Get the creative juices flowing by decking your space with lots of streamers in bright hues. To accommodate budding Jackson Pollocks, cover tables and floors with kraft paper or newspaper and ask guests to bring smocks. If you like, hang a big birthday number, made of foam board and decorated with paint, glitter, pom-poms, and crepe-paper ruffles. For a little je ne sais quoi, have each artist don a beret ($20 per dozen at orientaltrading.com).
For a letter-perfect collage project, supply guests with chipboard initials (we found 8-inch-tall letters for $2 each at Hobby Lobby). They can brush on a base color in acrylic paint, then use tacky glue to attach sequins, tissue paper scraps, pom-poms, feathers, and more.
Starving artists on hand? Serve a spectrum of yummy dips -- jams, nut butters, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce -- and diced fruit on a disposable plate or plastic palette. Offer plain breadsticks or pretzel rods for dippers.
Show the group some images of famous paintings (check the local library for coffee-table art books). Invite them to try making artwork in the style of their favorites, using acrylic paint and tiny canvases. Let the paintings dry, then display them on mini easels. (Canvases and easels are sold at craft stores.)
To make this state-of-the-art dessert, first bake up a batch of your favorite cupcakes. Once they've cooled, frost them with four or five shades of tinted frosting (for intense tones like those shown, use paste food coloring). To make the serving platter, use a craft knife to cut a palette shape from a sheet of cardboard or foam board. Paint it brown and let it dry before using it.
With a paper towel, coat the rim of a glass inside and out with maple syrup. Dip the rim into a bowl of colored sugar. Carefully fill the glass with milk. Repeat to make one for each guest, and serve cold.
Send a little inspiration home with these easy favors. Before the party, print copies of a thank-you message and have your child paint them with watercolors. Use pretty tape to affix the notes to the paint sets.
Originally published in the October 2013 issue of FamilyFun