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Whether bad weather has you stuck inside this winter, it's Halloween time, or you've got a kid set on a Fear Factor birthday party, there are plenty of freaky-fun challenges out there to entertain a crowd. How far is your child willing to go? Find out!
Thanks to years of running weekly Fear Factor challenges at the YMCA youth center, I've got a trick or two up my sleeve, and know a few tips on how to steer clear of trouble. Here are 13 of my favorite freaky challenges for kids:
1. Afraid of frozen toes? Find out who's tough enough to put their tootsies in an ice bath. Fill a large bowl with half ice, half water, and a few small toys (marbles, game pieces, plastic spiders). Each participant is given 30 seconds to fish out as many items with one foot as possible. Each ice cube knocked out of the bowl negates a retrieved item, however! (Prevents wild splashing)
2. Jell-O jiggles, wiggles, and makes for a great memory game. Mix up a batch of a light-colored flavor, but drop in an assortment of odds and ends before allowing to harden. (Dice, toothpick, small toys, bread tag, etc.) When it's game time, keep the concoction out of sight until everyone is seated with paper, pen or pencil. Everyone gets 30 seconds to look before the Jell-O collection is hidden again. Give one more minute to write (or draw for non-writers) down everything they can recall. For more fun pull each object out of the squish as you check off the lists!
3. For a round of survival of the quickest, give balloon stomp a try. Blow up as many balloons as there are participants. Tie a string around the balloon knot, and another around a child's ankle. When someone says 'Go!' try and pop others' balloons while keeping yours safe.
4. Bobbing for apples may be a time-honored tradition, but there's not much fear to freak-out over there. Try bobbing for "monster eyes" (Brussels sprouts) in a "blood bath" (water with red food coloring).
5. Make like a mummy -- the classic race to wrap someone up with toilet paper like a mummy hasn't gotten old yet. To make sure everyone has a hand in the process, divide kids into two teams, each with one volunteer to be wrapped. Using a stopwatch, give each person 15 seconds to wrap and roll before being tagged out by a teammate. Best mummy wins!
6. Boil some spaghetti, break out the blindfold and toss in some tofu. Each participant gets one minute to reach into a bowl of cold, oiled noodles to fish out squishy squares of tofu. Ramp up the freak-factor by using basil pesto to make your batch green and gooey, while telling a tale of monster brains. Tofu too hard for your age of kids to pick out? Try paper clips or Legos.
7. Stick with it! Divide participants into two teams that will compete in a relay race. Each team needs one pair of chopsticks and a bowl of mini-marshmallows. Some distance away, place a cup or bowl to drop them into. First team to get 10 marshmallows (or double the number of participants on each team, which allows everyone to have at least two tries) to their goal using just one hand wins!
8. Tape 10 cups to a table (or onto a piece cardboard placed on the table). Number each cup 1-10. Have each participant take a turn bouncing 5 ping pong balls into the cups and add up the points. For bonus creativity points, decorate your ping pong balls with monster eyes or another theme.
9. Slurp! Eating Jell-O may not be hard, but downing a small cup of the jiggly stuff through a straw is a different challenge entirely. First one to empty their glass wins.
10. Candy toss -- the mess is up to you. Each child gets 5 pieces of candy. Have one volunteer (an adult makes the game extra fun for the kids) sit in a chair, holding a cup on their head, 10 feet away. To keep it clean, each kid gets a point for each candy they can toss and land in the cup. To make it messy, fill the cup with liquid! Water, soda, juice, milk?
11. Is there a strong boy or girl among the crowd? Find out by having a yoga-inspired pose-off. Who can hold Tree or Triangle the longest?
12. Let the food fight back! Tie mini powdered donuts on a string and hang from the ceiling or an entryway so that kids on their knees can reach with their mouths. First person to eat their donut while their hands are behind their back wins.
13. Frog egg munch time! Have each participant roll a die to find out how many servings of "frog eggs" (tapioca pudding with green dye) they have to eat. To easily serve, spoon your green goop onto saltine crackers.
Over the years, I have found the best way to play a Fear Factor-style game is to award points along with each challenge. That way, everyone gets a chance to participate in everything (no one is left out of the game for losing the first or subsequent rounds), and a winner is automatically decided at the end.
- Check on everyone's allergies! I never used peanut butter while at the Y, but didn't found out about one boy's gluten allergy until he was elbow deep in a bowl of spaghetti. Yikes. Everything worked out fine, but it reminded me it's always better to ask first.
- Expect a mess: Double check that you're prepared for your challenge supplies to be squished, splashed and mashed into clothes and onto the floor.
- No one has to do a challenge: Got a kid who's too freaked out to taste frog eggs? No big deal. I don't think forcing anyone into what is supposed to be fun is the right approach. They can pass on any challenge and still be in the game, they just won't get any points for that round.
- Getting hurt isn't fun: Being pushed to the limits is an adrenaline-pumping experience, but mouths burnt with hot sauce or children made ill by handling raw eggs/meat makes what should be a perceived threat too serious.
- Play it by ear: Challenge too hard for the kids? Change the rules. Have a little one who can't keep up? Bend the instructions for different age groups. You're the boss, feel free to take liberties as necessary!
Take photos! Smiling pictures are a must for any parents, but there are other facial expressions that ought to be considered priceless too. Shock, horror, disgust and out-right excitement mixed with mess and commotion make great keepsakes when put into photobooks.
Images by iStock
This post was originally published October 29, 2012
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.