If you're faced with the prospect of entertaining a dozen four-year-olds, don't despair. Kids this age are eager to play and easy to please, as long as you don't give them tasks above their skill level. So let your birthday child invite loads of friends. With these games, you've got it covered.
Divide children into two teams, with an even number of kids on each team. (If you don't have an even number, an adult can jump in or the birthday child can go twice.) Teams line up in pairs. Draw a line or place a marker about 20 feet away from the starting line. Give each team a balloon. Pairs must race to the marker and back, tagging the next pair in their team. The trick is that they need to hold the balloon between their foreheads. No hands! This is a fun game to watch.
Go Fish Candy Grab
Have children sit in a circle and place a bowl of wrapped candy (suckers, skittles) in the center. Remove as many matching sets of images from a deck of Go Fish cards as you have children at the party. Separate the pairs to make two identical decks of cards. Pass out the cards from one deck to the children. Hold up a card from the remaining deck. The child with the matching card gets to take a candy from the bowl. Continue playing until every child has a candy.
Blow up two balloons for each child at the party. Attach a rubber band to the end. Put the rubber band around the children's ankles so they have one balloon on each ankle. The object of the game is to stomp on other children's balloons in order to pop them (make sure children wear shoes). The child with the last unpopped balloon wins.
Giggle and Howl
Scatter children in the play area. Toss a handkerchief high into the air. While it's still in the air, children must giggle and laugh, but once the handkerchief hits the ground they have to be silent. Anyone still laughing is out of the game. Toss the handkerchief again and keep playing until there's only one child left.
This version of musical chairs eliminates shoving and fighting over positions. Get a piece of construction paper for each child, and number the papers with large numbers. Place the same amount of numbered strips of paper into a small bowl. Lay out the squares in a circle and have one child stand on each square. While the music plays the children walk around the circle, going from square to square. When the music stops, the children stop. Draw a number from the bowl. That child is out. Remove that square from play and begin again.