Kids' Birthday Party Ideas
Balloons are classic, and kids especially love the helium-filled kind. A few on your mailbox can help partygoers identify where the party is and set a festive mood before guests even walk in the door. However, exercise caution with very young children, since uninflated or popped balloons can be a choking hazard.
Streamers and banners are also old faves. Make your own personalized banner by painting a large piece of craft paper, then hang it low on the wall and ask guests to write notes or draw on it. (Just don't try this with really little ones or you could end up with a decorated wall as well as banner.)
Sidewalk chalk sentiments ("Happy 8th Birthday, Aiden!") in your driveway and on the walk in front of your house make the birthday boy or girl feel special. And don't forget to decorate the guests themselves with party hats!
Themes + Tips
Here are some fun party themes for your little one's big day:
- animal theme party
- around the world theme party
- arts and crafts party
- character theme party
- beach party
- newscast party
- pirate / treasure hunt party
- shaving cream party
Let your kid choose who they want to invite, but keep the guest list small. The old rule of thumb was one guest for every year of the child's age; if you want to invite a few more, go ahead, but keep in mind that the more guests you invite, the more effort and cost the party will be to put together and the greater the chance that you'll have to handle a moppet meltdown once the party's underway. Limiting the guest list also helps if you decide to let your child open presents at the party, since watching someone else unwrap endless gifts is sure to send any tyke into a tailspin.
If your tot is under five, specify on your invitation that parents are invited too, and make sure you have extra of whatever the small fries are eating for hungry grown-ups. No matter what your child's age, have at least two adults on hand — one to run the activities and one to handle any problem (children or otherwise) that may arise. If you're the only one available, hire a babysitter to help out.
It's also best to keep the shindig short — an hour and a half to two hours gives kids enough time to have fun, but shouldn't overstimulate them to the extent that they're venturing into tantrum territory. If you want to sidestep offering a meal and avoid naptime for little ones, hold the party in the early afternoon.
To minimize muss and fuss, you may want to throw your child's celebration at a gym, pizza parlor, miniature golf course or somewhere else outside the home, although doing so is usually considerably pricier than having a party on your own turf. Looking to limit prep work and cleanup without spending more? Try a local park.
Before the big day, have a pre-party pow-wow with your progeny. Childhood celebrations set the tone for good party karma for the rest of your kid's life, so it pays to get it right right now. Talk to them about sharing and being a good sport during the games. Teach them to be a gracious recipient of all gifts, even if one's lame, and not to pick favorites. (And yes, tell them they have to write thank-you notes after the party.)
Remember, for kids, the activities are the most important part of the party — they won't care so much about decorations or how fancy the cake is as long as they have a good time. So it makes sense to focus your party efforts on what the partygoers will do during the event.
Start the celebration with a craft project or other relatively quiet activity to keep the children occupied while guests arrive. For example, you might have the kids decorate T-shirts or party hats they can take home as favors. Other ideas: Play-Doh, coloring books and crayons or stickers and sticker books.
Next, move to a more active, er, activity. Pin the Tail on the Donkey and Musical Chairs may come to mind, but they may not be your best bet, since too many players don't actually play at any given time. Instead, try this varation on Musical Chairs: Rather than a kid going out, they become the DJ for the next round, after which they join the group again. Or choose games kids can all play together, like charades, treasure hunts, relay races, singalongs or dancing. Really young children may prefer to play alongside each other rather than as a group, so be flexible.
Finally, serve the cake and, if you so choose, open presents. Some parents think opening presents during the party is asking for trouble, since their child may get distracted with new toys or be overly blunt if they don't like a gift; others feel that opening gifts in front of the givers allows them to share in the recipient's joy. It's your call, but if you do decide to wait until after the party, put presents in another room as guests arrive so they're less of a temptation.
Before guests leave, send them away with little gifts of their own. If the party has a theme, let that guide your choice. Craft projects (see above) make fantastic favors, but you might also hand out blowing bubbles, yo-yos, books, magic tricks, barrettes or fancy pencils and pads. Check out the Evite blog for more favor ideas.
For young kids, stick with cake and punch. Little ones will be busy enough playing that they often won't eat anything more even if you offer it.
If the party is for an older child and you want to serve a meal, pizza tends to be a hit even with finicky eaters. For an activity they can eat, provide bagels, tomato sauce, mozzarella and various toppings and let guests build their own mini versions.
And of course, cake takes center stage at any birthday. To keep serving simpler, try cupcakes. If your youngster is old enough, have them choose the flavor and frosting, then give them a few tubes of decorator's icing or gel, colored sugar and some sprinkles and let them decorate the cake or cupcakes any way they like before the party.
Orange Sherbet Punch (serves several)
- 1 pint orange sherbet
- 3 oz. (half of a 6-oz. can) frozen orange juice concentrate
- 1/2 liter ginger ale
Allow sherbet and orange juice concentrate to thaw for 10 minutes, then mix in ginger ale.