3 Fun Games for an Outdoor Birthday Party

Fall is a great season for outdoor parties, especially children’s birthday parties.  And outdoors, there’s plenty of room to handle all that “kid” energy.  It’s a lot easier to clean up afterwards, too!  A special activity outside can make your child’s party a real hit.  Here are a few to try.

A Treasure Hunt … Naturally

Watching_Magnifying_ Glass_LauraWhitehead_160x150Everybody loves a scavenger hunt: Luckily, this hunt for nature’s treasures can be adapted for any age group.

How to Prepare:

1. Decide where to conduct your treasure hunt. It could be a park, a beach, or your block or backyard. Plan your treasure list accordingly.

2. Set the rules. Be very clear what is “OK” to take from nature – especially if you’re leaving your own property. For example, all items should be found on the ground rather than picked off a plant.

3. Make the list, adapting for age.

Toddlers/ Preschoolers: If your guests can’t yet read, create a list using photos or illustrations you find in magazines or online. Or draw them yourself, if you have time and an artistic impulse! Some possibilities:

  • Acorn
  • Twig the size of your pinky
  • Red leaf on the ground
  • Rock
  • Pine cone

Older Kids: Simply write the list, instead of using pictures, and make the search harder. Some examples:

  • Bark from a fallen branch
  • Twig in the shape of a Y or T
  • Object whose name begins with the same letter as the name of the birthday child
  • Three smooth stones
  • Leaves on the ground from five different types of trees
  • A seed pod

For Kids Who Want a Harder Challenge: Have them try to find items with names that begin with all the letters of the alphabet.  See who can gather the most complete collections.

Play Time! Make the boundaries of the search very clear, give each child a bag and a list, and off they go!  Once the hunt is over, you can keep the fun going by bringing out glue sticks and construction paper or poster board. Have your guests make nature collages to take home. For younger kids, have a parent go along, if the hunt takes them  out of sight or earshot.

Leaf Obstacle Course

BoyinLeaves_ErnstVikne_160x150A perfect combo of outdoors, exercise, and fun—adaptable to the skills of any age group.

How to Prepare:

1. First rake up all your leaves; you’ll need them!

2. Decide if you want two parallel courses so kids can race each other or one course where you time each child—or just cheer them on without being too competitive.

3. The course’s design and stations will depend on the layout of your backyard and the age of your guests.  Possibilities include:

  • Several small leaf-filled garbage bags placed several feet apart so runners can jump over each one
  • A station where children must fill a paper grocery bag with leaves before moving on
  • A 4-inch-wide wide board set on bricks as a balance beam (with leaves on either side)
  • A heavy rope tie to a large tree branch so kids can swing over a pile of leaves
  • A station where each child dives into a leaf pile to find a ball that must be thrown into a wastebasket before moving on
  • The grand finale? Jumping into a giant pile of leaves, of course!

Play Time!

1. During the races, have another adult on hand to manage various stations and reset the course (re-bury the balls, fluff up leaf piles, empty the grocery bag, etc.).

2. With this much fun, every kid’s a winner.  How about presenting each child with an edible medal: A cookie strung on a ribbon?

3. If your region’s version of autumn doesn’t include fallen leaves, adapt these stations or add new ones for a leafless course.

Have a ‘Dino Dig’

dinosaur_puzzleKids will love this archeological dig set up right in your backyard.

How to Prepare:

1. Buy a large wooden 3-D dinosaur puzzle (can be found online or in a toy store), enough sandbox sand for all the kids to comfortable play in, and a cheap paintbrush for each guest.

2. Bring a few old drop cloths or shower curtains to put the sand on for easy clean-up and to display the artifacts after they are found.

3. Number the puzzle pieces so you’ll know if they’ve all been found.

Play Time!

1. On party day, spread  an old shower curtain or drop-cloth on the ground in your backyard.

2. Scatter the puzzle pieces on the cloth or plastic.

3. Pour the sand over the pieces to conceal them.

4. Hand each kid a brush and get them working the “excavation site.”

5. Lay all the discovered pieces on a tarp or blanket.

6. After the dig, have the kids put the dinosaur together!

7. If you have time, you could let the guests decorate the assembled dinosaur.

Susan Goodman currently writes the “Green Hour” features for National Wildlife Federation magazine, Your Big Backyard.  She is also an award-winning author of nonfiction books for children, including All in Just One Cookie and On This Spot.  To learn more about Susan and her books, visitwww.susangoodmanbooks.com.