8 Best Birthday Party Ideas For Tweens

From extreme scavenger hunts to an oh-so messy mud race, ensure your big kid has an awesome birthday with these tween-approved party ideas.

Woman serving cupcakes at birthday party
Photo: Jade Albert Studio, Inc./Getty Images

Let's face it: the tween stage, which is generally thought the be around 10-12 years old, is when kids start to find typical birthday themes a bit... babyish. So naturally we know the stress you're feeling when it comes planning a party that won't only be a hit with your kiddo, but with all their friends, as well. To help you out, we rounded up a few party ideas that offer a little independence while still giving parents peace of mind that rules and safety procedures are being followed—AKA the best kind of birthday ideas for tweens out there.

DIY Your Own Spa Party

Invite a small group of your child's friends over to practice new makeup colors, paint nails, try different hairstyles, and just relax. If you have a hot tub you can elevate the party to a total luxe retreat experience.

Location: Your home

Things to remember: Ask attendees to bring a bathing suit, robe, and slippers. Consider hiring an esthetician to give manicures or shoulder massages

Cost prediction: This party can be very cost-effective if you ask kids to bring their own products and share. If you hire a professional, it can cost up to $200.

Number of guests: 3-5

Host a Classic Sleepover

Tweens still love to have sleepovers and as they crave a little more independence, this party is as simple as ordering in a pizza, providing a bunch of snacks and leaving them alone. You could also do a spin on the classic by inspo from The Glampover Party (a company founded by a mom in Surrey, UK), setting up teepees or forts, fairy lights, and snacks that can be eaten picnic-style.

Location: Your home

Things to remember: Make sure you have the contact numbers for all the parents of the kids coming and the details of any medical/allergy issues on hand.

Cost prediction: Up to $50 for snacks and pizza

Number of guests: Keeping the numbers small makes a sleepover more comfortable for the kids—and more manageable for you!

It's a Color Fight!

If your tween has a birthday during a warm-weather season, take all the kids to a local green space or in your backyard for a fun and messy color fight. Non-toxic colored powders can be found online and come in a huge range of bright hues. After everyone is doused in colorful powders you can provide buckets of water and nerf guns and challenge kids to clean up with a water fight.

Location: Your backyard or local park or sports field

Things to remember: Remind kids to come dressed in light-colored but old clothes that may end up being stained. Also, ask guests to bring a change of clothes and a towel. Gove kids goggles or sunglasses to protect their eyes.

Cost prediction: Up to $100 for decorations, color powder, and sunglasses

Number of guests: The more the merrier, but equal numbers are best for teams

Get Messy with a Mud Race

If you really don't mind your kids getting messy and you have a large outdoor space hold a mud race party like those seen on extreme 5K racecourses. Set up a range of obstacles over a course and then add a few shovels of mud and lots of water. Put the kids into teams and then let the race begin.

Location: Your (or a neighbor's) backyard

Things to remember: The kids will be filthy at the end of the race, so you'll need to have lots of water on hand and will likely want to hose them all down. Instruct everyone to bring a change of clothes and a towel with them and don't forget to take lots of photos.

Cost prediction: Up to $50

Number of guests: 8-10

Host Movie Night

A movie night is a great low-cost party idea that makes kids feel independent, especially if parents simply stay out of the way. Provide a range of age-appropriate movies for them to select, popcorn, snacks, drinks and plenty of comfy cushions and blankets.

Location: Your home

Things to remember: Make the party even more special by making your own Willy Wonka-inspired candy shop in the kitchen for the kiddos to stock up on all the sweets they want before (and during) the show.

Cost prediction: Up to $50 for snacks and a movie

Number of guests: 5-10

Throw a Pizza Party

Most kids love pizza and at this pizza party, they'll get to put whatever they like on their own pie. Provide the pizza bases and a variety of toppings in little bowls and then allow them to decorate and cook their own dinner.

Location: Your home

Things to remember: Mini pizzas will cook quicker and allow kids more customization over their end result. Keep the numbers down so that you have enough room in the oven to cook them all at the same time.

Cost prediction: For ingredients, you can expect to pay up to $60 or so depending on how many guests are invited

Number of guests: 5-8 kids

Plan an Amazing Race Party

Hold your own amazing race competition around the streets of your town just like the famous TV show. This party concept will take a lot of planning to write clues for the scavenger hunt but it's well worth it for a fun-filled day.

The clues you write will depend completely on the stores, attractions and natural features of your local area but could include:

  • Visiting a set number of tourist spots and taking a photo as proof
  • Eating a particular food and grabbing a menu as evidence
  • Finding a word from a particular page of a book or magazine
  • Bringing back a natural object

Location: Your town or city

Things to remember: This party requires lots of adult volunteers to make it work so ask other parents, grandparents, and friends to help out. Think about the different personalities when you create the teams to make sure everybody gets on and works well together. You could also visit your local tourism office and ask them for facts and figures about your town to use in your clues.

Cost prediction: Depending on how elaborate your race is and where you hold the after-party this party idea can cost from $100 and up

Number of guests: Choose teams of two up to around 10 kids in total

Karaoke Party

Tweens love to perform and sing so borrow a karaoke machine or tune into a cable karaoke TV station for an entertaining get-together. Make sure you have more than one mic to encourage singalongs too.

Location: Your home

Things to remember: Make it uber Instagram-friendly by loading up on props like oversized sunglasses, wigs, mustaches, and signs to take shareworthy photos. Steal some inspiration from designer Adria Ruff (of Anders Ruff) who threw her 11-year-old Brynne an IG party that came alive with a cake, gumballs, printable Instagram icons, and other post-worthy details. Be sure to have lots of current pop songs on hand as well!

Cost prediction: Free if you have your own karaoke machine up to $100-$200 if you buy one for the event

Number of guests: Up to 8 kids

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