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Maybe it's because of the Pinterest Contest we ran, but I've got competition on the brain lately. Like most parents I struggle with getting the right balance of teaching my kids to try their best and teaching them to not think that winning is the only thing. Teaching good sportsmanship is important, and birthday parties are one place that can happen. But, it's also important to remember that birthday parties are supposed to be about having fun, for all the kids.
If you want your party to include games, but don't want anyone to feel left out or feel bad about their performance, we've got some tips. If you're worried about kids being too competitive then over the course of the party plan some games that are competitive, some that are cooperative (everyone works together) and some that no one wins or loses. For ideas on what kinds of games to play, check out some of this post on game ideas. If you're more concerned that some kids won't do well at certain games, consider having game stations so that kids can choose which games to play. This may require an extra adult or two to help man the stations. Don't give out prizes, or give out the same prize for everyone at the end of the party.
Remember, everyone is getting cake and a goody bag or favor, save yourself the money and the hurt feelings and skip the prizes. If the party has a sports theme, consider including a gold medal as part of the party favor. Medals like this one can be found easily at chain stores and party supply stores (especially with the Olympics coming up)
You may also want to plan activities other than games. Kids need down time and that includes down time from competition, even if the competition is board games. Hiring entertainment can be a great break. Remember not to have the games out at the same time as the entertainment as that will make it hard for kids to focus. If you do wind up with kids with hurt feelings, remember that your job as a host is not to teach the tough lessons in life, but to make your guests happy. Try and soothe the guest and set him or her up with an enjoyable activity. Leave the "there's no crying in baseball" talk for the kid's parent!