Everyone loves a birthday — especially those that celebrate a single digit!
Toddlers don’t necessarily need piñatas to party (too many possibilities for injury), and clowns and magicians can frighten your little ones.
Games, even those with many little winners, can be hard for small children to understand, which causes more frustration than fun.
But fear not! There are loads of simple, creative ideas to entertain tiny revelers that are age-appropriate, inexpensive, and require minimal preparation.
The key is to think of these less as games and more as activities. Even more specifically, this list is a series of breaks that will make your 2- or 3-year-old’s party a blast!
1. Dance Break
This suggestion comes up over and over on Pinterest, blogs, and parenting websites, and it’s no wonder. A good old dance party gets the wiggles out and requires nothing other than some good tunes.
Don’t know what music to play? Early Stevie Wonder and Jackson Five songs are upbeat with clean lyrics. If you don’t own them yourself, they are easily found on services like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music.
For something more current, you can try a Kid’s Bop CD, or the radio station of the same name on Sirius XM, where you’ll find today’s pop hits recorded by children with the racy lyrics rewritten.
2. Art Break
You can do this one in different ways but keep “easy” as your operating word.
You can try an intentional craft time at your child’s party or just provide an easily accessible table with all sorts of supplies to explore.
Try putting out small paper bags along with fat markers, easy-to-peel stickers, and a fun little prize to put inside, and your giddy guests can decorate their own favor bags.
Just be sure to plan a craft that doesn’t take too much time or require serious drying so the children are sure to finish.
3. Bubble Break
If your party is outdoors, or you have indoor spot that can get a little messy, bubbles are always a hit with the junior party set.
Set out wide, flat containers, like pie pans and cookie sheets, and lots of bubble wands, and the kids are all set. You can even take it up a notch with a kiddie pool and a hula-hoop for a great photo opportunity.
4. Construction Break
Choose a party theme that is active and you’ve got built-in entertainment. Tiny construction workers can each get a hard hat and a vest when they arrive.
You set out toy construction trucks, give them sand to move with shovels and buckets, and Duplo blocks to build into towers. Your child’s friends will have plenty of rich make believe time.
5. Fishing Break
This one is simple, fun, and flexible.
- Slide a paper clip onto paper fish (or star, snowflake, or football).
- Put them in a kiddie pool (or bucket, bathtub, or all over the floor).
- Tie a magnet to strings that are then tied to sticks (or wooden spoons).
- Let the kids go after their catch.
6. Ice Break
Trap prizes or favorite characters in layers of ice and give your guests squirt guns, watering cans, or even just plastic cups of water, to free them.
The ice lets them see their progress and the visible payoff will keep them motivated. What’s especially nice about this one is the kids can come back to it throughout the party as the ice melts.
7. Piñata Break
There is a way to do piñatas safely with small children.
Pull-string piñatas have strings at one end that pull away pieces of the structure instead of requiring whacking. Children pull the strings, the piñata eventually bursts, treats fall out, and all are happy.
There are many designs available for purchase online or you can make your own to fit your theme.
8. Balloon Break
Never underestimate the value of cheap, readily available balloons. They can be used creatively both indoors and outdoors.
Your guests can each hold part of a bedsheet loaded up with balloons. As they pull the sheet in different directions, pop it in the air, or drop it low, the balloons become “popcorn.”
Rub balloons on little heads to fill them with static electricity and then stick the balloons to walls.
Decorated with markers, balloons become puppets. If you are really ambitious, teach yourself how to tie a few simple and quick balloon animals. There are great instructional YouTube videos that will have you handing out giraffes in no time.
Just remember, the most important thing is to keep your birthday baby’s abilities in mind: You don’t want them to feel like they can’t do anything at their own party.
And don’t be surprised if it’s all a little overwhelming. More than one toddler’s party has ended when the guest of honor melts down from the sheer excitement of it all.