Herald Journal Columns
March 14, 2005, Herald Journal

March: a month of parties


March for my family means birthdays, balloons, candles, cakes and parties.

My older daughter turned five March 11; my infant daughter toddled to her first birthday Feb. 27, my son turns eight March 18, and needless to say, my (and my twin brother’s birthday) is March 12.

We almost have to take out a loan for the month of March – but I love birthdays and the celebrations that go along with each special one.

I would like to share some tried and true birthday activities, along with some new activities I discovered from Meadowbrook Press.

Of course, it seems that no matter the age, children love some of the very traditional games including musical chairs, breaking of the piñata (which almost all bigger department stores have now), pin the tail on the donkey (or for my daughter’s birthday – pin the tail on My Little Pony), bobbing for apples, charades, hot potato, and drop the clothespin in the jar, bucket, cup, etc.

Marco Polo is a game that could be played outdoors or indoors, depending on space. Choose one player to close his or her eyes and count to 10. The other players scatter.

With eyes closed, the player tries to find another player to tag by calling, “Marco!” and the players responding, “Polo!” in unison. When another player is tagged, the game starts over with the tagged player closing his or eyes and calling, “Marco!”

Limbo is fun too, and a great version of the game, so children of all ages can play, is to choose two players to hold a broomstick and allow the children to choose if they want to jump over the broomstick or crawl under it. Anyone who touches the stick then becomes a holder of the stick for the rest to limbo under and over.

This treasure hunt game may be more of an outdoor game, although it could be played indoors. Divide players into two teams. Put one team in the front yard and the other in the back yard. Give each team a prize, pencil, and paper.

Each team hides its prize and draws a map to the treasure. Teams then swap maps and search for the other team’s loot. The teams must discover the treasures. Children love to use maps to discover the treasures.

Red rover and red light, green light are other outdoor games that are favorites of children.

For red rover, divide guests into two teams, and have the teammates link arms or hold hands and face the other team. One team yells to the other, “Red rover, red rover, send Tina right over!”

Tina tries to break through the opponent’s arms. If successful, she returns with one opponent. If unsuccessful, Tina must stay. Teams take turns calling people over until one team has only one person left.

For the game of red light, green light, the players line up side by side at one end of the yard. At the other end, one person is the stoplight. When the stoplight yells, “Green light!,” players run as far as they can before the stoplight yells, “Red light!” Then, of course, they must stop. Anyone who doesn’t stop is out or goes back to the other side of the yard. The first player who reaches the stoplight becomes the next stoplight.

For the shimmering stones activity, collect about 20 stones of different sizes and shapes. Cover the stones with glow-in-the-dark paint (found at craft supply stores) and hide them around the party room before the guests arrive. During the party, give each player a bag and turn out the lights.

The player who collects the most shimmering stones wins; or don’t have it a contest, and each guest gets to keep the stones that he or she found.

Children love games with balloons, from playing balloon volleyball to popping balloons. Games with balloons are always a hit (just make sure to dispose of all the balloon pieces).

In balloon bodybuilding, many inflated balloons and two adult-size sweat suits or outfits are needed. Split guests into two teams and choose one bodybuilder from each to put on the sweat suit over his or her clothes. Each team has five minutes to stuff as many inflated balloons as they can into the bodybuilder’s sweat suit.

Sur-prize Pop involves sticking small notes inside large colored balloons before you inflate them. On the notes, write messages such as “Good for one free box of crayons,” or “Congratulations! You’ve just won a pack of bubble gum!” Before the party is over, tell each guest to choose a balloon and pop it to collect a special treat.

Dancing is always a popular activity, too. In freeze dancing, children dance while the music is playing. When the music stops, the children must freeze, and resume dancing when the music resumes.

How about a little line dancing? Divide players into pairs and give each pair 10 minutes to create a new line dance to a favorite country music song (or any type of music and routine). The partners can make the dance as silly or serious as they want! When time is up, each pair can take turns performing their dance for the entire group.

After all the gross motor activity, it’s good to have some games that don’t require as much moving action (for parents’ sanity). For animal amnesia, write the names of animals on slips of paper and tape a slip to each guest’s back. Each player tries to figure out his or her animal by asking yes-or-no questions, such as “Do I sleep all winter?” and “Do I have fur?”

The first player who discovers his or her identity wins, or just keep playing until the zoo is completed.

The telephone game is always a hilarious hit. Have players sit in a circle. One player is the operator, who whispers a message to the player on the left. That player whispers the message to the next player and so on, around the circle. The operator tells players what message was sent as well as the one received. The differences will be fun!

For a door prize, play the “guess how many?” game. Before the party, count out a large number of small candies and place them in a jar. Have guests call out (or write out if they can) their guesses for the number of candies in the jar. Write down their guesses. The guest whose guess is closest to the actual number of candies wins the jar and the candy!

Children also enjoy engaging in an art or craft project. Using inexpensive office labels in any shape and fine-point markers, children can create their own stickers.

Toothpick and marshmallow sculpting has always been a hit with my children. Using toothpicks and marshmallows, children can create marvelous sculptures, or they can create marshmallow monsters with a supply of monster-making materials, such as tooth picks, large and small marshmallows, raisins, chocolate chips, licorice, gumdrops, etc.

After everyone’s constructed an edible ogre, give guests a chance to name and describe their creations before devouring them.

Face painting is fun, too. Craft stores and even most department stores carry face paint or face paint markers that make it a very easy activity, and children love to have a colorful decoration on their cheeks, forehead, hands, or arms.

Decorating their own cookies, cupcakes, or sundaes, and even pizzas, is something most children enjoy.

I have a couple more birthday parties for my children coming up in the near future, at which we will be playing many of the games and activities that have been mentioned, and fun (I hope) will be had by all!


“A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which everyone who passes by leaves an impression.”

– Chinese Proverb

Let’s all try and leave wonderful impressions!