The best part of your sidekick’s summer birthday bash? It’s gotta be the games. With plenty of sunshine, a big backyard or city park to use, and a bucket full of water toys locked and loaded, you’ve got everything you need to kick your party into high gear. Read on for our favorite ideas.

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

1. Shaving Cream Race
Who needs a canvas when the Littles can paint each other with shaving cream? Pit two teams against each other in this race to completely cover lucky human “canvases” in white foamy fluff. Setting up this silly competition is easy. Empty tons of shaving cream into kiddie pools and then hand each kidlet a brush. The game runs itself from there. A word to the wise—bathing suits and a hose on hand are total “musts” for this one.

2. Balloon Relay
Turn your party decorations into props for this easy-to-run game. Line up the tot lot Madeline-style (that’s two straight lines), before handing each line leader a balloon and having them place it securely between their knees. Then it’s time to start the game! Players pass the balloon, knees-to-knees, down the row until it reaches the finish. It doesn’t get easier than that!

photo: All For The Boys

3. Cup Race
Think NCAA tourney when you whip out this fun cup race. All the tiny guests will get a chance to work their way through the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight for a shot at the big time—the Final Four—as they compete head-to-head, racing plastic cups down a string, propelled by squirt guns. Allison spells out the setup and racing deets on her blog, All for the Boys, so you can run the races like a pro.

4. Popcorn Relay
Little party-goers will get a kick out of this relay race that’s all about running popcorn from one bucket to another. Here’s how it works. To play, you’ll need to strap plastic cups to each runner’s foot (psst… gluing the rubber band to the bottom of the cup works best). When the whistle blows, each runner’s teammate fills up the cup with popcorn and sends it dashing very carefully down the yard to a waiting bucket. Then it’s dump and run (no hands allowed) before heading back and passing the cup to the next player. Work your way through each line to determine a winner in this pop-ular game!

photo: Valentina Powers via Flickr

5. Ice Pool Challenge
Chill out with this simple to play, simple to stage game kids of (almost) any age can play. To set it up, fill your kiddie pool with water and dump in a bag of party ice. Yep, it’s that easy. Then divide the Littles into two teams, each with a bucket. Their goal is to fill the bucket with as many of the submerged ice cubes as they can, using only their feet to move those little rascals from one place to the next. Brrr-ing it!

6. Bandana Tag
Transform the typical game of tag into a free-for-all (this one works best with older kiddos). The twist? They’re all “it.” To play, hand out bandanas to your crew to tuck in along their waistline. Then let the great chase begin! Players tag each other by snagging bandanas, while simultaneously guarding their own until one player is left standing. It’s a wild romp they’ll want to play over and over again.

photo: Rob Swystun via Flickr

7. Bob for Apples
You know how this one is played, parents. Apples. Barrel. Then sit back and watch as the kidlets take turns trying to grab a crispy piece of fruit using only their teeth. It’s the perfect way to cool off on a hot day!

8. Water Balloon Pop
The tot lot will log plenty of giggle mileage when they play this fast-paced game. Break your group into two teams, each with a heaping bucket of fully loaded water balloons. When you say go, one member of each team grabs a balloon, races down the yard, and tries to pop it with his or her body (think: stomping or sitting on it!). Guarantee a dousing by making petite partiers break balloons on a chair, or let the ground take the brunt of the splash. Once the balloon is popped, it’s back to the start to tag the next kiddo. On your mark, get set, go!

photo: Mike Gifford via Flickr

9. What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf?
If this classic game doesn’t ring any bells for you parents, think Red Light, Green Light with a lot more shrieking and mad dashing. A total blast, even for young kids, this is a must-try at your next kiddie-bash. Want to know how to play? We love the simple instructions offered up by Childhood 101.

10. Ninja Attack
In this game, ninjas-in-training test their skills by quietly sneaking up on a ninja master. Intrigued? Start by setting up a ninja course (think: paintball course) using oversized moving boxes, play tunnels, and other objects kids can quickly duck behind (or into). This is where the little ninjas will try to hide as the ninja master scans the yard for tiny foes. Then, have the master stand at one end of the yard, opposite her ninja attackers. When you say go, the ninja master turns her back on her opponents, while they stealthily make their way toward her. When you say stop, little ninjas duck behind whatever’s closest in the hopes the master ninja won’t spy them. If she does, they’re out. But if you’ve got the skill, and can reach her first, you become the master!

Need more ideas? Add one of these classic party games to your birthday playlist. Or soak up all the fun you can with these wildly fun water game ideas.

Do you have a favorite outdoor party game to add to our ideas? Share it in a comment.

— Allison Sutcliffe