11 January 2011

Robot building, robot wars and other robot themes for kids birthday parties

Kids of a certain age, around 7-10 tend to find all things robotic absolutely fascinating. I ran a robot building group for 8-12 year olds, and as a consequence was asked to do a robot themed party for one of the members.

There are many things that can make a robot themed party really awesome and party that the kids will remember for years to come. It does take a little effort, and may require some preparation.

This will show how to make an arena and give the kids a change to prepare some Lego robots and battle them!

Robot Battling - the main event!

The centre of the party I ran was a robot battling event. This made the kids feel like they were taking part in robot wars. Depending on what you have to hand, and the time duration of the party, there are three stages in a battle event:

  1. Building & Customizing robots (this is easier than it sounds)
  2. Racing on a race arena – which robot team can get to the end fastest through an obstacle laden course, without going outside.
  3. The final round – sumo & destruction – can a robot force another outside the arena, or will one of them start to fall apart first?

I recommend team sizes of 3-5 children. Obviously more teams requires more robot kit, and more time for the rounds, so for 10 or less children, 2 teams is optimal, you may be able to do 3.

For this, you will need to prepare the following:

  • An arena
  • Robot building kits – you’ll need one per team.
  • A reasonably wide space – to serve as a workshop earlier in the day, and as the arena later (with a spot for repairs between the rounds).

I will also give some sample rules below – they are very simple though!

Building a robot battling arena

I made my arena with a few pieces which could be moved around to different configurations to suit different spaces, and to give variety in different phases of the game.

You will need the following materials to build an arena:

  • 1 x Roll of Sticky tape with yellow/black hazzard sign
  • 5 x 2m by 1m 5mm board – something that can be painted on both sides and doesn’t warp too quickly – I used MDF.
  • 1 x 1m by 1m 5mm board – same spec.
  • 1 x 1m by 0.5m board
  • 2 x 2m by 0.5m board (optional – handy if arena is going to be against a wall)
  • Spray can matt black paint.

Tools needed

  • A big painting area – try not to get paint everywhere!
  • Somewhere for it all to dry


First, take each board, and paint the sides black. Try to get a reasonably smooth and even coat. I strongly advise doing all of one side on every board first, letting them dry, then doing all the other sides. This may take a day or so because of drying times.

Now prepare some of the 2 x 1 boards. What we will do is put a different pattern of each side of these boards, and some boards will have alternative patterns so they can be fit together to make the arena.

On all boards – take one surface, and tape along each of the long edges. Try to get the tape as close to the edge as possible, and keep it as straight as you can.

Patterns for the arena boards

Use the image for pattern ideas. The basic idea is by having straight parts on one side and some corners on the others, you have a versatile kit suitable for many different spaces.

I also had some shorter boards for goal areas and tighter sumo events.

Robot building kits

I found by far the easiest thing for this is Lego. Kids love Lego, and it transports well. The only minor problem is that you may loose 1 or 2 pieces.

In terms of a simple platform for the kids to build robots around, there is little point trying to make fully programmable sophisticated robot platforms, so the format of robot wars – remote controlled vehicles with interesting weapons – makes more sense.

A rough inventory would be:

  • A few sets of wheel types – the more the better. Perhaps even some sets of caterpillar tracks.
  • Bunch of technic cogs & gears
  • Plenty of technic beams
  • Plates & standard bricks
  • A remote control thing per team – The Bionacle Manas were good – you got 2 in a set, and they were quite cheap. Make sure they are on different channels! Modern power functions will do it, or spybotics kits.
  • A random selection of other Lego stuff – more is good generally.

The same may be achieved with other construction toys too, but I’ve not found any better for this than Lego. Remember, a party has limited contact time, so nothing that is very complicated.

Be prepared for small pieces to occasionally be lost, but do make sure all the motors and remote control units come back…

RC modules for Lego

The Bionacle Manas kits I used have stopped retailing now, and are actually quite pricey on eBay. However, you can use one set of power functions per team to get similar functionality. You are going to need, per team:

  • 1 Remote control per team (choose which type - the pricier, but racier Speed version 8879, or the simpler 8885) - both are 4 channel.
  • 2 Motors - 8883 mediums should be fine for this.
  • 1 battery box - 8881
  • 1 IR receiver - 8883

Quick Tip - Theme the food too!

At a birthday party for kids, themed food can really make it feel quite special. I still remember having a birthday cake with a robot drawn in the icing when I was very young. Either that, or I am just obsessed with food as much as I am with robots!


Keep the rules as simple as you can. I’d first tell the kids how long they get to build – so an hour to build the robots then it’s time for the food, and then the battles start.

Following this, explain what the robots will need to do. So – some races on an obstacle course – the robot will need to manoeuvre around this, and then a sumo/battle round, where the last robot not to be pushed out of the arena, stop moving or fall apart wins.

Make sure the kids know these ones:

  • No Lego between teeth. There are Lego piece separation guides, or an adult can help.
  • NO throwing Lego.
  • No stealing stuff from another team
  • Hoarding to prevent another team using stuff is not an allowed tactic.

These just keep it a little calmer - other than that - let them go for it, and be prepared to be an assistant or facilitator.

About me

I am the founder of Orionrobots, which among other things has run a kids Lego group, and I did put on a couple of Lego robot kids birthday parties. They were awesome fun, if a little exhausting. As of 2014 - I still have all the Lego, and encourage my own small kids to play with it - perhaps they will want a Lego robot birthday bash too!