Month: March 2019

How Kids Develop Thinking and Learning Skills

At a Glance

  • Kids learn by building connections between brain cells called “neural pathways.”
  • The more these neural pathways are used, the stronger they get. That’s why practicing helps build skills.
  • Kids go through different stages of development and pick up different kinds of thinking skills at each stage.

Children develop skills the way builders build a house. They start with the foundation. What gets built on that foundation at different stages of development determines what the house looks like and how to get from room to room.

Here are key things to know about how kids learn and build on different skills. And remember … if you’re concerned about your child’s development, there are instructional strategies and teaching methods that can help him learn in his own unique way.

Building the Brain’s Wiring System

Each brain cell (neuron) looks a bit like a baby tree. As babies take in information about the world, their neurons branch out and create connections with each other. Called neural pathways, these connections are like an electrical wiring system. Each neuron can have multiple connections to other neurons.

The “wires” don’t touch. Instead, they pass information at the gaps between neurons—the “electrical boxes” known as synapses. Brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) help power the system to get these messages through.

How Neural Pathways Work

Each neural pathway is a circuit. When electricity goes through a circuit, it powers a response. For example, when you flip a light switch, a light comes on. Some brain circuits, like the ones for breathing and circulation, are already developed at birth.

Other circuits are “activity-dependent.” They need input to work, and the more input they get, the better they work. That input is more complex than just flipping a light switch. It comes from all the experiences kids have. Sounds, sights, tastes, smells, the way things feel and emotions all help the brain to release neurotransmitters and power those circuits.

Pruning the Pathways

The neural pathways that are used more often get stronger. Circuits that are not used weaken and disappear over time through a process known as “pruning.” That’s OK—young children have more circuits than they need. Pruning happens all the way through childhood and adolescence. That means kids’ brains are flexible enough to work continuously to build new circuits and refine commonly used neural pathways. This is known as “plasticity.”

The Power of Plasticity

Plasticity is especially important for kids with learning and attention issues. Their brains process information differently and don’t always use brain chemicals effectively. These differences make it harder to create or strengthen some neural pathways.

Teaching kids alternative ways to process information takes advantage of plasticity. It helps neurons build new pathways. The information may have to take a detour and take a little longer to get where it needs to go, but it can still get there.

Learning Through the Senses

Kids don’t have to think about developing neural pathways. It happens naturally as they explore and learn about the world. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget came up with a famous theory about how children develop cognitive or thinking skills. The first stage is when babies use their senses—sight, sound, touch, taste and smell—to start to make connections. They taste, shake and throw objects. They also start to roll and reach for things and, eventually, crawl and walk.

All of these activities help build neural pathways that control things like movement, vision and language development. For example, babies keep making sounds that get them attention they need. They keep putting things that taste good into their mouths, and they keep moving to places they want to see. As they do these things, the brain strengthens those circuits and helps make the activities easier.

Learning Through Language

Between ages 2 and 7 years, language development takes off as kids learn more words, use more complex sentences and even read a little. This is a critical time to provide children with a language-rich environment. The more words and ideas they’re exposed to, the more neural pathways they’ll develop.

Kids can now use objects to play more imaginatively. For example, you might see your child use a big stick as a horse or turn a box into a rocket ship. Social skills develop slowly at this age because kids aren’t ready to understand logic, reasoning and other people’s perspectives. They often have difficulty putting themselves in other people’s shoes and can be critical of other children’s choices and behavior.

Learning Through Logic

From 7 years old to about middle school, kids start thinking more logically. During this stage, kids are more able to make connections between things. They become “detectives” who are able to see clues and put them together.

Socially, kids develop the ability to take turns, put themselves in other people’s shoes and understand that actions have consequences. The circuits that process emotion and feelings strengthen and mature. In this stage, adults can support children by helping them reflect on things like cause and effect.

Learning Through Reasoning

As teens, kids start thinking more abstractly and with more complexity. They consider the “what ifs” of situations to figure out possible outcomes. In terms of school, this means they’re able to do more complicated math and understand characters and plots in deeper ways when they read.

Socially, these new skills help them see that other people’s reactions are sometimes based on different perspectives and experiences. Physically, it means they’re able to put different types of skills together to do more complicated things like driving. The wiring system of the brain becomes more intricate, with circuits intertwining with other circuits to allow all of those skills to work together.

Key Takeaways

  • New experiences help your child build neural pathways. Exploring the world helps the brain grow.
  • Different teaching methods and other intervention strategies can help kids with learning and attention issues develop new pathways and build more skills.
  • At every stage of development, there are things you can do to help your child learn.

About the Author

Portrait of Amanda Morin

Amanda Morin worked as a classroom teacher and as an early intervention specialist for 10 years. She is the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education. Two of her children have learning issues.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Donna Volpitta

Donna Volpitta, Ed.D., is coauthor of The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive, Not Reactive, Parenting.


An Overview of Different Kinds of Learning Disabilities

Dyslexiadyscalculiadysgraphia—many different learning issues fall under the umbrella of “learning disabilities.” This video from the National Center for Learning Disabilities describes them. It also explains what issues don’t fall under that umbrella.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Mark GriffinMark Griffin, Ph.D., was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School, a school for children with specific learning disabilities.


5 Tips for Helping Your Child Stay on Top of Chores

By Erica Patino, M.A.

Kids benefit from doing chores. But if your child has learning and attention issues, getting her to do them regularly and on time can be tough. These tips can help your child complete chores more easily.Share SendSavePrint this1 of 5

Create a chore chart.

When younger kids have trouble remembering their chores, a chore chart can help. You can write the chart on a piece of paper or buy one at a kids’ store or office supply store. Give your child fun stickers to put on the chart once she’s completed a chore. When she sees all her chores checked off, she’ll feel proud that she finished.Share SendSavePrint this2 of 5

Set a chore schedule.

Most kids with learning and attention issues do well with structure. It can help your child if you keep a consistent schedule. Maybe she takes the trash out on Monday, and on Tuesday she helps with laundry. Or if you do all household chores on the weekend, do them in the same order each time—grocery shopping first, followed by laundry, followed by vacuuming and sweeping, for example.Share SendSavePrint this3 of 5

Build incentives.

Your child may feel more motivated to do chores if she has something to look forward to. You might want to plan a fun activity for after her chores are finished, like going to the playground or to the movies. Older kids might receive an allowance for chores. Or they might earn extra money if they take on harder chores, like pulling all the weeds and mowing the lawn.Share SendSavePrint this4 of 5

Reinforce when chores don’t get done.

Kids with learning or attention issues may struggle to stay focused on household chores. Or they might start a chore but not finish it. Instead of giving up and doing it yourself, encourage your child to keep at it. “Let’s take a break, and then you can finish putting away the laundry. Once it’s all put away, you can still go to your friend’s house.” It’s important to make sure the chores are a good fit for her, and that she’s able to complete them.Share SendSavePrint this5 of 5

Make chores a positive experience.

Having chores can be a positive experience for kids. It’s best if they’re simply part of what your child is expected to do to help the family. It’s also important to praise her for doing them. Giving her extra work as punishment, however, can have the opposite effect. It may cause her to see chores as a negative thing. Then she might resist doing them altogether.

Helping your child stay on top of chores teaches responsibility. It can also help improve her self-esteem. And when she gets a positive reaction from you for the effort she’s put in, it will be an instant reward!h


Dealing with Anger

By bounce back parenting

Learning how to handle anger whether you’re and angry parent or a parent dealing with an angry child is one of the most emotionally taxing, yet beneficial challenges we face as parents. Why beneficial? Because there is no one else like your child to motivate you to find healthy responses to anger, and the emotional work you do now will serve you the rest of your life. This intense emotion is hard to control and can be very scary. This is a loving space to learn about handling your anger or the anger of your kids.

I never knew I had a temper until I had kids.

Dealing with anger has been one of the most difficult and humbling parts of parenting for me, so as best I can, I share what I learn along the way.

If you’d like to find way to deal with anger and stop yelling at your kids, these resources are for you.  You are not alone – many of us struggle to deal with anger as we never learned healthy ways to handle this strong emotion.

Great resources to help you deal with anger as a parent

This is me the day I asked my then 7 year old what I look like when I’m angry. We had a little photo shoot. He was saying “Yes! Like that…ok, only meaner!”

I hope the books and links on this page help you find the tools you need to bring some more peace to your home.  I will update this page as I learn more about how to deal with anger.  Let me know if there is a resource you think belongs here.

Bounce Back Parenting works to provide a safe space to talk about anger and parenting.  Thank you for being respectful in your comments.

 Breaking the Rage and Anger Cycle – RIGHT NOW

Anger is not an unhealthy emotion, but the ways we deal with anger sure can be. When you feel stuck being angry or rageful it tends to lead to guilt and shame, making you feel terrible, and more likely to snap and yell, leading to more guilt – yuck. These posts can help you break this cycle and begin the momentum to grow from your anger as you learn healthy ways to deal with it.

Prevent Yelling

Dealing With Guilt

Taking Care of Yourself to Make Dealing with Anger Easier

When You’re Angry Because Your Kids are Angry

  • Parenting an Angry Child – This is something people rarely talk about, but you are not alone.
  • Hug it Out – Calming an Angry Child – This was so simple I thought it couldn’t possibly work, but it has made such a difference in our family.
  • You Can be Kind, They can be Angry – My biggest misperception, that has caused a lot of anger, frustration and confusion was that if I was kind and consistent, my kids would do what I asked…turns out I needed to learn more about the business of setting limits and dealing with angry feelings from others.
  • Reversing an Angry Sibling Habit – When the kids are fighting it turns our whole house angry. Here is one thing we’ve done to reduce sibling anger.

100 Ways to be Kind to Your Child

By Alissa Marquess

100 ways to be kind header

When I wrote this list of 100 Ways to be Kind to Your Child I was in one of those exhausting phases of parenting where days were going by in a blur and I often went to bed feeling defeated and guilty.  Thus, these ways to be kind are not complex or fancy; they are basically a reminder to myself of the simple ways I can connect with and be there for my children.  Many of them will remind you of ways you already are showing your love to your kids.
Thank you for spreading kindness for our children.

100 Ways to Be Kind To Your Child

100 Ways to be Kind to Your Child

Tell your child:

1. I love you.
2. I love you no matter what.
3. I love you even when you are angry at me.
4. I love you even when I am angry with you.
5. I love you when you are far way.  My love for you can reach you wherever you are.
6. If I could pick any 4 year old (5 year old, 6 year old…) in the whole wide world, I’d pick you.
7. I love you to the moon and then around the stars and back again.
8. Thank you.
9. I enjoyed playing with you today.
10. My favorite part of the day was when I was with you and we _______.

11. The story of their birth or adoption.
12. About how you cuddled them when they were a baby.
13. The story of their name.
14. A story about yourself when you were their age.
15. The story of how their grandparents met.
16. What your favorite color is.
17. That sometimes you struggle too.
18. That when you’re holding hands and you give three squeezes, it’s a secret code that means, “I love you”.
19. What the plan is.
20. What you’re doing right now.

21. Charades
22. Hop Scotch
23. Board Games
24. Hide & Seek
25. Simon Says
26. Twenty Questions
27. I Spy on long car rides
28. Catch

29. To catch their kiss and put it on your cheek.
30. That their tickle tank is empty and you have to fill it.
31. That their high five is so powerful it nearly knocks you over.
32. That you are super ticklish.
33. That you are explorers in the amazing world of your own backyard.
34. That it’s party day!

35. To get enough sleep.
36. To drink enough water.
37. To eat decent food.
38. Dressing in a way that makes you feel confident and comfortable.
39. Calling a friend the next time you feel like you are about to lose it with the kids.
40. Giving a gentle touch to show approval.
41. Dancing in the kitchen.
42. To get your kids to bop to the music with you in the car.
43. Showing your kids that you can do a somersault or handstand or a cartwheel.
44. Keeping the sigh to yourself.
45. Using a kind voice, even if you have to fake it.

46. A book of silly poems.
47. A story and then act out the plot.
48. Your favorite childhood book to them.
49. When the afternoon is starting to go astray.
50. Outside under a tree.
51. In the library kids corner.
52. The comic book they love that you’re not so hot on.
53. About age appropriate behavior so you can keep your expectations realistic.

54. To your child in the car.
55. To silly songs together.
56. For that question that means your child really needs your input.
57. One second longer than you think you have patience for.
58. For the feelings behind your child’s words.

59. Why do you think that happens?
60. What do you think would happen if______?
61. How shall we find out?
62. What are you thinking about?
63. What was your favorite part of the day?
64. What do you think this tastes like?

65. Your child how to do something instead of banning them from it.
66. How to whistle with a blade of grass.
67. How to shuffle cards – make a bridge if you can!
68. How to cut food.
69. How to fold laundry.
70. How to look up information when you don’t know the answer.
71. Affection to your spouse.
72. That taking care of yourself is important.

Take Time:
73. To watch construction sites.
74. To look at the birds.
75. To let your child pour ingredients into the bowl.
76. To walk places together.
77. To dig in the dirt together.
78. To do a task at your child’s pace.
79. To just sit with your child while they play.

80. That your child is capable.
81. That you are the right parent for your child.
82. That you are enough.
83. That you can do what is right for your family.

84. Clean your child’s room as a surprise.
85. Put chocolate chips in the pancakes.
86. Put a love note in their lunch.
87. Make their snack into a smiley face shape.
88. Make sound effects while you help them do something.
89. Sit on the floor with them to play.

Let Go:
90. Of the guilt.
91. Of how you thought it was going to be.
92. Of your need to be right.

93. A kind look.
94. A smile when your child walks into the room.
95. A kind touch back when your child touches you.
96. The chance to connect before you correct so that your child can actually hear your words.
97. Your child a chance to work out their frustrations before helping them.
98. A bath when the day feels long.
99. A hug.
100. You get to choose the next one!  What is your favorite way to be kind to your child?


17 Tips to Throw a Kids’ Birthday Party on a Budget

Throw a bash to be remembered with these clever cost-cutting ideas. Happy birthday, indeed.

By Laura Fenton
Courtesy :

Want to throw your child an awesome party without breaking the bank? We’ve got you covered! Here are our best tips for sticking to a budget at your next bash.

1. Timing is everything. Plan your party from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., says Danielle Walker, author of Against All Grain: Celebrations. After lunch and before dinner is the best time to party, when guests don’t expect a full meal.

2. Stretch your planning. Start supply-hunting early; it’ll give you time to comparison shop. Plus, you’ll save yourself from running out at the last minute to buy overpriced things you’ve forgotten. “I’m on the lookout all year for party items that go on sale, usually in the dollar bin at Target, Dollar Tree, or the 99-cent store,” says Helen Holden, author of the blog Counting Candles.

3. Go digital. In a Parents survey of nearly 1,500 parents, 73 percent of you said you sent paper invitations for your kid’s last birthday party. Next time, send your guests a free electronic invitation; you’ll save what you’d normally spend on paper invites.

4. Double up. If your kid’s birthday falls close to a buddy’s, consider a dual party. You and the other child’s parents will split the cost—and responsibilities. Just make sure each kid gets her own cake.

5. Avoid party-store traps. Don’t pay a markup for party-store items that you could find elsewhere for less. For example, chocolates may be sold five for $1 (20 cents each) at party shops, but a bag of minis from a big-box store can be half as much.

6. Tap your network. For entertainment, think about your personal connections and community resources, suggest Steve and Annette Economides, of For example, the couple once asked a friend who is a police officer to come to one of their son’s parties in uniform; likewise, their local college has bowling lanes where rounds were less than half the price of the commercial bowling alley.

7. Opt out. When kids are still little, consider skipping a traditional birthday party altogether, suggests Simple Matters author Erin Boyle. “My husband and I celebrated our daughter’s first birthday with a picnic.”

8. Make themed favors. Try a personalized craft activity; it eliminates the need for hired entertainment and takes the place of a costly goody bag. “I type ‘blank’ or ‘DIY’ on party-supply sites, to see what comes up,” says Jodi Levine, of, who suggests you pick something related to your theme—whether it’s plain tote bags or white umbrellas.

plain party supplies
Yunhee Kim

9. Order online. Prices aren’t always better if you shop online, but hitting the Web for your favors and decorations may help you avoid impulse purchases. Here are a few of our favorite sites for discount party supplies: 

10. Make a semi-homemade cake. Karen Tack, coauthor of Cake My Day!, suggests baking an inexpensive box mix, but substituting buttermilk for the water for a firmer, less-sweet cake. Then frost the cake with a homemade buttercream, combining milk, unsalted butter, vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar (many boxes of the sugar have the recipe).

11. Dress up humble supplies. Use what you have on hand to make plain party supplies feel special, as they typically cost half as much as decorated supplies. For example, use a hole-puncher to jazz up paper plates and napkins (punch holes around the outer edge of each plate and one corner of each napkin to create a design) and binder- and dot-stickers to decorate plain balloons. Buy a few key items to establish the theme, like a special foil balloon, and stick to affordable basics for everything else.

12. Price out the party places. Not up for hosting at your casa? It may be more cost- and time-effective to let a venue do the work.

13. Upcycle party favors. Hate goody bags? Levine suggests embracing the stuff kids bring home. “I save all the goody-bag candy that I’d rather they didn’t eat and the toys that they forget about immediately. Then I use them for piñata filler at their own parties,” she says. Bonus: The piñata acts as an activity and its fillings as favors. Find piñatas for less than $20 each at

14. Elevate the everyday. Take advantage of kids’ vivid imagination, suggest Steve and Annette Economides, who say one of their most successful party games was a treasure hunt for “gold” (spray-painted rocks) that the kids took home as favors.

15. Streamline the swag bag. These trinkets are usually sold in sets; divide them up for affordable party favors that are way better than your average birthday goody bag:

mixed party favors on a budget
Yunhee Kim

16. Embrace no-cost activities. Instead of hired entertainment, be prepared with a few free activities like these classic games you can play for next to nothing:

  • Freeze Dance
  • Keep-Up-the-Balloon
  • Musical Chairs
  • Hot Potato
  • Charades
  • Red Rover
  • Three-Legged Race
  • Duck, Duck, Goose
  • “Button, button, who’s got the button?”
  • “Simon says”

17. Utilize your library. For a free activity, borrow books, videos, and DVDs from the library that correspond to your party’s theme. Storytime is an especially good way to calm preschoolers down after physically active games.


Cheap Indoor and Outdoor Party Games for Kids

Have a barbecue or birthday party coming up? Here are some great ways to entertain (and wear out) your little partygoers!

courtesy :



Kids doing a potato sack race

Potato-sack race

Hop your way to victory in an old-fashioned sack race! In the past, this game was played using large, burlap potato sacks. Since those aren’t easily obtainable anymore, good quality burlap bags can be purchased from coffee roasting companies. You could even use King-Sized pillow cases (if you don’t mind them getting grass-stained!), or buy them online.

To play, have each kid step into his or her bag, pulling the top edges up around the waist. They must race to the finish line by holding the sack up and jumping inside of the bag. 


Families doing a three-legged race

Three-legged race

This race is more about cooperation than speed. Divide party guests into pairs and have them stand side by side. Then, tie each couple’s inside legs together with a bandana. Duct tape also works well in place of a bandana if all participants are wearing jeans. To play, the three-legged pairs must race to the finish line. Have two adults stretch a length of crepe paper across the finish line, and let the winning team break through the paper. 

he three-legged pairs must race to the finish line. Have two adults stretch a length of crepe paper across the finish line, and let the winning team break through the paper. 


Two kids playing limbo

How low can you go?

Historically, the Limbo was danced as a part of wakes and funerals in the Caribbean Islands. More of a dance than a game, modern-day Limbo is a celebration. To play, line the kids up single-file. Two adults stand on either side of the limbo pole or stick and hold it up horizontally in front of the line. If you don’t have a pole, use a pool noodle or broom.

Start the music — any music with a strong island beat will do. The object of the game is to pass under the stick by bending backward, without touching the stick or falling. The two adults start with the stick held high enough for the kids to walk underneath, and then lower the stick a bit each time the first person in line comes around again. Keep going until the stick is too low for anyone to pass underneath without touching it. 


20 best birthday party games for kids of all ages

Kate WardSept. 21, 2018
Courtesy :

Cake and presents may be the main attraction of your little one’s birthday party, but it’s important to have games planned to keep the kids entertained and out of trouble. Devising games can be time-consuming, so we asked some party planning experts to give us advice on how to pick ones that are sure to be a hit — and are easy to set up.

Laura Riggs, owner of, advises parents to avoid competitive games with younger children, because they don’t always grasp the concept of sportsmanship and their feelings are easily hurt when they don’t win. Bridget Parry, an event stylist and party blogger, says she always likes incorporating crafts and games around the party’s theme. The only real rule with birthday party games, though, is that they should be fun!

Here are 20 birthday party games that are perfect for kids of any age.

Kids ages 2 and up

1. Prize Walk

This game is similar to a cake walk (a popular carnival game), but instead of winning a cake, kids win prizes. Write numbers from 1-30 on squares and tape them to the ground in a circle. Make small numbered squares to correspond with the numbers on the ground and keep them in a basket. Start the game by having each child stand on a number and begin walking around the circle when the music starts. When the music stops they have to stand on a number. If their number is chosen from the basket, they win a prize. This game can continue until everyone wins a prize.

2. Bubble Wrap Races

This game is fun and will having everyone giggling. Buy a large roll of bubble wrap and lay out a 5-foot piece of it in the yard or in an open space. Have each child cross the bubble wrap barefoot. The object is to get all the way across without popping any of the bubbles. If you want to make it more competitive, line up three sections and have teams race across to the other side. The team who crosses without making a peep (or making the least pops) wins! This game is best for kids ages 3 and up.

3. Doughnut on a String

This one is simple enough for the younger guests and delicious enough for everyone else. Tie a rope to something sturdy, such as thick tree branches. Use ribbons to attach each doughnut to the rope so that the doughnut hangs freely and is at a good length for the party guests. On the count of three, each player must try to eat their entire doughnut without it falling to the ground. The big challenge: No hands allowed! The first person to finish their doughnut without it falling wins. There is really no need for prizes here because the doughnuts will be the yummiest prize of all.

4. Musical Statues

Play some upbeat music and let the kids dance like crazy. When the music is paused, each child must freeze like a statue. If anyone is caught moving, they’re out. This one is lots of fun for younger kids but tougher for those under 4 years old. Anyone younger than 4 can be encouraged to dance along in a separate area just for fun. Make sure to give out small prizes, like stickers, as players are eliminated so that everyone walks away happy.

5. The Bubble Game

This is one for your youngest guests and is perfect for toddlers and young preschool-aged kids. An adult will blow bubbles (or you could opt for a faster bubble machine) and the players race around to pop as many bubbles as they can. Once you’ve played a few times, let the kids start taking turns being the bubble blower. You’ll be surprised how many times young children will want to play this game. Hand out small prizes at the end to all your little bubble players.

6. BYOB Bike/Tricycle Race

Kids will stay happily occupied with this obstacle course bike race, which includes a bike decorating contest and award ceremony. Just note on the invitations that it’s a BYOB (bring your own bike) party, and be sure to ask parents to bring their kids’ helmets along, too. Have some extras on hand for those who forget.

Create a short obstacle course and time each rider separately, or if it’s a large area, they can all go at the same time. This game can also be made into a relay race. The race can take place in a park, vacant lot, cul-de-sac or driveway. Have kids decorate bikes with streamers, pennants and noisemakers made from playing cards placed between the spokes. You can find traffic cones at any major home improvement store and plastic skateboard ramps at local supercenters. You can also have a water spray at the end of the race course during summertime parties. At the end of the race, hand out prizes like plastic trophies, water bottles and bike accessories, such as spokesters, horns and pennants.

Kids ages 5 and up

7. Balloon Burst

Riggs says this is one of her favorite games. Kids bop a balloon in the air to music until the music stops, then whoever was the last to touch the balloon must pop it and complete the challenge that’s inside. Write challenges on paper and insert them into balloons before inflating. Have enough balloons to continue the game for as long as you decide. Challenges can be anything from trivia questions to physical tests, like trying to lick your elbow or sing a song with a mouthful of crackers. Younger players will need a little assistance in reading the challenges.

8. Mummy Wrap

Incorporate this game into an October birthday for a Halloween-themed party, along with bobbing for apples. Divide kids into small groups and have them pick someone to be the mummy (or have an adult be the mummy). Pass out rolls of toilet paper to each group and whoever wraps up their mummy using all the toilet paper the quickest wins. For non-October birthdays, this can be adapted to be a fashion show contest, with players wrapping their teammate up in their own design and having those players walk the runway at the end.

9. Treasure or Scavenger Hunt

These hunts are fun and easy to adapt to any party’s theme and to the ages of the guests. The difference between a treasure hunt and a scavenger hunt is simple. In a treasure hunt, you would sketch out a simple map and give kids pictures of the treasures to be found along the route. Along with each clue they find, there will be a small reward. If you’re having a pirate-themed party, then clues could be chocolate coins, with a treasure chest of prizes at the end. For a scavenger hunt, you would give the children a list of specific items to find in a defined area. The child (or team) that finds all of the items first, wins. Lists of items to hunt can include things in nature, shops and food at the mall or items that relate to specific letters. You can send kids off in small groups with an adult chaperone if they are in public places.

10. Origami Boat Races

This game is played by blowing through a straw to power paper boats across a plastic pool, with the winner being first to make it across. If you play this in groups, then the winners from each group or race can continue to play each other until a final winner is declared. The boats are easy to construct using origami paper that can be found at any craft supply. Older kids will enjoy making them, but parents may need to help younger ones with this craft. You’ll find these instructions on making the boats easy to follow.

11. Drama Game

In this game, kids get to create their own entertainment. Start by giving each child or group of children a grocery bag of props, which can include anything from kitchen items and costumes to makeup and assorted clothing. Then give them an allotted time for planning their skits before you tape their performances. After everyone has finished, have a screening and award ceremony, where each child receives a trophy for their part in the skit. Skits can entail anything from a talk or cooking show to a TV commercial. Kids ages 6 and up are best for this one.

12. Bucket Toss

Line up six buckets or pails and number them from one to six. Put prizes in each of the buckets, saving the bigger prizes for the higher-numbered buckets. Have the kids line up and instruct each player to start by tossing a ping pong ball into the first bucket. If they get it in, they move on to the next numbered bucket. The highest-numbered bucket that a player lands his ball in determines which bucket he gets to pick a prize from. Each of the kids will likely land their ball in at least one bucket, so everyone will get a prize.

13. Rainbow Dress Up Relay Race

This one is ideal for a rainbow- or fairy-themed party, but you can adjust the clothing choices based on your party’s theme. You will need two similar sets of clothing that in total make up the colors of a rainbow. For example, a red shirt, a blue hat, a green sock, a yellow skirt, and so on. Divide players into two teams and have them line up at a starting point. Each team will be given one of the sets of clothing. The first player on each team has to put on all the clothing, run to a turnaround spot, run back to her team, take off the clothes and hand them off to the next player. Each teammate must complete this task. The team that has had all of its players return to the starting point first wins!

14. Egg and Spoon Race

You only need some hard-boiled eggs and some tablespoons for this classic party game. Have each of the children line up with an egg and a spoon. Tell them to place the egg onto their spoon and race across to the finish line without dropping their eggs. If an egg falls, that child must start the race over again. The first person to reach the finish line without dropping their egg wins. This game is a test of balance and coordination that will have the kids laughing all the way to the finish line.

Kids ages 10 and up

15. Photo Scavenger Hunt

Divide the players into teams. It doesn’t really matter how large or small the teams are, you just need to have enough phones to give one to each team. (Make sure the phones have a protective case on them!) Give the teams a list of things that they need to capture photos of in order to win. These can be as simple as taking a picture of something blue, a photo of one teammate giving another a piggyback ride or a selfie of all of them in front of a specific tree. Use your imagination and whatever is available in your location to come up with the list for the teams. Whichever team completes the list first wins. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to collect a bunch of birthday party photos to share with friends and family.

16. Head Pop

For this giggly favorite, you will need balloons of two different colors (around 20 per color is ideal) and two hats with pins sticking out of the top of them. Tie the balloons at various heights from the ceiling. They should be at least high enough that the kids are able to pop them with their heads. To start, one player from each team is given a hat to put on and 15 seconds to try and pop as many of their team’s balloons as possible. When their 15 seconds is up, the next players from each team are given 15 seconds to try. A new player from each team tries to pop the balloons every 15 seconds. The first team to pop all of their balloons wins.

17. Glow-in-the-Dark Capture the Flag

This game kicks an old favorite up a few notches and is perfect for a tween or teen sleepover birthday party as you will need it to be dark outside to play. This game follows the same rules as a traditional Capture the Flag, except that, in this case, the glow sticks are the flags. You will need two different colored glow sticks and enough matching glow bracelets for each team. Divide the players into two teams and give them the bracelets that match their glow stick. Designate an area of play and divide the area into two sections using something like a rope or a line of shoes and have the teams hide their “flag” on their own side. Each team has to find the opposing team’s flag and bring it back to their own side of the playing area. Players are free to run around anywhere, but the trick is to not get caught in the other team’s section or you could be tagged and sent to “jail.” If a teammate is in jail, another teammate can free them by going over and bringing them back to home base without being tagged. The first team to capture their opponent’s glow stick and bring it back, wins.

18. Truth or Dare?

Truth or Dare is a classic party game, and no one loves playing it more than tweens and teens. Put at least 20 truths and 20 dares on individual pieces of paper and then place them in their corresponding labeled buckets or jars. Each kid will take a turn choosing from the “Truth” or the “Dare” bucket. They will need to complete their tasks until all of the papers have been used. You’ll want to keep the truth or dare options age-appropriate while still fun, so here are 100 truth or dare questions for tweens that you can use in your game. Once the game is over, give each player a small prize for being so brave.

19. ‘Fear Factor’ Games Course

Yes, it’s been a while since “Fear Factor” was on our television screens, but your kids don’t need to have watched the show to enjoy this terrifyingly fun course. Set up a line of games that each kid has to complete in order to win. These games can range from Egg Roulette where players are given an egg and must crack it against their heads in three seconds (they will think the eggs are raw, but they will actually be hard-boiled) to a Blood Chugging Contest where they are asked to drink cups filled with “blood” (actually V8 or or tomato juice with some added gelatin for texture). In most of these games, it’s the idea of what they think they’re doing, not the reality of it, that makes it such a good time. Here is a lengthy list of “Fear Factor” game ideas for kids and the top 10 “Fear Factor” games for birthday parties.

20. ‘Minute to Win It’ Course

Based on another television show, “Minute to Win It” games are exciting for smaller kids, tweens, teens and even adults. Set up a course made up of five to eight “Minute to Win It” challenges. The players have one minute to complete a specific task at each station. Once they’ve completed it, they can move on to the next station. Some examples are Cookie Face (you place an Oreo on each player’s forehead and she must get the cookie into her mouth without using her hands), Junk in the Trunk (players have a tissue box or sandwich bag box filled with eight ping pong balls strapped onto their backs and they must shake out all eight balls before the minute is up) and Stack Attack (players must stack a set of plastic cups into a pyramid and then back into a single stack). These challenges are so popular with kids of all ages that you can find an endless supply of “Minute to Win It” game ideas all over the internet. Here is a list of 10 popular “Minute to Win It” challenges and 200 more game options to get you started.

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