How do you keep kids entertained at a BBQ? Fun Activities to Keep the Kids Happy

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When you host a backyard barbecue, you want everyone to enjoy themselves. But how do you make sure that happens? If you have kids or if kids have been invited it can get more complicated to keep everyone happy.

The good news is that there are lots of ways to keep children entertained at a barbecue. These ideas fall into four main categories: games, water, food and media. We shall look at each and how they all interconnect so that the BBQ is great for everyone present.

Hopefully, whether your yard is big or small, the guest list is extensive or just small, that you’ll find something here that works for you and your family.

Keeping Kids Entertained at A BBQ: Games

Probably the bedrock of all the fun children can have is through playing games. Even those children who feel disinclined to play tend to have fun once the games start to get going. Of course, there are literally hundreds of games that you could play and not all the kids are going to like every game. Here are just a few basic ideas to get you thinking.

The Hot Dog Race

One game that we loved playing at outdoor events was called “the hot dog race.” It was a simple game, but it was great fun!

In the hot dog race, each player would run around the yard trying to grab as many hot dogs as possible. Whoever grabbed the most number of hot dogs won. This game could be set up in many different ways, only your own creativity is your boundary. The hot dogs can be hidden or in plain sight or put in positions where teamwork is required to recover them.

This game was perfect for kids because it was fast-paced and easy to understand. Plus, it was a great way to burn off some energy, with the added prize of all the extra hot dogs that could be eaten!.

Set Up an Obstacle Course

kids at a bbq entertainment Obstacle Course

You might need a decent size yard for this, but obstacle courses are a great way to keep kids active and entertained at a barbecue. You can either make your own obstacles, use common items like cones, boxes, tires, and buckets, or buy some obstacles. From tunnels to sacks to balancing items whilst running, an obstacle course can be designed in pretty much any way you want. Just place the obstacles along the course.

An obstacle race can be either team or individual based and a nice prize at the end makes it more exciting for all those competing. 


Another game that is loved by both children and adults is Twister. You can either buy the game and set it up or you can create your own version of it with a white sheet and colored paint or disks. 

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Other Games 

To be honest the list of games that can be played is almost endless but here are a few of the most popular, some require equipment to play but are easily available to get hold of online:

  • hide and seek
  • races (foot, sack ball on spoon)
  • tag
  • corn hole
  • spike ball
  • horseshoes/ring toss
  • washer toss game
  • bocce ball
  • skittles
  • lawn darts/ yard darts (flarts)
  • ladder toss
  • swingball/reflex tennis
  • limbo
  • badminton

Water: Having Fun Getting Wet

Games involving water are almost always popular. When you were a kid who didn’t like getting wet, particularly if you had fun doing so. Nothing changes and with a little imagination and a few props lots of fun with water can be had.

Paddling Pool and Sprinkler

The most obvious fun to have with water is to have a paddling pool, especially if you have young children present. Not only will they enjoy messing about in water on a hot day it can be very cooling. 

If you don’t have a paddling pool a simple hose and sprinkler can be good fun too. Again it can be a great way to burn off energy and keep the kids cool on hot days.

Water Pistols

Drenching each other is part of the fun and simple water pistols can generate a lot of fun. It is probably best to have them used in organized games as you don’t necessarily want the kids going around and squirting adults indiscriminately. Obviously, with any water games spare clothes are going to be needed.

Water Filled Balloons

A variation on using water pistols is to have water-filled balloons. Obviously, care needs to be taken with water games. Everyone does need to be on the same page as some might not like being drenched. But if moderated, water can be the source of great fun

Provide Toys

lawn darts
lawn darts

A lot will depend upon the age range of the children that are going to be present. Not all games are going to suit all age groups. One way to make sure that everyone is catered for is to provide toys that will suit the various different age groups. 

The toys don’t need to be complex. Items like hula hoops, frisbees, balls of all sizes and a bat and ball will do the trick. These toys can be played with individually, as a team or as part of the games you have planned.

Another good accessory for a BBQ is a trampoline. This is something both adults and kids alike can enjoy. If you have the budget an inflatable castle is also a great way to get the kids bouncing around and expending their energy.

Importance of Food in Keeping Kids Happy

Importance of Food in Keeping Kids Happy

You can’t have a BBQ without food so make use of this to keep the kids happy! However, all the fun and enjoyment of the games might dissipate if the food on offer doesn’t appeal.

Generally speaking, the children are likely to enjoy burgers, hot dogs, and corn dogs. Some of the older children will also probably enjoy much of the barbecue food that the adults are having.

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When deciding on food there are kid-friendly staples that a BBQ shouldn’t be without. Things like pizza, bread, fries, cake, cookies and ice cream are a must if you are going to have children at the BBQ. Having said that, you should always try to provide a healthy option, sliced fruit and fruit salads tend to be winners

Having Snacks while waiting for the main food to be ready can also be useful. Chips, popcorn, sliced carrots, celery and candy all fit the bill for snacks on the go.

Of course, there are always likely to be both dietary and vegetarian/vegan considerations needed. For example, if you know that someone has a gluten allergy, you won’t want to serve anything made from wheat products. Or maybe you know that your guests aren’t allowed dairy because they’re lactose intolerant. Whatever the case may be, you’ll want to make sure that you have the right foods prepared ahead of time.

BBQ: Music, Film and Gaming

Multimedia at a BBQ! Well, yes. The goal is to keep the children entertained so that both they and you and your guests all have a great time. If you are a parent you will know how fickle children can be. All the best games in the world are no guarantee that the kids will remain entertained and, at some point, unless it is a solely kid-focused BBQ, you are going to want to be able to engage with your guests, without the distractions of running games. This is why, if you have the facilities you should look to add music, film and gaming to the event.

Music for Atmosphere, Games and Dancing

Music always helps a party and the same is true of a barbecue. Whether it is just on in the background to aid the atmosphere or whether you are playing some tunes to liven up the event, music is a must.

When kids are present music also provides the bbq with many more options to keep them happy from making them part of the games (musical chairs, pass the parcel for the younger children spring to mind) to creating a dance area.

If your budget runs to it it might be a good idea to hire a DJ to deal with the music. This will take the pressure off somebody having to constantly deal with it and it also takes care of any possible music licencing issues.

Movie, TV and Gaming at a BBQ

keeping the children entertained with an outdoor movie
Keeping the children entertained with an outdoor movie

It might seem slightly counterintuitive to think about rolling out a TV or gaming console at a BBQ but this can go a long way to keeping the kids happy while the adults enjoy themselves.

Although it appears that children have boundless energy the truth is that they need time to chill out and go again, as well as allow the adults a breather to enjoy themselves and engage with other adult guests.

Setting up a movie theatre in your backyard is not as complex as it seems, but even just rolling out a TV, or a laptop will help. If you have a projection screen or flat wall you can hang a sheet on all the better as you can make it a big-screen experience!

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Gaming consoles are always useful for older children if you have one. Diversifying the options is important, especially if there is a wide age range in the children present.

Creating a Comfortable Environment Where the Kids Feel Welcome

We have covered a number of ideas to keep the kids entertained but in essence, it boils down to creating an environment where the kids feel welcome and not a nuisance. 

Plan ahead

BBQ - Creating a Comfortable Environment Where the Kids Feel Welcome

Planning ahead is one of the keys to keeping kids entertained at a barbecue without being overwhelmed. Before you head to the store, think about what type of food you want to prepare.

Also, plan ahead for any special events that may occur during the day. For example, if you’re planning to go swimming later in the afternoon, make sure to pack swimsuits and towels for the kids.

  • Set up a water station. Children love drinking water, especially during the heat of summer. A water station allows children to drink freely without needing adult supervision.
  • Provide a place to cool off. It’s important to ensure that children are safe and comfortable during the summer. Providing a shady spot to sit and cool off is ideal.
  • Provide sunscreen. Sunscreen is essential for protecting children from sunburn. Apply sunscreen before going outside and reapply every two hours.
  •  Provide a safe environment. Ensure that children are wearing appropriate clothing and shoes. Also, make sure they don’t wander too far away from the house.
  • As the event enters the evening ensure you have enough yard lighting to keep the BBQ going and everybody safe.

Be Flexible

Don’t expect everything to go perfectly. Sometimes things don’t always go according to plan. If you notice that your plans aren’t working then have a ‘Plan B’. For example, if you realize that your kids aren’t interested in playing a particular game, change your game selection. 

Be prepared. If you’re hosting an outdoor event, make sure you have enough supplies on hand. Don’t forget a first aid kit. Accidents happen and swift action and a few colored Band Aids can hopefully make everything good again.

Final Thoughts: How to Keep the Kids Entertained at A BBQ

When you are hosting a backyard barbecue, if you have children around, it is important for the whole success of the event that they are kept entertained. As we have seen there are plenty of ways to keep them happy without spending too much money.

As it’s a BBQ the event is food-focused so it is important to make sure that you know exactly the age groups of the kids coming over and what their dietary restrictions are. Then, you can plan accordingly. 

Once you’ve got the food covered, you can move on to the entertainment. Games and multimedia entertainment are going to be crucial to keeping the kids occupied and entertained. In terms of games, you’ll want to pick something that everyone can participate in or at the very least keep them age-related so that there is something where everyone can contribute equally.

Finally, you’ll want to set aside some time for engaging with the kids. This doesn’t mean that you need to spend hours chatting away with them; just make sure that each child feels that they are being looked after and that you want them to be happy.  Ask questions about their likes, and listen to what they have to say.

In short, keeping children entertained doesn’t require elaborate plans. Simply providing a variety of fun activities will keep children engaged and happy for hours creating a comfortable environment, where everyone feels welcome.

As long as you follow these tips, you’ll be able to host a successful event and keep the children entertained without the BBQ becoming solely focused on them.