Sometimes, the stress of planning the perfect birthday party can take all of the fun out of the special day. First, you have to nail down the party logistics of when and where to host the shindig. Then, there's the guest list and the all-important party theme. And finally, once folks arrive, you have to keep them entertained between cake and presents.
But throwing a birthday bash doesn't have to be a headache. TLC and HowStuffWorks.com have teamed up to help you fill up that birthday party schedule with cool activities that kids of all ages can enjoy. Whether you're envisioning a summer beach blowout or a holiday season hoedown, you can tailor these activities to any type of birthday party.
All you need is a dash of creativity to convert a ho-hum relay race into a cowboy ride-off, a scavenger hunt into an underwater quest for lost treasure or whatever else fits the imaginative theme you choose.
Relay races, three-legged races and other fast-paced competitions are a great way to get rid of your young guests' excited energy before they sit down for some cake and ice cream. Depending on the ages of the invitees, you can either pair up people you think would work well together or allow them to choose their own partners. For the younger set, these are also good parent-child activities.
Try to incorporate your party theme into the races. For instance, if you're going for wacky, how about a dress-up relay race? Participants have to put on an item of funny clothing or an accessory each time they run to their partners. The first pair wearing completed outfits wins.
Obstacle courses are also crowd-pleasers, although they may require more preparation on your end. Like relay races, you can design an obstacle course to suit the occasion. For tween girls, you could set up a glamour course with makeup, costume jewelry and hair accessories. The girls have to dash through, apply their makeup, fix their hair and toss on some baubles as fast as they can -- without looking like they sprinted through a wind tunnel.
Kids of all ages love hunting for treasure. They get excited not knowing where they'll have to go next and what surprise awaits at the end of the trail. For a birthday party host, hunting expeditions -- aka scavenger hunts or treasure hunts -- buy time to prep cake and ice cream and relax for a minute while partygoers search around for their prizes. Also, rainy weather and cold won't ruin the activity since you can always move a hunt indoors (taking care to remind guests of the "no running" rule).
Younger groups will require a hunting guide, and the final treasure at the end could be as simple as a snack or dessert. Adolescents may enjoy a more elaborate scavenger hunt around town -- with an adult as the driver, of course. The final destination could be a mini golf course, the movie theater, a skating rink or another cool spot.
Once again, these activities can pair perfectly with party themes. For a pirate treasure hunt, hand out eye patches and make newspaper sailor hats before setting out. Or, a flock of adorable fairies can decorate construction paper wings and magic wands before taking flight.
You don't have to throw a fiesta-themed birthday party to use a piñata. Premade piñatas come in a variety of shapes, sizes and even popular cartoon characters. And if you can't find the one you want at the store, all you need is flour, water, newspaper and decorative tissue paper to make your own. Just be sure to secure the piñata tightly to whatever it's hanging from to ensure that it doesn't fall before guests can whack it open.
If you're working with a tight budget, a piñatas and its candy contents can also perform double duty as a party game and as take-home favors. It's a festive birthday staple that's sure to please parents and kids alike.
In the summertime, kids love water-themed birthday parties. If you don't mind the possibility of wet footprints in the house, then water-themed activities, including slip 'n' slides and sprinklers, are the way to go. In fact, you can easily incorporate a water element into many traditional activities for a wet 'n' wild twist.
Here are a few to try out:
- Water balloon toss: Guests grab a partner and line up in two parallel rows, facing each other. They toss the water balloon back and forth, then take a step back and repeat. The pairs gradually move father away from each other, and the pair that can toss the balloon from the farthest distance without dropping it wins.
- Water gun hide 'n' seek: The same rules of hide 'n' seek apply, except the person who's "it" is armed with a water gun. Instead of tagging someone out, players are sprayed with the gun.
- Hose limbo: Rather than using a limbo stick, use water spray from a hose. Whoever can limbo the farthest beneath the water without getting wet is the champ. If you'd like to incorporate a theme, toss on a lei and a hula skirt, and you have a luau party.
If you took a poll of the most popular birthday food (aside from cake and ice cream), pizza would probably top the list. In that case, how about turning the pizza into the party? You can buy premade pizza dough at the grocery store, and some pizzerias will even sell their dough for a few bucks. To avoid the hassle of having to roll out the raw dough, you could also use flat breads as a crust. Grab enough cans of premade pizza sauce, cheese and whatever toppings your guests would like.
Chef hats and red and white checkered table clothes would also make a cute touch. Even if you can't shell out for the extras, be sure to have enough aprons or old T-shirts on hand for folks to wear. Tomato stains are a chore to wash out.
Young guests will definitely need help making their pies, but this is another good opportunity for parent-child interaction. Tweens and teens should be fine on their own as long as the toppings are precut, and adults put the pizzas in and take them out of the oven. While they bake, you'll have just enough time to open presents.