My daughter, Hannah, looks forward to her birthday all year long. Her favorite part is planning the party. She loves to come up with a theme for her birthday, then let her imagination run wild on all the different ways she can incorporate that theme into the party -- from the decorations, to the games, to of course to the goody bags she gives her friends when they leave.
I like to step outside the commercial box and come up with party themes that are valuable, fun and that get back to basics. It also important to have a theme that appeals to different age groups, boys and girls alike, and that doesn't break the bank. Below are some of our favorites.
Do it all backwards! Let kids know -- with a mirror-image invitation -- they should wear their clothes backwards to the party. (And if they forget, they can always turn their outfits around when they get there.) Have dessert before lunch.
Make upside-down cupcakes, go crazy and turn some furniture around or upside down. With this one, the possiblities are limitless!
This is a great chance to teach kids about other parts of the world while having a great time.
For each invitation you send out, select a country for that child, encouraging them to dress-up in the traditional cultural attire (let them pick from two if that would be easier). At the party itself, have a birthday custom from each country and allow the child assigned to that country to go first. For example, the little boy in the sombrero can have first swing at the piñata.
A table filled with food from each country would be great addition, as well.
On the invitations, encourage your little guests to dress up as someone with their favorite profession for the party. As an arts and crafts project, fold a few pieces of paper over and staple to create a little booklet. Help guide the kids as they write and draw in the booklets of what they dream of becoming when they grow up.
Your child's dreams get to take center stage. For example, if your child wants to be a pro football player when he or she grows up, get a cake with a football on it.
Set up kiddie pools on tarps inside the house, and you can have a pool party even in the dead of winter! Add large potted plants, beach umbrellas and beach chairs.
Need room for all the kids to sit? Bring in the outdoor furniture or lay out beach towels on the floor. Play Hawaiian music, tunes from the Beach Boys and any other of your favorite summertime hits.
Birthdays can get overly focused on receiving gifts and eating cake. Not that these aren't wonderful parts, but a Helping Others party is a great chance to celebrate your child's birthday while teaching the gift of giving.
Have each invitee bring a canned good or non-perishable food to give to a local shelter. At the party, have a group activity/project that results in an item(s) that can be given to a local charity. Example: packing and decorating peanut butter & jelly sacks for the local homeless shelter. You might have to do some research in your area for a charity, but it will be worth the time for everyone involved.
Everyone puts on their favorite PJs for the party! Have your guests also bring pillows, sleeping bags and slippers. Lay blankets out on your living room floor and let the kids gather around for snacks. Popcorn seems like a must at this party. Great parting gifts: little flashlights, toothbrushes, tiny snuggle toys.
Teaching our kids how to appreciate and value their environment is a positive lesson that will last well beyond the boundaries of a birthday party. For this one, encourage your guests to bring a plastic/paper item that is ready to be recycled. At the party, teach the kids the process of recycling, how it works, and why it's important.
For an activity, take the kids for a walk outside. Have them listen to the sounds of nature and feel the wind on their cheeks. Gather up some rocks, sticks and leaves. Take them back and create musical instruments or art from them. This activity teaches kids how to enjoy the priceless-ness of nature and stirs their imagination.
Parting gifts: Tips on recycling, small stuffed animals where a part of the proceeds go to animal preservation.
Get ready to dance! Pick up a disco ball and/or some lava lamps. Set up a MP3 player and speakers with your kids' favorite dance songs, turn on the disco light, and let the kids burn off that cake. Have a contest -- craziest dance, best dancer, etc. Prizes could include iTunes gift cards.
There are a lot of great kid-friendly cooking recipes -- they can be a little messy, but a lot of fun. One of my favorites is pretzels. Pretzels only require a few healthy ingredients and a few minutes to bake. Let the kids help mix the gooey dough. Once it's ready they can twist it into letters (like their initials) or make fun shapes. They can eat some at the party and take a few home in their goodie bag. Another fun baking recipe ? Homemade pizzas.
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