1. Backyard campout — Set up tents in your backyard, grill hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner and roast marshmallows for s'mores over a campfire (or fire pit). Set up old-fashioned games like horseshoes, a basketball goal for a game of HORSE, or nets for volleyball or badminton.
2. Build a fort — Drape sheets or blankets over furniture to make a fort that draws kids like a magnet and sparks their imaginations. A pillow fight is a safe channel for the adrenaline rush.
3. Charades — This game is always more fun than you think it will be. Things for teams to act out include movies, songs, books or other themes popular with the group.
4. Drama bags — Fill shopping bags with five different items (a shoe, soup ladle, phone, candlestick, etc.). The bags don't need to contain the same items.Divide guests into teams and give each team a bag. Each team then plans a skit, song or other performance using each of the items in its bag.
5. Game night — Twister (mostly for the amusement of the parents), Mexican Train, Apples To Apples, whatever is age-appropriate and popular with the group.
6. Iron Man/Iron Woman — Do an imaginative take on -athlons/Iron Man competitions with a pentathlon of activities (easily adapted to all ages), such as run an obstacle course; perform air guitar to a song; rub your belly, pat your head and spin around three times; spell a word; finish by blowing a big bubble with gum ... you get the idea.
7. Karaoke/dance party — Make sure each guest gets a chance to display his or her singing/dancing skills. (You can film the performances for viewing later during the party.)
8. Life-sized board game — Use sidewalk chalk to draw a large game board (similar to hopscotch), and write instructions on each square (hop three times on one foot, sing one line of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," go back one square, advance two squares, quack like a duck, etc.). Use regular dice or make a large one out of a box. You can have guests sign their names or draw their handprints in chalk on the sidewalk when they finish.
9. Obstacle course — Create an obstacle course using whatever you have: slides, a trampoline, boxes to crawl through, hula hoops, etc. Guests can compete as teams or be timed as individuals. For a second round, have kids maneuver the course while walking backwards.
10. Scavenger hunt — Scavenger hunts are easy to adapt for different age ranges and get all guests involved in the fun. If there are enough children, divide them into teams to find items on a printed list (make sure you have enough of each item for all teams to find). The first team to find all the items wins. Older kids can use their phones to photograph items on a list (birdhouse, a wooden gate, a rose bush, framed photo of the party host, etc.).
11. Spa/makeover party — Let guests decorate flip-flops and give each other manicures and pedicures. Older girls can give each other makeovers with makeup and hair styles. Screening Grease is a lively follow-up.
12. Talent show — Singing, dancing, juggling, comedy, modeling, magic — whatever talent they choose will make for a fun mix.