Birthday party ideas for kids of any age are never as “cut and dry” as it seems they should be. After all, there is a child’s age to consider, which makes a big difference in what you can do at the party. In our guide to The Best Birthday Party Games for Kids of All Ages we emphasized that age-appropriateness is a major point when choosing what to do at a child’s birthday party.
That same idea applies here, too. The kids’ birthday party ideas you come up with for a three-year-old will not appeal automatically to the seven-year-old in the house, and the party ideas you had for that child are unlikely to satisfy the 12-year-old.
It should also be noted that many kids like to be included in the party planning phase. Again, not all kids of all ages are interested in party ideas (i.e. kids aged one and two are probably unaware of the meaning of party!), but it is a good idea to ask any child what it is they’d like to see happen on their birthday and/or at their party.
There is the theme to consider, too. For instance, a child in love with good old SpongeBob SquarePants may insist that this be the theme of the party – even if a parent has not asked or suggested selecting a theme. Of course, a child may say they want a swimming party or a bowling party, and that too can be both theme and major activity.
Birthday Party Ideas for Kids – Age One
It is 100% true and without a doubt that most first birthday parties are require party ideas for adults rather than kids. As one expert said, “The first birthday party is really a celebration of the anniversary of your becoming a parent. While your one-year-old may enjoy a festive atmosphere, she will have no idea of what a party is.” This holds true up to (and even sometimes beyond) the ages of three or four. Yet, you can still have a party that is child-themed and oriented. The party can focus on the one child – the birthday boy or girl – but might also include child guests. In other words, decide if it will be an adults-only or a child-friendly event.
Try to remember that infants and toddlers can manage to participate in something like a birthday party for only so long and limiting it to an hour is best. Games can be simple, like bubble-blowing, water play, and even early attempts at coloring on a plain paper tablecloth.
Focus more on the “moments” as the overall theme of the party. Those moments should include that first look at the cake, the first taste of it, and playing with one or two presents. The party itself should be simple and easy to enjoy, such as a barbecue or pizza party, and you will want to ask a trusted guest or partner to take lots of photos!
One great idea for a party that allows adults to really get in on the action is a “time capsule” party. Ask everyone to submit a letter or note to the child, and toss in some photos, some tokens like hand prints or a lock of hair, and then everyone can help bury it or somehow seal it until the child’s 18th birthday arrives – and have another party!
In other words, think of this as the last “easy” birthday party you’ll be able to host for a while since the next handful of years are when a birthday becomes a bigger deal.
Kids Birthday Party Ideas – Age Two
A year later, and you may still need to focus on party ideas for adults rather than kids. Again, as that same expert said, “Hosting a party for two-year-olds presents unique challenges. They can go from anger to excitement in minutes — so you need to be prepared for a full range of emotions.”
Another expert even suggested that you ask someone attending to serve as the “Meltdown Supervisor” – someone to deal with any cranky children or meltdowns during the party. This person can gently take them out of the party area and calm them down until they can return to the party.
You might also want to limit the number of toddlers at the event and avoid further chaos by opening gifts after everyone departs. Again, keep the party simple. At this age, they may have a favorite character that can serve as the theme – whether a purple dinosaur or firefighter. However, some of the more common themes include Big Bird, Cat in the Hat, Elmo, Curious George, and popular animals like bees, frogs and zoo animals.
Finding decorations, a cake, and some gifts in that theme is all you need to do to allow your child to have some fun. Games are also best when simple as most 2-year-olds aren’t keen on rules. Play with clay, build with blocks, or get a bit more detailed by building a “duck pond” game. This requires a classic kiddie pool filled with water or packing peanuts (if you don’t have it outdoors). Fill it with traditional plastic ducks (which you have numbered on the bottom). Each child gets to take turns picking a duck or “catching it” with a net. The number will correspond to a gift or prize in a paper bag marked with the same number. You might also do sidewalk chalk drawing, bubbles, or a water table.
Party Ideas for Kids – Age Three
By now, most kids are becoming aware that a birthday means gifts and even a party. Kids at this age can be pretty challenging, so consider limiting the number of guests and keep the party to an hour or two at the most. At this age, kids will be pretty excited about the cake and ice cream, as well as the games. Once again, though, you’ll need a meltdown zone and supervisor and opening the gifts is best left to later.
The themes may be similar to the previous year as many kids still like their Sesame Street characters, cartoon favorites and animals. This might be the time when more advanced themes can work, such as an Old MacDonald party, an art-themed party, a circus party or a Noah’s Ark party. You might also find kids interested in career themes like that firefighter, police officer, cook, construction worker, and so on.
You’ll need adult help with more than a few kids, particularly around game time. Some good options include bubbles, sidewalk chalk, activity stations (“kids can play with play dough, crayons and washable markers or blocks”) or a more advanced fishing game than the previous year.
For example, the “Fishing Game” involves kids throwing their “hook” (a clothespin attached to a child’s fishing pole line) into the “pond” (usually card table that the adult is hiding beneath and concealed by a blue sheet). The line goes behind the table, out of sight of the child, and the adult attaches a fish (prize) to the hook.
Treasure-hunting games are popular with ages two through five, too. Simply hide lots of little toys and favors, assign one adult to each child, and assign one area to each adult. This ensures each child gets the same number of prizes and a similar assortment!
Kids Birthday Party Ideas – Age Four
Once your child hits this age, you are entering the more advanced party planning stage of parenthood! Kids know what the birthday means now and eagerly await it. They’ll have ideas about the theme and activities they wish to do, and might even suggest what flavor of cake they’d like, what sort of food they want and more.
As you plan, be sure you have several adults committed to helping since this will be an active and alert group. Themes common to the four-year-old crowd remain similar to the previous year, though may get a bit more advanced. For example, Angry Birds and SpongeBob may be requested just as easily as Elmo or Big Bird. This is a good time to ask your child what theme or decorations they want. By this time, you can also introduce party ideas such as a “make your own pizza” party or DIY sandwich party.
By this time, though, you’ll need an “icebreaker” game for kids that are not as socialized as others. Something as simple as a play table near the entry is ideal. Just fill it full of blocks, coloring gear, or play dough and most kids will soon be at ease playing with new friends.
Activities should focus on the theme but can include more advanced things like an easily breakable piñata, a game of “catch” played with a balloon, and even a number walk game. This is simple, and requires you just use sheets of colored paper and write numbers 1-10 on them in big, bold writing. You put them in a large circle and a child has to walk on them in order as some music is played. When it stops, the number that child is on wins the prize with the corresponding number. Remove that number and start again but be sure you have enough for every child. More than 10? Bless your heart!
Goodie bags can be introduced and include items like sidewalk chalk, books, sports balls, and even wearables. Once again, the theme matters and you’ll want to show parents and kids what’s in those bags.
Birthday Party Ideas for Kids – Age Five
Buckle up tight; the five-year-old’s party is a real adventure! They are well aware of the theme they want, the food they want, the people they want to invite and more. Definitely include them in talks about party ideas and be prepared for any sort of request.
For instance, themes can be ballet or cowboy just as easily as a video game theme a pirate theme. The activities can coordinate, i.e. the ballet party can have dancing games and favors such as ballet stickers and coloring books. The pirate party could use a treasure hunt or fishing game, and gifts can include pirate hats, fake tattoos and so on.
This might be the first time you need a timeline, and from this point forward most parties can use the following plan:
- Guests arrive or you meet them at the venue for the party (do any icebreaker activities)
- Everyone enjoys game time
- Follow up games with a craft (if a child is interested in hands-on things) or have some entertainment
- Open the gifts
- Eat! (Save all the sugar for the last minute to avoid a house or space full of sugar-crazed kids!)
- Send them on their way with a gift bag
You can enjoy many of the same games as the previous year but think about adding in a game like “Musical Chairs”, a real piñata, or the “fox and hen”. This is played with the kids sitting in a circle. One child is the hen and one the fox, which just means each gets a bean bag. When the birthday celebrant shouts “go” the kids pass the bags in the same direction. The goal is to see if the “fox” can catch up to the hen. If it does, the original fox gets a prize.
Party Ideas for Kids Ages Six to Eight
Because kids develop at different levels, we’ve merged the six- to eight-year-old party ideas as well as nine through 13 since you’ll find a lot of overlap.
The themes for this group can be just about anything by this time, and it is best if you choose very active games. For example, hula hoop competitions, more difficult treasure hunts (maybe even with maps), egg and spoon races, and even oversized games are ideal. The latter is done by making kids “game pieces” and using sidewalk chalk to draw the “board”. It could be tic-tac-toe, or simply draw a game with a set of instructions in each square (squawk like a bird before moving to the next square, jump up and down five times, and so on). Whoever gets the farthest without failing a task wins (spoiler – everyone wins!). Racing games such as relay races, races with balloons between each runner’s knees and racing while jumping rope are great for this age group, too.
Keep in mind, though, that a lot of kids in this age group also start to think about parties away from home. Art parties, arcade or bowling parties, movie and a pizza party, swimming parties, and all the rest are also likely requests. If you don’t have the budget, you can also offer a DIY variation with a “beach themed” party, a DIY pizza party, a game station party and more.
This concept overlaps with the next age group, and so you’ll want to discuss with your child what it is they think is the right party idea for themselves and their friends.
One thing great about the six- to eight-year-olds and beyond is their eagerness to help select goodie bag gifts. By this time, the gifts can be more thoughtful and help your child realize the importance of being a good host.
Birthday Party Ideas for Kids – Ages 9 to 12
When kids hit this age, you might feel like you are coming up with party ideas for adults. After all, kids in these age groups can be very sophisticated. Yet, you might have a nine- or 10 year-old who still adores a character or theme from an earlier period in their lives. Don’t turn it down, and instead go with it!
You might find that it is not at all unusual for kids at this time to enjoy such complex themes as art parties, game themes like Minecraft or even D&D, Pokémon parties, movie parties, and even a sleepover. One thing you’ll notice is that it is now that games and activities may seem less exciting than time alone with friends. It’s fine because you can still do a lot of those active games from the six- to eight-year-old range before allowing them to do that more friend-oriented activity.
Some alternative games for this age can include the many variations of mall scavenger hunts, interactive and active board games, and “minute to win it” games.
This age group can be challenging, and the party ideas to rely on are the ones that kids seem most responsive to, which means you might not host an actual party but instead accompany a group to the mall, a movie, a roller rink, pool or other “hot spot”. You can work in a birthday concept with a cake and some food, along with a few of the games already mentioned. It is best not to force the party notion on older kids, but don’t let them skip a celebration altogether!
Get More Inspiration from Discount Party Supplies!
Kid’s birthday party ideas are hardly ever clear-cut and depend a lot more on your child’s personal preferences and age rather than any average or common themes and ideas. Think of the planning as an opportunity to get to know your child a bit more at each phase of their life and be sure you make a little scrapbook about the planning and the actual ideas. Though it might feel like there is a bit of pressure or that the effort and expense are a bit much, it really is only a handful of years and then all you’ll have left to consider is party ideas for adults…or grandkids!
Discount Party Supplies offers a plethora of blog articles to help with your party planning. We feature extensive lines of themes only available on our website that your child will love!