Your growing child will have some definite opinions as to party themes. Keep in mind that this may be the year that a split between the boys and girls begins to develop. If your child wants to have an all-boys or all-girls bash, that's fine. Just be sure to avoid hurt feelings and don't distribute the invitations at school.
For a little taste of Halloween on the big day, bring on the monsters. A monster party brings a little bit of gross-out and a lot of fun. Monsters can range from silly to scary, depending upon the maturity level of your birthday guest of honor and friends. When in doubt, go for the giggles rather than the shrieks.
Game: Monster Mummy Wrap. This game is easy to set up and lots of fun. Divide your guests into teams of two each. Each team gets a roll of toilet paper. The object of the game is to see who can wrap their mummy the fastest.
Party favors: Monster tattoos.
Since much of this party will take place in your kitchen, you might want to limit the guest list to the number that will fit around your kitchen table comfortably. After all, every chef is really an artist and you just can't be creative in cramped quarters. Bring out the baker in your birthday guest of honor.
Game: Bake and decorate your own cake. Purchase individual microwave cake mixes for each of your guests. Have some extra adults on hand to help supervise as kids mix, pour, and bake their cakes. Have a few party games in mind to keep everyone occupied while the cakes cool before icing. Suggestion: Stay with the kitchen theme and play Hot Potato.
Party favor: Chef hats.
Get up and dance! This is a party filled with energy and musical fun. It's a good indoor party, but be sure you can clear a room for dancing and that you won't drive the neighbors crazy with the inevitable sound waves. Let your guests know in advance that it's a dance party so they'll be properly dressed to boogie!
Game: Go with some dance party favorites such as the limbo and the conga. Another suggestion: Teach everyone a line dance.
Party favors: Glow-in-the-dark plastic jewelry, glasses, and other accessories make for great dance party extras.
For active kids, just getting into team sports, an athlete's party will be a big winner. You can design a party that incorporates a range of sports, or stick to one such as soccer, baseball, or gymnastics. If your party happens to fall near a big sports event, such as the Super Bowl or the Olympics, you may find party goods stores are prepped to help you out with themed decorations and paper goods.
Game: For an outdoor sports party: Soccer Obstacle Course. Divide your guests into two teams and let them show off their budding dribbling skills. Make the course simple enough so that even less-skilled players can complete it. Give prizes for best individual time and best team performance.
For an indoor sport party: Game Day Suit Up Relay. Raid the closet of Dad or a bigger, older sibling for two oversized sports outfits. Divide your guests into two teams. At "Go," each player runs to the pile of oversized sports gear, suits up as quickly as possible, runs to tag his or her teammate, runs back to the dressing area, undresses, and runs back to the team and sits down. First team to have everyone dress up and dress down wins.
Party favor: Sports-theme school supplies.
Now that your child has moved beyond finger painting, you can set up a creative party that will truly be a work of art. Be sure to note on your invitation that this will be an art party, so that guests will be dressed appropriately. Consider letting your child design his or her invitations on the computer as part of the artful experience.
Game: Life-Size Portraits. Have a big roll of white or brown paper on hand. As each guest arrives, have him lie down on the paper. Trace his entire body outline. Leave plenty of room and be sure to label each outline with the guest's name. When everyone has arrived, break out the paints, markers, chalk, and stickers, and let each guest color a life-size self-portrait.
Party favor: Paint sets.
Here's a party that's super silly and sure to have everyone giggling. Set everything backward. Print Happy Birthday banners and place cards in reverse. Serve the meal in reverse order (cake first) Encourage the guests to dress backward. Be sure to put away small end tables and other potential obstacles since it's almost certain the kids will try to walk backward.
Game: Backward Fashion Show. Set up a runway area, put on some good loud music, and have a fashion show. Provide an extra trunk of dress-up clothes to complement what kids have already got on. Give prizes for most items on backward, best backward runway walk, etc.
Party favors: Silly Putty.
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.