Family Games

5 Best Sleepover Party Ideas Ever

By: Nancy Josephson Liff
Three school-age boys eating pizza and smiling.
Ages 3+
Critical Thinking
Fine Motor Skills
Social Emotional

Ready to host an epic sleepover? Just gather your kid’s best buds, serve pizza or breakfast at midnight and let them have a ball testing their creativity and skills before they go to bed.

Shopping-Center Scavenger Hunt

Location: Your kid’s favorite mall

Best for: Older children (and younger kids, with help)

Number of players: 4 or more

What’s the point: The challenge

Why it’s fun: Kids love a fact-finding mission.

You need: Adult chaperones (one per team); team captains (to heighten competition); paper and pens or pencils for each player; rules governing the search and search decorum (uber important). 

Kids need: Speed, accuracy, basic addition  

How it works: Armed with a list, players count the number of whatever you want them to find. Possibilities include number of eateries in the food court, restaurants that serve cold drinks and pizza, steps in the central staircase, shoe stores, revolving or automatic doors, indoor fountains, fake trees, store names containing seven or more letters, the mall directory’s location and so on, depending on the time you set aside.

Duration: 30 to 45 minutes to find all items

Cost to you: $0

Event ends: At a set time, at an agreed-upon location. Points for correct answers and on-time arrival; penalty points for the tardy. The highest-scoring individual or team is the winner, with bragging rights and the final say in snack selection for the drive home.


Taste It, Don’t Waste It

Location: Backyard picnic table, kitchen table or island

Best for: All ages

Number of players: The more the merrier

What’s the point: To tempt their tastebuds and maybe even refine their palates!

Why it’s fun: You never know what you’re going to get stuck eating. 

You need: Disposable spoons, napkins, 12 bowls of a variety of different foods, dice, labels

Kids need: A strong stomach and courage

How it works: Players roll dice to determine which two everyday food items they will taste mashed together. So, if a guest rolls a 2 and a 6, the player will dig into bowls labeled 2 and 6, respectively; each bowl contains something tempting…or less appealing. (You get to decide whether to label the bowls’ contents, which could range from cottage cheese and ice cream to olives and mustard.) Resisters risk skipping a turn. Two missed turns and they’re out. The kid or kids who last the longest are declared the winners—and they select the movie that night.

Duration: 30 to 40 minutes

Cost to you: $0, if you have the ingredients

Event ends: When everyone, except the quitters, have had three tries


Rattlesnake Tag

Location: Your backyard, front lawn, a park or playground

Best for: Younger children

Number of players: 4 or more

What’s the point: Teamwork, physical coordination

Why it’s fun: Who doesn’t like a chase? 

Kids need: Speed, stamina, agility

How it works: Kids hold hands and form a line, or players line up single file, with each player placing their hands on the waist of the child in front of them. The first player is the rattlesnake’s head. Player 1’s assignment: Tag the rattle—the last kid in line. If the rattle is tagged, that player moves to the front of the line and becomes the rattlesnake’s head, and the game continues. Anyone who breaks the line sits out one round.  

Duration: 20 to 30 minutes, or when fatigue sets in

Cost to you: $0

Event ends: When each guest has had a chance to catch the rattle


The M&M Game (also played with Skittles)

Location: Kitchen table or island

Best for: Older kids

Number of players: 3 or more

What’s the point: Patience, skill

Why it’s fun: Who doesn’t like candy?

You need: A giant bag of M&Ms, a large bowl, paper plates and a pair of chopsticks for each player.

Kids need: Luck, mostly

How it works: Version 1: Kids transfer 25 M&Ms from their individual plates to the communal bowl, using only chopsticks. First to finish wins. Version 2: Place at least 100 M&Ms in the communal bowl. Assign each child a specific color M&M that they must transfer from the bowl to their plate. Everyone plays at once! The first to remove all their assigned-color M&Ms from the bowl to their plate wins.

Duration:  30 minutes

Cost to you: $10-$15 for paper plates and candy

Event ends: Let the kids decide how many times they want to play.


Make-Your-Own T-Shirts

Location:  Outdoors, on a clothesline, over a grassy surface

Best for: Any age

Number of players: 4

What’s the point: Decorated T-shirts are awesome.

Why it’s fun: Kids make their own party favors  


You need: Clean white tees; variety of cloth dye colors; plastic spray bottles.

Kids need: Creativity, inspiration

How it works: Wash and dry tees beforehand. Kids choose their own designs and color combos and spritz away until the tees are transformed forever. Hang dry or follow the package instructions.

Duration: 30 minutes

Cost to you: About $50

Event ends: When kids leave wearing their T-shirts the following morning

The Highlights Book of Things to Do deluxe activity book has over 500 tech-free ideas for building, playing, experimenting, crafting, cooking, dreaming, thinking and becoming outstanding citizens of the world.

Author Photo
By: Nancy Josephson Liff

Nancy Josephson Liff writes about child development, parenting and early childhood education. She has three children.