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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.