have "already had a go" and thrusting it at those less fortunate,
regardless of a little thing called fair play.
All of this can be avoided by looking at
the game from a different angle. Firstly it is not necessary to have
enough wrappers on the parcel for every child to have a go. Far better
to have a small number say six or seven and work out some nice forfeits
for each lucky winner. Have one main prize in the middle and award a
smaller prize to each individual winner. Of course this means that some
children will not get to take off a wrapper but far more importantly
the game remains fresh and exciting. Once again do not rush the music
but take the game at a leisurely pace. Played like this, Pass the Parcel
can fill fifteen to twenty minutes of the party and be very enjoyable
4) Games where they
are caught out early on and have to sit watching the others enjoying
Finally the "catching
out" games. The inherent problem with this type of game e.g. Musical
Bumps, is that as the game goes on you have an increasing number of
children sitting out with nothing to do. It is when children have nothing
to do that they are at their most unpredictable.
The problem can be dealt with in two ways. The first way is to allow the ones who are out, to assist with the judging.
By explaining that the ones who sit the best will be asked to say who
they think is the next one out, you ensure that their interest is held
for the duration of the game. The second and more preferable way is
not to catch anyone out. "What?" I hear you say (I'm sure
it was you this time) "has this man gone completely mad? How can
you play Musical Bumps without catching anyone out?" Simply by
giving a prize, every time the music stops, to the child who sits down
first. Furthermore the promise of a prize at the end of the game to
the person who has been jumping the highest, ensures that the little
darlings will give of their best throughout. Think about it, no more
tears at being the first one out, complete control over who wins (a
great boon if you are determined to distribute the prizes evenly), more
prizes to be won and, all importantly, control over the length of the
game (you can finish whenever you like).
Phew, I'll bet you're glad that that's
all over. Well sorry to disappoint you folks but there is one more thing
we need to talk about on the subject of games, the PRIZES.
It is a common misconception that every
child at the party must win a prize. It is assumed that those who do
not will dissolve into floods of tears and be desperately unhappy. To
avoid this scenario parents will go to great lengths (in other words
cheat) to ensure that no one misses out. In reality it is down to the
way in which you handle the prize giving that determines the number
of prizes you will need.
The type of prize given is up to the individual but remember that children are just as happy to win a lollipop as something
costing ten times as much. It is the idea of winning a prize that appeals
to the children, not what the prize is. For this reason cries of "I
haven't won anything yet" are invariably heard at parties but this
is easily dealt with. Explain to the concerned ones that everyone will
have something to take home by the end of the party. This statement
is true as they will all be receiving a party bag. Remember it is the
idea that they might be left out that worries the little dears most.
To this end do not give the prizes out as they are won. Show the "winnings"
to the lucky person and say that it will be put into their party bag
to take home at the end of the party.
Once again this simple action conceals
a number of advantages over the tradditional idea of giving out the
prizes straight away.
1) If the prize is of the edible variety
it will not be immediately eaten (to the envy of the other guests),
spoiling a little appetite for tea.
2) If it is a toy or similar it will not
be immediately played with, (once again to the envy of the others who
will want to try it out too) possibly leading to it being lost or broken
before the end of the party.
3) At the end of the party, as everyone
will receive a party bag anyway, the ones with the extra prizes in will
go largely unnoticed by any children who didn't win. As the bags are
given to each child as they leave, there is no opportunity to compare
booty. Each guest will be happy with their own bag of delights, regardless
of the contents.
And so once again oh faithful reader, as
the sun sinks slowly in the West, (what do you mean it's pouring with
rain outside, where's your sense of romance) we come to the end of another
chapter. A long one I'll admit but an important one. Now you too will
be able to take the bull firmly by the horns (make sure it's tied up
first) and put together a games programme for your next children's party
which will be second to none (excepting perhaps that of the people next
door who also read this book on your recommendation). So
have a break, have a *** *** (fill in the name of your favourite chocolate
wafer bar) and move bravely on to the next thrilling chapter.