Invitation: Make a robot invitation from silver craft-paper rectangles and attach body parts together with silver fasteners. Write party details on the body and add googly eyes and silver chenille stems for antennae.
Set the Scene: Hand each guest a glittered antennae headband and glow-in-the-dark necklace as they enter the party galaxy. Use fishing line to hang metallic cardboard stars (partycity.com has a great supply) and painted Styrofoam planets from the ceiling.
Crafts & Activities: Make a robot body from a box (one hole for the head, and one on each side for arms), slip it over the head of an adult or teen volunteer, and let the kids decorate using silver tinsel, disposable cake tins, aluminum foil, tape, and stickers.
Food: What would this party be without cool robot cupcakes? For lunch, serve star-shaped chicken nuggets in mini pie tins with a honey-mustard dipping sauce.
Favor: Fill a disposable bowl with space-themed candies (thespacestore.com is your one-stop shop) and cover with another bowl rim to rim to form a flying saucer. Attach the two with star stickers or a strip of colored tape.
Invitation: Inflate a balloon, but don't knot it. Write party details on the surface with a soft-tipped permanent marker, then carefully deflate. Your little guest's parent must blow up the balloon to read the invitation.
Set the Scene: Give balloons a little flair by attaching simple crepe-paper circles and stripes with double-stick tape. It's easy to make dots and fun shapes using paper punches.
Crafts & Activities: Premix bubble soap by combining 2/3 cup dishwashing soap, 1 gallon water, and 2 or 3 tablespoons of glycerin. Let the kids loose to blow bubbles in the backyard and have a contest for the biggest, the fastest flyer, and the longest-lived.
Food: Serve two-bite burgers on miniature rolls. For the cake, create a tower of glazed doughnut holes. Pipe colored icing in between carefully stacked layers as the tower's "glue." Add dots of icing to the top and finish with a dash of sprinkles.
Favor: The kids will not want to leave the party without their very own balloon. Attach a jar of bubbles to the string and add a round name tag. (You can buy bubbles and balloons at orientaltrading.com.)
Invitation: Send out a pennant-shaped invitation to get kids in the team spirit. Write the party details on a triangular piece of paper and glue to a chopstick. Mail in a letter-size envelope to all participating athletes.
Set the Scene: Make Olympic rings by attaching five hula hoops together. Turn the birthday athlete into an Olympic "torch" with a flame cap made from painted batting stitched to a cap. Have kids stand on milk crates for a winner's-circle photo op.
Crafts & Activities: Set up three to five Summer Olympics events: a water-balloon shot put, shoe-box hurdles, Frisbee discus, badminton, and a somersault tumbling contest all make perfect backyard games.
Food: Fuel contestants with Chinese food such as egg rolls and noodles in containers. Then serve ring-shaped cookies, iced with blue, yellow, black, green, and red frosting.
What You'll Need: Chinese-food containers; five 2-liter soda-bottle tops; blue, yellow, black, green, and red craft paint; paintbrush.
Make It: To make blue Olympic ring, use a paintbrush to dab blue paint onto the open end of a bottle top. Stamp onto Chinese-food container and let dry slightly. Repeat with yellow, black, green, and red paint for four other rings.
Favor: Congratulate kids with homemade trophies. Fill a small box with chocolate coins and seal with a gold-medal sticker. Glue a plastic athlete figurine on top and hand out at the closing ceremony.
Invitation: Type details on pink card stock no wider than 3 inches. Trace a soup can around the text and cut. Glue to a small black paper plate for a vintage-record invitation.
Set the Scene: Cut paper starbursts from various patterned and solid papers. Sandwich each between two compact discs and hang them from the ceiling. You can also dangle them from a doorway, tape them to a wall, or create a garland.
Crafts & Activities: Keep the kids movin' and groovin' with super-fun games like freeze dance, silly karaoke, the limbo, and a hula hoop contest. Hire a local dance teacher to teach some hot, new dance moves.
Food: Give your dancers fun snacks like popcorn disco balls, "do the twist" pizza breadsticks, and rockin' California rolls. Prep a tray of bling-bling cupcakes, decorated with oversize nonpareils and rock candy.
Favor: Your performers will be psyched to take home a Hannah Montana-themed favor. Give a variety pack of character stickers, bracelets, and a key chain (or buy a $5 themed favor pack from celebrateexpress.com).
Invitation: Invite your guests in the most backward way -- by printing or writing your invitations in reverse. They'll need a mirror to learn who, what, where, and when. Stamp and address the envelope on the back flap side.
Set the Scene: Ask the kids to come dressed backwards -- hats flipped around, shirts turned from front to back, shoes on opposite feet. Greet them at the door with a sign that says "Goodbye." Don't forget a backwards "Happy Birthday" banner.
Crafts & Activities: Divide the kids into two teams for a series of backwards relay races, play classic games like "Red light, green light" and "Simon says" with reversed rules, or stage a backwards egg-and-spoon walk.
Food: Serve cupcakes upside-down. Make inside-out sandwiches by rolling ham or turkey with bread, so that the meat is on the outside. Let the kids eat under the table!
Favor: Take photos of the kids in their backward attire. Make digital prints and send the guests home with their photos upside-down in a picture frame. Personalize each with their name written backwards.
Invitation: Turn a brown paper bag into an invitation. Cut eyes, nose, and a mouth from construction paper, write party details on them, and tuck inside the bag. To read the invitation, guests must arrange the face of the puppet.
Set the Scene: Welcome the party guests with a sign that announces the time of the show. Construct a simple puppet theater from a large cardboard box. Add fabric swags with decorative ribbon tie-backs as curtains.
Crafts & Activities: Forget sock puppets -- dress up wooden spoons with felt, googly eyes, and other craft supplies. Let each child put on her own improv show.
Food: Top open-face mini bagels with shaped cold cuts and veggies to make a face. For dessert, serve a Rice Krispies treat on a stick. Use icing to add candy or sprinkles for a face and licorice laces as hair.
Favor: Don't let the performance end here. Give a few finger puppets (you can buy 10 for $6 at ikea.com) in little bags; tie them up with a ribbon for each guest. Send the kids off with a round of applause for their performance.
Invitation: The ingredients for this party are a bunch of friends, three cups of fun, and a pinch of creativity! Send an invitation in the form of a recipe card to inspire your guests to get into the cooking mood.
Set the Scene: Greet the children with a welcome sign written on a chalkboard easel. Cover the tabletops in Italian restaurant-style red-and-white-checked tablecloths, and hang a kid's apron over each chair.
Crafts & Activities: Give the chefs their own premade pizza crusts and wooden spoons. Set out a buffet of bowls with sauce and various toppings. After kids assemble their pizzas, let them decorate their aprons, using fabric markers, while the food bakes.
Food: Frost sugar cookies to look like miniature pizzas. Let cookies cool, then spread on a circle of red icing as tomato sauce, a few small squiggles of green icing as peppers, and lots of dashes of white icing as cheese.
Favor: Iron on letters to personalize a chef's hat for each guest. Make them with fabric and iron-on adhesive or buy them premade at createforless.com.
Invitation: Send guests plane-ticket invitations. Use airport lingo, like arrival and departure times, seat assignments, and flight numbers.
Set the Scene: Have kids "board the plane" when they arrive. Line chairs up two by two, leaving an aisle down the center. Place a snack and juice box on each seat for takeoff. Decorate the room with maps and flags from around the world.
Crafts & Activities: The first stop is China, where kids try to pick up jelly beans using chopsticks. With a layover in Tanzania, the kids play safari on a leaf-covered jungle gym. The final stop is France, where each passenger will paint a Monet-inspired masterpiece.
Food: Fuel travelers with quesadillas, pasta salad, crepes, mini pierogis, and hummus with veggies. Then, serve a slice of globe cake! (Use a ball-shaped pan and decorate with green and blue icing.)
Favor: Send guests home with a suitcase of souvenirs. Attach handles to paper bags decorated with travel stickers (we found cool stickers on eksuccess.com). Fill with goodies. Personalize luggage tags with guests' names and add one to each bag.
Copyright © Used with permission from Parents magazine.