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Birthday Party Theme Ideas for 5-to 6-Year-Olds

Now just entering school years, your child will almost certainly want a birthday party to include friends, if not the whole class. Look for party themes that are good for big groups, and make an effort to pick activities that are inclusive.

This is an outdoor party, best planned for a home with a good-size driveway or in a park with good riding space. Have guests bring their favorite wheels -- they can be bikes, trikes, scooters, or skates. Encourage all riders to wear helmets and be safe.

Game: Ride-on Obstacle Course. Set up obstacles in your driveway or in another flat open area. Orange cones are fun, but don't feel like that's your only option. Chairs, garbage cans, and large stuffed animals can work, too. Have a stopwatch handy to time your riders.

Party favor: Bike reflector decals.

Planning timeline

  • One month before party day: Make guest list, plan menu, send invitations.
  • Two weeks before party day: Shop for party favors, paper goods, and items needed for the obstacle course. Ask a friend or relative who has RSVP'd to act as your assistant on party day.
  • One week before party day: Shop for menu items.

Inspire your young artists with a party that brings out their creativity and allows them to have fun with a variety of art-related activities. This party works well indoors or out, though do take precautions to cover furniture if you have young artists in your home. Be sure to note on the invitation that this is an art party, so that parents will dress party guests accordingly.

Game: Art Stations. Set up three stations that can handle two or three kids at a time. Some suggestions: finger painting station, clay station, poster painting stations. Try to have an adult at each station to help out. Have the kids visit each station, enjoy the activity and then after 10 to 15 minutes or so, rotate to the next.

Party favor: Edible jewelry or magnets, to hang new creations on the fridge.

Planning timeline

  • One month before party day: Make guest list, plan menu, send invitations.
  • Two weeks before party day: Shop for party favors, paper goods, and items needed for the art stations. Ask a friend or relative who has RSVP'd to act as your assistant on party day.
  • One week before party day: Shop for menu items.

Reach for the cosmos and inspire young astronomers with a space party. Youngsters find space fascinating and there are a host of fun games and activities that can help your party blast off. Your focus can be educational space exploration or gooey grisly aliens -- whichever appeals most to your guest of honor.

Cake: Your party will be out of this world with a solar system cake.

Game: Ring Around Saturn Ring Toss. This is musical chairs meets the ring toss. Each guest needs a ring. You can make one for each guest by cutting the ring from the outer edge of a paper plate and covering the ring in tin foil. Write each child's name on his or her ring. Kids can decorate their rings with stickers if they like. To make Saturn, cover a coffee can with foil and stickers and place a 6-inch ball on top. The ball is Saturn, without its rings. To play the game: Play music as the kids walk in a circle around Saturn. When the music stops, players must attempt to toss their rings around Saturn. Each successful ring tosser gets a point. The player with the most points after 10 rounds wins.

Party favor: Freeze-dried ice cream (astronaut food). Check stores that sell camping gear and other outdoorsy supplies. It's also available online, but order early to accommodate shipping time.

Planning timeline

  • One month before party day: Make guest list, plan menu, send invitations.
  • Two weeks before party day: Shop for party favors, paper goods, and items needed for the Saturn ring toss. Ask a friend or relative who has RSVP'd to act as your assistant on party day.
  • One week before party day: Shop for menu items.

Eeeeew! It's a bug party! Be prepared for squeals of mock horror. Bugs are great for creepy crawly fun and that's especially true when all the bugs invited are fake. For this party, have on hand a good selection of rubber faux bugs. And get buggy with the menu: celery stuffed with peanut butter or cream cheese topped with raisins can be "Bugs on a Log." Fruit punch should be billed "Bug juice."

Game: Bug Relay Race. For this game, you'll need two tablespoons and four bowls -- two empty and two full of rubber bugs. Have your guests divide into two teams and line up. The object of the game is to carry the bugs by spoon, one at a time, from one bowl to the other. The first team to successfully transfer all the bugs wins.

Party favor: Bug tattoos.

Planning timeline

  • One month before party day: Make guest list, plan menu, send invitations.
  • Two weeks before party day: Shop for party favors, paper goods, and items needed for the bug relay. Ask a friend or relative who has RSVP'd to act as your assistant on party day.
  • One week before party day: Shop for menu items.

Caterpillar Crawl Birthday Cake
Caterpillar Crawl Birthday Cake

For the theatrical crowd, a puppet show party offers the right combination of crafts and time in the spotlight. It may help to come up with a storyline that most everyone knows ahead of time, say, Noah's Ark or another well-known tale with a large cast of characters. That will help inspire the puppeteers.

Game: Paper bag puppet making. Set out lunch-size paper bags, stickers, markers, yarn and glue and let the puppet making begin. Try to have a few extra adults on hand to help out if necessary. When the puppets are finished, invite the guests to put on a puppet show for the adults.

Party favors: Markers and stickers for puppet decorating.

Planning timeline

  • One month before party day: Make guest list, plan menu, send invitations.
  • Two weeks before party day: Shop for party favors, paper goods, and items needed for the puppet making. Ask a friend or relative who has RSVP'd to act as your assistant on party day.
  • One week before party day: Shop for menu items.

Firefighters are neighborhood heroes. A party that celebrates the firefighter is sure to ring bells. With school-age children, firefighter parties can include a range of games and even a lesson on fire safety. Check with your local firehouse about distributing fire safety information at the party. And don't forget to have some fun!

Game: Pin the Spot on the Dalmatian. It's a firefighter twist on a party favorite. Plus, it's easy to score. Draw a large outline of a dog and have plenty of sticky spots on hand for pinning. Let kids take multiple tries until Fido looks nice and spotty.

Party favors: Fire hats. Fire safety coloring books or other age-appropriate teaching tools.

Planning timeline

  • One month before party day: Make guest list, plan menu, send invitations.
  • Two weeks before party day: Shop for party favors, paper goods, and items needed for the game. Ask a friend or relative who has RSVP'd to act as your assistant on party day.
  • One week before party day: Shop for menu items.

Sources: The Best Birthday Parties Ever! A Kid's Do-It-Yourself Guide (The Millbrook Press) by Kathy Ross; Great Parties for Kids (Williamson Publishing Co.) by Nancy Fyke; Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and Other Party Games (Morrow Junior Books/New York) by Joanna Cole and Stephanie Calmenson; Rainy Days and Saturdays (Workman Publishing Co.) by Linda Hetzer

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.