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The Best Kids' Birthday Party Themes

From invitations to activities to food, cake and favors, we get creative with birthday party themes for boys and girls.

1. Wild West

Invites: Modeled on an old-timey Wanted poster. Decorations: Hay bales, silver stars, saloon-style swing doors cut out of cardboard. Activities: Stick-horse relays, horseshoes, pin the mustache on the outlaw. Food: Hot dogs, baked beans, root beer. Cake: Let plastic horse figures graze on grassy green icing edged by toy farm fencing. Favors: Sheriff's badges, bandannas, horseshoe key rings. 

Click here to see inspirations for these party themes – and many others – pinned to our "Party Smarty Themes" board on MetroKids' Pinterest page.

2. Modern Art

Invites: Wooden palettes from the craft shop, with details doodled on in marker. Decorations: Paint-speckled mural paper hung on the wall and spread on the floor (does double duty as surface protection). Activities: Tye-dye T-shirts; press white-tempera handprints on individual-sized canvases pre-painted a solid color. Food: Put ketchup and mustard in squeeze bottles to “paint” burgers and dogs. Cake: Splatter white-iced cake with different colored candy melts, to look like a Jackson Pollock drip painting. Favors: Mini paint sets, marker packs, modeling clay.

 

Bonus Theme: Mad Scientist
Invites: Curled up in a plastic test tube. Decorations: Posters of Albert Einstein, prop skeletons, a clothes rack with lab robes and goggles for the kids to wear. Activities: "Find the eyeballs" (hide ping-pong balls in a bowl of cooked spaghetti, blindfold the kids and have them stick their hands in and search) or experiments like making your own lava lamp. Food: Colorful fruit drinks in vial-shaped cups, edible molecules (gumdrops connected with toothpicks). Cake: A sheet cake with the periodic table iced on. Favors: Silly Putty or homemade Flubber (make this during the party), glow necklaces.

3. Butterfly Garden

Invites: Construction-paper butterfly with glitter and chenille-stem antennae. Decorations: Butterfly mobiles assembled from foam, lace doilies, tulle and tissue paper. Activity: Decorate paper coffee filters with markers, spritz with water so colors blend, then pinch with a clothespin to make “wings.” Add googly eyes and chenille-stem antennae. Food: No-crust jelly “jewel” sandwiches, cut on the diagonal and arranged in winglike formation with a baby carrot as the thorax. Cake: Assemble cupcakes in the shape of a butterfly, using different-colored icing for the yummies that make up the upper and lower wings. Favors: Butterfly nets, butterfly barrettes, bubbles with butterfly-shaped wands.
 

Bonus Theme: Photo Booth
Invites:
Photo booth image strip. Make with apps like Pocketbooth or Picture Booth Classic. Decorations: Empty picture frames and cardboard backdrops kids can pose in and around, with props like boas, hats, toy instruments, tiaras and mustaches on sticks. Activities: Provide scrapbooking doodads, print out photos and have the kids make their own personalized photo albums. Food: Be like a movie director and set up a buffet resembling a craft food service table on a film set. Cake: Have a local bakery screen your invitation image strip onto edible paper and overlay it on the cake. Favor: A photo frame with an image from the party slipped inside.

4. Camping/Glamping

Invites: Shape of a tent, with a construction paper overlay that folds up like a flap door to reveal info. Decorations: Vintage canteens, lanterns, picnic blankets. Activities: For boys, a classic scavenger hunt; for gals, glam it up in the yard – hence the term “glamping” – with mini-manis and pedis (bonus: the polish will dry faster outside). Food: Trail mix; “acorns” constructed from a Nilla wafer, sandwiched by a frosted-on Kiss and a chocolate chip “topknot.” Cake: Forgo the cake for a make-your-own s’mores bar, with marshmallow-ready sticks arrayed in a tin bucket. Favors: Toy compasses, clip-on canteens, mini bottles of nail polish (for glampers).

Bonus Theme: Rock Star Party
Invites:
Backstage pass for a rock show. Decorations: Hang rock posters, vinyl records and CDs on the wall. Activities: Have the kids lip-sync and play air guitar with balloon instruments and film the performance. Food: Elvis Presley-inspired peanut butter and banana sandwiches (make sure none of your guests have peanut allergies), pop star popcorn with Pop Rocks mixed in. Cake: In the shape of a guitar with chocolate-shaving guitar "picks" along the side. Favor: Burn a CD with your little rock star's favorite songs.

5. Reader Theme: Magic Party

Says mom Christina Sees: “We made edible dice (marshmallows with dots from a black edible marker), magic wands (chocolate-covered pretzels with one end dipped in white chocolate), ‘playing cards’ (graham crackers decorated with cookie frosting and edible markers) and cupcakes with wizard-hat toppers (sugar cones dipped in purple candy melts, rolled in purple glitter sugar and star sprinkles). We hired a comedian magician, Brian Richards, who the kids loved.” Favors: Trick card decks, magic wands, dice games.

 


6. Obstacle Course

Invites: Make it athletic, with cut-out pennant-type lettering. Decorations: Float balloons along the course and suspend rally banners above. Activities: Ladder-rung and hula-hoop runs, spider-crawl through jump ropes strung around trees, set up a Wipeout-style big-ball bounce or create a slalom path made of pool noodles propped up in tires. Food: Popcorn and pretzel party mix, watermelon slices, cookies decorated like gold medals (one for every contestant, of course). Cake: Build a cupcake tower with tiny pennants stuck in with toothpicks. Favors: Jump ropes, hula hoops, medals and ribbons.

7. Construction Party

Invites: Shape of a traffic cone. Decorations: Caution tape and construction site signs. Activities: Put together popsicle-stick birdhouses or paint Styrofoam bricks orange and let the kids hammer in golf tees. Reader Traci Henn spread thousands of Lego bricks on a table and kept the kids happily entertained for the entire party. Food: Sandwiches cut out with truck-shaped cookie cutters. Cake: Crumble a chocolate cake in the back of a large toy dump truck, top with crumbled Oreos and hide a few gummy worms in the “dirt” for good measure. Favors: Toy trucks, small construction signs for room decor.

Bonus Theme: Pirate Party
Invites:
On a pirate map or in the shape of a skull and crossbones. Decorations: Message-filled bottles, parrot cutouts, pyramids of papier-mache cannonballs. Activities: Scavenger hunt to find buried treasure; a walk-the-plank balance beam challenge. Food: Fish-and-chips mix of Goldfish crackers and potato chips, blue Jell-O with gummy fish and worms suspended inside. Cake: Treasure chest cake filled with chocolate coins and gummy cola as “rum bottles.” Favors: Eye patches, bandannas, toy telescopes.

8. Reader Theme: Fairy Party

Says mom Kathleen Salvio: “The invite was done like an old paper scroll, with burned edges and butterflies tied at the top. I bought fairy wings, skirts, slippers and made silk-flower fairy wreaths. I researched fairy names and made certificates. Each girl picked her own costume and fairy name when she arrived. We had foods like cotton candy, honey candy and punch with magic rocks (Pop Rocks). There was dancing, hair, makeup, nails and pedicures. Each girl got her fairy wings from a fairy godmother as silk rose petals fell around her.” Favors: Glittery makeup, sparkly tiaras.

Bonus Theme: Hawaiian Party Invites: Come to Hawaii-type postcards of beaches and surfers. Decorations: Leis and grass skirts, fake palm trees, flameless tiki torches. Activities: Hula dance lessons, beach blanket Bingo, limbo contest. Food: Hawaiian pizza or skewers with pineapple and ham, drinks served in coconut shells. Cake: Modeled on a lava-flowing volcano. Favors: Leis, toy ukuleles, flip-flops.

Reader Theme: Tea Party

Says mom Denise Felice: “The girls decorated their own sun hats and the cake was in the shape of a teapot.” Invites: Write details on colored paper doilies. Decorations: Floral garlands, fresh flowers arrayed in teapots. Food: Crust-free tea sandwiches, lemonade poured from teapots. Favors: Feather fans, teacup-shaped planters.
 

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