These homemade birthday decor, craft, and food ideas can all be customized for your child. The best part? They all start with affordable and basic supplies.
Don’t underestimate this budget buy: They come in virtually every color, so put ’em to work.
1. Make a Tent
Cut 60 strips of streamers about 54 inches long (for a three-color pattern, buy at least one roll per shade). Measure three equidistant points around a hula hoop and tie on three 2-foot-long pieces of fishing line. Knot them together about 18 inches from the top of the hoop, and hang it in your work area. Loop the end of a streamer around the hoop, and use double-stick tape to secure it. (Be sure to tape the loop to the paper and not the hoop so it slides.) Overlap each one slightly and alternate colors. To make the top, cut about 30 strips about 24 inches long. Tape each streamer to the outside edge of the hoop—but this time, use one strip for every two on the bottom, matching the colors if you prefer. Once you’ve attached four or five, gather and layer the ends and tape together; then secure to the center fishing line. Repeat all around the hoop. Tie a ribbon or short streamer around the top.
2. Hang a Backdrop
Place four rows of masking tape on the wall about 18 inches apart. They can be as wide as you like. Cut 20-inch-long pieces (we used 20) in each of your colors. Start at the bottom row and attach your darkest streamers with tape, slightly overlapping as you go. Cut the ends diagonally at different lengths to create fluff. Repeat for each row, then tape a strip across the top.
Make It Yours: Try yellow and black for a construction party; greens (with paper flowers) for a springy theme; or blue and white (waves!) for a beach or pool party.
3. Stripe It Up
Plan the route your streamers will take across the wall, table, or furniture and attach a piece of double-stick tape or removable glue dot at the start. Attach one end to the wall. Continue to add tape or glue dots in 1-foot intervals until you reach the destination. Repeat with additional streamers, alternating colors in your pattern.
Make It Yours: Create a racetrack with black and white; channel Harold and the Purple Crayon with purple squiggles; make a rainbow; design a treasurehunt path; or try red security beams for a spy party.
4. Tie on a Garland
Cut streamers into 12-inch strips (use at least two colors). Fold the strip in half. About an inch from the fold, twist the paper together, forming a loop at the top. You might have to tape it after twisting so that it stays in place. Thread onto rope or decorative string, alternating colors as you go. Fringe the ends using scissors.
Make It Yours: Use pink, white, and gold for your ballerina; red and white for a circus fest; pink, orange, blue, and yellow for a fun fiesta; or purple, black, teal, and silver for a rock-star bash.
These smart twists update the party classic. No helium is required, but you’ll want to use a balloon hand pump for all.
1. Pump Up a Number
Using painter’s tape, plan out the shape of the number on the wall. Blow up a collection of 5'' mini dart balloons and 11'' party balloons, knotting each (we used about 50). Use loops of white gaffer tape (get it on Amazon) to attach them to the wall. Layer and tuck in extra balloons on top for a fuller look.
Attach a tabletop celebration arch (available at party supply stores) to your table. You’ll need about 80 fiveinch balloons. Inflate two balloons and knot the ends together. Repeat with another pair, then twist both sets together so you create a clover. Set aside and repeat with remaining balloons. To assemble the arch, twist each clover set onto the frame. Use doublestick tape to attach additional balloons.
Make It Yours: Go with black, gray, and red for Star Wars fans; yellow and blue for Minion lovers; or green and black for little Minecrafters.
2. Make a Chain
Fill a twisting balloon (the kind you’d use for balloon animals) ¾ of the way full and knot the end. Tightly tie the remaining tail to the knot, forming the first “link”; trim off any extra. Inflate a second balloon, loop it through the first, then tie it off the same way. Repeat until you’ve reached the desired length.
Make It Yours: Link black, red, and white for a pirate party; blues and greens for an under-the-sea theme (hello, Ariel!); combine the colors of favorite superheroes; or go all-gold for a fancy dress-up soiree.
3. Create An Animal
Print and cut out our unicorn template and trace onto patterned paper. Cut out the shapes and, using double-stick tape, attach the body parts to an inflated 11'' balloon. Tape a piece of fishing line to the top of the head and the tail to hang.
Make It Yours: We’ve created additional templates for dinosaurs and a cat, dog, and bird, but have fun making your own add-ons too: Roll paper into cones to create balloon ice-cream cones, or tape on streamers for jellyfish!
Hats That Party
What’s a birthday without some festive headwear? With easy add-ons, these special toppers become mini costumes!
1. Choose a Food
To Make a Pizza Hat: Cut out red “pepperoni” and green “C”-shaped “peppers” from red and green paper. Cut out mushroom shapes from gray paper. Attach to a yellow party hat with glue dots. Twist brown kraft paper and secure around the edges of the hat with hot glue to make the crust.
To Make an Ice Cream Hat: Disassemble a party hat and trace it onto a brown paper grocery bag. Cut out and place on a cooling rack. Rub the paper with brown crayon to transfer the pattern onto the paper. Turn 90 degrees and rub again to create a grid. Roll the hat into a cone shape and staple. Hot-glue the brown paper around it. Glue two rows of pom-poms around the top of the cone. Cut out a melted ice cream shape (about 3''x6'') from cardstock. Attach paper to hat base with hot glue and add washi tape sprinkles. Glue ribbon underneath the hat to tie around the head.
2. Play With Stickers
To add monster eyes to a colorful party hat, stick 1-inch white office dots on the outside and then put ½-inch black office dots on top. To add the mouth, trim white mailing labels into triangles for teeth; line the top with a black Sharpie.
Make It Yours: Use colored sale dots on white hats (sweet and simple); layer a few rows of dots in a scale or feather pattern (great for a zoo party); or create constellations with small yellow dots and black hats for an outerspace theme.
3. Attach a Tail
Print out, cut, and trace the mermaid tail template twice onto patterned paper. Attach gold rickrack to the back edge of one tail piece with glue dots. Attach a wooden skewer to the center of the tail with glue dots or tape (be sure to leave a few inches exposed on the bottom); attach the second tail on top. Insert the skewer into the hole at the top of the party hat and secure with glue dot. Cut off excess.
Make It Yours: Try it with orange and black for Nemo or swap in a shark fin instead.
4. Make "Wigs"
Obsessed with trolls? He’ll love these “hair” hats: Trace a 3-inch lid on cardstock. Cut out the circle, then cut it in half for ears. Make a small fold, then hot-glue each ear flap to the sides of the hat. Wrap 6-inch-wide tulle around the base; secure edges with hot glue. Wrap until you have a puffy base. Cut about 10 strips of tulle slightly taller than the hat, and glue to the inside. Flip the hat over and gather the tulle at the point. Tie with fishing line.
Make It Yours: Attach Princess Leia yarn buns to each side; or glue red pom-poms on the sides for crazy clown hair.
Simple techniques can take your cakes from ho-hum to whoa!
1. Design a Checkerboard
On top of iced cupcakes, arrange Starburst Minis in lines with alternating colors. Swap in any favorite mini candy and colors. Sour Patch Kids, anyone?
2. Double Up
Pop a mini cake on top of a standard one and you’ve instantly got a head. For a robot, secure a mini cupcake to a standard-size one with a pretzel rod. Add features with your kid’s favorite small candies, snacks, and treats.
Make It Yours: Trim the cupcakes into squares and stack them up to create Lego characters. You can even make a twostory fairy house: Spread frosting on the bottom cake into a slope; place the mini one on top. Swirl on more frosting and add a cherry on the peak. Decorate it with little candies, gingerbread-style.
3. Bake a Pull-Apart Cake
You can use a template for characters and objects (there are loads online), or just freehand a form like our cloud cake. Assemble your cakes individually frosted, or unify them all with a solid layerof white icing. Top with white edible sparkles and a mini cupcake and fondant sun.
Make It Yours: Chain them together to make a snake, caterpillar, or train; create a flower bouquet; a ball of any kind; a soccer field; a sun; a favorite emoji... whatever it is, you can do it!
4. Have Fun With Fondant
With a few colors of prepared fondant and basic cookie cutters, you can create easy, graphic designs. Find a reference online, print it out, and trace it onto freezer paper to use as a template. Fondant pieces can be attached to each other with a damp fingertip.
Make It Yours: The key to a pro look when you’re starting out is to stick with simple shapes. Layer concentric circles for Captain America’s shield or combine circles and triangles to make a simple fish. For a bear, you’d use a large circle for the head and cut a smaller one in half for ears!