Have a Better Birthday Party

Use these parent-tested tips, themes, and money-savers to make your fiesta fantastic.



birthday boy

We asked parents for their best party pointers, and wow, did they deliver! If you're planning a birthday bash, check out these inspirational ideas.

Themes: From Dinosaurs to Drive-Ins
A theme ties a party together better than anything else, and makes for lots of great activity, food, and decorating ideas. No matter what your child's interest, you can create a theme and a party to match, say parents:

  • Dinosaurs: “At our son's 4th birthday party, the kids dug for dinosaurs in our sand pit, painted dinosaur eggs (chicken eggs) and ate dinosaur food. We decorated our sunroom with green and brown crepe paper and lots of pictures of dinosaurs. The highlight was the dinosaur swamp birthday cake we made. Simple things like dinosaur dancing and pin the tail on the dinosaur were also a hit.”
    —Robyn F.
  • Cowboy/Cowgirl: “For our daughter's 4th birthday we had a cowgirl party. Each guest got a cowboy hat and a bandana. My aunt and uncle have ponies, so the children got pony rides (we sent pictures with the thank-you notes). We had stick-horse races and the kids won sheriff badges. I made a horseshoe cake, and we had bandana napkins.”
    —Brandy C.
  • Drive-In: “We set up the TV/VCR on the patio and arranged lawn chairs around it. We popped popcorn and served it in grocery sacks. We also served movie snack candy and soda [and] started the party at dusk. The kids had a great time!”
    —Kelly M.
  • Pizza Party: “We made clay pizza pins and each child decorated his own apron. Each kid also made his own mini-pizza, and then we cooked them and ate them for lunch. The cake was created to look like a pizza too!”
    —Kelly K.

Make It a Holiday
If you're still stumped for a party theme, check the calendar — piggybacking on a nearby holiday may just be the answer.

  • Halloween: “My daughter's birthday is in October so one year we did a pumpkin-decorating party, and the following year we did a costume party. We had a lot of fun with the food: hot dogs wrapped in breadstick dough with a space left for the face so that they look like mummies, cupcakes that look like bats, spiders, Frankenstein, etc.”
    —Kirsten M.
  • Independence Day: “We had a party for my youngest girl in late June. We had a small pool with a slide, we threw water balloons, and we tie-dyed shirts red, white, and blue — just in time for July 4th!”
    —Robin R.

Save Your Pennies
The words "budget" and "birthday" don't always go hand in hand, but with these low-cost ideas, they can become better acquainted. Kids will focus on the fun they had, not the money you spent.           

  • Serve Breakfast: “We did a breakfast party one year when my daughter was too young for a slumber party but really wanted one. Each guest came in her pajamas and we had doughnuts and pancakes for breakfast.  We did all the sleepover games, only we didn't have the late night.”
    —Kelly K.
  • Candy Hunt: “I had the kids decorate brown lunch bags using markers and glitter. Later, I would throw penny candy all over my backyard and send them out with their bags to collect as much as they could. This bag became their goody bag.”
    —Marcia I.
  • PJ Party: “All attendees, including the moms, had to come in pajamas. All of the food was breakfast fare. We had "pan-cakes" on which the girls had to blow out their candles, French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausages. After breakfast, we played old-fashioned games such as Pin the Tail on the Donkey and Drop the Clothespin in the Bottle. Each friend also took home a goodie bag (scrap fabric sewn into tote-like pillowcases). As the guests left, we moms all agreed it was as much fun for us as for the kids!”
    —Patti H.
Age 7
Age 6