19 Fun Birthday Party Themes
The birthday boy or girl’s big day is just weeks away, and you’re still trying to extract a plausible party theme from your child. For Type A parents, especially, the pressure is suddenly on to come up with an idea that your child will like and that you can pull off practically, affordably, and creatively. You’d really rather not buy the same movie-themed decorations that dominated the last three parties your child attended, but what’s a mom to do when it comes down to the wire? No worries. If you’re so stuck for ideas that a Disney princess party is beginning to sound like happily ever after, check out our list of birthday party themes.
Airplane party – Fill your venue with vintage plane photos, model airplanes, and cotton ball clouds. Get an airplane-shaped cookie cutter and colorful icings so the guests can bake and decorate their own treats. Plus, hold a paper airplane contest. Bestow awards for the farthest flight and best-looking planes.
Baking party – Many cities have bakeries that host cupcake decorating parties, but you can easily pull off a DIY dessert or pizza party in your own kitchen. Give the kids “naked” cupcakes or pizza crusts, a wide variety of toppings, and the green light to get creative.
Building Block party – Decorations are a snap with this theme, as are treats. Go all out with primary-colored, interlocking brick decorations. Glue two rows of four plastic cups to the top of a rectangular cardboard box and paint it, or bake a block-shaped cake or cookies. Pass out equal baggies of building blocks to teams and hold a construction contest. Like the blocks themselves, the possibilities here are endless.
Drive-in Movie party – If you have the construction skills and a small guest list, build cardboard cars with personalized cardstock license plates. Rent a projector and a big screen, line the cars in front, and serve popcorn and cake at the car doors. Alternatively, make parking spaces in your living room with masking tape and invite the kids to use their imaginations.
Fairy Princess party – Bake star-shaped sugar cookies around chopsticks and let the guests decorate their own wands with frosting, food coloring, and sprinkles. Make tabletop decorations and treats out of cotton candy, marshmallows, and other tasty sweets, and let the guests craft their own wings out of netting, tissue paper, and craft wire.
Food Network party – After passing out aprons, oven mitts, and safety instructions, turn the kids loose in the kitchen while you supervise. Break them into teams, give them a simple recipe, and let them compete for the tastiest and best-looking finished product. Ask the other parents and relatives to judge.
Game Show party – Transform your den into a TV set and team up the guests for a live, game show-inspired competition. Get as creative as you’d like, but to keep it simple, play Minute to Win It, Name That Tune, or Let’s Make a Deal.
Give Back party – Hold a box-packing party at your local food pantry. Make it fun by challenging teams of guests to race to fill the most boxes. Encourage the birthday child to donate presents to a children’s hospital or shelter (an especially good idea if the child is already well stocked in the toy department). You can even put a note on the invites asking kids to bring gifts to donate, and take the party on a field trip to pass out the presents.
Mad Scientist party – Cool science experiments rule at this party, and Pinterest is packed with ideas. For your cake, build a volcano out of stacked cupcakes, using crushed chocolate cookies for the ashes and red and orange food coloring for the lava. Serve blue or green punch in plastic beakers, and decorate with robot decor.
Old-Fashioned Tea party – Charm your guests with vintage illustrations, fabrics, and china (if age-appropriate). Invite the children to dress up in pearls, hats, gloves, and bow ties, or go thrifting and have a variety of dress-up clothing on hand. Substitute apple juice for the non-tea drinkers, serve dainty treats and taffies, and have fun lifting pinky fingers and curtsying.
Outdoor Adventure party – Go geocaching, camping, or take a nature hike that includes an outdoor scavenger hunt. If you like to get crafty, paint or stencil small bird feeders, flower pots, water bottles, or even rocks you find on your hike. For dinner, grill out or go on a picnic to enjoy the cake and party refreshments.
Pop Star party – Rent a karaoke machine or buy a karaoke DVD and turn your living room into a concert arena. Encourage the kids to dress like rock stars, and make tickets for invitations. Or get literal with the theme, and spring for popcorn, popsicles, lollipops, and pop beads. (For youngsters, you’ll probably want to hold back the soda pop).
Rainbow party – Explore colors with painting, finger-painting, colored water mixing, or splatter painting. Decorate with different colored streamers, plates, napkins, and so on. For dessert, make a rainbow-shaped cake or frost cupcakes in every color and arrange them in an arc.
Spa party – Purchase an array of fruity masks for facials and nail polish colors for manicures and pedicures. Don’t forget the cotton balls to put between the guests’ toes and the cucumber slices for their eyelids. Play relaxing music and serve fresh fruit as you enjoy the day.
Superhero party – There’s no need to buy an expensive, mass-produced costume when you can re-purpose sweat suits and rain boots, turn a pillowcase into a cape, and make a mask out of stiff felt and elastic. Invite the guests to dress as their favorite superheroes, and entertain them with superhero-themed games.
Tie-Dye party – Get packs of white T-shirts or hair bows, several shades of dye, and let the guests take turns making their own crazy designs. Tie-dye kits are available in stores, and at-home tie-dying instructions are readily available on the Internet.
Upcycled Art party – Prior to the party, collect sturdy cardboard boxes, plastic containers, and toilet and paper towel rolls to give your guests a good stock of blank canvas. Gather paints, construction paper, cotton balls, felt, googly eyes, glue, glitter, and pipe cleaners at your local dollar store, pass out the materials, and unleash the kids’ creativity.
Scavenger Hunt party – Split into two or more teams, and give each team a list of hidden items, clues, a map to keep them in bounds, and a two-hour time limit. Assign each hidden item a different point value, and the team that brings in the most points wins. Not only is it a lot of fun, but this party also requires no decorations. You may choose to have fun with the invites by designing them to look like a magnifying glass or a map.
Water Fight party – Best for summer parties, unless your climate is warm year-round, invite the guests to bring their bathing suits and head outdoors with a good stock of filled water balloons. (The balloons and instrument that fills them are available as a kit in most big retail stores during the warm months). Your guests will have a blast bombarding each other with water balloons, and you can even organize a dodgeball-style competition by dividing into teams with an equal number of balloons.
What about Planning Your Child’s Party?
Now that the birthday boy or girl’s big day has arrived, you’ve got to keep it all together. But keeping track of exuberant kiddos, cake and snacks, games, decorations, and anything else on your agenda requires a little talent in the multi-tasking department. Unless you splurged on a party planner or stayed up all night blowing up balloons and browsing party planning blogs, you could probably use a checklist of things to remember. To stay organized, consider printing a copy of this list and crossing off tasks as you complete them.
1. Budget – Set one immediately, because it will determine what type of event you hold.
2. Home or away – Now that you know how much you’re willing to spend, decide whether to have the party at home or another venue. Don’t forget to consult the birthday child, too.
3. Book early – If you’re reserving a location or entertainment, do it early, because the best ones will be spoken for well in advance.
4. Guests – When you’re considering how many, think about your budget and your location. Don’t forget that parents often stick around at parties for younger children.
5. Invitations – Send out invites three to four weeks before the event.
6. Shopping – Shop online to save agonizing hours in stores. Plus, having everything delivered to your home makes things easy.
7. Helpers – Ask friends and family to lend a hand and give older siblings specific responsibilities on the day of the party. They’ll probably love the opportunity to help you host.
8. Order of play – It may be hard to stick to it on the big day, but be sure to make a rough schedule and use it as a guide as you move from event to event.
9. ‘Plan B’ – Always have a contingency plan, especially if your party is supposed to be outdoors.
10. Presents – As your child opens each gift, note who it’s from for the thank you cards. If you’re busy taking photos, ask a friend, relative, or older sibling to record the names.
What are your best birthday party tips and tricks? Have you used a fun birthday party theme that was a hit? Share in the comments below!