Birthday ideas that will inspire you and help you create the best party ever!
AGES 1 – 3
Barnyard – Play songs like “Old McDonald” to set the scene. Find a CD with farm animal noises and have the children guess which animal it is. Have your guests wear overalls and plaid shirts. You can have a red wagon filled with hay to take the little ones on mini hayrides. Lay blankets out on the ground for your guests to sit on. Break out the lawn mower (or tractor if you have one) and get ready to provide rides on those, too. With craft paper, make a barn sign that reads, “Happy Birthday.” Turn any rectangle cake into a barn with red and white icing.
Get Buggy! – Purchase lots of toy bugs to set out around the house and on the party table – even hiding them under napkins – and have mini magnifying glasses out to help tots find the bugs. Set out plastic jars or any container for the guests to “catch” the bugs and store them throughout the party (doubles as a favor). Take regular balloons and draw simple ants, beetles and flies and let them float around the room.
FROG-tastic – Have your guests all wear something green. Cut out lily pads from green construction paper and tape them to the sidewalk leading up to your porch for your guests to hop their way on in to the party. Create a tiny swamp that doubles as punch by mixing 7-Up and green sherbet. Be sure to hang lots of green balloons all around and remember, the greener your decorations, the better!
Under the Sea – Play songs from the soundtrack of The Little Mermaid. Have a bubble machine making bubbles everywhere. Purchase little blowup fish or paper cut-out fish to hang around your home. Instead of hanging streamers the old fashioned way, cut them into strips and hang like seaweed for the guest to walk through. You can also make a sandy treat by hiding fish-shaped crakers or gummies in crushed graham crackers.
Nursery Rhymes – Get out all your child’s books that are children’s nursery rhymes so that you can have a short story time. Purchase a CD with songs that relate to them. Take a paper plate and a plastic spoon and hang them as the dish that ran away with the spoon. Cut out a clock from craft paper and set a toy mouse beside it for “Hickory Dickory Dock.”
AGES 4 – 7
Ice Cream Party – Create a large banner that reads, “(Child’s name) Ice Cream Parlor, Est. (year of your child’s birth).” Pastel colors are a perfect fit for an ice-cream parlor atmosphere, so choose ones like yellow, light blue, pink, light green and lavender for your balloons, table wear and other decorations, and add a lot of colors in the mix. Create balloon ice cream cones by taping balloons to the inside of yellow or brown party hats, turn them upside down and using the hat’s string, hang them around the house or from tree branches if you’re having a backyard bash. The pinnacle of this party is obviously the ice cream social. Have one tub each of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream. Have another adult assist you in scooping the ice cream into sundae dishes and have a variety of toppings spread around the parlor table. Let the kids pick and choose what they want and top their ice cream themselves.
Circus – No need to rent an actual tent! You can create a circus-like atmosphere with basic materials and props. Decorate your party table with a couple yards of red-and-white striped fabric which resembles the stripes of a circus tent. Clusters of red balloons will add to the ambiance (and guests can take a balloon home with them at the end). Hang a circus-inspired banner with an old-fashioned font that says “Circus” and another that says “Happy Birthday, (child’s name).” You can buy them or make them yourself by using yellow card stock, pinking shears, grosgrain ribbon and double-stick tape. To add to the circus feel, decorate your main party table with bags of freshly popped popcorn, boxes of Cracker Jack, boxes of Barnum animal crackers and plastic toy circus animals that can also serve as take-home favors.
Magic – Purchase magic hats (or Abe Lincoln-style hats) from your party store along with magic wands and other fun items and place around the party area (the hats and wands can double as party favors as well). You can also find giant, oversized cards at the party store that you can punch holes in and thread string to hang from tree branches or the rafters in the garage. Decorations with whimsical stars or wizards are a good bet. Complement the décor with purple, black and gold balloons. Consider dimming the lights and renting a fog machine, and place a crystal ball and battery operated candles around the room. Play the soundtrack from Disney’s Fantasia or the Harry Potter movies.
Superhero – If the birthday child fancies a particular superhero, it’s easy to purchase décor at the party store with that particular character, from tablecloths to plates, cups and hats. To make the party table more festive, line up a row of superhero action figures with a helium balloon attached to each. You can also decorate the house and party area with pages from superhero comic books, and tie a festive cape to the birthday child’s chair. You may also consider cutting out balloon quote bubbles (comic-book style) and hanging from tree branches or affixing to areas inside the house with phrases like, “BAM!,” “POW!” or “ZAP!” Print out pictures of famous super villains and created a WANTED poster for added fun. Ask party guests to don their favorite super hero costumes when they attend the party. After formal party games, the kids can just have fun out in the backyard playing super powers.
Wizard of Oz – Line a portion of your driveway/sidewalk leading up to the front door with yellow paper that you have drawn brick patterns on to create the Yellow Brick Road. Pick up free boxes from your local appliance store and spray paint green, then use black paint to create building outlines for the Emerald City. Make cut outs from other large boxes and paint to create a rainbow, hot air balloon, the witch’s castle and more. Decorate the backyard with tiny red tissue paper flowers for the Poppy Field. Let your imagination run wild to add any other festive element from the movie. Play music from the soundtrack as guests arrive. Encourage guests to come dressed as their favorite character. For extra fun, Mom, Dad and other adult relatives can dress up, too!
AGES 8 – 12
Challenge Party – Bring back the old-fashioned idea of actually winning a prize for effort at your child’s party by basing activities on his favorite reality TV competition show. If you want to do an invitation, a fun idea is to grab the “Survivor” logo from the Internet and put it on the front of a card invitation. (Find competitive games in our games list.)
Backyard Camping – Set up a large tent for the number of guests you invite (they’ll all want to sleep in the same tent). Set up a table outside with a green table cloth, a large metal tin filled with ice and beverages and tin pie plates for eating off of. Plan on a weenie roast, chips and homemade cake. Purchase a glow stick for each child and a visor or bandana at The Dollar Store that they can write their name on when they arrive.
Build-a-Fort Slumber Party – Invite six to eight guests and ask them to bring a sleeping bag, pillow and flashlight. Have a large pile of collected sheets and blankets (borrow extras). Invite kids before dark and let them play backyard touch football and freeze tag for an hour or so, then serve homemade pizza, ice cream and cake. Afterward, let’em loose to build a gigantic fort with the blankets and sheets in your family or bonus room and to set up sleeping spots in the fort. Suggest a game of flashlight tag before turning in for ghost stories.
Hollywood Party – Decorate a large room for this party with large glittery stars and streamers. In your Movie Ticket invitation (uniquestationary.com) encourage kids to come as a star! As guests arrive, encourage them to achieve their movie star look by embellishing with dress up accessories you have on hand. Consider having a tattoo parlor. Prepare for your movie premiere by having everyone walk the red carpet. During the movie, have an older child run a concessions booth with candy, popcorn and soda. Favors include mini bags of popcorn and sunglasses.
Tailgate! – If your child is a football nut, why not throw a tailgate party? You can tailgate in your own driveway or head to a park. Throw the grill in the back of your truck and serve hot dogs and brats. Serve football themed cupcakes and paint faces with favorite team colors. Encourage guests to wear football (or other sport jerseys) and play touch football – invite parents in for the game!
games & activities
These games can be transformed to incorporate the different ages:
AGES 1 – 3
Fastest Crawler – It’s a baby derby! Line everyone up, dividing participants into appropriate age groupings, and have them crawl to the finish line. If the older children get up off their knees, they must go back to the beginning.
Balloon Fun – Fill a room with balloons and have the kids walk around kicking up the balloons or everyone sits with their child and bounces the balloon back and forth.
Relay Race – Mom or Dad takes their child and lines up side by side with the other parents and their children. The parent sets the child down, runs to a marked point straight across from the child and then calls to the child to have him come to Mommy or Daddy.
Frog Jump – Lay out lily pads cut from construction paper and then have the guests line up side by side. On your mark, have them jump to the lily pad. First one to their lily pad wins. Don’t forget the classic leap frog, too.
Mask Making – Make masks to match your theme using paper plates, string, glue, crayons, safety scissors and craft paper.
AGES 4 – 7
Bean Bag Toss – This game is easily adaptable to any party theme. Get six bean bags and three cardboard or shoe boxes and trace a design relating to the party’s theme on one side of the box. Cut out the traced design for the hole where the bean bags will be tossed. Make sure holes are big enough for beanbags to go through. To play, set the boxes three, four and five feet from a designated throw line. Create a value for each box (ie, one point for the closest box, two points for the middle box and three points for the farthest box). Line up the children and let them takes turn tossing the six bean bags while tallying their scores. The child with the most points wins.
Duck, Duck, Goose – All of the children will sit down in a circle facing each other. They are the “Ducks.” Pick one child to be the Fox. The Fox slowly walks around the outside of the circle, gently tapping the other players’ heads while saying “Duck” each time he taps. After a few times around the circle, the Fox selects a “Goose” by tapping a player’s head and calling “Goose!” The Goose quickly jumps up and chases the Fox around the circle, trying to tag him before he can get to the spot where the Goose was just sitting. If the Fox succeeds in taking the Goose’s place he is now safe and the Goose becomes the Fox. If however the Fox is tagged while running from the Goose, he must start the game again.
Hot Potato – A bean bag is passed from player to player while Mom or Dad sing, clap or play music. When the music or clapping stops, the player who has the bean bag is out and sits in the center. The last one out wins. Stops should be made frequently so the game moves quickly and players will not be out for a long period.
Pin the Tail on the Donkey – Hang a poster of a tailless donkey on the wall. Each player gets one donkey tail. Then one at a time, blindfold the players, turn them around three times and then let them try to pin the tail on the donkey. The child who pins the tail closest to the appropriate location wins. This game is easily modified to your theme party (for instance, create a lion or a flying monkey for a Wizard of Oz party)
Poor Kitty – Arrange the group in a circle with a blindfolded player in the center. Then have the players move around the circle very quietly. The blindfolded player should approach the circle in any direction and secure a victim who, in a disguised voice, says, “poor kitty” and then imitates the “meow” of a cat. If the blindfolded player fails to identify his prisoner, he releases him and the game continues. If he succeeds, the two change places.
AGES 8 and OLDER
Fast Find – (Competitive) In your backyard, fill a plastic wading pool with assorted small plastic animals and other toys. Bury a small object under the toys such as a key or large coin. Kids must search for the object. The first one to find it wins.
What Am I? – Touch and smell various food items while blindfolded. This is a fun activity for kids to watch each other do, or take it a step further and challenge kids to try eating something they never have before. For instance, fill bowls with peeled grapes, cold beets and wet noodles mixed – what a challenge!
Dressed and Undressed – (Competitive) Make two equal piles of clothes. Divide kids into two even teams and line them up. First person in each line puts all the clothes on in their pile then takes them off and the next person in line follows. First team to have all members finished wins.
What is It? – Fill a large bowl with oddly shaped and strange items. Cover the bowl with an old towel taped firmly to the bowl, and cut a hole in the middle of the towel that is big enough for a hand to fit through. Have each guest sit in a chair, blindfolded, then have them dig into the bowl and pull out an item. They must correctly guess what the item is to win a prize. This one is a blast as you get to watch each person’s facial expression as they are feeling strange objects.
Eating Contest – (Competitive) Kids kneel on the floor in a circle with their hands behind their backs. A paper plate with a brownie, (or something else you prefer) is placed on the floor before them. On signal, they lean forward and eat the brownie as quickly as possible. The first one to finish and then pick up the plate with their teeth is the winner!
treats & snacks
Cake or cupcakes and ice cream are a kids’ party staple. Here are other fun snack ideas to consider:
AGES 1 – 3
Snack Bag – Fill snack bowls with treats that dissolve easily like Cheerios (or other cereal that will match your theme), crackers or cheese puffs. Give them a little snack bag – because plates can sometimes be hard for little ones to balance food on – and let them choose their favorites.
Shape Fun – Crackers and cheese, but with a twist. Cut the cheese into shapes using cookie cutters. Find cookie cutters to match your party’s theme.
Cheesy Pretzels – Take regular pretzel sticks and dip one end in spray or spreadable cheese and roll it in crushed crackers.
Cool Drinks – Take a two-liter of Sprite or 7-Up and add one color of sherbet that best fits your theme’s color. It’s yummy and the kids will be tickled to see ice-cream floating in their drinks.
Themed Cakes – Turn any regular cake into a bug, animal or object with a few simple cuts and placement of the cake. A caterpillar cake can be made by using cakes made in round pans set side by side and iced in different colors. An underwater cake can be made by stacking round cakes to make a layered cake, coating it in blue icing for water and spreading crushed graham crackers at the bottom for sand. Take any theme and pick one object to make the cake from, using its most basic shape. Amaze yourself with a little extra thought.
AGES 4 – 7
Birthday Blitz Party Mix
- 2 cups cereal squares (like Chex), oven toasted
- 2 cups small pretzel twists
- 1 cup dry-roasted peanuts
- 1 cup coarsely chopped caramels (freeze first to make chopping easier)
- 1 package white chocolate chips
Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix the cereal, pretzels, peanuts and caramels. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave white chocolate chips at 70 percent power for one minute then stir. If lumps remain, microwave another 10 seconds and stir; repeat if necessary until smooth. Pour chocolate over cereal mixture and toss to coat. Cool slightly. Pour mixture into the baking pan and spread out. Let it stand for a half hour or until firm. Break into bite-size pieces.
Instead of traditional punch, try this festive drink that kids will love. A day or two before the party, make ice cubes from three or four different colored fruit drinks. At the party, place three or four of the cubes in a clear plastic cup along with lemon-lime soda or ginger ale. When the cubes begin to melt, not only will they infuse the drink with a burst of fruity flavor, but the colors will swirl for an extra fun treat.
Fruity-Tutti Pizza – A cool alternative if you don’t want to serve traditional cake at your party. Here’s what you need:
- One package of sugar cookie dough
- Cool Whip
- Your choice of fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, bananas, peaches, etc.)
Spread the cookie dough out on a pizza pan and bake at 325 degrees or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Spread Cool Whip over the crust for the “pizza” sauce, then cut up the fruit and layer on top.
Jell-O Jigglers – Choose the flavor/color of Jell-O that best fits your party theme. Prepare the mix and pour into a rectangular pan and chill. Cut out with different shaped cutters.
Little Piggies – Divide crescent roll dough, and roll up tiny smoked sausages (or use hot dogs, cut into four sections) in them. Bake and let them cool before serving. Use fat-free or kosher dogs for kids if you like serving healthier foods.
AGES 8 and OLDER
Snake Cake – Make two cakes (any flavor) in ring pans, then cut each ring in half and connect them end to end so each looks like a slithering snake. Frost in green and insert a piece of red licorice in the front for a tongue.
Ants on a Log – Celery sticks with peanut butter inside and raisins on top.
Ticks on a Toilet – Cored out apple slices with peanut butter and sunflower seeds on top.
Worms in Dirt – Chocolate pudding, gummy worms and crushed Oreos all mixed together.
Oreo Ice Cream Cake – Press Oreo cookie crumbs into a 9-by-13 dish. Press your child’s favorite ice cream (softened) on top. Freeze overnight, then crumble Oreos on top.
Pizza – Everybody loves it. Save money and make several of your own, using your child’s favorite toppings.
Party Punch – In a large pitcher or bowl, 32 oz. Hawaiian Punch, 12 oz orange juice, 1/4 lemon juice concentrate and 24 oz of Sprite. Serve icy cold or over ice. Yummy!