Preschoolers love parties, and they love to play games. So what are the best classroom holiday games? Typically, games which do not emphasize a “winner" or a “loser" are a safe bet, because preschoolers and younger children do not always have the skills to handle competitive activities. They have a hard time listening, do not always sit still long enough to hear the directions, and haven’t necessarily learned good sportsmanship.
With this in mind, here are some simple party games for Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter celebrations both in and out of the classroom.
Old-Fashioned Fun for the 4th of July
Your holiday parties will be a hit with these ideas designed for kids!
The first is a spin on the old favorite – Duck, Duck Goose. Have the kids sit in a circle. Choose one child to start. Instead of saying "Duck, Duck, Goose" however, the child says "Firecracker, Firecracker, BOOM!" Then, play continues just as it would normally for the game. If the person who is "It" gets caught, they must now be "It." If they are not caught, the first person continues playing. You can extend the fun by allowing the children to make their own firecracker table decorations when they have finished.
Beat the heat with a silly game of "Cool Clothes." For this game, you will need a stopwatch and several sets of clothing – one for each person playing. For example, you may wish to use a shirt, pair of pants or shorts and pair of socks. Briefly soak the sets in water. Squeeze out the excess water, and then fold the clothes on top of one another to create the set. Place each set in the freezer until you are ready to play the game. Move the sets to a cooler just before beginning. Players will have to remove one set of clothes from the cooler, and then thaw them until they can be worn. The object of the game is to be the fastest player fully dressed. You can make this game even more challenging by having the kids create their own star-spangled headbands to wear while playing!
Games for Fourth of July parties can also be incorporated into your picinic treats. Consider having a watermelon seed spitting contest, an ice cream sundae eating contest, or even bobbing for apples!
Halloween – Pumpkin Bowling and Candy Corn Relay
It is suggested that each of these Halloween holiday party games be played in the hallway or empty classroom.
Materials for Bowling
- A small round pumpkin to use as a “bowling" ball (you may wish to have a few on hand…just in case one breaks)
- 10 empty water bottles
Set the water bottles up in a traditional bowling pin formation. Let the kids take turns rolling the ball down an “aisle" and knocking over the water bottle “pins." Each child should have 2 tries…just as they would in a real bowling game.
Materials for Relay
- Large spoon for each team
- Large bowl of candy corn for each team
- Empty bowl for each team
Divide the group into two teams. One player from each team uses the spoon to scoop candy corn from the filled bowl, and then races to the empty bowl to deposit what is on the spoon. The team with the most pieces of candy corn transferred wins.
Thanksgiving – Pin the Tail on the Turkey
- Chart paper or poster board
- A cut-out of a colorful feather with sticky tape on the back (a real feather may also be used)
- Blindfold or sleep mask
This is a Thanksgiving version of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey." Prepare a large drawing of a Thanksgiving turkey on chart paper or poster board in front of the kids. Thanksgiving group activities for this game includes asking the children to then help you color all of the turkey, with the exception of one of the feathers. The unfinished feather on the drawing is where the students will try to "pin" the paper feather or real feather.
When they have finished their coloring task, ask all of the children in the group to notice that the turkey in the drawing appears to be missing one feather. Show them the extra feather, and tell the group that the game will be to see how close they can come to "pinning" (or taping) the missing feather back on the turkey.
Using the first volunteer, fashion or tie the blindfold or sleep mask so that it is covering the child's eyes. Place the feather in the child's hands and instruct him/her to walk forward and try to "pin" the feather as close to the missing feather as possible. You may wish to walk along side the child, so that he or she does not bump into anything or fall over and hurt themselves. As soon as they have taped the feather to the turkey, help them to remove the mask so that they can see how close they got to the actual spot.
Christmas – Bean Bag Ornament Toss
- Christmas tree pattern (see insert)
- Foam core board (approximately 4 feet long by 3 feet wide)
- 2 large cans of soup
- 6 small round bean bags in different colors
This version of a traditional bean bag toss may be adapted for many different classroom holiday games. For Christmas, create a large drawing of a Christmas tree using the foam core board and the Christmas tree pattern shown below. Paint the tree to look like a Christmas tree. Using the scissors, cut out holes where the 6 large ornaments are on the Christmas tree. These are the holes through which the children will throw the bean bags. Using the 2 large soup cans prop the foam core board on the floor so that it is at a slight angle. Have the children stand a few feet back from the foam core board. Let them take turns tossing the bean bag "ornaments" into the ornament holes.
Replicate This Christmas Tree on Foam Core Board
Valentine’s Day – Cupid’s Balloons and Don’t Say a Word
Minimal planning is needed for each of these children's Valentine's Day games. They even share some of the same materials!
Materials and Directions for Cupid's Balloons
- Drawing of a large heart on poster board or chart paper
- Clothes pins
- Multi-colored balloons (these should be blown up and clipped shut with the clothes pins…not tied)
Explain to the students that Cupid is a mythical god of love, and that in the stories told he carries an arrow which he shoots at people to make them want to fall in love. They are going to play Cupid using balloons instead of arrows.
Have the first volunteer stand a bit away from the poster board heart. Take the clip off of the balloon, but keep it pinched closed with your fingers. Hand it to the child, and show him or her how to also keep it pinched closed with their fingers. Have the child stand a good ways away from the paper heart. Instruct the child to release the balloon on your command, and try to aim it at the paper heart so that it hits it.
The goal is to hit the heart with the balloon. While this may sound simple, it is not as easy as it looks. When balloons are released, they fly all over the place! Give each child several chances to hit the heart.
Materials and Directions for Don't Say a Word
- Same clothes pins from the above game – one per child
- List of forbidden words duplicated on a poster board or written on the chalkboard (love, Valentine's Day, candy, chocolate, heart, February, fourteen)
This game is best played the entire day, or at least throughout the entire party. Have students each clip a clothes pin to the front of their shirt. Show them the list of "forbidden" words. Explain to them that if they catch a classmate using one of these words, they may collect that classmate's pin (or pins) to add to their own shirt. (Stress that honesty on the part of both students is expected!) The person at the end with the most clothes pins wins! Tell students to be creative as they try to get their friends to say the "forbidden" words.
Easter – Hot Egg Toss and Flashlight Egg Hunt
Hot Egg Toss Materials
- Colorful plastic eggs slightly weighted with small pennies
- Recording of a fun Easter Song (Like "Here Comes Peter Cottontail")
This is a version of the traditional "Hot Potato" game. Before beginning, have the students sit cross-legged in a circle, so that their knees are touching. Give one student an egg. Tell the students that you are going to start playing some Easter music. They are to gently toss the egg back and forth to each other until they hear the music stop. Whoever is left holding the egg has to leave the circle. If you are playing with a large group, keep going until you get down to one person left. If you are playing with a small group, have the student who is "out" leave the group for one round of the song, and then re-join the group on the next round.
Flashlight Egg Hunt Materials
- Colorful plastic eggs (filled with candy or empty)
- Glow-in-the-dark tape
Depending on where you live, an outdoor Easter egg hunt is not always possible. Here is a great alternative to include with your Easter party games! Wrap the plastic eggs with a small piece of the tape. Hide the eggs around the room, as you would for an Easter egg hunt. Give each child, or pair of children, a flashlight. Turn off the lights and let them hunt for the eggs! Note – you may wish to determine ahead of time just how many eggs each child or pair is allowed to find. This will ensure that there are no children left empty-handed.
Keep in mind that games do well as part of a rotation with other activities, such as craft projects or treat making and eating. This way, if a child is "out" or has completed their turn, they can move on to the next activity.
Do you have other ideas to add to our list of classroom holiday games? If so, be sure to visit our comments section below.