Queens Party Places: 33 Top Spots for Kids’ Birthdays

kids-party-planning-15-expert-tips-to-throwing-a-fun-stress-free-birthday-bash

We’ve profiled cool NYC party places in the past, but there are so many awesome birthday spots in good old Queens alone that it deserves a post of its own.

These Queens birthday party places cater to all kinds of kids, from active to artsy to animal lovers. As a Queens mom with two children, I’ve been to many of these spots personally.


Alley Pond Environmental Center — Little Neck
At this awesome nature center, kids go on an educator-led walk around Alley Pond Park and enjoy a live animal encounter and themed games or crafts. Parents provide decorations, paper goods, food, drinks, and cake. Special “tween” themes include a spa party or owl pellet dissection.

Bakers and Shakers — Boroughwide
Working out of the Queens area, Bakers and Shakers comes to you. It can arrange a party at a venue, your home, or even your classroom. Themed cooking parties have included ravioli making, donuts, and, of course, pizza.


Choose your favorite theme for a birthday party at Bounce N’ Play. 

Bounce ‘N Play — Astoria
Opened by a local mom in 2014, this play space has bounce houses and giant inflatable slides in addition to the standard play-space attractions—play sets, a jungle gym with tubes, rock climbing wall, toys, and arcade games. A variety of private birthday party packages are available, including some super deals on weekdays.

BounceU — College Point
We consistently rave about this chain of indoor bounce gyms. And why not? BounceU offers fun for kids and grown-ups, with two rooms filled with inflatable toys and games. Various party packages are available, and prices are better than at its Brooklyn location. Food, cake, and goodie bags are available, depending on package choice. Bonus: It’s located in the Whitepoint Shopping Center, making parking a breeze.

Bowl 360 — Ozone Park
I have a special spot in my heart for bowling parties—always wanted one, never had one until I was an adult. Bowl 360 is an updated, modern alley with a disco vibe, but it’s also family-friendly. There’s an inviting menu that goes beyond the basic soft-pretzel, from chicken tenders for kids to salads for adults. 

Brickhouse Ceramic Art Center — Long Island City
This LIC ceramics center holds custom parties centered around pottery making. Partygoers construct bowls, cups, plates, and more that can be enjoyed for years to come. Note: Minimum age is 7.


School-age kids and tweens will love a Circus Warehouse party!

Circus Warehouse – Long Island City
A flying trapeze party? What kid can resist spiraling in the air? And there’s no better place to do so than in a safe environment with professionals. This venue is the perfect unique party option for the acrobat enthusiast in your family.

City Owlets — Long Island City
This new LIC hot spot for babies and preschoolers offers several birthday party packages in its thoughtfully designed 2000-square-foot play space and cafe. Appropriate for kids up to 6 years old.


The Complex has a variety of activities to choose from to make a special birthday party

The Complex – Astoria
Formerly known as The Astoria Sports Complex, this facility is the perfect location for kids with tons of energy. It offers swim, soccer, basketball, or bouncing slide/castle parties, all with nonstop action.

Fantasy Forest – Flushing
Isn’t an amusement park party every kid’s dream? Head to Queens’ very own kiddie park in Flushing Meadows Corona Park for a shindig with unlimited rides for all partygoers. Add-on options include magician and clown performances, face painting, and balloon artists. Seasonal only.

Funtopia USA  – Ridgewood
Funtopia has a lot of activities for toddler, tweens and young teens. For the younger set, there is a three-story indoor playground, plus a separate toddler area. For the older kids, there is laser tag, bumper cars, and a video game arcade.

Good Day Play Cafe  – Bayside
Whimsical play areas include a Hinoki cypress wood cube pit, climbing area, ball pit, Lego table, kitchen set, dress-up area, and more. There is also a cafe where parents can sit back enjoy the laid-back vibe.

Jungle Adventure  – Whitestone
Intended for children 12 years and under, Jungle Adventure invites little ones to jump on the trampoline, crawl, climb, slide, and wriggle through a colorful maze of play equipment. 

Kanga’s Indoor Playspace  – Long Island City
Designated for children ages 1 to 11 with a cafe for parents to relax. There is a multi-level indoor playground, a merry-go-round, inflatable bouncy attractions, plastic ball pools, and a dedicated toddler play area.


Movie theater parties are great for all ages at Kew Gardens Cinemas.

Kew Gardens Cinemas — Kew Gardens
There are plenty of multiplex theaters that host birthday parties in small rooms. But there are only a few theaters that let you rent out an entire space for just your party. At 10am, your family can have a showing of whatever film the theater has available or even watch a DVD of your own. Popcorn is included, but you can bring in pre-show snacks. Packages accommodate 25 or more audience members.

Kids Fun House — Ridgewood
With a triple slide, maze obstacle course, gated toddler area, and video games galore, Kids Fun House keeps kids busy for hours. Parties begin with pizza, snacks, and tokens, with plenty of add-ons such as cotton candy and make-your-own-sundaes.

Laser Bounce  — Glendale
When you visit Laser Bounce, be prepared for an explosion of lights and sounds from the arcade machines. After game-hopping, shake those willies out at Ballocity, a gated area perfect for smaller kids and pre-teens. The bounce arena is full of houses and obstacle courses. Other highlights in Laser Bounce include the Hologate VR arena and the laser tag area.

Launch Trampoline Park — Howard Beach
While the trampoline courts take center stage, there are also two enclosed dodge ball courts, dedicated basketball hoops, and a Launch Pad, where kids get to practice doing tricks like a stuntman. If you want to conquer obstacles like the high flying trapeze, the spider wall, or the warped wall visit the Ninja obstacle course. The battle pit, allows you to joust with giant foam clubs on the battle beam or test your balance on the slack line.

LIC Kids Gymnastics — Long Island City
A neighborhood favorite, this facility is known for its trampoline. There is a separate room with a table for food and cake, and two party packages are available. My daughter went to a party here and can’t stop talking about how fabulous it was.

Lollipop Spa — Maspeth
Got a little princess or prince in need of some pampering? Head to this kids’ spa for a party full of indulgent treats, including manicures, mini facials, princess tattoos, glitter, and more.

Mini Galaxy Play Cafe  — Jamaica
This bright, open space allows caregivers to sit back and relax with a cup of coffee while watching their little ones play. A two-floor climbing structure, ball pit, fun toys, and dedicated toddler area, will keep kids occupied while within their parents view from the fully stocked cafe area. This space makes it a great place for parties and events.

Mini Land Play  — Long Island City
Affordable and fun indoor playground with toddler-friendly rides including a dolphin merry-go-round, and a big climbing playground and ball pit. Plan a visit just to experience their excellent balloon room! Mini Land offers party packages and has a separate room for private events.


Kids making a flip-book at Museum of the Moving Image.

Museum of the Moving Image — Astoria
At the Museum of the Moving Image your child can be a star of his or her very own film-inspired party. Museum educators take guests on a tour, then guests hit special screenings of family-friendly films and make their own flip-books. For children 8 and older.

New York Hall of Science — Corona
NYC’s premier science spot offers plenty of party themes for different age groups, including bubble-making for preschoolers, magic and space for young elementary schoolers, and chemistry and “gross out science” for tweens. All packages include museum admission, a science activity, an age-appropriate toy, a free pass for another visit, paper products, a personalized cake, food and beverages, and complimentary parking.

Okabaloo  — Astoria
With a focus on self-expression and exploration for kids and families, Okabaloo offers art programs like “Fun & Fine in Art” as well as Zumba, ballet, yoga, theater, private music lessons, community events and more. Their Playzone is designed for both open play and scheduled structured activities. They also offer customizable birthday packages.


Let crafty kids enjoy artist-led activities at Oliloli Studio.

Oliloli Studio — Forest Hills
My daughter loves this beautiful art studio, which offers drop-in sessions and party packages for children 4 and older. Choose from a variety of artist-led projects, such as paint-your-own pottery or button collages on canvas. All packages include a gift for the birthday child and personalized decorations. Parents provide the food and cake. Fired pottery projects are available for pick up 10 days after the party.

Peek-a-BooO  — Flushing
Flushing’s Peek-a-BooO is filled with modern, bright, fun climbing equipment, ball pits, interactive games, and toys. This space was designed to be safe, fun, and interactive.

Queens County Farm Museum — Floral Park
NYC’s only working historic farm is an ideal party spot for kids who want to learn about animals up-close-and-personal. From April through October, children 1 to 12 can enjoy a tractor-drawn hayride and help feed the animals. Everything you need is included, including invitations, paper goods, pizza and beverages, a personalized cake, goodie bags, and a special gift for the birthday child.

Queens Zoo — Corona
At Queens Zoo parties, children enjoy animal encounters, zoo admission, and plenty of crafts and play. Guests are responsible for the cake and juice, and there is a standard-sized refrigerator available.


The tot-friendly Raising Astoria keeps little ones moving during its parties.

Raising Astoria — Astoria
This community staple reopened in 2015 with more space to party and play. Birthday bookings include use of both party rooms, one of which features a bounce castle, as well as tables, chairs, limited decorations, and a speaker system with a personalized playlist for the birthday child. Parents supply refreshments and cake, and there are a variety of add-ons available.

World Ice Arena — Flushing
This location takes cool parties literally, taking them on the ice. Add-ons and options are available—including an appearance by Captain America or Elsa—as well as a private party room.

11 Tips for Throwing a Successful Preschool Birthday Party

For many kids, their birthday is their favorite holiday. And why not — it’s a day dedicated entirely to them, complete with cake, balloons, singing, and presents.

Although many parents stress at the idea of planning a birthday party, the preschool age is actually an ideal time to throw one. Here’s how to keep your sanity while ensuring that everyone has a good time.

Make the Details Age-Appropriate

Teacher and children celebrating birthday in school

Make sure everything, from activities to goody bag treats, is age-appropriate for the majority of your guests. If there is a wide range of ages, use the age of the birthday child as a guide.

The child’s age is also a good indicator of how many children to invite, the rule of thumb generally is one child for every year plus 2. So if your child is turning four, try to keep the guest list at six children.

Age also plays an important role in setting the theme and deciding where to have your party. Younger children might be comfortable in a home but feel your child out to get a good read on the situation.

Organize the Activities

Girls blowing bubbles in summer garden party

Spontaneity is always fun, but for a preschool birthday, scheduling (with some wiggle room) is the way to go. Try planning activities over a short time span — 10 to 15-minute intervals. And if you have anything special planned, do it before the cake, a surefire sign that the soiree is winding down.

Remember, simple is best when you are dealing with young children with short attention spans, so you want to try to avoid activities where kids have to wait for their turn, especially if there are lots of other kids at the party.

Think bubbles, coloring pages, and books, freeze dance or even a craft station, complete with clay, paper, glue and other assorted items that kids can create with. Try to have at least one adult helper for each activity.

Define a Start and End Time

Girl blowing out birthday candle

If your party is at home, it is important to have a beginning and ending time. Don’t leave the party open-ended as it could confuse guests and keep them from planning for the rest of the day.

Parties for kids under 5 should be set for about 90 minutes or two hours tops.

Include Relevant Info in the Invitation

Party Cupcakes

An invitation should include all the basics — address, date, time and the guest of honor, but there are other important nuggets that parents may be wondering about.

Indicate if a child should be dropped off or if you’d prefer an adult to stay. (Dropping off usually begins around age 5 or 6, but it’s still a good idea to let your preference be known.) If parents do leave their children, get a phone number where they can be reached if there are any problems.

Also, note if you are serving food so people know if they need to feed their kids, and if possible, let them know what’s on the menu to alert those parents who have kids with allergies. Include an RSVP date and don’t feel funny about following up with a phone call if you don’t hear back.

Choose the Location

boy Blowing out his birthday candle

If you don’t have the room or the inclination to host the party at home, there are plenty of places you can go instead, but you should book this type of party several months in advance if possible.

Good places fill up quickly, especially those that can only host one party at a time. If you choose to avoid the pre-planned party route such as Build-a-Bear or bowling, consider privately owned recreation rooms (possibly owned by a church or firehouse), a park, or even your local daycare center.

These are great places because they are generally closed for normal business on the weekends, parents can often hire the staff to work the party, plus the kids are comfortable because it is a place they are familiar with.

Book the Entertainment

Face painting at Kids party

When hiring an entertainer for your child’s party — whether you have it in your home or at an outdoors location, ask key questions like how long their performance is, how much space they need and if they will be in costume the whole time. (Some companies have their performers change costumes mid-party, which can be confusing for young children.)

If cost is a factor and hiring a professional doesn’t fit into your budget, check at your local high school. You might find some members of the drama club who’d be willing to perform or some art students who’d you could hire to do some face painting.

Set the Menu

little girl in party hat drinking from cup

Pizza is most commonly found on the menu of many preschool parties, but it certainly isn’t the only option. Chicken nuggets, small sandwiches, hot dogs, bagels, vegetables and dip and fruit on skewers are all great choices and kid-favorites. They are also quick to prepare and are likely to please your adult guests. The reality is, this is one area you can probably not have to worry about spending a lot of money. Chances are your pint-sized guests won’t eat that much — so occupied will they be with all the excitement of the day.

Think About Themes

Portrait of a small boy on a birthday party

Whether your preschooler loves Dora, Handy Manny, or the Backyardigans, chances are you can find birthday party goodies that span the spectrum, from plates to wall hangings. And it’s not just about decorations. Popular characters lend themselves to other facets of the celebration, like games, food, and crafts.

At a Dora party, for instance, you can set up an adventure course and make an animal mask. Serve up sandwiches you cut from train-shaped cookie cutters at a Thomas the Tank Engine party.

And if you are so inclined, the big finale can be when the birthday child’s favorite character shows up. No matter where you hold the party, the theme is something your child is going to want to be involved with, so make sure to get her input.

Bake or Buy the Cake

Little girl blowing out birthday candles at party with family and friends

Talk to your child about what she would like. A cake is a good option, but so are cupcakes, ice cream sundaes, or even big cookies.

You can incorporate the theme (if you have one) either by baking your own cake and decorating with small toys or even trying your hand at drawing something. Local bakeries, grocery stores and many big-box retailers (think Sam’s Club or BJ’s) can also make theme cakes to order.

You may even want to let your young guests get in on the act —​ bake a bunch of cupcakes, put out icing, sprinkles and other decorations like chocolate candies and let them get to work creating a culinary masterpiece.

Pick Out Fun Favors

carnival party items in white background.Flat lay

Hand out goody bags at the end, as the children leave, so you greatly reduce the chance of lost items or misunderstandings. There are plenty of options — if you are having a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse party, for example, purchase favors related to that theme — stickers, notepads, pens, and more at all different price points.

No matter what type of party your child may be having, drink cups are popular favors. They serve a dual-purpose — you can use them at the party and then send them home with the guests.

If you aren’t thrilled with the idea of buying a bunch of small toys, consider buying one item — a shovel and pail, a book or even coloring books and crayons. Make sure whatever you choose is clearly labeled with the child’s name.

Prepare for Presents

girl holding gift at birthday party

Presents can be a highlight of the special day. If you decide to open them during the festivities, you may need to coach your child a little — if she gets a duplicate or something she doesn’t like, make sure she understands she shouldn’t announce it to the world. Toys should stay in their boxes to avoid losing pieces.

When all is said and done, be sure to mail (not e-mail) thank-you notes. This job will most likely fall on you, but your child can certainly practice ​good manners by drawing a picture or writing her name (if this is something she is capable of doing).

27 Hot Birthday Party Themes

Don’t just spring for the same old balloons and birthday cake to celebrate your kids this year. Instead, get creative with our guide to the most popular kids’ party ideas. From a birthday bash featuring favorites like Peppa Pig to a hands-on experience with reptiles galore, these hip ideas are sure to make those mini-milestones ones you’ll never forget!

Bubbles and Brunch

We aren’t referring to the bubbles you remember pre-kids, but a morning party with brunch items and kid-favorite bubbles is a winning combo. Offer up egg muffins, scones, fruit and other nibbly goodies, and let the kids go wild with a wand or two. See this two-year-old’s sweet day for more ideas. Or, if you’ve got older kids, why not set up a bubble lab with experiments, instead. 

Dumbo

In March you can head to the big top to see Tim Burton’s reimagined Dumbo, but in the meantime, you can make your carnival dreams come true with a Dumbo-themed party! Nutter Butter treats, lots of colors and let’s not forget images of our favorite, big-eared elephant! You can deck your party out in style with printables from Where the Green Grass Grows.

Detective Pikachu

Pokeman is still a thing and that’s because of the new Detective Pikachu film. Deck your kiddos party after the beloved character and don’t forget all the fun Pokeballs and treat bags, like these adorable catchalls from The Homes I Have Made.

Wonder Woman

Superheroes are forever popular but this warrior woman has reached new heights. From favors to costumes to cakes, we love the easy-to-recreate ideas at Artsy Momma including cupcake toppers and cute crafts. 

Llamas!!

If 2016 was the year of the woodland creature and 2017 the year of the flamingo, then 2018 is the year of the llama (and also, maybe the sloth). From sweet baby shower themes to full-on party games (pin the tail on the llama, anyone?) not since Anna Dewdney first began the beloved Llama, Llama series has this creature been so popular among the youngest members of our households. (We think Anna would smile about this trend.) We love this simple llama cake topper kit (ears, eyes and mouth) that transforms your theme instantly (some piping skills required). 

Floral Arranging Birthday Parties

Move over painting parties, here comes the next exciting thing in children’s birthday activities! Alice’s Table provides custom floral arranging parties including children’s birthday parties (pssst…they make a great baby shower theme too!). Each attendee learns how to create a professional floral arrangement and bring it home in a stylish vase or a beautiful flower crown fit for a queen. Plus, they come to you if you’re hosting a private event. 

Check out their events calendar and search by state to find happenings near you.

Next-Level Princess Parties

There are three secret ingredients to pulling this party off: tulle, gold glitter and a princess kit cake from Cakest. Skip on over to Mint Event Design to see more inspiring pictures.

Peppa Pig

This little piggie is a big hit with the petite party crowd! Little pig noses and ears are fun to wear (and easy to make!) to this themed party, pink balloons with piggie faces make perfect party favors, and chocolate milk looks just like those muddy puddles Peppa loves to jump in!

Spa Party

Who wouldn’t want to celebrate their birthday with a full spa treatment? Drop cucumber slices in water, offer soft and cozy robes and slippers and twirl their hair up in a towel for a day of pampering that includes manicures, pedicures, and facial masks.

Minions

Everyone loves those crazy minions, so throw a party where they can shine as bright as your bitty birthday star! Yellow foods galore—pineapple, bananas, popcorn—will be fun to snack on as your party guests don silver goggles or even yellow hard hats! 

Trampoline Park Party

Don’t tell us you haven’t spend a Saturday at a trampoline park recently. This is one of the hottest places to host a kid birthday these days. The best part? There are plenty of opportunities for your guests to get their wiggles out all at once!

Superhero Party

Set out different superhero costumes, and let your guests choose their powerful persona upon arrival or have them come dressed as their favorite superhero! Get inspired by this awesome superhero bash. 

Baking Party

Decorate cupcakes, cookies, you name it! Set out different colored icings and sprinkles and watch what crafty creations they cook up! Let them decorate their own aprons and even wear chef hats! For more sweet-themed fun, watch Willy Wonka or Ratatouille

Mad Scientist

Kids will love being hands-on in this science-themed bash! Hand out lab coats and safety goggles, drink from beakers and put together experiments like bottle rockets (outside, of course!) made by dropping Mentos into a liter of cola. For more ideas, be sure to try these Pretend Magic Potions for Kids!

Cars Party

Speaking of movies, Disney Pixar’s Cars 3 zoomed into theaters last year and has bumped the race track back into trending territory. Feed your pit crew in Car-tastic style thanks to these 10 totally doable ideas from Hostess With the Mostess. “Pizza Tires,” “Stoplight Brownies,” and “Tow Mater’s Taters” for the win!

LEGO Party

Once upon a time, there were LEGO parties or Ninja parties. Look for this season’s birthdays to be taken over by LEGO NINJAGO parties! Spaceships and Laser Beams is on the case with DIY LEGO NINJAGO Movie Character Masks, which make both a great craft for your battling guests and a creative head start on Halloween costumes.

Forest or Woodland Animal Party

Foxes, owls, and squirrels, oh my! Nature themes continue to be a sure bet, and little is sweeter than inviting the forest’s cutest creatures to the party with a woodland theme. Head over to Catch My Party for great tips on how to bring the outdoors in for this adorable first birthday. For older partiers, modify this theme into a fall fairy bash or celebration for a little lumberjack dressed in buffalo plaid! Half Pint Party Design has sensational ideas for both.

Pete the Cat

Your little book lovers can party with their favorite groovy blue feline with this Pete the Cat party based on the adorably funky series by James Dean and Eric Litwin. Check out this post from Twinkle Twinkle Little Party to learn how to throw a party that incorporates all of Pete’s cool style without going overboard on party decor.

Shopkins

For kids on board with the Shopkins craze, there’s a party filled with adorable food items in your future! Shopkins figurines are all about food—tiny jars of jam, little smiling fudgesicles, adorable ice cream cones—so it’s easy to Shopkin-ize a party. Just ask Mama-of-four blogger Natalie, who put together this deliciously charming party for her two girls. The focal point, of course, was the dessert table, which was covered with cupcakes, Rice Krispy treats, lollipops, cotton candy ice cream cones, and more. Get all the yummy details (plus free printables to help pull it off) from At Home With Natalie.

Star Wars

The Star Wars franchise may be decades old, but the force is still going strong thanks to The Last Jedi and itsnewest generation of rebel fighters. Young Jedi will love this party plan that includes DIY lightsabers, a droid-decorating station, and a Death Star piñata. Spaceships and Laser Beams has all the details.

Want something girl-centric for your budding Rey? This Millennium Falcon party from Kara’s Party Ideas will get your little girls ready for action.

Luau / Moana Party

You can expect to see Disney’s Moana making the rounds on the birthday circuit again this year. With its tropical, floral setting, a Moana party is a gorgeous one, especially if you use some of these fun ideas from Catch My Party founder Jillian Tobher Leslie. Her Moana party recommendations include a layered hibiscus flower cake, frosted flower cookies, and adorable crab-shaped croissants. If you’re looking for activities, check out these fun (and free!) printables from Virtually Yours.

Trolls

They’re colorful, they’ve got crazy hair, and they love singing, dancing, hugging, and cupcakes. Yep, everything about Trolls sounds like a party to us! Don’t know where to start with the planning? This idea we spotted over at Soiree Event Design includes a Trolls Beauty Bar (the hair!), tie-dye cupcakes, and a fabulous Trolls candy and dessert bar.

Reptile Party

If you’ve got an animal lover that likes his critters on the scaly or slimy side, throw a Reptile and Amphibian party that’s fun and educational! Some ideas: Top your cupcakes with swirls of green frosting designed to look like slithering snakes; make party bags made to look like “Live Cargo” shipments; and splurge for an animal handler to give intrepid tots the chance to see and touch live snakes, gators and more. Head to Catch My Party for all the surprisingly simple details.

Unicorns

What girl doesn’t love unicorns? Get some ethereal inspiration from San Diego’s Starry Eyed Events’ gorgeous Elegant Pastel Unicorn Soiree gallery (because, you know, unicorns don’t do parties. They do soirees, of course).

Want to keep young unicorn lovers busy? Try this DIY unicorn horn headband that is an absolute must for your little guests.

Art Party

Ditch the nice clothes and let your kids get messy! Our original messy art party uses things like squirt guns, mega-canvases, shaving cream and paint-filled eggs, to get kids’ creative juices flowing.

Rainbow Party

This Rainbow party from Maggie at Sandy Toes Photography is perfect for kids (and parents) who want something bright and cheery for the big day. Magical snacks include chocolate dipped pretzels dipped in rainbow sugar, rainbow lollipops, and rainbow chocolate covered Oreos. And, young guests will love adopting their own pony (there are those Unicorns again!) at the party’s end.

Emoji Party

Do emojis make your kids go :-)? The pros over at Spaceships and Laserbeamshave all the inspiration you need to throw your little guy or gal a party that’ll make everyone in attendance want to go completely emoji-crazy. Whether they’re playing “Pin the Face on the Emoji” or feasting on emoji-faced pizza, your kids (and you, too) will have a blast with this one. 😉

Everything you need for a fun at-home kids birthday party

kids-party-planning-15-expert-tips-to-throwing-a-fun-stress-free-birthday-bash

Remember birthday parties when you were a kid? You draped streamers around the basement, devoured cake with gooey icing and peeked while pinning the tail on the donkey. Why not skip the pricey off-site party this year and stay at home for some old-fashioned fun? Read on for their secrets to hosting a fabulous fete.

Meet the party pros

• Michelle Gibson, owner of Par-T-Perfect Planners in Vancouver, with franchises across Canada and the United States
• Michelle Peer, owner of Hullabaloo Party Planner for Children in Kitchener, Ont
• Max Zarkov, creator of kids-birthday-party-guide.com in Burnaby, BC

Choose a theme

Once you’ve got a theme, party planning is a piece of cake. Start with your kid’s interests or try these ideas:

Ages 3-5
Bugs, butterflies and bubbles have endless possibilities, says Gibson. Kids can make egg-carton caterpillars, munch gummi worms and blow bubbles.

Ages 6-8
Princess, pirate or Harry Potter parties can’t miss. Or try the ever-popular “Candy Olympics,” suggests Gibson. Bob for marshmallows in a bucket of water, pass a licorice baton, and drop Smarties in a bucket with chopsticks and run back.

Spread the word

Skip the prefab invites and get out the glue sticks with your gang. Kids are thrilled with homemade invitations, says Peer. Buy blank cards at a craft or dollar store and go wild with stickers, foil paper or theme-related trinkets. Or print an invite from your computer.

Give guests a heads-up at least two weeks before the big event. If you’re not including the entire school class (gulp!), mail, email or drop invitations at kids’ houses. “People are terrible at RSVPs,” warns Gibson. So make follow-up phone calls with parents as needed. Also consider inviting (and paying) energetic high school students to lead games and give out munchies.

Know your numbers

Remember that old “your child’s age equals the number of guests” rule of inviting? Forget it. You need enough kids to play games and sit around a table, says Gibson. For preschoolers, try eight to 10 guests. If your space is small, remember that some parents will remain party-side with their tots. Many school-aged kids invite all the girls or all the boys in their class, says Gibson. But eight to 12 guests is ideal, advises Zarkov.

Eco Alternative
Recycle your kids’ artwork. Cut out party-theme-related shapes (fish, hearts, stars, etc.) from drawings and paintings and glue on to homemade invites, says Peer.

Time it right

Our pros all recommend a weekend bash. Got a Christmas or summer baby? Celebrate with family on the actual birthday, and plan a friend party for a month later, suggests Gibson. As for duration, a two-hour party (2½ hours max) is perfect. Parents’ most common mistake is parties that run too long, says Gibson. “The third hour is deadly and the fourth is ridiculous — it’s exhausting for everyone.” For preschoolers, 10 to noon or 11 to one (when kids are fresh) is ideal. Prepare in the morning and host an afternoon or evening event for older kids — they’re raring to go at any time, says Gibson.

Unleash your decorating diva

Cruise a dollar or craft store “to get the juices going” and find theme-related props, says Peer. To keep costs low, skip the “theme” gear, suggests Gibson. So, for a pirate party, buy a black plastic tablecloth instead of a Captain Hook one. Squirrel away breakables or toys your kids can’t bear to share. And send Rover or Fifi to the neighbours during the party, advises Zarkov.

Ace your space

Basements provide instant atmosphere, says Peer. Close the blinds and drape tulle (transparent floaty material) and twinkle lights on window ledges. Find lights on sale after Christmas at craft, surplus or hardware stores. For an under-the-sea party, make waves by hanging twisted streamers from the ceiling.

Conquer inflation

Spare your lips and blow up balloons with a bike pump, suggests Zarkov. To ensure helium or foil balloons stay afloat, buy them the day of the party. And beware of balloon-popping pot lights! Get creative with your balloon displays. For Princess Parties, Peer ties helium balloons to dressy shoes and sets them around the room. Swishy!

Eco AlternativeExplore your house for theme-related treasures. Jungle party? Try decorating with cute stuffed animals and silk plants.

Keep them busy

Avoid lapses in activities, advises Peer. “That’s when kids chase each other screaming, or run upstairs.” Since kids trickle in at different times, offer simple opening activities like these:

Ages 3-5
Ease them in with playdough or cornstarch goop. Then, encourage kids to circulate around play centres such as ride-on toys, bubbles, musical instruments and puppet play.

Ages 6-8
Offer three quiet activity stations based on your theme, suggests Peer. In her Secret Garden parties, kids choose their “wings,” decorate them, and get their cheeks painted with a small design.

Get crafty

Be warned: Crafts captivate girls more than boys. So, try these ideas and provide an alternative for the art-averse:

Ages 3-5
Colour and add stickers to cardboard party hats or foam tiaras (from the dollar store). Ask lounging parents to help their kids.

Ages 6-8
Cover the party table with a paper tablecloth and let guests doodle or write birthday messages with crayons, suggests Zarkov. For a permanent memento, use fabric markers on a fabric tablecloth. Painting wooden or ceramic figures (from the dollar store) and beading are also big hits.

Eco AlternativeSave tea canisters and have kids decorate them with stick-on jewels, suggests Gibson. Or check out stores, such as Urban Source in Vancouver, that sell recycled materials for craft supplies.

Games for birthday parties at home

Forget researching the latest games — kids crave the classics. “All ages love pin the tail on virtually anything,” says Peer. Zarkov uses the theme to give games a fun twist. So, at a bug party, Simon Says becomes Ladybug Says. Try these other hits:

Musical Hoops (all ages)Buy one hoop per child from a dollar store. Place them on the floor and play cool music as the kids march around, jumping in a hoop when the tunes stop. Each round, remove a hoop, but not a child. At the end, the whole group crams in the one remaining hoop — by sticking in a toe, a foot or even a hand.

Treasure HuntTry burying clues outdoors or upstairs and downstairs, so kids get to burn off steam. Give gold coins as treasure at the end, suggests Peer.

Ages 3-5
Show picture instructions of where to find the next clue (such as the blue couch).

Ages 6-8
Let guests solve limerick or poem clues.

Ooey-Gooeys
School-aged kids love food challenges, says Gibson. Place a Smartie on a plate and spray whipping cream on top. Kids run up, dunk their face in the cream to retrieve the Smartie and run back.

Chow down

Seat a large group picnic-style on a vinyl tablecloth spread out on the floor. Or place a card table next to your dining room table and cover it all with one cloth. For preschooler parties, borrow a bunch of child-sized plastic picnic tables from friends.

The Main Meal

Ages 3-5
“Parents go to great lengths to put on a big spread of food, and kids don’t touch it,” says Gibson. Offer only familiar foods: juice (drinking boxes if the kids are seated on the floor), veggies and dip, tiny cheese or peanut butter sandwiches (check for allergies), goldfish crackers, fruit kebabs and cake.

Ages 6-8
Dish out hot dogs or pizza along with veggies and dip. If you’re adventurous, order coloured bread (sliced lengthwise) from the grocery store bakery, suggests Peer. Make impressive pinwheel and stacked mini-sandwiches. Or make shape sandwiches with cookie cutters.

Sweet Surprises
Rev up the wow factor with unusual sweet treats. Rent a chocolate fountain from a party supply store ($50). Just be sure to lay down a plastic tablecloth first and give everyone an apron. Or buy a small fondue set for $5 instead. Offer mini-marshmallows, cut-up fruit and animal crackers for dipping. Or stick skewers of gummi worms, gumdrops and chewy candies in a hollowed-out pineapple for a clever centrepiece. Wrap them up for favours.

The Cake
Save time and order an un-iced cake from your grocery store bakery, suggests Peer. “Let your imagination go wild.” Having a beach party? Slap on blue-coloured icing, brown sugar for sand, and mini cocktail umbrellas. Or go for the old reliables: Kids adore ice cream cakes or air-brushed psychedelic cakes from the grocery store.

Green up your party table with recycled or biodegradable paper plates, and a cloth tablecloth and napkins.

Great gifting

Don’t skip the gift opening. “If you do, kids feel ripped off,” says Gibson, especially the older ones. Play spin the bottle to keep the unwrapping rolling along. Decorate a bottle, spin it and when it stops, open the gift from that child.

The Goods on Goody Bags
Frantically piling stuff into Cellophane the night before? “Ask yourself if you’d want your child to bring home that garbage,” says Peer.

Ages 3-5
Give one main item instead of a bag of fiddly things. Try sidewalk chalk, bubbles, a hula hoop or big coloured ball.

Ages 6-8
Kids always love a bag of candy and goodies at this age, says Gibson. Find theme-related candy, hair clips, bracelets or action figures at the dollar store. Crafts completed at the party, such as painted birdhouses or ceramics, also make great favours.

Eco Alternatives
Some older kids choose to give rather than get on their birthday. Ask guests to bring $10 (instead of a gift) to donate to a children’s hospital or charity. (Your child can still receive gifts from parents and family. Instead of disposable goody bags, wrap loot in a bandana, wooden box, or tin pail that kids can decorate.) For a Secret Garden party, Peer gives a clay pot filled with a little bag of soil, a seed packet, candies and bubbles.

Worries about winning“I had one little princess collapse on the floor in tears because she was out in a game of The Queen Says (like Simon Says),” says Michelle Peer of Hullabaloo Party Planner. Stick with co-operative games like a treasure hunt where everyone helps solve the clues. Or keep playing rounds of a game until everyone wins. Award prizes like suckers, little bouncy balls or rings. Keep a paper bag labelled with each child’s name at the front door, so they can stash their prizes.

DIY decorations

Flowers on the Wall
• For large base flower: Fold a large square of paper as you might a snowflake. In half, in quarters then into an eighth. At wider end of the triangle, cut a curve to create the petal shape of the flower. Open.
• For the Centre, simply make a traditional accordion pleated three-layers of tissue paper flower-Try layering different colours. Use a pipe cleaner to twist around centre. • To attach smaller flower to large, make a small hole in centre of large flower and pass the pipe cleaner ends through it.

Butterfly Pins
• Layer two squares of tissue together and fold in half. From centre fold, draw then cut one half of a butterfly shape.
• For added 3-d effect, open one side of the wings from centre, creating a small ¼’ fold from centre, do the same on the other side of centre. When opened, there should now be a narrow valley/pleat down the centre of the body of the butterfly.
• Keeping one side of body folded, next, create a pleat folding top to bottom to create a pleat across the body.
• Punch two holes at top and thread pipe cleaner antenna and add jingle bells.
• Sparkle glue adds further decoration. Pin on.

15 Lively Indoor Birthday Party Ideas for Kids

kids-party-planning-15-expert-tips-to-throwing-a-fun-stress-free-birthday-bash

There are plenty of outside, fun-in-the-sun, summer birthday party ideas for kids, but what if you’re planning to keep the kiddos inside for the festivities? Whether you just want to hold an indoor celebration or the weather is just too unpredictable for a backyard bash, these 10 fabulously fun indoor birthday party ideas are sure to put a smile on their faces, rain or shine!

Get Your Glow On
Some of the best birthday party ideas can be the simplest, like a glow-in-the-dark party. You can turn your living room into a trendy dance club by merely adding a black light, your kiddo’s favorite tunes, glow sticks and a disco ball. Tweens will love painting each other’s faces with glow-in-the-dark face paint, and little ones can delight in the fact that the glow sticks can be turned into necklaces, which also makes them the perfect party favor. Watch your birthday babe and friends light up as they get to giggling over how goofy they look glowing in the dark!

We Recommend
Glowchampion Glow Sticks
Let your little ones celebrate by getting their glow on with this set, which includes 25 nontoxic pieces that can last up to 10 hours. Be sure to save a stick or two for yourself! ($13; walmart.com)

Hanging Disco Ball
Turn any room into a disco nightclub with this hanging, 12-inch mirrored disco ball. ($35; amazon.com)

Midnight Glo UV Neon Face & Body Paint Glow Kit
These nontoxic pink, orange, yellow, blue, green and purple paints wash off easily to ensure that parents won’t throw you any shade when they pick up their kids. ($17; amazon.com)