Parties for five year olds can be lots of fun as they are likely to remember them, be able to enjoy them more, and have a variety of friends to invite. As with parties for younger kids, a party for a five year old, though, should be kept simple and, while a theme is a good idea, what the kids really want to do is just play with their friends and have a lot of fun – and a lot of ice cream. They really don’t care if everything is picture perfect!
It has been suggested that you should invite as many guests as your child is old, which means that a five year old child should invite only five children – but, at this age (unlike the two year old), they are making many friends in kindergarten and also have neighborhood and family friends (cousins), so you could invite as many kids that you know your child likes to play with and enjoys being around. You don’t have to invite the entire class if your child doesn’t really know everyone. Definitely if you are inviting more than a couple of children, you should have extra adult supervision. Generally, for young children such as this, the party should not last too long; about two to two and a half hours is a reasonable amount of time.
One thing to consider is if you’d like to hire an entertainer or if you’d like to hold the party at another venue. When it comes to the entertainment, one that offers a few possibilities, like someone who can face paint and create balloon animals or engage the kids with puppets, works best to keep the kids engaged. As for location, if you’d prefer to not have to face the clean up afterwards, that’s fine: five year olds are comfortable in public settings, and children’s museums, social centers, and arcades offer viable alternatives. My suggestions below though are focused on those planning to have their parties at home in terms of possible games for the children to play and ideas for party food.
Finger foods are definitely the best choice for this age group as they probably won’t be sitting still. Turkey or ham sandwiches and pizza cut up into smaller pieces are good ideas, and, even better, you can make your own pizzas on English muffins or pita bread using tomato sauce and shredded cheese. If you have cookie cutters, you can cut off the crusts of the sandwiches and make the sandwiches look more festive.
Pasta salad is a quick and easy dish to prepare, and you can add a few veggies in there for the kids to eat.
To further balance out the menu, you could put cherry tomatoes and baby carrots into bowls for the kids to pick (celery and cucumber slices work well too) at as well as a dip like hummus for them to try. Strawberries and pineapple make a nice sweet addition – and, yes, don’t forget the ice cream and cake.
The kids can choose whatever they want to eat and put it into small paper bowls – perhaps with a little help for that pasta salad.
Five year olds love interactive games and expect to have some sort of structure to their play, especially given that they will become restless and boisterous if left to their own devices. Still, the games should not be focused on team play or be too competitive. It definitely pays to be prepared – and have a couple of adults devoted to organizing and setting up games because kids of this age look to adults for instruction and help – so that the children don’t ever feel bored.
As the guests are starting to arrive, a good idea is to have the children doing an activity like coloring or playing with play dough so that they can be together doing the same activity and given the chance to meet each other – if they don’t know each other already or are a little shy – without the added pressure of having to directly interact with each other in a more elaborate game. While the kids might start off quiet and reserved, they will quickly become restless and high-energy, so, once all the kids arrive, get the children involved in some of the most energetic games at the start of the party.
If you have a theme, you could tailor the games to reflect the theme (for example, pin the tail games are really easy to adapt – crown on a princess, tail on a tiger, eye-patch on a pirate – as are tag games – freeze tag if your theme is based on the movie Frozen or Monster tag if your theme is dinosaurs or some other creature – see below for game descriptions). It’s a good idea to have at least ten games and activities prepared in advance as the kids are likely to want to have quick turnover of games and some of them might just bomb.
One game that works well indoors is a version of spin the bottle using an empty plastic bottle. The kids sit on the floor in a circle, and whoever the bottle faces after being spun has to then do a simple forfeit, such as singing a nursery rhyme, doing 10 jumping jacks, standing on one leg for 10 seconds, or hopping around the circled children.
A variation of pass the parcel (five years olds may have a hard time to just opening up one layer of paper) would be to have the kids dress up in an item of clothing that you piled in the centre of the circle, such as necklaces, socks, silly hats, big sweatshirts, etc. Dress up is always fun.
Since you have the kids sitting in a circle, the next game can be Duck, duck, goose. In this game, one child starts to go round the circle and gently taps each child, saying the word “duck” each time. When the tapper finally says “goose,” that child has to jump up and chase the tapper around the circle. The tapper has to get back to the “goose’s” spot without being caught by the “goose” first, otherwise he or she will continue to be the tapper. If the tapper succeeds to get back to the “goose’s” spot, then the “goose” becomes the new tapper.
Telephone is a game that can be played indoors. too. One kid thinks up a sentence and whispers it to the child on their right. That child then whispers it to the child on his or her right and so on till it gets to the last child who then says the sentence out loud to compare with what the first child actually said. The key to this game is to not allow repeats of the sentence! The listener has to just go with their gut and repeat what they thought they had heard.
A classic game that can be played both indoors or outdoors is Hide and Seek. Of course, if you allow the kids to play this indoors, you can designate some parts of the house as out of bounds (for example you can have the kids stay downstairs). Last kid to be found becomes the next seeker.
One more game that can be played both indoors and out is Follow the Leader. After a child is chosen to be the leader, that child chooses where to go, and everyone must follow right behind. If you are playing outdoors, you can set up an obstacle course for the children to negotiate using play tunnels or cones to zigzag around etc. If you have only a few guests, let every child have a chance to be the leader.
If the party is taking place outdoors or in a large, rented space, the kids can play tag (remember to include some “no tag” bases where the kids can take a ten second break- you don’t have to use anything special to create the bases; I personally love using hula hoops but even a backpack or prop from the party will do).
One version of tag is Freeze Tag whereby any kid tagged by the kid(s) that are “IT” must freeze where they got tagged and can’t move unless they are “freed” by another player by being tagged again. Once everyone is frozen, those who are “IT” get to choose who “IT” will be for the next round.
A variation would be Monster Tag. In this case, the “IT” gets bigger and bigger because each time a kid is tagged, they join hands with “IT” and go after the kids who are still untagged. In this case, the last one tagged becomes the next “IT.”
Tag games like these are a great choice as kids of this age really love running around, and, there are plenty of other energetic games they can play. For example, while five year olds may have difficulty playing in teams, they can be paired up with another child for some traditional games such as egg and spoon races (safer – and cleaner – use a ping pong ball). If you have balloons, they could race with balloons between their knees or while skipping rope (that would double up as a nice item to put in party favor bags for each child at the end of the party). If your yard has a flat, concrete spot without grass, you can have the kids race as they bounce a small rubber ball as they go (again, the ball would make a good item to include in each child’s party favor bag).
My particular favorite is the Hula Hoop Game where the kids are divided into two groups, and then each team must hold hands in a line- they are not allowed to let go of each other. Each group is given a hula hoop with the goal being to move the hula hoop over their heads and under their feet to move it from the beginning of their line to the end and back again the fastest.
You also can organize a game of skittles using empty plastic bottles or a game of toss by cutting out a couple of holes out of the bottom of a cardboard box and then tossing socks filled with rice or bean bags at the target holes. Remember, as with most games, to have small gifts on hand for the winner.
You might consider getting a bubble machine; bubbles are always fun (I still enjoy blowing bubbles!), or you can plan a simple Scavenger Hunt with common garden items to find like pebbles, tree leaves, and twigs. You can place things around the yard like plastic eggs or small rubber balls for the kids to find also to supplement your list.
A FEW MORE SUGGESTIONS….AND PARTY’S END
Certain games that are also suitable for younger children, such as Tick Tock Clock (where twelve pieces of paper, each with a number from one to twelve, are placed on the floor in a circle, and the kids go round it to music; when the music stops, two dice are rolled to see which kid wins a prize), Limbo (where kids – and adults! – go under a wooden bar held by two others are chest height and then the bar lowers a couple of inches after each round), or Go Fish (where kids capture floating rubber duckies in a pool that have a number from 1-5 written on the bottom that correspond to a particular prize) are also suitable for five year olds. A variation of Go Fish would be to fill the kiddy pool with sand and have the kids dig for the duckies (or other hidden items, like colored plastic balls).
Yet another use of that kiddy pool is to play a Toe Grab Game. For this, you put marbles into the water, and the kids have to grab the marbles with their toes and move them from the pool bottom to a floating container. This game is perfect for a hot summer day given that the kids probably will get really wet!
As I mentioned before, you should definitely have small gifts on hand for the winner of each game. Amazon has a lot of cute and reasonably priced toys or, besides the suggestions I made above, you could go out and buy simple coloring books and pencil sets or sidewalk chalk, small bars of chocolate, and/or bubbles.
To quiet down the party before parents take their children home, it might be a sweet idea to read your child’s favorite story or one that reflects the theme of the party or is a general favorite with kids of that age. At the end of the story, as each kids says goodbye, your kid can help you distribute party favors and thank his or her guests for coming to the party.
Eleni has been a freelance copy writer and editor since 2008 and teaches English composition and literature at the University level. She is always on the lookout for the perfect gift for each of her friends – even if that means buying Christmas presents in July and birthday presents months ahead of time – and she especially loves a good bargain and to try out new ideas. To find out more about Eleni, you can check out her website at http://didimicommunications.wordpress.com/ which is a partner blog focusing on writing, literature, and language.