St. Patrick’s Day may be synonymous with green beer and raucous partying, but it’s actually a great holiday for the whole family to enjoy together. In fact, it’s a wonderful way to mark the beginning of the end of winter and to celebrate all things Irish: Shamrocks, four-leaf clovers, and of course, Riverdance, if you’re so inclined.
If you want to get the whole family jazzed for St. Patrick's Day, even the most basic activities can be a bonding experience for parents and kids, and allow the littles to let loose.
“St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of all things Irish, so parents can play some traditional Irish music and have a dance party! What a fun opportunity to expose children to a completely different genre of music and movement. Movement activities like these are a great opportunity to create chances for active play and physical development through everyday activities, especially when spring is rainy and cold,” says child development expert Rebecca Parlakian, the director of programs at Zero to Three.
Below are the best St. Patrick’s Day games for the whole family. Craftiness not required.
1. Four leaf clover cookie-decorating contest
This one is as simple as it gets. You buy the cookie cutter. You make the dough (or use pre-made cookie mix). Load up on green frosting and lots of sprinkles and yes, it will get messy and yes, you’ll deal with it. If you want to minimize kitchen chaos, make and bake the sugar cookies yourself, let them cool, and then, put the kids to work. The challenge: Decorate the most original Irish-themed cookie. The more bespoke, the better.
2. Gold coin scavenger hunt
Who can gather the most gold coins and put them in the pot of gold? A great way to blow off steam and get kids excited to play together, this scavenger hunt also doubles as dessert when kids devour the edible coins. Buy the gold coins, hide them around the house, and get each kid a black bucket (like those cauldrons you use on Halloween). Kids get five minutes (or more or less, depending on ages and patience levels) to find the coins and put them in their own pot of gold. The one with the most coins … gets to load up on sugar.
3. Shamrock bingo
Not only is this a fun game, it’s also a great way for kids to develop letter and word recognition and work together instead of competing against each other. Simply get a piece of paper (or poster board). Draw a table made up of vertical and horizontal squares, and write an Irish-themed word in each square. Green. Gold. Shamrock. Leprechaun. You get it. And then when you call out a word, your bingo players have to place a green button on the corresponding square. If you want to earn solid parenting points, swap out the green button with an edible gold coin.
4. Find the gold coin
Think poker. Or at least, poker face. Gather the kids, and have them close their eyes. Hand one of the kids the gold coin. The kids sit in a circle with their hands behind their backs and have to guess which of them has it.
5. Leprechaun costume contest
In Irish folklore, a leprechaun is similar to a fairy, and is typically dressed in a green jacket, white shirt, and green culottes. And of course, you can’t forget the signature hat. Either buy a mix and match assortment of leprechaun-friendly clothes, or if you have older kids, arm them with old, outgrown outfits and scissors as well as fabric glue. The one who has the most unique look wins.
6. Leprechaun trapping competition
So singer Pink set the absolute standard here, but you can take a page from her playbook without wrecking your entire house. The goal: Trap the leprechauns. The challenge: Build the most inventive, cool, offbeat traps to get the little critters. Use boxes, felt, glue, flitter, popsicle sticks, and whatever else you have that’s crafty and kid-friendly. And see what happens the next morning.
7. Gold coin toss
Not only does this test your kids’ hand-eye coordination, but it also makes them have to focus. Get green paper cups, and those gold coins we mentioned above. Place the cups at various distances, making them harder and harder to reach. And kids toss gold coins into the cups. The one who gets the most coins into the pot of gold — well, that’s one lucky kid.
8. Candy matching game
Really, you can use any type of candy, but we’re partial to Hershey’s Kisses for obvious reasons. Get a bag of multi-colored Kisses, and put stickers at the bottom of each candy. Kids have to match both the color of the Hershey wrapper, and the sticker at the bottom of each Kiss. Twice the challenge, double the reward.
9. Musical shamrocks
Think musical chairs, but the Irish-themed version. Gather a bunch of chairs together. Then, cut out shamrocks and put them on each chair, minus one. Kids have the length of one song, randomly stopped, to sit on a shamrock. Whoever doesn’t is out. And so on and so on.
10. St. Paddy’s Day photo booth
What’s better than goofy a photo op featuring crazy beards and crazier hats? Nothing, that’s what. This one requires a bit of prep. You need to buy wood dowels or popsicle sticks. Then you either need to draw, or print out, silly chapeaus and facial hair and grins. Attach each to the dowel (or stick) and have kids pose for photos, the sillier the better.
11. Shamrock hopscotch
Desperate to get your kids off their screens and into the outdoors? The good news is, this classic game never gets tired. And green chalk gives it a festive twist. Instead of boxes, draw a shamrock, and instead of rocks, use gold coins (or any candy, for that matter). It’s a win-win.
12. Rainbow connection
Fair warning: You can play this game with paper, but we opt for the candy version. Why? Because it’s the holidays! Load up on Airheads chews, which come in a rainbow assortment of colors. Divide kids into teams. Give each team the rainbow-colored candy. Whoever creates the most unique rainbow, using the candy (and this is harder than it sounds, because Airheads are very, very sticky), wins.
13. Rock out
Another wonderful way to get kids off the couch and in touch with their inner Monets, this one requires them to find rocks, paint them, and win a prize for the most on-theme design. You want them to source flat rocks (those are easier to paint). You, in turn, supply the multi-surface paint, brushes, and if you’re even more determined, glue and glitter. Set the timer. Whoever does St. Patrick proud wins — a pound of soda bread. We kid, we kid. We meant candy of course. Related: