Put prizes inside balloons and add a little "pop" to your kiddo's birthday shindig

September 29 | Guest post by Sophie Maletsky
All photos by Sophie Maletsky.

You can easily add a little "pop" to your next party or gathering with balloon prizes and treats! There are so many ways to use them, and kids go crazy for balloons with a surprise inside.

What you need

  • At least one balloon per person… but it's good to have extra
  • Treats or toys that will fit into a balloon
  • A balloon pump
  • A container or bag for your blown-up balloons afterward

How to make a "poppable prize":

  1. Insert two fingers from each hand (I use my middle and pointer fingers) into the mouth of the balloon and stretch open as wide as you can by pulling each hand away from the other.
  2. Have someone drop a little treat inside (or, if you've got the hang of it by yourself, use your thumbs to pick up the treat and drop it in).
  3. Use a balloon pump to gently inflate the balloon to normal size.
  4. Tie balloon end.
  5. Place in a container or bag for later play.

Balloon games

There are tons of games you can play with these prize balloons! Here are some of my favorites:

  • Pair kids up and have them try to pop the balloon between their bellies (make sure they are wearing shirts) or backs or bottoms.
  • Have kids divide into teams and do a relay race. You could have them race with a balloon to a chair and then sit on the balloon until it pops.
  • Have each kid keep the balloon in the air as long as they can. When it hits the ground, have them jump on it. Last kid to drop their balloon gets a special prize.
  • Play indoor soccer with them (unfortunately grass makes the ballons pop!). Whoever has control of the balloon when it pops gets a point, and a prize. To make it fair, anyone who gets more than one treat must give it to a team member. The fun thing with this game though is you can have lots of balloons out at once, not just one!
  • Hide the balloons all around a playing area. As the kids find them, they can pop them anyway they like. This is always fun because all you hear is tons of popping from all different directions!
  • Use the balloons as decor by stringing the balloons up with paper clips and ribbon. At the end of the party, have each kid choose a balloon as their prize.
  • If you are having a county fair or similar event, set up a dart board with the balloons as targets. Use a piece of peg board for the base, and feed the nipple of the balloon through a hole in the board, which makes a perfect balloon holder. Lean the board against the wall, and you are good to go! Have kids stand back and toss darts at the balloons (make sure they are back far enough so the darts are safe — remember, darts can be dangerous). When a balloon pops, they get the prize inside. For a safer alternative (with no flying darts), open up a small paper clip and tape it to the end of a long dowel or broom stick. Have kids stand behind a line and "poke" a balloon instead of throwing a dart.

A few notes on poppable prizes:

  1. Never use balloons with small children or animals, as they can choke on the small pieces.
  2. Some children are very sensitive to loud noises. These are definitely not games to play with these kids.
  3. To make clean up easier, give the kids a challenge! See who can pick up the most balloon pieces in 30 seconds. Give everyone who participates one extra treat.

Have fun…. and get things popping!


Updated to add: we have received a flood of feedback from readers expressing concern about balloon popping, including parents of children with sensory issues, adults who experienced balloon-popping trauma as children, etc. As with all posts on Offbeat Mama, it goes without saying that each reader should use their own discretion when deciding whether an idea presented on the site feels like a good fit for them and the kids they know.

  1. My mom used to have a similar game at our childhood birthday parties.

    She'd write something silly to do on a piece of paper ("cluck like a chicken", "rub your belly and pat your head at the same time" or something similar and age-appropriate), each kid would pick a balloon at random, pop it however we wanted, and do whatever was written inside. Great fun!

    5 agree
  2. Just when I thought I was done shopping for a balloon-themed birthday party… THIS POST.

  3. If you are not so bothered about mess, add a pinch of chopped up tinsel or glitter to your `poppable' balloons. Kids love it! You can also use confetti or tiny cut up tissue paper bits :)

    4 agree
  4. This sounds like my idea of a nightmare! I hate balloons popping and being a room full of kids and balloons makes me so nervous. When I was 5, I'd have been the one crying in a corner if you were playing one of these games, haha!

    3 agree
    • I would STILL be the one crying in a corner- once would be fine if not irritating, but repeated popping would drive me into sensory overload.

      4 agree
  5. My parents did a version of this when I was around kindergarten age. They blew up a lot of balloons and then all of us had to run around stomping/sitting on them to pop them. Some had stickers on them that matched up with prizes, with plenty so that everyone got something.
    I think the cats were traumatized for weeks. It was a very awesome birthday party.

    2 agree
  6. While I love this idea in theory, my son has a good friend with a sensory disorder. She is very very sensitive to sound. While my son and others might like something like this, I know this would be her idea of hell. This also may be triggering to globophobics. Maybe parents who are thinking about doing something like this could run it by parents of children coming. The sound of a popping ballon is scary to even some normal developing children.

    3 agree
    • Thank you- I was going to suggest this as well. Even as an adult this would be really, really nightmarish for me. Not because of fear, but the sensory issues- it would drive me a panic attack. I know many of my students would not be able to participate, and a few would have full on meltdowns.

  7. Hey, you guys: As with all posts on Offbeat Mama (and elsewhere on the Empire) we're under no assumptions that every idea is going to be perfect for every reader.

    As the post says "Some children are very sensitive to loud noises. These are definitely not games to play with these kids." The author totally acknowledges that popping balloons isn't everyone's idea of fun. If this post isn't a good fit for you, that's ok — but there's no need for a pile-on.

    18 agree

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