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How To Host a Children’s Games Party

Children's Games Party Throw Throw Burrito

Children, parties and games. The trinity of chaos and unpredictability. Individually, these elements are manageable and at peace – but when combined – anarchy could reign. Could being the operative word! As we bloggers have a cheeky guide on how to host a successful children’s games party! This guide isn’t a guarantee to success, but will hopefully guide you on how to prepare, what games to choose and how to manage with the inevitable “loser’s tantrum”.

Understanding The Enigma

Before we even get started, let’s check the components of this games night. And the first one is one of the most unpredictable elements in all of history. If you dislike a dice roll’s anarchy, you’ll be less than inclined to check this one out. Historians have been baffled by this and even scientists are still trying to figure out the pattern in this gaming element’s behaviour. And what is this thing, so shapeless and uncontrollable that even the Elder Gods of Lovecraftian horror avoid?


Kids, younglings, youths and the future generation. They’re impossible to predict and are sporadic in both their likes and nature. Perfect for a multitude of game mechanics and genres, but what worked once may never work again! And when I say children, I’m taking about those from 3-11. Teens – surprisingly – don’t suffer these negatives. A children's games party vs a teens games party would be slightly different...

Despite the many flaws of the teenage attitude, mood and persona, by this point they’ve established a solid preference and working understanding of cause and effect. Children haven’t, and reasoning with them is a none starter. No matter how many times you explain the action combo chain of your favourite beige 18XX, they’ll still chew the pieces and introduce their own house rules. They thrive on chaos. On anarchy. On the unpredictability of certain games! So which genres are we going to centre on? Fast paced games with lots of changing elements, but few mechanics.

Sleeve It Up And Keep Pizza Away

A quick note for the risk factor of playing with children. I don’t care what anyone says about their kid: all children are gross. They exude an impossible amount of sticky and always smell like crisps. An uncontrollable element this audience, but one to be wary of.

If you have a game that is prized above all other games, either sleeve the heck out of every component to protect it… or don’t bring it to this party. I’m not going to tell you not to be precious about your games because I know how I am with mine – but know that any games you choose to openly share with these budding gamers do run the risk of card bends, lost components or sticky residues.

With this, consider your snacking choices. I could go whole hog and tell you carrot and cucumber batons are winners… but you know full well how picky children can be. Pizza, pasta and other finger foods are perfect for on the go style parties! (Just make sure they wash their hands.) Whereas a sit down meal style can be orchestrated and controlled really easily…

In either scenario, I’d make it clear whether the games and food mixes. Our personal rule is that you’re either eating or gaming – no in between. This keeps our components slime free and also ensures children actually eat and play. Shockingly, children can forget to eat.

Making Sure Everyone Can Play

I’ve played many games with many children. Being a teacher, introducing modern games to my classes has been one of my greatest wins! Letting them know modern gaming goes beyond Cluedo, Monopoly, Guess Who and Snakes and Ladders has knocked their socks off. Heck, I’ve accidentally created a group of 30 Kickstarter backers based on a preview copy I introduced them all to!

But the excitement they’ve shown and understanding they’ve had at their own levels has shown me that they generally thrive on low mechanic numbers and frequently changing elements. Chaos of dice rolls and card shuffles as a prime choice for of these games. The removal of needing to consider what’s coming up as the main focus when choosing.

Now I know there’s always going to be that one ‘Child Einstein’ who’s been playing Vitaal Lacerda’s collection of heavy weight worker placements since they were six. That one kid who was brought up playing the BGG 100, legacy games and is no stranger to a quality RPG. And that’s awesome! But we’re trying to cater to a wider audience of varying experiences. Both in life and in tabletopping.

As such, as we’re going to be suggesting games that are quick play, easy access and low maintenance as a primary. We’d rather everyone could access at some level than have one player have a blast whilst the rest act as tourists. We’d also suggest avoiding games with knowledge as a resource or bespoke themes. Quizzes with singular answers are a no go. No two children will have the same life experience and, as sad as it is to say, some will have lived very sheltered lives in comparison to others.

My partner didn’t watch a Disney film until she was an adult so she’d have been absolutely pants at Disney Colourbrain! Of course, if you’re going for a themed party then it may very well fit the bill for you. And using Disney Colourbrain as an example I’ve had excellent games of it with my class of 30! But not all children love the Disney classics, so a niche focus of game needs the right gamers.

Start Physical

My go to for a children's games party is to pick a game nearly everyone can access. Dexterity. It’s centred on physical movements and can be scaled in complexity based on how dexterous you need to be. What’s more is it’s incredibly low stakes in terms of commitment. This is the safest set of choices in terms of player retention, as someone losing interest and leaving often doesn’t break the game’s flow. You just skip them! Not all games will have this luxury and you can never predict whether a child will see something shiny and simply wander off from a game, so ensure you’ve got some of these to hand!

As a simple standard for choosing some games to get started, it’s important to ensure you begin with basics. Easy access and low maintenance as a massive focal point. These suggestions are ones I feel work regardless of the context and skill level of the players – the all rounders!

Obvious ones in my head focus more heavily on a dexterity and physical level. Ice Cool and Ice Cool 2 are superb choices as they can be combined to increase player counts and are lovingly themed! Rhino Hero and it’s Battle counterpart are two more dexterity games that are superbly easy to play – both centred on stacking but with Battle requiring more decisive actions.

Get More Dextrous…

Taking it to the next level with dexterity centres on more constraints or more competition. Men at Work is a great example of those games with more constraints. It adds lots of scaled difficulty elements and forces you to play tactically and carefully. One that may require some adult support for explanations, but one I’ve taught children and then had them run themselves.

Another alternative here is Flyin’ Goblin. Hilarious goblin launching fun. We often forget about winning and focus more on impressive feats of in air accuracy.

Or go full hog and turn the table into a battle field! Throw Throw Burrito is literal madness across the table. Just watch for breakables, the literal throwing of the burritos can cause some collateral in the heat of war!

As for more competitive as the difficulty upper, you’ll want clear cut winners. Jungle Speed is absolutely brilliant with smaller groups! Playing pairs until someone sees one then grabbing the totem – it’s an incredibly simple concept, but endlessly fun and one that’s very low maintenance. An alternative here – a messy one at that – is Table is Lava. Throwing cards, claiming islands and controlling zones. A great one so long as you don’t fear losing a meeple or two!

Move Onto Thinky Puzzly Chaos!

Now we get to the more tactical games. The ones where choices matter more than actions. And, once again, we’ll be suggesting games that have minimal mechanics and lots of uncontrollable elements. These are the ones where it may be beneficial to have a grown up to hand to guide the rules a bit. Not micromanage – but ensure the legality of all rules and help with scoring. I found playing a sample game with them or having someone who knew the rules play along helped, but I know that’s not always feasible. We’ll start by suggesting some super low level ones and move to some with a bit more meat on the bones.

When hosting a children's games party, the first game I would try to introduce for groups is Kingdomino. It’s dominos at its core so super easy to teach, but it’s competitive and excellently fun. And it’s easily scaled! If your little gamers aren’t against a bit more weight in their game, throw Queendomino into the mix and you’ve increased player count and complexity all at once. It never becomes an impossible feat to play and causes next to no stress. What’s more is that, because scoring is done at the end, it’s unlikely to cause mid game losers trauma. Win, win!

Of course, if you need to turn that complexity down but enjoy dominoes as the focal point, why not delve into Dragomino? It’s simpler, faster, more streamlined and has dragons!

Throw In Some Competition

Going towards something lighter but with competition jacked up to 11? For Sale or No Thanks! These two are mega light card games that have bidding and push your luck as a core element… something that normally would risk a tantrum but we’d argue play too quickly for drama! No Thanks! centres on having the least valued cards with runs minimising that damage, and For Sale is about open buying then blind bidding. Both of these are fast paced and action packed with the “wow!”s and the “no way!”s you want to hear at any games night! However, the extra complications of these games mean they’ll undoubtedly need more support from an adult or knowledgeable player.

Upping that complication at a children's games party a little more and choosing games where decisions matter is the real clincher.

The point where the most risk lives as you can see where it’s all gone right… and all gone wrong. Keeping it simple to start with I’d suggest Draftosaurus. The anarchy of a bag draw, a die roll and some clear conditions to follow. The issue is when you get a dinosaur you cannot play and tempers flare. The game plays quickly so it shouldn’t have time to occur, but that’s the risk of seeing your decisions.

My other suggestion for this decisions matter game? King of Tokyo. It’s mega competitive, die roll focused and centred on monsters fighting. Godzilla vs King Kong style! It’s certainly the more confrontational of the games here, but it’s one that’ll drive the gamer spirit and really get everyone riled for victory. The decision to stay in Tokyo for big points or to leave, and the choice of which dice to use are big in this game… but the fun and excitement will outweigh that tenfold!

The Inevitable Tantrums

Now for the tricky part. You’ve hosted the socks off these kids and, inevitably, the water falls arrive. Tears, tantrums and terrible frustrations from children unused to losing. It’s inescapable and occurs on a scale from a clear sulk to an outright belly flop with kicks and all. No matter the age range, there’s likely to always be one… so how do you deal with it?

Well, you have a few options: set the example, scale the games accordingly or go cooperative.

Be A Good Winner And A Better Loser

Setting the example is my go to option. It means getting involved in the games myself – added bonus – and is all about putting the positives on poor plays. Normally with adults, if I’m doing the teach, I’ll do this by explaining my turn and discussing the cause and effect of any actions. Benefits and detriments on the table for all to see and clearly state who could do what based on what I’ve done, too.

With children, however, I’ll just do something and make a comical scene of the outcome, particularly if it’s a poor one! Make it a thing or a trope of it. I can’t count how many times I’ve yelled “Oh no, not again!” when getting a shoddy die result. Big gestures, big smile, big “oh well!” mentality.

You’ve got to ingrain the fact that it’s okay to lose. It’s ok to not be able to win. Poor choices are learning points and it’s something to grow from. You can’t say that to the children though – it’s something to learn by experience and demonstration, not by study. As such, show them how to behave when losing and winning.

Or Take Control And Take Risks

Scaling the games is quite easy to do but can be limiting. It’ll limit your gamers’ experience but will still ensure they get a game or two out of it. And, if all goes well, this may let them get used to losing and winning accordingly on a smaller scale.

The third choice is possibly the trickiest to pull off. It’s fantastic if you manage to get children playing a cooperative game, but I find game experience and general life experience always push one person to coach the team – particularly with card and resource based games. If they aren’t used to leading or being given choice that could result in a loss, they won’t cope well with it.

One co-op game I have had superb success with is Menara. It’s a dexterity balancing game and is more about the tension than the winning! But I’d always be cautious with children’s cooperative games, especially if there’s no adult to lead it.

Final Thoughts

Hosting for any group you’re not used to is a challenge in itself, but children are particularly unpredictable. At a children's games party, you’ve got to be flexible, fluid and frequently present to mediate and support. They may not play right, they definitely won’t play properly or in a “max out my turn” way, but they’ll love every second of it.

Fast, chaotic play is the go to for me, but every child is unique. Make sure you’ve got plenty to offer them on the off chance some games don’t hit. And ensure you sleeve those precious cards! No one wants the residue of a child’s fingerprints all over something the treasure..