4 Birthday Party Themes that Make Planning a Breeze

More parenting resources

Your child’s birthday is one of the best reasons to celebrate, but planning the perfect party can be stressful for busy moms and dads. That’s where a good theme comes in: A theme not only ensures an extra special party for kiddos, it can also simplify planning for the big day with décor, activities and favors that are on point. Try one of these amazing birthday party themes for your kid’s next bash.

1. An Un-Slumber Party

Younger kids may not be ready to spend the entire night at a friend’s house, but that doesn’t mean the birthday girl or boy can’t have all the fun of a sleepover sans the sleeping part. Invite guests for a late afternoon or early evening party, pajamas required. Set the mood with pillowcase or sleeping mask invitations.

Activities: Depending on your crowd’s ages and interests, consider some of these activities: manis, pedis and makeovers; board games; dress up for a dance party (add a black light or disco ball for maximum atmosphere); or a craft, such as painting pillowcases. Pile sleeping bags, pillows and blankets on your living room floor and end the party with the kids snuggled up and watching a movie. Want to take it outside? Set up tents and a firepit where kids can roast marshmallows and make their own smores.

Food: Personal pizzas that kids can add toppings to take care of both dinner and entertainment. Add a make-your-own sundae bar and don’t forget popcorn for the movie.

Favors: Let your guests leave with fuzzy slippers or cozy socks (check the local dollar store for inexpensive options); nail polish and lip gloss; mini flashlights; or an individual box of cereal with a fun bowl and spoon.

2. Superheroes Party to the Rescue

Girls and boys love to put on a cape and mask and pretend they are saving the world. Choose one or more of your child’s favorite superheroes—or go with a more “generic” superhero theme. Start with these retro-feeling invitations.

Activities: Hand out inexpensive (or homemade) capes and masks for guests to wear and take home. Superheroes are going to expect some action, so make sure you plan games that get the wiggles out. Start with a superhero freeze game—play music and let kids dance around; when the music stops, everyone freezes in their best superhero pose. Little heroes can also practice their super skills with an obstacle course. Run through hula hoops, climb through a tunnel, weave through cones and bust through a wall made of cardboard boxes.

Food: Even superheroes need to stop for snacks. Stay on theme with “hero sandwiches,” and set up a buffet that includes chips (for a super crunch), veggies and dip (for super strength) and green “kryptonite” punch. For treats, these caped lollipops can be purchased or DIY-ed.

Favors: Consider a cute keepsake, like this flying photo. All you need is a blue sheet decorated with felt buildings and clouds and a ladder to stand on where you can snap photos from above.

3. Come One, Come All to a Carnival Party

Boys and girls will want to step right up to a carnival-themed party that can be held indoors or outside. Send “admit one” ticket invitations to your guests, and decorate with bright colors, such as red and white striped table covers reminiscent of circus tents, and lots of balloons.

Activities: Set up three to five stations with carnival games. Here are a few to try:

Clothespin Drop Game: It may sound easy, but not so fast—for this game, kids will need to combine good aim with a little luck. Set up a glass bottle (such as a milk jug, or for younger kids, something with a wider mouth, like a mason jar) and have them try to drop a clothespin into it from a certain height.

Bean Bag Toss: Set up a target, such as a heavy poster board with holes cut into through it. Kids get three tries to toss a bean bag through a hole.

Go Fish: Everyone wins with this popular game. Set up a small wall-like barrier that an adult can hide behind. Attach a binder clip to a child-size fishing pole and have kids “cast” the pole over the wall. The hidden adult will attach a prize.

Food: Traditional carnival food like hotdogs and hamburgers in gingham food trays, popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones will be a hit with this crowd.

Favors: Fill a popcorn container with goodies that remind your guests of a colorful carnival, including silly straws, rubber duckies, pinwheels and colorful lollipops.

4. A Great Birthday Bake Off

Kids love helping in the kitchen, so why not host a bake-off for your birthday girl or boy? Start off the festivities with a chef’s hat invitation to your baking bash.

Activities: Before you hit the kitchen, “mix” things up with another activity and have kids decorate their own chef’s hats or aprons with their names and other embellishments. For younger kids, make sugar cookies and cupcakes in advance. Set out various decorating materials—icing, small candies, sprinkles, edible gel and other goodies—to get creative with.

Food: Obviously, kids will want to sample their handiwork, but you’ll also want them to serve a few non-sweet treats. Finger sandwiches, mini mac and cheeses, fruit kabobs and a snack mix will round out the menu.

Favors: Provide bakery boxes so kids can take home their kitchen creations. Mini rolling pins will complete your party favors.