Themed birthday parties. They’re inescapable—along with forts and runny noses—when you have children. But it’s exhausting coming up with clever new ideas each year that please both your child and wallet. Kids have had their fill of Harry Potter birthdays (see: the growing collection of wands in the closet), and so help them if they’re invited to one more glaringly pink, pretty princess bash.
This year, branch out from stale ideas and blockbuster movies. Opt for a celebration that reflects your child’s individualism, or at least one that pretends this is the case. To help you get started, we walk you through some of the best theme ideas waiting to be rediscovered by the next generation of little party-hoppers.
1. The Superhero(ine)
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a superhero(ine) bash! No need to have super powers to pull this theme off though—with a little creativity and glue, it’s a party that will come together fast.
Décor & Favors: From balloons to the mustard on the table, incorporating prime colors is key for this theme (secondary colors are used by villains). Pick up comic books at a used book or thrift store to give out as favors and keep some for yourself to use as decoration. Cut pages into triangles and turn them into a banner for hanging. Inexpensive superhero wrapping paper easily becomes tablecloths which can be thrown away—easy cleanup. In goodie bags include fun things like Pop Rocks candy, 3D glasses, and superhero playing cards.
Food: Green-colored Jello doubles as non-life force-sucking Kryptonite that can be cut into cubes. Arrange different finger foods on a table where kids can take what they want. Include labels that say what super thing the food does. For example: “Engergy Blast” or “Improves Laser Vision.” I for one will eat anything if it improves my laser vision capabilities … carrots perhaps.
Crafts: Using construction paper, toilet paper rolls and glue, kids can make their own superhero(ine) cuffs to wear while they defend mankind. Stickers and markers personalize them.
Do you have a little butterfly-catcher on your hands? How about a grasshopper-hunter? This party will be a creepy-crawly good time for all who enjoy exploring the world outside and all of its tiny creatures.
Décor & Favors: Place plastic bug toys in pots of (fake or real) plants for centerpieces. Scatter gummy worms all over the tables, and cut out paper spiders along with other bugs and leaves, to hang from the ceiling and stick onto the floor and walls. Check the party store for small bug catchers and fill them with removable bug tattoos, mini magnifying glasses, and glow in the dark spiders, to hand out to guests.
Food: Bake gummy worms into chocolate cupcakes with Oreo crumbles for that dirt effect. On the frosting, place plastic bugs leftover from the centerpieces. Pudding dirt cups are another good option, as well as colorful fruit kabobs. If you or your kid is daring enough, get a hold of baked crickets and mealworms for tacos.
Crafts: Let kids decorate their own bug-hunting jars. Using small glass jars (available in bulk at most craft or grocery stores), foam bug stickers from a hobby store, and pipe cleaners, they can decorate them any way they choose. Poke holes in the lid for air.
3. Tea Time
At this party, little girls become classy ladies who sip tea with their pinkies up and munch on finger sandwiches. The fact that almost the whole thing takes place at a table is merely a perk for parents.
Décor & Favors: Have fun with pink and gray streamers and wrap light pink tool (found cheap in the bargain section of fabric stores) around the backs of chairs to give more of an elegant look. You can use your own dishes and silverware—it’s fancier than plastic and saves money. Fill old teapots with flowers to place on the tables, and put small bags full of candy next to each nametag.
Food: Presentation matters at this get-together. Prepare simple sandwiches (ham and cheese, mayo and cucumber, PB&J) and cut them with fun cookie cutters. Arrange on trays alongside sweets like cranberry scones and mini cupcakes. For the tea, provide a selection of different flavors that aren’t too strong for little palettes. Also, fill one teapot with juice for guests who prefer this kind of “tea”.
Crafts/Games: Before being seated, have the girls play dress up. Scour thrift stores and your own closet to find Kentucky Derby-esque hats, white gloves, scarves and pearls for the girls to throw on and feel more formal. While they await their tea, use paper napkins to make a menagerie of origami animals (easy tutorials found online), which can then be colored with crayons and colored pencils.
4. Candyland Bash
Remember Queen Frostine and Mr. Mint? Such a classic game need not be lost on the current generation of youngsters, which is why you’re going to bring it back with this sweet shindig.
Décor & Favors: There is obviously a lot you can do here, but for starters, place squares of colored construction paper on the ground throughout your house (or yard) to mimic the path from the game board. Buy brightly colored paper dinner plates and tape them together in sets of two. Wrap them in cellophane and twist the ends, cinching them with ribbon, and you now have giant candies to hang. Create a Skittles bar (different colors in different bowls) and have kids fill up jars with layers of their favorite flavors to take home.
Food: Make an ice cream station where kids can choose from a variety of flavors, cones, and candy toppings. Good choices are mini M&Ms, sprinkles, gumdrops, gummy bears, cookie crumbs, and chocolate sauce. Label the area “Ice Cream Sea”—where Queen Frostine lives—to keep in theme with the game.
Games: Utilize the colorful path of paper that’s trailing through your home, and have the kids play a life-size version of the game. Grab the cards from the board game (easy and inexpensive to find online or at a thrift store) and watch as kids make their way through the Gingerbread Plum Trees and across the Molasses Swamp. Let your imagination (and budget) dictate how you want to recreate these locations.