Plan the Best Birthday Party for Tots, Tweens or Teens


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Few childhood milestones spark more parental anxiety than birthday celebrations. These days, more than cake and ice cream is at stake: According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, parents fork over an average of $370 per party just for the venue, and total spending can easily top $500. Add the pressure of a once-in-a-lifetime event — your baby only turns 5 once — and the stress piles on. Whether party planning makes you swoon or sweat, it's possible to plan a party that both you and your child will enjoy. Here are some ways you can keep the "happy" in your child's birthday, from the first party all the way through the teen years.

Ages 1-5
Petite Parties

For babies and tots, parents are free to select the party theme (since your little one probably can't weigh in) and design the guest list to suit the party venue. A common mistake: going overboard inviting the entire pre-K class, and creating a gigantic, noisy shindig that overwhelms the birthday child, says Grace L.P. Beason, owner and lead event planner for Grace Leisure Events in Durham. "For preschoolers, I've found that it works well to keep the number of kids down to really close friends and siblings, rather than inviting the entire class. The party can get huge once you include all the parents." When it comes to party size, take your cue from the season. Winter parties are often indoors, so the cold months are perfect for smaller parties with indoor activities like crafts and games, while warmer months are ideal for the-more-the-merrier parties at parks and other outdoor locales.

Ages 6-12
​Manners Mashup

The birthday party scene picks up steam in elementary school; young school-agers commonly invite the entire class, so it's not uncommon for a child to be invited to more than one party per weekend. This can lead to some party etiquette pitfalls, says Lori Losee, owner of Elegant Affairs in Puyallup, Wash. When guests are invited to so many parties, overwhelmed parents often fail to reply on time or at all. "This is my biggest pet peeve," says Losee. "Also, not bringing a card or gift unless specified by party host not to bring one, or bringing uninvited siblings to parties." Grade school usually signals the start of drop-off parties, Losee says. Just make sure you check with party hosts about whether you're expected to stay or go, and to find out what time the party ends. Always pick your child up on time; party hosts are usually beat afterward and nobody wants to wrangle an unexpected party straggler.

Ages 13-18
Creative Craze

The teen years can be an awkward birthday phase for parents since older kids may balk at the themed parties they enjoyed in grade school, or reject parents' party ideas outright. But it's still possible to plan something festive, even if teens don't want a traditional party, Beason says. Get creative. "Why not try and get some great concert tickets to a local band (for teens or tweens, with parents escorting), rent a private room at a fun Mexican place and have a fiesta with a piñata and dancing, or learn to make ice cream at a local ice-cream parlor. Explore your local business community." For inspiration, draw on your teen's favorite pastimes. Activity-based parties —cooking, jewelry-making, science/technology/engineering/math (STEM), or hiking — are trending, and make it easy to dream up a festive, memorable fete that even a too-cool teen will enjoy.

Malia Jacobson is a nationally published sleep and health journalist and mom of three.

 

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June 2019

For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

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Carrboro Cybrary
100 N Greensboro St
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500 S. Salisbury St.
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
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Contact Name: Orange County Main Library
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Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Cost: Free

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White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
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Cost: See website for fees

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Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 833-202-7626
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Cost: Free

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White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
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The Regulator Bookshop
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Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
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Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
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Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
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Cost: Free

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East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Cost: $9/resident, $11/nonresident

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801 High House Rd.
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Cost: Free

Where:
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319 S. Academy St.
Cary, NC  27511
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Cost: Free

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N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: $5

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Marti Kane
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Parent and child ages 2-5 water plants in the native wildflower gardens. Register online. Choose course #124907.

Cost: Free

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Join Optimist Aquatic Center as thousands of kids and adults around the world unite for the world's largest swimming lesson. The World's Largest Swimming Lesson will celebrate its 10th...

Cost: Free

Where:
Optimist Aquatic Center
5902 Whittier Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Vacation Bible School includes dinner. Register at wpumc.com/vbs

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
Website »

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Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty sun catcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
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Cost: Free

Where:
Pine State Coffee
1614 Automotive Way
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Sponsor: Raleigh Night Market
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Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: White Plains UMC
Telephone: 919-467-9394
Contact Name: Michele Vansteen
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Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty sun catcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
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More information

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Cost: $12/person. Free for ages 2 and younger.

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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More information

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Cost: Free

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The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
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Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead State Historic Site
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: Free

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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
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Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Cost: Free

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Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Ages 5-8 embrace science and nature while developing skills and knowledge about the natural world. Register online. Choose course #124927.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
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More information

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Where:
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Bunn, NC  27508
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Sponsor: Vollmer Farm
Telephone: 919-496-3076
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Cost: Free

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