Things to do inside on your birthday when it's raining

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If it's tipping it down on your birthday, don't despair. Whether you're young or old, there are plenty of things you can do inside to have fun and celebrate your big day. Just because it's raining, that doesn't mean your birthday party will be a damp squib -- come up with a few creative ideas to bring a little sunshine to the gloomiest birthday.

House hunt

Hold a scavenger hunt. Give your guests a list of items they must find around the house and a time limit for finding them. Items could include: something to impress a friend, something to surprise your granny, or something to make you blush. Ask a friend to make you a similar list, so you can join in. Alternatively, stash clues for a treasure hunt around the house, leading your guests to a hidden prize.

Instant zombies

Ask your guests to improvise zombie costumes from items they find around the house, such as old clothes or the contents of the kitchen cupboards. Bits of stuck-on cereal make great warts, for instance, with a blob of jam for extra gore. Stage a zombie parade and finish it by learning the moves for your own "Thriller" tribute act (see Resources).

Dressing-up race

Deposit piles of extra clothes around the house, the more unusual and outlandish, the better. Track down weird hats, wellington boots, ancient cocktail dresses and odd bits of sportswear. Challenge your guests to race from pile to pile, putting on as many of the clothes as they can within a set time limit. The winner is the person wearing the most garments.

Indoor barbecue

If you'd been planning a barbecue only to be defeated by the rainy weather, cook burgers, kebabs and other traditional barbecue treats in the kitchen instead. Remember, barbecues are as much about the process as the result, so make the cooking the main event. Ask your guests to help out with the chopping, grilling, frying and serving, just as you would with an outdoor barbecue.

Speed games tournament

Inject some urgency into the tame bad-weather alternative of board games by playing a tournament of games at high speed. Challenge your guests to instant-reaction chess, or two-minute snakes and ladders, where you don't wait for your turn but just grab the dice as often as you can. Ring a bell to signal when your guests must move to the next game. Have prizes for the winners -- special snacks for kids and alcoholic rewards for adults.

Mix it

Hold a drinks mixing competition. At a youngster's party, challenge your guests to mix soft drinks and discover the perfect non-alcoholic cocktail. At an adult event, let your guests loose on all those bottles of duty-free booze that always seem to have stacked up at the back of the kitchen cupboard. Encourage your guests to name their creations in honour of your big day.

Go low

Grab a broom and a couple of volunteers to hold it horizontal, and you're all set for limbo dancing. Let your guests dance to any music they like, just as long as they take turns getting under the ever-lower limbo pole. Chubby Checker's classic "Limbo Rock" is the perfect choice to get the action going.

Talent show

Stage a talent show in your own home. It helps if you ask your guests to think about, or even rehearse, their party pieces in advance. You could also prepare by buying, borrowing or hiring a karaoke machine, or printing out some lyric sheets. Round up all the hairbrushes, too, so you can add a best-singing-into-the-hairbrush category to the competition. Guests who prefer not to perform might enjoy playing the role of judges instead.

Wet 'n' wild

Embrace the rain by leading hardier guests outside, while everyone else watches from indoors. Put some small prizes into a large plastic bag. Fill the bag with water, tie it at the neck and hang it from a tree. Players take turns to wear a blindfold and hit the bag with a broomstick, aiming to break it open and grab a prize. Have hot showers, dry clothes and warm towels standing by for afterwards.

Tall tales

As the hour gets late, turn down the lights, get out the torches and encourage your guests tell ghost stories. Your friends might enjoy improvising spooky sound effects to accompany each tale. Award a prize to whoever tells the scariest story, or mentions the most birthday-related items--cake, presents, jelly, balloons--in their tale. If anyone is short of inspiration, there's a selection of suitable spine-chillers in the Resources section of this article.

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