Great Birthday Party Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Your little one’s birthday bash is one of the most thrilling events of her whole year — and she’d probably be pleased by just about any party you threw in her honor. But if you want to make the big day more special, look to whatever mania’s gripping your munchkin right now — whether it’s fairies or football — and use it as the perfect jumping-off point for party planning. Then follow up with decorations, games, and favors that tie into your tot’s pick. So get ready for fun times with these great birthday party ideas.
Decorate: Before the party, help your birthday buddy build mini robots out of Legos. Group your creations in a centerpiece, or scatter them around the party room for a backdrop of bots.
Have fun: Try a robotic version of Red Light, Green Light. When the tot who’s “it” turns her back, she says, “Robots, turn on,” which mobilizes the other party-goers to do their best robot walk toward her. When the tot turns back around, she says, “Robots, turn off,” and the robots freeze. Wiggly bots get sent back to where they started, while the first robot to reach “it” wins.
Take home: Craft a super robotic party favor: Draw a robot face on a Chinese takeout box and crunch up duct tape to make the bolts on the side of the face. Stuff the box with robot stickers, glow-sticks, and a slinky.
BIRTHDAY PARTY THEME: ROBOT BLAST
Decorate: Scatter trays of tiaras, dishes of necklaces, and a bowl of boas around the family room along with piles of fancy dress-up duds. The decor doubles as a party activity: Once all the guests arrive, let them pick their ensembles and choose accessories to add some bling to their get-ups.
Have fun: Guests can channel their inner Cinderella with this fairy-tale version of musical chairs. As some royal music plays (try a Disney sound track), have the pint-sized princesses walk around the chairs/coaches. When the music stops, it’s midnight! Hop in a coach as quick as you can. Remove a coach each round, but tell the guests they have to figure out how to pile on to the coaches that are left. Get ready for giggles.
Take home: Decorations also turn into party favors when you let each pint-sized princess keep the necklace, crown, and boa. You can also hand out sparkly drawstring bags to hold the loot.
BIRTHDAY PARTY THEME: PRETTY AS A PRINCESS
Decorate: To prep for a smarty-pants storybook party, make color copies of your sweetie’s favorite characters (from Olivia to the Hungry Caterpillar to the Cat in the Hat) and tape them to the walls.
Have fun: Assemble a few props and costumes and invite little ones to act out their own silly stories. To kick-start their creativity, have them select crazy story ideas that you and your tot have thought up beforehand: “Aliens go to preschool” or “A dog and a cat make friends.”
Take home: Bundle copies of preschool-friendly paperbacks with a small notebook and a pencil, so attendees are inspired to read and then dictate their own post-party stories.
BIRTHDAY PARTY THEME: READ ME A STORY
Decorate: Fairies make their home in the great outdoors, so add a touch of nature to your party by draping a garland of silk flowers over the door or setting tree branches around the room. For more fantastical fun, make miniature fairy doors out of card stock and set them on the baseboards, in the bookcase — wherever fairies (and the guests) will find them.
Have fun: Send your pipsqueak and her party peeps on a scavenger hunt. Give them a picture list of items their fairy friends have lost — a wand, gold coins, a magic feather, a stuffed unicorn — and have them hunt through the yard and house to find them.
Take home: Send everyone home with a wand that doubles as a party activity. Glue two star-shaped pieces of card stock to the top of a 12-inch wood dowel. Then have party guests decorate the wands with glitter, stickers, and ribbons.
BIRTHDAY PARTY THEME: FABULOUS FAIRIES
Decorate: Cue the down-home mood by hauling a bale of hay to your front porch. Inside the house, use classic red bandanas as bunting and set out plastic jars filled with sunflowers. A herd of plastic farm animals makes a fun tabletop center, too.
Have fun: For a farm-tastic take on Marco Polo, play a round of Old McDonald Finds His Farm. One child is Old McDonald, while the other party-goers are the farmer’s runaway animals. Once the farmer’s blindfolded, the only way she can round up her animals is by calling “Come here, animals,” then following the moos, neighs, and quacks she hears in response. As soon as she’s tagged an errant animal, that guest sits in the barn (i.e., on the couch) till all the animals have returned home.
Take home: Fill a sand pail with farm-fresh supplies: plastic animals, a sand shovel, a bandana, an apple, and a chocolate-milk box.
BIRTHDAY PARTY THEME: ON THE FARM
Decorate: Set out baskets of balls, hang soccer cleats from the walls, and place plastic baseball bats across the bookshelves. Then tape up a few posters of sports stars or hang inflatable beach balls from the ceiling.
Have fun: Create a range of challenges for your older preschooler and pals in the backyard: throwing a football through a Hula-Hoop, kicking a soccer ball at a goalie (that would be you — or your partner), shooting a basketball into a laundry basket. Divvy the kids into teams and have them race one another. Too cold to hang out in the yard? Push the family-room furniture to one side and take the mini Olympics indoors.
Take home: For an easy party favor, tuck a pencil and sports-ball eraser, a whistle, and a rubber ball into an inexpensive kid-sized baseball cap.
BIRTHDAY PARTY THEME: GOOD SPORT PARTY
Decorate: Great birthday party ideas don’t have to be super-complicated, like this colorful party theme: Decorate the room with balloons in a rainbow of hues, along with classic streamers in your toddler’s favorite colors. Tape construction-paper polka dots to the walls for added saturation. To anchor the balloons, tie a brightly colored bottle of bubbles or a stuffed toy to the end of the balloon’s ribbon and then have each guest take one when the festivities are over.
Have fun: Two-year-old kids don’t need a lot of planned activities, but you can keep your guests busy by setting up mini art stations, each stocked with paper, printable coloring sheets, crayons, washable markers, and stickers. Or order an easy-to-assemble cardboard house that guests can decorate together — then play inside.
Take home: Scoop up some inexpensive coloring books, tie a box of crayons or washable markers to each, and voila, an arty party favor.
BIRTHDAY PARTY THEME: COLOR ME HAPPY