fawns
One volunteer pointing at herself

One-person game stalls

Games stalls take a lot of manpower and it's all too common for them to be sacrificed when there aren't enough people to go round, which is why we've collated this list of stalls which can be run by only one volunteer. These stalls need little set-up and maintenance, so you can get by with one person to take the money and guide the participant through the game

Adopt an animal

Ask for donations of good-quality soft toys or source free ones on Gumtree. Stick them through the washing machine, then attach a name tag around their necks and put all the names in a hat. Children pull out a name and win the corresponding animal.

Hook-a-duck

Fill a paddling pool with water, float ducks with eyelets on their backs and numbers on their bottoms. Ask participants to hook the duck out of the water - the number on the bottom corresponds to the prize they have won.

Bucket ball

Have three plastic buckets of differing sizes, with the largest nearest to the player and the smallest furthest away. Set up a firing line and allow each contestant three shots at throwing a ball, so it stays in a bucket. Give a prize if they get all three in a bucket, or if they get one in the smallest bucket.

Choco card

Lay one pack of cards out on a table, placing a wrapped chocolate on some of the cards, with booby prizes, or nothing, on the others. The children choose a card from another pack and win whatever is on the corresponding card.

Chocolate throw

Sparsely lay out bars of chocolate in an empty paddling pool and ask players to throw a 20p coin for the chance to win one. Throwers who land their coin on the chocolate win that bar. Use individual bars to make it harder or larger bars for more of an incentive to play. You could also set a throwing line to restrict players further.

Find the £1

Fill an assortment of jam jars with tissue paper, and tape a £1 inside one of the lids. Ask players to choose the jar they think has the £1 in, charging £20 for one go or £1 for five. If they pick the correct jar, they win the £1. Tape the £1 into a dull, small jar rather than one with a distinctive lid or shape as people will be less likely to pick it! Replace the £1 as necessary.

Guess the teacher

Collect baby photos from staff or take photos of staff members in a Christmassy disguise. Create an answer form and ask players to fill it in with their guesses. Correct entries are entered into a draw to win a prize.

Lemon balance

Float a lemon in a jug of water and challenge fairgoers to balance a 20p on the lemon. Obviously this game costs 20p a go! If it balances they win £1 - they may be tempted to spend their winnings having another go! It's harder than it looks! See also: 'penny drop'.

Lucky squares

Print out a map and divide it into squares. Pick a winning square (this could be where the school mascot or a popular children's character is hiding etc.) and charge a fee to guess which square it is, taking down a name and class or contact number. At the end of the fair, reveal the winner and award a prize.

Marble pots

How many marbles can the children spoon into the hole on the bottom of ceramic plant pots in one minute? Paint the pots with festive decorations to fit the theme!

Money tree

Send envelopes home, asking parents to donate between 20p and £1. Punch a hole in each one and hang them on a Christmas tree with ribbon. Charge 50p to choose an envelope (pointing at them with a wand to avoid cheating). Top prize is £5, but fill some with chocolate coins too.

Name the...

Have a plush cuddly toy, and a clipboard with a range of options - ask the school to provide a list of pupils' first names on a numbered spreadsheet - children will often choose their own name or that of a friend! Using random.org, generate three numbers to determine the winning name (and two alternatives). Announce the winner at the end of the event.

Pick a lolly

'Cover a cardboard box in wrapping paper and push lollies into it. Colour some of the lolly sticks with a pen. We charge 30p a go. Children get to keep the lolly, but coloured sticks win an extra prize. Our last 'Lolly Lottery' made £140!' Zoe Bullock, PTA Chair, The Firs Primary School

Play your cards right

Jacqueline Jordon: 'Play your cards right is a variation on the 'shove ha'penny' game. Using oversized playing cards, players roll a penny, and if it lands on an even/odd number or a card of a certain colour, they win a prize.'

Pot luck

Fill pots with sand, putting a sweet (securely wrapped so sand can't get in) or small prize in the bottom of some before filling. Players choose a pot and pour it through a colander to reveal whether or not they've won a prize.

Punch pot

Vanessa Harris: 'We use 20 plastic flower pots and put one prize in every 10th pot. Cover all the pots in tissue paper secured with an elastic band. Charge 30p a go for children to punch through the paper. Replace the tissue paper/prize as necessary.'

Ball bounce

Lay out a range of jars or plant pots, decorated and different sizes. Players must bounce a ping pong ball into a pot to win a prize. The size of the prize depends on which pot they land it in - the smaller the pot, the better the prize!

Surprise sock

Peg socks on a line and put a toy or sweet in each. For an easier game, kids can feel (but not look in!) the socks. They choose one and get to keep whatever's inside. To make it harder, they're not allowed to feel the socks, and can only choose by looking!

Do feed the animals!

Prop up a large sheet of hardboard with an animal painted on it - this could be seasonal like a reindeer or tie in with a theme, e.g. a horse for a country fair. Put a hole where their mouth should be. Participants aim small dog toys at the mouth, preferable themed to suit the animal or season. Have infants standing closer to the hardboard, juniors further away, and real experts standing at an angle to make it even trickier!

Splat the rat

Attach a length of PVC pipe to a piece of wood and lean it up against a wall so the pipe is vertical. Drop a toy rat down the length of the pipe for participants to 'splat' once it comes out the other end. Those who succeed win a prize.

Top tips for one-person game stalls

  • Whether or not a one-person stall is doable depends on the scale of your stall, size of your fair and the popularity of the game. Even if a stall can be run by one person, it doesn't mean that they won't benefit from having multiple volunteers if you have them available.
  • These game ideas are ideal to have on standby in case any external stallholders drop out last-minute and you have a space to fill.
  • If you are low on volunteers, always ensure there's someone to go round the stalls and ensure everyone's comfortable, fetch drinks if needed and relieve them if they need to go to the loo. Also ensure all volunteers have an opportunity to look around the fair with their own children.
  • Bear in mind that single volunteers on stalls need to be extra vigilant - it's a good idea to keep money in a bum bag so it's always safe, and ensure they're able to call for support if there are any issues.

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