10 Fun Kids' Birthday Party Themes

Bright colors and funny toys may be the only theme you need.
Bright colors and funny toys may be the only theme you need.

Birthdays are big milestones, and celebrating them with lots of friends around is one great way to make a lasting memory. If you want your child's birthday party to be a standout occasion, give it a theme. Coordinating your ideas for decorations, activities, a few celebratory munchies and the cake, of course, is a fun and effective way to make the day special. Plus, to have everything laid out in front of you in one coordinating package will save some of your own creative juices, so you can focus on the important stuff: presents! Let's give a shout out to some fun kids' birthday party themes that'll give your child a reason to put on a funny hat and laugh out loud.

A Trip to the Circus

We love this theme because it lends itself to all kinds of simple design ideas. Brightly colored balloons, circus music, popcorn, stuffed animals (or real ones), and bright primary colors are all you really need to make it work. Circus-themed birthday supplies are easy to find, and if you're hiring a clown or dressing up like one, so much the better. This is usually considered a theme that works best for younger children, but if there's a circus in town, your tween or younger teen will probably be onboard with it, too. If you want a colorful cake with a circus theme, try a Carousel Cake. Tip: Very young children may be afraid of clowns, so use some caution with the greasepaint and orange fright wig.

Tiny Treasures
Dress your little one in polka dots to complete the theme!
Dress your little one in polka dots to complete the theme!

We like the idea of thinking small, especially for a small child's birthday party. Start with miniature invitations. The smallest envelope the post office will accept is 5 inches long by 3.5 inches high, but if you hand out invitations personally, you can make them even smaller. Young children love the idea of ordinary objects rendered in miniature. Fairy and dollhouse motifs are a natural here, as are small dolls, tiny books, miniature trains, sports cars, and tea party cups and saucers.

Make single serving cakes in large cupcake tins, or try our cute Birthday Cake Cookies. For an overall design, use polka dots. They're small but have great energy. Polka dot wrapping paper and party supplies are readily available and work well with a tiny treasures theme. They also coordinate nicely with solids and stripes. It may be a small world after all, but it'll be just the right size for your young child's birthday. Just be sure to avoid items that may present a choking hazard for very young children.

Wizards and Magic

Everyone's favorite boy wizard notwithstanding, parties that include magical, fantastical and supernatural themes can be great fun. Think of them as Halloween without the pumpkins. Because Harry Potter and friends are so popular, you'll be able to find lots of merchandise to support a Harry Potter-themed party. Why not designate rooms in your home as the four Hogwarts houses: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin? For something more generic, employ elements like caldrons (complete with dry ice to approximate steam), witches, capes, moons, stars, broomsticks and magic wands. Dragon cutouts and folks in costume will add to the fun, too. If you have enough energy leftover for a little creative baking, try our Dream Castle Cake. It'll serve a crowd.

A Beauty Spa Makeover
If you can't afford to bring in professionals, lay out the supplies and let the girls do their own or each other's nails.
If you can't afford to bring in professionals, lay out the supplies and let the girls do their own or each other's nails.

Tween and teen girls will adore an opportunity to experiment with makeup and beauty aids under the supervision of a knowledgeable adult. Older girls may just like experimenting with different makeup shades, while younger girls will appreciate some instruction and lots of positive feedback when applying hand lotion, moisturizer, lip balm and a little rouge. In case there's a parent out there who may object, make sure to outline the theme of the party in the invitation. You'll also need a table with seating stations for makeovers. If the girls involved are old enough to apply makeup unsupervised, prepare seating areas with good lighting and enough mirrors to accommodate at least a few of the guests, who can then take turns experimenting.

Each girl will need her own supplies, so have goodie bags prepared in advance. In the interest of fast cleanup, keep makeup remover and tissues close by. Hair decorating, dress-up and manicure parties will also be big hits with tween and teen girls -- and you can always mix and match activities. Makeover parties can be great photo ops, too, so be sure to have your camera handy for before and after pictures. If you want your daughter's cake to be as pretty as a picture, try making our It's My Party Cake. It's as charming as it is creative.

Retro Themes

If your birthday boy or girl is nostalgic for the good old days of poodle skirts, beach blanket bingo or the fab four, you can easily turn a fascination with the past into a party theme. Use old movie posters, images of iconic movie stars and era specific music to put some sizzle into a teen's birthday celebration. Make the proceedings a costume party, and have guests come as someone recognizable from the target era. Offer prizes for the most creative costumes. Have classic movies playing on your big screen, or host a not-so-current events trivia game. You're bound to find something fun and funny to showcase whether you're spoofing the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s or later. Planning a 1960s party? Why not serve a Flower Power Cake or two. They're fun, friendly and easy to make.

Pirate Treasure
Pirate cupcakes can make everyone say "Ahoy!"
Pirate cupcakes can make everyone say "Ahoy!"

A treasure hunt is always fun for kids, and popular pirate movie blockbusters are making "Ahoy Matey!" an engaging birthday greeting. Try a scavenger hunt for common household objects, and make blindfolded guests who fail to find all the items walk a slightly elevated plank onto a pile of pillows. Make a treasure map using a simple computer drawing program, and leave clues around your home or yard. If your landscape can tolerate it, bury treasure in your backyard where an X marks the shallow spot (keep a trowel nearby for easy access). Effective elements for pirate-themed birthday parties are eye patches, parrots, palm trees, coconuts, the skull and crossbones, treasure maps, anchors and lots of gold, foil wrapped chocolate doubloons.

Dinosaur Hunt

If you're amazed and a little confused by your child's fascination with dinosaurs, you're probably in good company. Kids seem completely beguiled by these huge, extinct creatures. If you have a budding paleontologist on your hands, take heart. All those trips to the museum of natural history might be about to pay off. You may be able to hold a birthday celebration at your local museum for a nominal fee. If not, you can create dinosaur tracks in your yard (or at a local park), and have them lead to a cache of edible cake eggs or cookie bones. Dinosaur trivia is usually a hit at these parties, too, and you'll be surprised at how well informed kids are about all things prehistoric.

You won't have to look too hard to find dinosaur-themed birthday party products, like tableware and wrapping paper, either. For an impressive presentation, rent a large, inflatable T-Rex or other dinosaur sculpture. Check your local party store for rates and availability.

Super Sleepovers

We love the idea of themed sleepovers because they offer so many opportunities to create memorable moments. They're loads of work, but if you have the space, the time, and plenty of energy, a sleepover can turn a simple birthday into a magic holiday. Any theme can be converted into an overnighter, and the extra few hours will make the best use of all your planning and attention to detail. These tips will help:

  • Create a schedule. Having children dropped off and picked up at a set time will make things easier.
  • Have each child bring a sleeping bag, pillow and other necessary items.
  • Don't invite more children than you can house comfortably in a single room.
  • Use a couple of night lights to make unfamiliar surroundings less scary for the kids.
  • Anticipate problems like squabbles, running up and down stairs, jumping on beds, and so on. Lay down some house rules sooner rather than later.
  • Establish a bedtime and make sure everyone knows what it is in advance. Do a bed check and a half-hour countdown with a firm "lights out" at the end of it.
  • Supervise the proceedings at a discrete distance, and make safety a priority.
  • Stay available in case anyone gets homesick or becomes ill.
Karaoke Party (Who's the Biggest Star?)

If your child is shy and retiring, this may not be the best party choice, but if you have a budding superstar on your hands, an opportunity to claim the limelight may be just the ticket for a memorable birthday. If you don't own a Karaoke machine, you can rent one for the occasion. You'll want to go over the song list and make the guests aware of what's in store so they can come in costume or prepare a routine. Karaoke can be an engrossing activity that'll keep the kids entertained for hours, but for children who may be overwhelmed or reluctant to participate, have a craft table set up for more sedate activities, too.

Put together a small stage area, and keep plenty of popcorn on hand for the appreciative audience. Designate a family member as master of ceremonies to supervise, and make sure that comments remain gentle and in good taste. A Karaoke party can be a blast, so charge up your video recorder. You'll want to catch every loud, silly moment. Tip: If the idea of all those tortured notes has you cringing, a set of earplugs comes cheap, and no one will ever be the wiser.

Hobby Crazy
No matter what the theme is, the goal should always be fun.
No matter what the theme is, the goal should always be fun.

Your child's latest hobby or passion can become a creative theme for his birthday party this year. Your son's fascination with snakes could make a fun and timely theme. Ask your child why he loves his hobby so much. His enthusiasm will give you some insights and lots of great ideas. In the age of easy to use printers that can transfer graphics to banners, fabric and even cake icing, you probably have all the tools you need to craft most of the decorations you'll need. For the rest, specialty retailers like pet stores and sports memorabilia outlets cater to niche markets, so you're bound to find something inspired if you give yourself enough time to plan and browse.

It might take a little more effort than buying a boxed party pack, but clipart, posters, personalized napkins, and rubber or plush toys can help make your child's unique theme into something pretty special. Who knows, the year your son's birthday included a rubber snake hunt may become the stuff of legends at your house, recounted with glee every year at the family reunion or around the Thanksgiving holiday feast.

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