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Successful Children's Birthday Party Activities

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Having now somewhat recovered from Emily's seventh birthday party, I thought I'd share a couple of the more popular games and activities, used by a group of children between the ages of 4 and 10.

Bilingual Vocabulary Picture Bingo

As a unilingual home schooling American in Europe, I've got a fairly singular set of conditions to work under when creating activities. This bingo game was a hit with lots of repeat requests.

Materials needed:

* one square piece of construction or other sturdy paper and one Magic Marker for each child
* 9 bingo chips such as buttons or M&Ms or bubble gum per child
* prepared list(s) of 18 objects to be called, plus a copy of each list cut up per word into 18 small cards
* a large bowl/hat to pull the words from when calling
* one translator for any other linguistically-challenged expatriates

Method:

- Hand out the papers, markers and bingo chips. I had the kids spread out all over the floor.

- Instruct the children to make a 9 square grid; two horizontal lines and two bisecting vertical lines (you can show your sample bingo card or demonstrate on a child's blackboard).

I actually used the phrases "nine square grid", "horizontal lines" and "bisecting vertical": it exposes the children to mathematical terms in a friendly environment and, because sounds very impressive, there's a true sense of accomplishment when the kids complete the task.

- Using your list of (let's say) animals, tell the children to draw - in any square they wish - the picture of EITHER an elephant OR a lion. Stress that the card they are creating should be unique to make the game more fun.

If you are working on a second language, or just happen to be living in a foreign non-English-speaking country, repeat the animal name in the applicable language.

- Once the first box is completed and using the second pair of objects on your list, tell the kids to draw - in any square - a picture of EITHER a snake or a monkey.

This particular party having a jungle theme, it helped the younger children for me to point out relevant wall decorations (very simple animal cut-outs I had made the night before).

- When all cards are completed, explain that the aim of the game is to shout BINGO! whenever a child gets three markers in a row - in any direction. Here the terms horizontal, vertical and diagonal can be used and understood without explanation as you draw lines on the board.

NOTE: when you start the game, remember to call out the words in both languages. After a couple of rounds, you can make it more interesting by calling them out in the target language only - the kids will automatically translate out loud thereby helping ones not sure of the translation.

We played until the cards were full, so that everyone got to shout BINGO! several times - there were no prizes given out, just lots of "wow!"s and "again?!s" and "that's incredible!"s from an appreciative bingo caller.

When the theme chosen has run its course, you can refresh the game by drawing new cards on the back of the old ones, with whatever objects fit your interests or fancy: pieces of fruit, holiday or fairy tale characters (ie., Santa, Easter Bunny, Pilgrim, tooth fairy, angel etc.), Sesame Street cast, buildings or monuments (house, pyramid, igloo), etc.

Balloon Decoration

Once the balloons were inflated, dizziness and hyperventilation receding to acceptable levels, we strung them together with thread and hung them, cascading from windows, as an out-of-the-way decoration. When they were needed, we freed the balloons and let the girls choose a favorite color.

The gang gathered round a large table covered by a cheap disposable plastic tablecloth, and started working with a variety of decorating materials including:

* glitter glue squeezable tubes
* glitter glue pots with applicator stick
* clear liquid glue with applicator stick (for the real professionals)
* glue sticks
* paint brushes
* washable paint
* crepe paper strips
* confetti
* colorful cotton balls
* small pom-poms
* markers
* ribbons
* feathers
* Easter grass
* colored sand
* glitter
* macaroni (different shapes and sizes)
* seeds
* rice

all of the foregoing items neatly organized in old egg cartons.

This activity kept everyone busy for a solid 30 minutes, and some of their creations were real works of art. To dry one side at a time, tie a ribbon to the knot of the balloon and tape up on the wall or window.

Once in a while, there'd be a loud explosion and some screams. No one ever got very upset about the destruction of their masterpiece, but the added tension seemed to keep interest high.

Although it sounds like an awful mess, it's actually a quick and easy clean-up: just grab the brushes and markers and any other salvageable items, then wrap up the rest in the tablecloth and toss. Since the activity was held in a playroom with a hardwood floor, one quick sweep finished the job off.

Take Home Memories

When parents came collecting, the kids happily flaunted their personalized bingo cards and balloon projects, which of course they took home as party favors, chocolate stained with ribbons trailing.
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