Bring out the artiste in your child with these creative birthday ideas.

By the editors of Parents magazine
October 05, 2005

Invitations, Decorations, Activities & Favors

Color your birthday child happy with a celebration of creativity. Budding artists will make this an event to remember. In the invitation, or at the time of the RSVPs, ask guests to bring a smock or paint shirt. Let the kids draw on their imaginations and you'll send them home with a masterpiece or two.

Painter's Invite

Fashion a painter's palette cut from manila folders. Glue on blobs of construction paper "paint" in assorted colors and add the necessary information.

"Artist at Heart" Invite

This year for my son's fifth birthday, we used one of his drawings for the invitation. We reduced the picture, copied it on a color copier to fit the front of basic card stock and spray mounted it. We've never received so many compliments on a birthday invitation before! -- Taryn


  • Set up some "blank canvases" for kids to adorn. Put an old white sheet on the table and spread a roll of paper on the ground or along a fence or interior wall. The kids can decorate these during the party.
  • Cluster art supplies: paint bottles in baskets, brushes or makers in cans.


  • Have the kids use sidewalk chalk to draw on the driveway or patio.
  • Ask each child to decorate a designated portion of the tablecloth with handprints, foam stamps, etc. Spin in the dryer for 10 minutes to heat-set the paint.

Party Favor

Tuck a few art supplies into each self-portrait folder. Consider a pad of paper and a few colored pencils, a jigsaw puzzle you've made by cutting apart a large postcard, or a few pieces of origami paper with a photocopy of an instruction sheet.


Little Picasso's Paint Can Cake

This clever cake is a cinch to make and sure to delight your pint-size artist. We chose the color purple, but you can opt for your child's favorite shade simply by switching the food coloring.

Prep and decorating time: 2 hours

Bake time: 1 hour

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

  • 1 box (18.25 oz.) yellow cake mix
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1/4 roll refrigerator sugar-cookie dough
  • 4 pieces yellow fruit-flavored twist licorice
  • 1 1/2 cans (16 oz. each) vanilla frosting
  • 2 Tbs. coarse yellow sugar crystals
  • Purple and yellow paste food coloring
  • 1 tube (4.25 oz.) black decorating icing, fitted with writing tip
  • 2 Tbs. mini purple candy-coated chocolates
  • 2 pieces purple Froot Loops cereal
  • 3 pieces black string licorice

Special Equipment:

34- to 39-ounce coffee can, empty

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Generously grease and flour a clean 34- to 39-ounce metal coffee can. Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Pour batter into prepared can and bake 55 to 60 minutes in center of oven, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack and cool 15 minutes. Run knife around outside edge to release cake; flip onto wire rack and cool completely.
  2. To make paintbrush, work the flour into the cookie dough until smooth. Roll dough out on foil to a 1/4"thickness; cut out handle shape. Transfer cutout (on foil) to baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool completely. For bristles, cut 2 pieces of licorice in half lengthwise, then in thirds crosswise (for a total of 12 pieces). Spread a small amount of vanilla frosting along straight side of cookie handle and press twist pieces into frosting. Secure with a 3/4"strip of foil. Set aside to dry.
  3. Tint 1/2 can vanilla frosting purple; set aside. Tint 1/3 cup frosting yellow and spoon into a small resealable bag; set aside.
  4. Trim to make top of cake level. Invert onto serving platter or cutting board. With a small knife, cut a 3/4"deep well 1/2"from outer edge of cake. Remove and discard scraps. Frost sides and top edge of cake with vanilla frosting. Place a 1"strip of foil around bottom edge of cake.
  5. Cut remaining 2 pieces of licorice in half lengthwise and press into top rim of cake. Sprinkle sides of cake with sugar crystals. Snip a corner from bag with yellow frosting and pipe a solid 4"x 5"rectangle on side of can; smooth rectangle. Pipe child's name and "Purple Passion" with black decorating icing. Press small purple candies along outer edge of yellow frosting.
  6. To make lip of paint can, cut out a ring of foil. Press black licorice strands along bottom and top edge of cake. Press cereal loops on either side of top edge.
  7. Heat purple frosting in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds on high, or until slightly runny. Carefully dip the brush ends in the frosting and set aside. Pour remaining frosting into the well, dribbling it down sides of cake to make spills. Place paintbrush on top. For handle, press a piece of black licorice through cereal loops.

Adapted from The Parents Party Book: Fun and Fabulous Theme Birthday Parties for Children 2 to 8 Years Old by the Editors of Parents Magazine. Golden Books, New York. Recipe Reprinted with permission from the May 2000 issue of Parents Magazine.

Parents Magazine