Birthday Parties are always a fun thing to plan when parents don’t make the mistake of trying to do too much.
Children are usually really easy to please and if you design their birthday party around the things you already know they like, you can have fun being creative while you plan the party rather than worrying and stressing that you are doing it right.
There are some companies that routinely offer birthday packages for children such as pizza and game establishments, bowling alleys and even some fast food restaurants, but these can be really expensive.
You can create a birthday party for your child that they will never forget right in your own home or back yard and it doesn’t even have to cost an arm and a leg to do it.
We have put together a list of a few different birthday party theme ideas for your child that step away from the traditional character theme parties. While these are still very popular as well, there is a whole array of themes that you can choose from that will make your child’s birthday party really stand out.
Along with each theme, we have provided additional information on games, decorations, food and entertainment that can go along with each theme and will list the recommended age range for each theme as well.
1. Detective / Secret Agent Theme
Kids love solving mysteries. It is this love of a good mystery that will have all of them excited about this detective party theme. Starting a couple of weeks before the party is scheduled start building the excitement and anticipation by sending out special invitations that resemble ransom notes. This is a great theme for children 8-12 years old.
You can do this by cutting letters out of newspapers or magazines and gluing them on the invitations to make up the words of the invitation. Include an RSVP in your invitations and a date you need a reply by so you know exactly how many kids are coming. You will need this information to ensure you get the right amount of food, take home goodie bags and anything else that is determined by the size of the guest list.
Some activities and specifics that can go along with a detective themed party include hiding all the presents once everyone has arrived and is busy with something else. Provide clues that the kids can work together to crack the mystery of the missing gifts. Other fun activities can include:
- Nerf Target Practice– Draw a large “Bad Guy” on a large sheet of paper and pin it up with different targets circled. Let the children shoot the nerf guns at the target areas and see who gets the most points
- Find the Missing Item – Bring out a tray with many different items on it. Let each child look at the tray of items without touching anything. Take the tray away, remove one or two items and bring the tray back. See who can identify what item or items are missing.
Provide party favors in brown paper bags that include a small notebook for clues, pencil, plastic magnifying glass, plastic gloves and candy of course. Fold the top down, staple and add an evidence tag with each guest’s name on one so everyone can take a party favor bag home.
Decorations can include yellow “crime/caution” tape; foot prints that have been placed all over, gray and black balloons, and flashlights. This party can be even more fun if you have it in the evening after it has gotten dark outside. Plan some treasure-hunt-style games that can be played in the backyard with flashlights.
Kids will love a detective training course that includes an obstacle course that they have to make it through. One particularly fun obstacle course activity is to string yarn across an area at many different heights. The children have to crawl and climb through the course without touching the yard.
2. Carnival Theme
Children of all ages love carnivals and fairs. Have a carnival themed birthday party that they will never forget.
Have this party in the evening or indoors in a large basement where you can string up lights and play carnival music. This theme is great for ages 5-12.
It is nighttime when carnivals come alive and are the most intriguing for children. There are many things you can do for a carnival themed party. Ask several of the parents to be carnies and have each of them man a carnival game such as ring toss where the child has to get a ring onto the neck of a bottle, and the balloon dart game.
The balloon dart game is very easy to set up. Get a large corkboard and blow up small balloons and attach them all over the board. Place the board behind the table and have the children stand on the other side. You can use other types of boards as well as long as the balloons can be attached. . Each child gets 3 darts to throw at the balloons to see if they can pop all three.
Other games can include tossing lightweight ping pong balls into little glass fishbowls, a tic tac toe toss game where the child has to get three in a row from a specific distance, basketball toss, and a guessing game where kids have to guess how many items are in a jar. At the end of the night the closest guess wins a prize.
There might be a little more preparation involved in a carnival themed party due to the carnival games that would need to be set up, but cost is very minimal since most of these games can be put together using tools you already have such as a drill, circular saw and other simple tools.
Food is super simple for carnival themed parties. We have listed several popular food ideas for this type of theme.
- Corn dogs
- Pizza Slices
- Big, chewy pretzels
- Caramel apples
- Candy apples
- Nachos with cheese sauce
- Cotton candy
Drinks can be fruit juices or a special punch that you can easily make. Make sure you have sturdy kitchen trash cans around to collect all the “carnival” trash and don’t leave the food sitting out for hours. Choose food that can be easily cooked on the stove or in the microwave and set the food up carnival style. The kids will love it.
The cost for this party will be a little higher than other themes if you want to do it right, but it is a party that won’t be soon forgotten by the birthday child or any of the guests as well. Make sure to include prizes for the games. It’s always fun for a child to win something but make it a fun challenge and not just a giveaway.
3. Arts and Crafts Theme
Kids love to create things. Having an arts and crafts themed party provides them with plenty of creative opportunities and takes care of activities too.
The best way to set up this type of party is to have different craft stations, each with a different craft that the child can make. Don’t make the crafts too complicated and time consuming so the children don’t become bored or discouraged.
Art kits are great for setting out on the tables for the children to use. This is a good party theme for kids 8-12 or 13.
If you prefer, you can choose one larger craft such as decorating T shirts that all the children can participate in at the same time. At the end of the party they will have a great keepsake to take home to remind them of the fun they had.
You have a lot of room for creativity with this type of party and color is the name of the game. Choose lots of brightly colored streamers and balloons in the primary colors such as green, yellow, blue and red. Use white as the base color for table cloths and the bright colors will really stand out.
Cupcakes are a perfect food to serve at this type of party. Decorate them with brightly colored sugar sprinkles in the primary colors.
You can also make a cake and decorate it with different colors and craft supplies. (Make sure that the kids know that the decorations are not edible.)
Other foods that can be served are finger sandwiches, veggies and dip, sliced fruit, and a mix of pretzels, peanuts, chips and crackers.
A delicious punch can be made for the kids to drink that includes fruit punch cool aid and 7 up or Sprite.
You don’t really need to worry about coming up with games for an arts and crafts party since the children will be busy creating their own masterpieces. If you decide to do stations, set up tables and get some folding chairs so 4-6 kids can sit at a station at one time. Stations can include:
- A Coloring Station – Have plenty of paper, markers, pencils, and crayons on hand so they can create whatever inspires them. If they need inspiration you can suggest different themes for their pictures but most of the time a child has no problem coming up with something to draw a picture about and color.
- T Shirt Decorating Station – You will need a T shirt for each child that has been ironed or steamed so it is ready to decorate. Have plenty of fabric paint on hand in different colors. An adult will need to be present at this station at all times to help with the decorating part.
- Money Bank Making Station – Children love having a place to put their money. Let each child make a money bank. You will need a jar with a lid for each child, felt, foam, glue, and other craft supplies so each child can decorate their money bank the way they choose to. Adults are responsible for putting a slit in the jar lid so the child can put their money in.
- Treasure/Keepsake Box – This is a fun craft for kids that provide them with a place to put things that are important to them. Children love to find feathers, leaves, rocks and other keepsakes. After visiting this station they will have a place to put all their treasures. Have a box for each child and plenty of decorating supplies on this table along with glue, markers, crayons, glitter, and much more. A glue gun makes this craft much easier to do but the children should not use the glue gun. Set up a parent at this station to man the glue.
- Tote Decorating Station – Have a tote for each child that they can paint and decorate. These totes are perfect for carrying around whatever they choose to when they go home. Make sure that you have a tote for each child.
Set up a table outside (or wherever you are having the party) where there is a box with each child’s name on it. That is where they can put their crafts as they complete them. At the end of the party, each child can grab their box and take their treasures home.
Tips for Throwing A Stress Free Birthday Party
- Give the party guests at least 2 week’s notice before the date of the birthday party. Make follow up calls or send emails to make sure you know how many are coming. People can be really bad about RSVP-ing so don’t rely on them to get back to you on their own. You will need to have teenagers or several adults to help with the games and other activities that will be going on during the party.
- Don’t invite 30 kids to the birthday party. Even though parents are tempted to invite everyone to avoid hurt feelings, it can make for a very hectic party. 8 to 10 or 12 guests is usually a good number that is manageable, allows every guest to enjoy the festivities, and doesn’t cost a ton either.
- Plan the party on the weekend. Saturday afternoon or night is the best. Younger children do better during the early afternoon or late morning and older kids can handle a later afternoon or evening party. Plan on the party being no longer than 2 ½-3 hours unless the children want to stay longer.
- Keep the party in one area of your home. If you have a finished basement, that is an excellent place to have a party. If it is outdoors, have it in the fenced in back yard. Do not let the children have free reign of the house and none of them should go into your child’s private bedroom. It makes clean up a lot easier when there is only one place to vacuum or clean up rather than the entire house.
- Consider getting a bike pump or helium filler for the balloons. It may seem doable to blow up tons of balloons but the appeal of that usually wears off really quick. A balloon filling tank or pump can make quick work of the balloons.
- Keep the food simple. Don’t spend tons on food; kids are very easy to feed for the most part. Juice boxes are excellent for younger kids to drink and solo cups are great for the older kids. If your food echoes the theme that is fine but otherwise, finger foods are very popular, easy to eat and easy for the child to handle.
- Let the child open the gifts at the party so they can thank the giver. This is fun for the kids to see what new things the birthday boy or girl got but don’t let this part of the party go on too long. No kid wants to sit for an hour or more and watch someone else open present after present.
- Put useful things in the goodie bags. Special crayons, pencils, little games, healthy snacks, etc. Goodie bags are fun for the guests to receive and take home.
- Make sure you know of any allergies any of the guests may have so you don’t put something in their goodie bag that they can’t eat.