Parents know that birthdays become a pretty big deal once kids hit the age of three or four. Parties, games, gifts, and cake are all part of the usual activities, but in the age of more formal party planning, parents and hosts need to have more than just a gathering planned. There have to be party games, birthday party activities, a menu, goodie bags and more. The good news is that you can build a theme around a party and then choose games and activities, food, decor and all the rest based on that theme.
It is also helpful to have a “timeline” that helps you choose helpful activities like “icebreaker” games that could help kids get into the spirit of things and/or overcome shyness while they wait for everyone else to arrive and the party to begin. There are then going to be some actual party games and birthday party activities everyone will be able to more easily enjoy.
Choosing Birthday Activities
The games you play are going to be birthday party activities, certainly, but you can also have hands-on crafts and group activities.
For instance, a pirate-themed party can have games and activities like:
- A scavenger hunt game with a map and lots of prizes.
- Walk-the-plank games (i.e. a balance beam game in which kids must walk the length of plank without falling off)
- “Forbidden word” games in which kids are told to speak like pirates but cannot use a word like pirate, matey or “Argh”.
- Activities could include kids making their own pirate flags, t-shirts, hats, costumes and so on.
As you can see, choosing birthday party activities is an opportunity to expand on the theme and be as creative as you’d like. It is super helpful if you begin with a theme, though, and use it to guide you towards the right games, crafts, and so on. Doing birthday party games and activities in line with the theme allows guests (and the birthday boy or girl) get wholly engaged in that idea. Keep in mind that you can find suitable games and birthday party activities for all ages and all themes.
Themed Kids Birthday Party Activities
Ask parents with experience in hosting birthday parties for their kids, and they are going to tell you that themes are one of the best ways to simplify the game- and activity-planning phase of the party. Without an underlying theme, you are left with the too-broad ocean of options in kids’ activities. As one mother wrote, “Every party we have had has some sort of theme. [The] first birthday party was blocks…His 3rd birthday was tractors, and his 4th was semis … This year we’re doing monster trucks!”
- Theme it up – So, step one in choosing ideal kids’ party activities is choosing your boy’s party theme, girl’s party theme or 1st birthday theme.
- Use stations – Stations mean that not everyone has to flood one area, wait for their turn or run the risk of having a meltdown. Instead, it means that small groups of two or three can interact in each activity, make and create something and then move on to the next. Yes, stations means multiple birthday party activities, but as one parent reminded us, “treat the activity as an ‘invitation to play’…It’s something that’s there if the kids want to play with it, but they don’t have to. And it’s something that the kids can do together and on their own (without adult help, but with indirect supervision.) All of my birthday parties have stations, and the kids can travel freely between them.” Of course, that last doesn’t apply to the youngest party goers (toddlers to five-year-olds), but once kids hit the ages of 7 or 8, it is entirely feasible to keep a controlled space of stations together and let kids have a bit of freedom to explore, play, interact and enjoy the activities you have selected.
- Create a meltdown zone/station – As you begin planning out the stations, be sure you address a pretty common issue when working with young children – meltdowns. One expert in party planning for kids says that they always have one person who manages the “meltdown zone” for the party. This is an area set aside for kids who are not handling the stimulus, sugar or energy of the party very well and need a space to melt down, calm down or just be without other kids for a moment or so. With the idea of meltdowns as a guide, try to plan out activities and games with “stations” in mind.
General Kids’ Party Activities Ideas
We also suggest you take the advice of parents who have been hosting kids’ parties for years and have some overarching or general activities that you can customize to a child’s theme and age group. Some very general ideas for birthday party activities include:
- Costume activities. Little kids always love to play dress-up, and even more if they make some part of the costume. Younger kids can make paper masks, beards, and hats. Older kids can do everything from tie-dying shirts to making flip-flops or painting sneakers.
- Clay and dough activities. Younger kids can simply play with the dough, using any number of tools to shape it, force it through and carve it. For instance, roll it flat and let kids use toothpicks to draw or carve figures. Older kids, tweens and teens may find that painting pottery or using oven hardening dough to make everything from pots to jewelry or figures is a satisfying way to spend 30-45 minutes during a party.
- Paper craft activities
- Cooking activities
- Garden or planting activities. It may seem odd to plan some gardening during a kids’ party, but it can work well as a theme. Then for the activity (and party favor) kids can plant small pots with easy-to-grow seeds or even some seedlings from a local nursery. For the youngest kids, this might be a bit too challenging, and so you can use foam flower shapes or paper flowers for each to make a garden (using a long piece of 10” wide green construction paper) and then wear it as a crown. You can also have kids paint their pots and go home with the seeds and soil in a pre-packaged bag, giving parents something to do with them, too.
Art activities (i.e. painting, sculpting, jewelry making, etc.). This works well with the whole station idea and can include a station for beaded jewelry, easels with paints and “spray” paints made of dollar store spray bottles full of slightly watered down acrylics, and paper plate portraits.
- The latter is super fun for almost any age, including as birthday party activities for toddlers and birthday party activities for teens. Snip out images of eyes, noses, mouths and other facial features from magazines. Put them in groups on paper plates. Give the party goer an empty paper plate and an array of glue sticks and crayons or pencils. Then, tell them to use the different facial features available to make their own “self portrait”.
- Hand or footprint art
- Photograph activities. Photo props are great for this!
9. Group activities. Make up a song, create a unique poem, or build something themed with the party (i.e. a cardboard box pirate ship!)
With this basic list of activities and a well-chosen theme, you can create any number of age-appropriate activities. However, we do want to give birthday party activities for toddlers a bit more consideration.
Birthday Party Activities for Toddlers
Most experts in birthday party planning will tell you that a first birthday party is more for parents than the child, and that can be said of a second birthday party, too. The third year, many kids are excited by the gifts and activities, and then each year afterward they’ll be more and more aware of what a birthday party is.
However, if you do plan a get-together with a few other toddlers, there need to be some caveats where their games and activities are concerned. Unlike older children’s events, there will need to be lots of adult supervision. You should consider that sharing may not be at the top of any child’s list of priorities, and so both the games and activities need to accommodate the risks for meltdowns, fights and upset over specific toys or games. Planning accordingly is always a wise idea with the two- to five-year-old crowd. Remember, too, that a party for the average two- to five-year-old should never exceed two hours from start to finish.
Good ideas for activities include:
- edible crafts such as fruit loop necklaces and bracelets
- dough crafts that allow kids to make hand prints or use molds to shape animals
- Cooking activities like egg coloring and making bubble formulas
- Easels with art supplies
- Turning treasure-hunting games into an activity is also a good idea with kids being encouraged to use their “finds” to make things. For instance, you can hide prizes like pirate-themed figures and help kids turn them into treasure bottles (re-purposed empty water bottles filled with sand, glitter, colored water and the gems and doubloons found during the treasure hunt).
Birthday Party Activities for Tweens
At the other end of the spectrum are the birthday party activities for kids just about to age out of the whole birthday party scene. This is actually when you can have a lot of fun with those general activities above. For example:
- Have the kids cook their own pizzas for the pizza party
- Have them do a scavenger hunt in the local mall, with the final treasure at a restaurant or other location where they can use their “finds”
- Older kids might even want to do something philanthropic for an activity, like meeting at a local animal shelter and instead of gifts, bringing food or pet toy donations
There are so many ways to get creative with kids’ party activities, but if you start with a theme and link the games to the activities, you’ll find kids have a lot more fun really enjoying their hours of playing and partying…they may not even want to stop for presents!
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