For much of the US, it's been just about a year since all our lives went on lockdown. For March and April babies, that means a second birthday passing without the usual fanfare, thanks to social distancing and quarantines.
Yes, toilet paper birthday cakes and Zoom brunches made birthdays more tolerable for adults. Kids, however, weren't so easily amused. Try telling your six-year-old that they can't have a birthday party for the second year in a row. Not fun for anyone.
Depending on where you live, you might be getting back to having a "normal" life and may have even started getting out again. For the rest of us, it will be soon. With that in mind, let's have some fun and do some party planning! It's time to give our kiddos the birthday they deserve.
To help you out, we've covered everything you need to know (well, remember) about throwing parties and 16 great places for kids' birthday parties.
The Art of the Kids Party
Kids' parties have the notoriously bad rep among adults for being no fun. You may have a room full of happy kiddos, but looking around at a sea of parents with glazed-over eyes takes the wind out of your sails a little. Got older kids? Don't think you're in the clear. There may be fewer parental chaperones, but the target audience gets harder to please.
By following our three easy steps for a kickass kids party, you'll be sure to keep the party guests happy and keep things simple for yourself as the party host.
Keep the Party Moving
Depending on the age bracket you're working with, attention spans may be short. Keep activities flowing one to the next without too much lag. If you can, have most of the party activities completed in under an hour so guests will be free to leave as kid temperaments demand.
Refreshments for Everyone
Food is always important at a party. At a kids' party, though, it's crucial. You want to make sure that you have enough food for the time of day your party is scheduled and that you have something everyone in attendance is going to want to eat.
When scheduling events over lunch and dinner time, the menu will need to be heartier than when scheduling over the afternoon hours. The same rules apply to all parties — you want to avoid hungry partygoers of all ages.
If your guest list is full of little ones, keep the weird sensory experiments off the food table and stick to tried and true snacks.
Pro Tip: You'll score some serious bonus points with the other parents if you make a point to find out about any food allergies and make a point to avoid them in the menu.
Related: The Importance Of RSVPing
Open Presents After the Party
No one bats an eye when this is done at weddings, but for some reason, it's not a popular option at kids' parties. This can not only speed up the entire party process, but it can also make it easier for kids who have trouble with the spotlight being on them. It also reduces any gift comparison from other parents and kids, which is sad, but happens.
Be sure to send a thank you note or at least a thank you email when a direct thanks can't be given.
Party Places for the Five and Under Crowd
When planning for the littlest party peeps, keep them engaged and moving by centering things around an activity. Look for birthday party venues that will cater to letting toddlers run free and bigger kids expel some sugar-fueled energy.
If your little one loves to flip, tumble and roll, a gymnastics center is a perfect venue for your kid's next birthday party. Outfitted with all the usual gymnastics equipment like beams, bars and tumbling mats, these centers often offer other bonus equipment like swings and trampolines.
Build-A-Bear Workshop is an excellent party option for kids who love stuffed animals. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, most Build-A-Bear facilities are still closed for in-person parties, but take-home party packages can be ordered online. You get the same Build-A-Bear experience, right in your own living room or backyard.
If you have a local zoo nearby, check into the options they have available for kids' parties. Many zoos offer a private party room for a couple of hours, a zoo-related activity and add-ons like animal encounters and behind-the-scenes exhibit features.
School-Aged Party People
Older kids can handle more complex party activities. At this age, you're also going to have more pressure to have parties that can accommodate an entire class of kids. Choose your venue wisely.
Every kid loves a swimming party. Check with your local community pool or YMCA for birthday party packages and pricing. Swimming becomes the main event at these parties so, besides a couple of pool games, your activity will be covered.
Snacks and food can get a little tricky when swimming is the main event. Try a grab-and-go cupcake bar instead of the traditional birthday cake and rely on prepackaged snacks and easy-to-eat dishes to keep guests full.
Paint Your Own Pottery
This option is great for artistic kids who want to do something creative. Traditionally, guests will choose a piece of unglazed pottery, paint and glaze it, then pick it up days or weeks later after it's been fired. Many local studios exist, or you can check out a nationwide franchise like Color Me Mine.
Martial Arts Demo Party
If your kid has ninjas, Ninja Turtles or anything martial arts related on their mind, this is the perfect venue for your child's birthday party. Google your local studio today to see if they already have party packages or if they are willing to work with you on an event.
Host a Virtual Party
Kids love video games. So why not play it up and find a COVID-friendly solution with minimal prep work and the freedom for guests to participate from the comfort of their own home.
Companies like Connected Camps specialize in creating fun, interactive opportunities for kids to be kids. And, Connected Camps currently offers online camps and parties themed around Minecraft, Roblox or Esports.
Representative Elisa Smith added, “Connected Camps was founded by moms who are experts in education who have a passion for tapping into the positive potential of technology.”
It’s easy, fun and educational. Mom win!
For Tweens and Teens
It's hard to plan a party for people who don't think you're cool anymore. Give your tween or teen a party that won't embarrass them or their friends with one of these party venues that’s guaranteed to please.
Bring Call of Duty to life with a Laser Tag party. Usually part of a larger arcade or Family Fun Center, Laser Tag parties are great for tweens and teens.
These venues often come with private party rooms and access to arcade games. Go super hands-off by booking packages that include a handful of games for the group, pizza, soda and a gift for the birthday person.
Trampoline parks, like Sky Zone, were super popular before COVID-19 and will likely re-open soon. Like Laser Tag, party packages at venues like this can be all-inclusive, handle food and entertainment plus keep guests occupied. If you've never been to one of these parks, think of a warehouse full of different types of giant trampolines, obstacle courses, foam pits, maybe a velcro wall and lots of places to balance and jump from.
Don't be surprised if many of the parents have joined in the fun by the end of the party–trampolines are really fun.
Interactive experiences are meant to bring the party guests out of their everyday life and into another place or time.
Book an escape room for your teen and their friends or try the plate and dish breaking experience, sometimes called a "rage room." It could be perfect for your angsty teen.
If your teen is all about #freebritney, keep your eyes peeled for the opening of the new Britney Spears experience, The Zone, where you can step into different music video scenes from across her career and get yourself some epic social content.
Do you know how something old can become new again? The same can be said for these birthday party places, sure to be just ironic or hipster enough to make your kiddo happy.
Chuck E. Cheese
While currently going through bankruptcy and suffering the effects of forced closure, Chuck E. Cheese plans to continue its operation when possible. This family arcade and pizza parlor combines video games, sub-par but satisfying pizza and an animatronic dinner show just cute enough not to be creepy.
Family Fun Park
The best part of a family fun park is the number of activities offered, depending on your location. Everything from mini-golf, go-karts, arcade games and indoor playgrounds can be found in family fun parks.
Most of these venues will offer party packages for certain activities for a certain number of guests with discounts on food and party rooms.
Bowling Alley or Skating Rink
Both your local bowling alley and skating rink will have party rental packages to accommodate your kid's next birthday bash (and are actually becoming cool again). Lace-up those skates, dust off those balls and prepare to feel just a little old watching your kid hit the same lanes you used to.
Your Own Backyard Party
While the set-up, clean-up and decorations will be entirely up to you, don't discount the venue you already have in your own backyard.
Shindigz recommends a Nerf party. And honestly, that sounds like it would be just as much fun for parents as it would be for the kids.
Party Favors and Goodie Bags
You've planned the perfect birthday party. Your age-appropriate activities are ready to go, great food and drinks are on display, your kiddo is happy and excited. Before you dip into the party punch — did you remember to put together the goodie bags?
Yes, it can be a lot of extra work, time and money. But it's basically expected with kids' parties. Whether you choose to go with one single favor or a goodie bag filled with smaller items, party guests will always appreciate leaving with a little reminder of the party they just attended.
Bonus, if you are going to be handing out the bags during the party, you can use them as a way to distribute game materials, pens and paper that guests may need or fun toys to use during the party.
Check out these five awesome additions to add to your party favor bags that won't cost a fortune:
- Sandflower Eco Reusable Coloring Carnival Art Party Goodie Bags - Turn the bag into part of the fun with these reusable bags that each guest can color on. A set of twelve will run you less than $10, but you will need to pick up your own pens for coloring.
- 300 Glow Sticks Bulk Party - If your kid has decided on a dance party or glow theme, this bulk set of glow sticks will be the perfect addition to your goodie bags for less than $20.
- Cute VSCO Stickers for Teens - Sure, you may not totally understand all the jokes and puns this sticker set has to offer, but your teens and their friends certainly will. Fifty more-hip-than-you stickers will cost you less than $8.
- ROKO Superhero Capes for Kids - An excellent addition to any dress-up or superhero-themed party, these capes and mask sets for kids will run you less than $20 for a set of six.
- Mini Magnetic Drawing Board - Tiny doodle boards are perfect for trivia games for older kids and drawing fun for younger tykes. A set of 16 will cost you just under $35.
With a little planning, your favorite birthday boy or girl can celebrate their special day surrounded by family and friends, having the most fun they've had in the last twelve months.
You might also be interested in: 21 Virtual Birthday Party Ideas [Great For Any And All Ages]
16 Great Places for Kids' Birthday Parties: