Your big kid might not be into balloon animals and superheroes anymore, but birthdays are still a big deal for teens. Take off some of the pressure with one of these party ideas perfect for every type of teenager.

By Fiona Tapp
January 23, 2020
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Ah, how simple birthdays were when your kid was little. As long as you invited their favorite people, blew up a few balloons, and provided a cake, they were happy. Sadly, though, those days are gone.

Now that your cute kid has turned into a teenager, they're most likely a little (OK, a lot) harder to impress thanks to puberty, peer pressure, and probably TikTok if we had to guess. Add the fact that sharing your birthday party on Instagram is almost as important to teens as the party itself, and that amounts to a lot of pressure on party-planning parents. Desperate for some inspiration? Whether your kid is a foodie, an adrenaline junky, or shopaholic, these party ideas—proven to have your teen smiling instead of rolling their eyes—are a great place to start.

Make a Splash With a Pool Party

If you're lucky enough to live someplace warm, fill the pool with oversized inflatables, create a fun mocktail, blast some music, and throw a pool party. Guests just need to remember their bathing suit and sunscreen, and you'll want to provide some shade and fresh towels. Even if you don't have your own pool, your local community pool (indoors or out) can often be hired for private parties.

Location: Your backyard or local pool

Ideal age: 13th birthday and up

Things to remember: A responsible adult should be supervising at all times and everyone needs to know how to swim.

Cost prediction: Free up to $200 or so to rent out a public pool

Number of guests: Try to keep a good ratio of adults to swimmers

Treat Them to a Shopping Party

A shopping party can be a low cost and fun way to spend a birthday. You can even hire a personal shopper to help the birthday boy or girl select a few new outfits—many stores offer this service for free or for a nominal fee deducted from your purchase. Your teen's friends can give their expert advice, take snaps, and shop themselves. Throw in lunch or invite everyone back to the house for a fashion show later in the evening to complete the day.

Location: Your local mall

Ideal age: 14th birthday and up

Things to remember: Give your teen a gift certificate upfront so they can purchase a few of their favorite outfits without you hanging around.

Cost prediction: It depends on the stores you choose, but anything from $50 up

Number of guests: Stores won't want too many teens taking up space in the changing room, so stick to a small party of three or four

Indulge Them With a Hotel Sleepover

Older teens will appreciate the plush surroundings and little extra independence granted at a sleepover hosted in a hotel. There will likely also be a swimming pool, perhaps a games room, and the opportunity to order a movie before they go to bed (if they go to bed at all!). If possible, stay in an adjoining room to be close enough to help, but far away from the giggles and noise.

Location: Any hotel

Ideal age: 16th birthday and up

Things to remember: Tell the staff to put a hold on any room service to keep costs under control and carefully explain the rules to all attendees.

Cost prediction: $200-500 depending on the hotel

Number of guests: Most hotels have caps on the number of guests who can stay in a room, so keep the party small and intimate

Throw a Paintball Party

Teens can run around and let off steam during a paintball battle. Make sure you choose a company that doesn't mix up the teams so that you can be sure your kids will only play with their own group. Then head to a family-friendly restaurant afterward to fuel back up with pizza or wings.

Location: A local paintball site

Ideal age: 14th birthday and up (check individual age restrictions at your paintball site)

Things to remember: Tell kids to come wearing a few layers of clothes as paintball hits can hurt. You'll also want to make sure you have confirmed RSVPs as you'll be expected to pay even if there are no-shows.

Cost prediction: Groups of eight or more often receive a discount, but expect to pay anywhere up to $300 for an afternoon of paintball fun for your teen and their friends

Number of guests: 8

Organize an Insta Party

Give teens a party worth sharing by providing clothes, props, makeup, and hair styling products, and then let them hold their own modeling shoot complete with a photo session.

Location: Home

Ideal age: 15th birthday and up

Things to remember: If you're concerned about the possibility of inappropriate photos being shared, insist kids turn their phones to airplane mode until the end of the party when you can check photos and allow them to upload to their heart's content.

Cost prediction: Low; just a few supplies which you'll likely already have in your house and some photo props from the dollar store

Number of guests: 5-8

Hold a Dinner Party

Play chef and waitress to your teen and their friends by letting them play at enjoying haute cuisine right at home. Ask guests to wear their fanciest clothes (we're talking ball gowns/prom style dresses, tuxedos, and lots of costume jewelry). Serve something fancy and offer champagne flutes of sparkling apple juice, then top the night off with a movie-filled sleepover.

Location: Home

Ideal age: 13th birthday and up

Things to remember: Check for dietary allergies and requirements to make sure everyone can enjoy the feast. You may also want to serve up traditional teen favorites like pizza and just make it look fancy depending on the tastes of your teen's guests.

Cost prediction: $100-$200 depending on the ingredients chosen

Number of guests: 6-8

Survive a Fear Factor Party

A Fear Factor theme will make for a hilarious party that will be talked about for years! Inspired by the show that tests contestants to fight their fears through a range of trials, this party will have kids screaming in delight. Set up a series of challenges and have kids progress through different levels until an overall winner can be determined. Allow kids to opt-out at any time to keep the challenge fun rather than too scary. Trials can include:

  • Egg challenge: Prepare a bowl of hard-boiled eggs and challenge kids to pick one and crack it on their forehead. One or two eggs will be raw. You can award points for bravery as well as choosing the right egg.
  • Worm rescue: Fill a container with chocolate pudding, or jello and put candy worms at the bottom. Tie kids' hands behind their back and time them to retrieve as many worms as possible in a one-minute period. The person with the highest number of rescued worms is the winner!
  • Guess what's inside: Put a variety of objects into boxes with a hole cut in the side, then have kids put their hand in and try to guess what is inside. Choose things that feel horrible to touch like cold spaghetti, hair, cotton wool balls, slime, egg whites, kiwi fruit, or mashed banana.

Location: Home

Ideal age: 15th birthday and up

Things to remember: Make sure to check for any allergies and keep a watchful eye to make sure all the kids are happy to play.

Cost prediction: $50-100 depending on the ingredients and decorations chosen

Number of guests: 6-8

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