At every party there are guests who arrive early and guests who arrive late, so it’s a good idea to have an ice breaker to keep them occupied until everyone arrives. If left to their own devices kids tend to run around and can be out of control before the party even starts!
The ice breaker activity should be one that can be considered completed at any stage so you’re ready to move on when the last guest arrives, but is involved enough to keep the earliest guests’ interest for as long as is necessary.
It is important for you as hostess to greet the arrivals and speak with their parents so the activity should be self-directed or have someone volunteer to keep the kids organized for you.
If your party is set up with stations that guests can visit at their leisure, make sure all stations are prepared and the volunteer who is manning the station is in place with full understanding of their instructions before anyone arrives.
Never underestimate the power of finger foods! I have a very active son so I know from experience that if you want him to sit still – or at least not run around at top speed – you need to give him something to do that is acceptable and nibbles fits the bill. The key here is to serve something that takes time and a lot of munching movement such as fishy crackers, potato chips, etc.
This is one of those tricky areas. Some kids HATE games. Sometimes thinking games like puzzles, trivia or pictionary makes them worried they’ll look “stupid” or physical games may make them look “silly” so you really need to know your group before deciding on whether you should plan on a game as an ice breaker and which type of game will work best. And don’t assume that an active game will help them get rid of their energy. Some of my son’s friends were revved up by activity so I had to choose wisely. You really do need to know who is on the guest list and plan from there. Games require supervision so make sure you have a volunteer to who can organize the games while you greet the guests and talk to their parents.
Not every child enjoys art so the key to a successful art ice breaker is to offer several different choices in medium such as crayons, pencil crayons, markers, stickers and stencils. Make their art important – not just a time filler – by giving them a printout of a picture frame for their creation, put it up on the wall as a “party decoration” and then send it home with them. Coloring pages are interesting to some young children too.
If you want to keep it simple, give each child a brown paper lunch bag or plain gift bag to decorate their own loot bag. They can also embellish their party hat or crown.
Craft kits are available at a reasonable cost and do double-time by being a take home party favor as well as an event at the party. Choose an easy craft that can be completed within a reasonable period of time but can be easily added to if you get a Rembrandt in your midst!
Some kids hate crafts but ask them to decorate a cookie and that’s something altogether different! Whether they treat it as a work of art or just love to load up their cookie with as many goodies as possible, all kids love this ice breaker. Don’t forget to have enough decorations on hand to encourage munching, which also keeps them busy.
Whether you hand out activity pages or a book that they can start on now and take home to finish, activity sheets with mazes, coloring pages, adlib games, picture or word searches & matching games are a great way to keep them entertained.
Kids of all ages love bubbles. Yes, even tweenagers! Just let the bubbles fly and they’ll be drawn to them. It is a fun pastime that is mildly active (for most kids).
Want to pump up the fun factor? Turn on a video camera with a monitor so they can watch themselves chasing bubbles. Especially fun if they are in costume.
Costumes or Face Painting
There is nothing like a costume to get kids in the mood for your chosen party theme! You can choose something as simple as fairy wings, a mask or a luau skirt or go all-out with a rack of cute costumes. Another idea is to use the costume as a chair decoration at the party table – makes a great photo – and then the child can choose whether they want to wear the costume or not.
Face painting is something all kids love, but requires a talented volunteer to do so you can be free to greet guests.
A photo booth is a great way for the birthday girl or boy to greet their guests. They can choose a prop for their picture together, and more kids can get in on the photo as they arrive. Props can be as simple as funny thought balloons or speech bubbles for them to hold up or as elaborate as full costumes.
You can combine a craft with the photo booth by giving them a photo frame to decorate while you print out the picture for them to take home.
I hope this list of ice breaker ideas helps you in your party planning!
Photo of bubbles in sunshine by Steve Jurvetson via Wikimedia Commons
Over to You
Do you have a planned activity for kids to do when they first arrive at the party, or do you let them run around and meet each other?
If you have a great idea that encourages kids to entertain themselves while you greet parents, tell us in the comments.
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