Birthday Party Inspiration for Ages 1-14

Birthday Parties

Now, by horseback and Bird-back, and Hiffer-back too,
Come your friends! All your friends! From all over Katroo!
And the Birthday Pal-alace heats up with hot friends
And your party goes on!
On and on
Till it ends.

When it ends,
You’re much happier,
Richer and Fatter.
And the bird flies you home
On a very soft platter.

— Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss

Whether you are Seussian in your creativity or rely on Pinterest and the hundreds of mom-bloggers out there, with a little inspiration and planning you can put together a most excellent party for your child. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Ages 1-5: Set Imaginations Free

Toddlers live somewhere between the real and imagined. They will appreciate a party during which they can set their imagination free.

Host a Make a Mess party featuring spray-paint T-shirts, spaghetti-fling painting, play dough-making, nylon stockings filled with flour for “flour balls” and as much shaving cream, silly string and water as possible. End with cupcake decorating.

Too stressful? Try Diggin’ for Dinos. There’s nothing a 3-year-old likes better than spouting off scientific names of dinosaurs you never knew existed. Andalgalornis, anyone? Decorate dinosaur flags and host a roaring parade. Bury plastic dinosaurs and let those young archaeologists go to work. Fill dinosaur eggs with dinosaur stickers and hide them around your garden. Draw dinosaur footprints with chalk and ask kids to follow the footprints to a treasure. Serve a Cretaceous cake covered with green frosting and decorated with rock candy, plastic dinos and plastic trees.

Get the kids out of your house with a North Carolina Zoo party. Parents will enjoy walking from Africa to the Arctic, and toddlers will love the giraffes, elephants and new “BUGS, an Epic Adventure!” exhibit. Paths are paved for strollers, and parents can rent trams and strollers. The zoo offers group rates, picnic areas, a la carte goodie bags and “animal encounters.”

“The hedgehog is a favorite,” says Heidi Faris, the zoo’s play coordinator. “She’s super cute. ” For more information, go to or call 800-488-0444.

Ages 6-10: Game Faces and Hands-on Fun

This is prime birthday party age. The kids are old enough to make advanced crafts and enjoy conceptual games.

For the sporty competitor, try an Olympics party. Have each child choose a country and decorate an Olympic uniform (T-shirt) with that country’s flag or colors. Competitions include a 100-yard dash, Javelin throw (use a broom), discus throw (use a Frisbee), archery (use a Nerf bow and arrow) and long jump. Play Olympic-themed music and award gold and silver medals for the medal ceremony. Serve Gatorade and a sheet cake with white frosting and colored M&Ms forming the five Olympic rings.

For the wannabe movie star, try hosting a Make-a-Movie party. Write a script based on a fairy tale or alien invasion, or find suitable scripts online. Provide costumes. Film kids in short bursts, so they only have to remember a couple of lines at a time. Edit the movie using iMovie or another user-friendly movie-making program, then add titles, music and credits. Serve popcorn while the kids watch the movie. Make a red-carpet red velvet cake covered with white frosting and edible gold or silver glitter.

Sit back and enjoy a Zumba party. Let Susana Ramsey, a native Latin American and certified Zumba instructor offering classes in Durham and Chapel Hill, get your party started with her Zumba Kids dance party. Kids enjoy 45 minutes of dancing and instruction to a combination of current pop hits and international music.

“I always mix in a little world music, things they don’t generally hear,” Ramsey says. “Latin rhythms and Bollywood beats are made for dancing.” For more information, visit

Your child isn’t a dancer? Try Mad Science, with locations in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. The basic Mad Science package includes a 45-minute show and a 15-minute hands-on activity. Kids make slime, spin art, jelly worms or other scientific items.

“The show has a serious ‘wow’ factor, with fire and chemical reactions and rockets,” says owner Stephenie Price. “Kids think ‘oh my gosh, that was magic.’”

For more information, visit

Ages 11-14: Sophisticated Soirees

Birthdays are different when your child passes the age of 10. Tweens and teens want sophistication. Party themes may go by the wayside — although a couple of fun crafts can make a sleepover special. Often, a single activity becomes a theme. For example, you could:

Make lip balm. Just heat almond or coconut oil with beeswax. Stir the mixture until it’s smooth and pour it into small tins. Add color using powdered blush and scent using peppermint, almond, sweet orange, vanilla or lavender oil.

Set up a photo booth. Cut out cardboard props. Find templates online or create your own cardboard hats, comic strip-style “bubble” conversations, hairdos and mustaches. Take photos with a cellphone or camera and borrow or buy a photo printer. Buy inexpensive frames and let each guest take home his or her photo.

Go geocaching. This “real world treasure hunt” utilizes GPS coordinates to search for hidden caches (each team needs a handheld GPS or smartphone with a geocaching app). Go to to find caches in your area, or hide your own birthday-related treasures and give clues for deciphering coordinates. Have the final clue lead back to your kitchen for cake.

Host an Iron Chef party by giving each group a basket of ingredients. Challenge them to come up with a meal item (e.g., quesadillas), then invite the parents to judge at the end of the party (don’t tell who cooked what dish). You can also hire someone else do the work at Lil’ Chef Kids Cooking Studio in Raleigh or Classy Kids Cook in Cary to lead a cooking class. A Classy Kids “Cake Decorating Party,” for example, teaches kids to color, roll and shape fondant, to properly ice a cake and pipe on different decorative borders.

“Kids will turn to me at the end and say, We made this?’” says Manager Lauren Poulsen.

Learn more at and

Check our online party guide at for more great ideas. You’ll find resources categorized by entertainment, places and supplies. You can also find unique ideas on our “Perfect Parties” Pinterest board at

Caitlin Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Durham.

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