The History of Kid’s Party Games Part 1

The Origins Of Play

When it comes to birthday parties in the United States, they tend to go very similarly; there is a birthday girl or boy, guests, a party, some games, and a cake. This type of annual celebration has been around for centuries and still carries over to the generations of today. In ancient history, birthday celebrations were directly linked to practices in paganism. Because of this, many people did not celebrate their birthdays until much later in history. However, during the 1700s birthdays were recognized, which later picked up popularity in the 1800s. During the late 1800s, children were given more opportunity to play and eventually developed games to play at these celebrations. In this blog, we will discuss some of the past birthday party games, how they came to be, and how they have adapted to modern-day.

Pin the Tail on the Donkey

In 1887, a craze swept the United States, called “Donkey Party.” This, of course, later came to be known as the game, “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.” The original game was created in the East North Central region of the U.S, specifically in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is thought that the game originated from central American farm life; country children would often think of new and fun games to entertain themselves with. Because the game is centered around a donkey, it is thought that the game must have begun on a farm.
The game was played much like it still is now, with one player who is blindfolded and spun around. Once they are spun at least three times, they much attach a pin to the picture of the donkey. The closest player to the actual tail is the winner. This game is both fun, quick, and exciting for most children. Because of its appeal to all — not just children — the game spread from Milwaukee to New York and Washington DC later that year.
What makes this game so shareable, is that it requires no formal translation. The joy of the game can be translated to any language or culture. Because of this, the game has managed to stay relevant at millions of birthday parties.

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Duck, Duck, Goose!

“Duck, Duck, Goose” is a beloved child’s game that has withstood the test of time. Whether you remember playing it, or your children remember playing it, this game has been around for generations — and for good reason! Not only is the game fun, but it allows children to exercise. Part of the intrigue of the game is the suspense of wondering who will be the ‘goose’ in the sequence. Children like to gravitate towards this game strictly because of the suspense.
It is not entirely known when the game was invented, however, it had been trailed back to Swedish roots. The earliest written reference to the game is mentioned in 1919 in a children’s book. Though it would appear to be invented this early, the game had been well known for decades, so this is not an accurate origin date. Evidence shows that the game has long been a child’s game, as it has a wide range of imitate it all over the work. For example, “Duck, Duck, Goose” has been adapted by many different cultures such as in America, where the version is called “Duck, Duck, Grey Goose.” Also, in Afrikaans, games such as “Vroteier”, has a shared resemblance with the game, which clue historians that perhaps the game isn’t originated in Sweden at all.
No matter where the game started the principle of the game is the same. A group of people sit in a circle. One person taps their heads saying “Duck” or “Goose”. Once a “Goose” has been chosen, that selected player much chance the person who chose them around the circle. If the chosen Goose tags their selector, they win and are able to sit back down.

Red Rover

The game of “Red Rover” may seem like a harmless children’s game, but the whole activity can use a bit of strategy. It is believed that this game is a way to teach children both teamwork and strategic warfare. The game is comprised of two separate teams, all linked together by their arms. Each team must strategically figure out how to break through the other teams link. The first team to break, will mean a victory for the other team. Much of the game is about determining the other team’s weakest link in the chain. Because of this, it is important for the leader to know and understand who that weak player is and how to avoid to many losses before the game is officially over.
The game typically begins with the saying, “Red rover, red Rover, send (insert name of player) right over,” and then the called out player must detach from their team and run towards the other team’s link. If they cannot break the link they join the opposite team, which only makes their link stronger.
This game has been said to have started in the 19th century in United Kingdom. Many have thought that they game was a way to educate children about warfare and the use of strategy to break the solidarity of the enemy. From the United Kingdom, the game eventually spread to America, Australia, and other parts of the world. For example, in Russia, the game is called “Ali Baba”, while in Hungary it is called “Send a King, a soldier.”
Though today’s version of this game isn’t used for military purposes, it is an important game to teach children. When a child knows how to play Red Rover, they have a better understanding of teamwork and leadership. However, the game can just as easily be mindless and fun. Many believe, because the game has such strong ties to learning and history, the game has managed to survive for centuries.

Musical Chairs

The origin of “Musical Chairs” is unknown, however it has been played for centuries in many different countries. It is not entirely known where or how the game began, but the fun has last many years. Even today, the game of Musical Chairs is seen in elementary schools and pop culture. Movies have often referenced the game in period pieces, such as Amadeus and Evita. Musical Chairs, though it started as a game is often used as a metaphor for a power struggle, in which the outcome is unknown.
The object of Musical Chairs is that a group of chairs are placed in a circle, facing out. A song is played as the game’s participants walk around the circle. Once the music stops, each player must find an empty. Anyone without a chair, is then eliminated. This game goes on until only one chair is left between two players.
Though the origin of the game is unknown, the original name of the game was “Trip to Jerusalem.”


At Rebounderz, we are happy to encourage games and playtime. We believe, that playing together makes children both healthy, physically and mentally. By playing with other children, leadership and teamwork skills can be improved and honed. Part of our business is encouraging children to play and learn from others just like them. If your child wants a fun playground to play in, our indoor trampoline park is the perfect place. At our park, they will be surrounded by children their age, where they can play freely all afternoon.

We will continue this blog series, so stay tuned!

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