Drawing of a people having a party

Birthday parties are some of the best memory-making events a person can have in their life. A gathering of family and friends with good food can be made that much better with the addition of fun activities and games! Whether you’re planning a party for a toddler, child, tween, or teen, choosing ideas that everyone can enjoy is a must.

Then there’s the cost. According to a BabyCenter.com poll, where 5,000 parents were asked about their habits when it came to kids’ birthday parties, 61% of parents spent $200 USD ($250 CDN) or less on their baby’s first birthday, 25% spend between $200 and $500 USD ($250 to $600 CDN) and 11% dished out more than $500 USD ($600+ CDN) on their baby’s first birthday!

In another survey by UK supermarket retailer Asda, the total average spend for parents on children’s birthday parties from birth to age 21 was $34,000 CDN.

On average, however, most parents spend around $370 on a kids birthday party, according to the US-based, IAAPA, the Global Association for the Attractions Industry.

What to Consider for Your Kids’ Birthday Party Celebration? 

This is where the real work begins. Get your little one involved in the planning process. This will be a great way to spend time with them and there will surely be some teachable moments along the way. You may also be able to find some inspiration by visiting our school theme day ideas.

Invitations

Experts say to invite the same number of kids as the child’s age but this guideline doesn’t fit for everyone. Some young children are very social and a large party works best, while some older kids prefer to hang out with a handful of close friends. Trust your judgment, and your child’s wishes, about how many guests will be a good fit. 

Food 

Menu planning can be a challenge, particularly if you’re dealing with fussy-eaters or food sensitivities. Whatever you choose, the aim of a good birthday party meal plan is to keep the food planning and preparation to a manageable level. For more specific ideas check out the age-by-age breakdown, below. 

Location

Where you hold your child’s birthday party depends on many factors, such as the season, the number of guests attending, whether or not there are health restrictions, your child’s wishes and your financial budget. 

Indoor Options

If you want to take the stress out of party planning, you could book your child’s party at an all-inclusive venue, such as Chuckecheese, a trampoline park, indoor playground, a climbing gym (or other high energy activity, such as go-karts or paintball). 

A possibly less expensive option for a party location is to book through a community recreation centre or at a local venue that offers art, sport or music classes.   

You can also set up a party station in your home, if you have the space to accommodate the guests. A great, lower cost, alternative for condo-dwellers is to book the condo party room. Some condo owners have a quota of free hours, others rent these spaces for relatively cheap — ranging from $25 to $250 for a few hours of exclusive use. If you opt to go this route, make sure you plan a menu that takes into account the restrictions of the indoor space used. You may not want 20 adults or kids traipsing through your home kitchen to get a warm piece of pizza and you may not have access to a fridge or oven in a condo party room. 

Outdoor Options

Outdoor options include amusement parks, outdoor sport training, paint-ball among other options. You can also set up a party station — canopy, folding chairs and picnic tables — in a local park. Most municipalities don’t have restrictions on small, family (or family and few friends) gatherings and a park is a great warm weather place for all generations to gather. 

Entertainment

Not all parties require entertainment, however, hiring fantastic, thrilling or magical entertainers can really help make your child’s special day memorable. Entertainment options can range from animal shows, special guests (think Spiderman or Elsa from Frozen), and face painters to balloon artists, clowns, and more. 

But paying for an entertainer can get pricey. An in-home reptile show can start at a few hundred dollars, while a professional face-painter can set you back $100 or more. If you choose to budget for entertainment, consider how it will be received by your guests — their age will dictate their attention span — and whether or not the cost can be justified for the time spent paying attention. 

Decorations

Are you going big? Lots of balloons, streamers and themed decorations? Or keeping it low-key? Whatever you decide, keep in mind that many birthday party decorations are one-time use. Paper streamers can be recycled, but plastic organiments end up in our landfills. To be respectful of the environment, consider decorations that can be properly recycled or timeless decorations that can be used for many years to come. 

Loot Bags

Many parents now advocate for loot bag-free birthday parties. The argument is that the dye- and sugar-filled treats and plastic trinket toys are a waste of money and resources (more plastic in the trash). But foregoing cheap trinkets and bad candy doesn’t mean letting go of loot bags. Alternative options include: home-baked treats, bulk-bin candy wrapped in pretty packaging, markers (who DOESN’T love a new marker set?) or coupons to your favourite sweet treat spot. 

Birthday Party Theme

Giving your kids the birthday party of their dreams doesn’t have to be hard. 

How do you choose a party theme?

The best way to choose a party theme is to start by looking at some of your child’s passions and hobbies. Can you write down 10 or 15 things that they love?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do they have a certain toy that they just cannot be without?
  2. Do they always ask for a specific movie, like Coco, Toy Story or Frozen?
  3. What sports do they enjoy playing?
  4. What do they like to do outdoors?
  5. Are there specific animals they love or drawn to?

This list will help you create a birthday party theme that is bound to make your little one squeal with joy. For example, if Minecraft is the ‘bomb’ you could create lots of green block food plates and decorations that will help your child celebrate their special day surrounded by a theme they love.

Age-By-Age Tips for A Kid’s Birthday Party 

Here is a comprehensive list of birthday party ideas for all seasons to help you brainstorm an indoor, outdoor, or at-home party. No matter what age group you’re looking at, there are incredible ideas for everyone! Make your next birthday bash a success and try some of these epic party suggestions!

Ages 1 to 3

Little ones between the ages of 1 and 3 don’t necessarily need structured games and activities but more of an outlet to play with friends. 

To help here are a few kids birthday party ideas that include indoor, outdoor and at-home options. 

Indoor

If you’re planning on having an indoor gathering, make sure you set up a large play space where everyone can gather and keep an eye on their kids. For children of this age, everything is sensory-based. Playing music, setting out colorful toys, and blowing bubbles are all great ways to keep everyone entertained.

Outdoor

For an outdoor gathering, a backyard or park is a wonderful option. Letting the little ones play in a sandbox, a well-monitored wading pool with toys, or a sprinkler is always a wonderful way to have fun in the sun! Don’t forget the sunscreen!

At Home

A party at home requires a little extra baby proofing and lots of sensory experiences. Whether it’s tasty snacks, soft toys, or a dance party, kids of this age love vibrant experiences. Invite parents to play along with the kids by singing and dancing along!

Parties for babies are great because they are extremely affordable. Parties like these can be accomplished with a budget of $75-$150 easily.

Food

Keep the food very simple. At this age, it’s less about layers and flavours and more about instant recognition, familiarity and easy to eat hand foods. Think, cut up fruit and veggies, individual cupcakes and pizza slices. This sort of menu allows little kids to be more independent about getting and eating their birthday party meal but still gives you the ability to monitor for safety reasons. 

Ages 4 to 6

For this age group, let the games begin! Children between the ages of four and six LOVE to play games and win prizes.

To help here are a few kids birthday party ideas that include indoor, outdoor and at-home options. 

Indoor

Planning an indoor event at a venue leaves plenty of space for performers, games, and activities. Choosing a theme like indoor camping or outer space can be tons of fun! Birthday party games for kids are always a blast, especially games like scavenger hunts.

Outdoor

Outdoor venues are great for summer birthday parties! Visiting a local splash pad or having a beach-themed party is perfect for warm weather. You can even check your local pools for rental availability.

At Home

This age group is perfect for a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mechanics)-based party. Invite friends to bring pillows and blankets and turn your home into a pillow fort city! Another great birthday party theme for this age is a costume party! Nothing is cuter than kids in costume.

The budget for parties like this ranges from $100 to $250 or more depending on whether or not you choose to rent a venue, hire entertainment or splash out on food and decorations.

Food

This age group still requires a keep-it-simple approach, but you can start to get creative with themed food plates. For instance, a Frozen party could have snow-cones, a Hulk or superhero party could have a fruit platter designed like Captain America’s shield or cupcakes with green food-dye icing. For those interested in food-colour without the chemicals, check out McCormick’s Nature Inspiration food colour or Color Garden all natural, plant-based food colour or Watkins no-artificial colour food dye. All-natural food colour that isn’t as vibrant as the chemical counterparts, but offers a little splash of pizzaz to themed-food platters and baked goods. For naturally flavoured and no food-dye sprinkles check out Wilton Sprinkles and Jimmies and XX. We’ve used these tonnes over the years and the kids don’t even notice the difference!. 

Ages 7 to 9

At this age, girls and boys love to get their bodies and their brains involved in games and activities. Choosing themes that support active learning and play is essential.

To help here are a few kids birthday party ideas that include indoor, outdoor and at-home options. 

Indoor

For an indoor venue, hiring a local magician or setting up stations of legos with different challenges might be a great way to keep active minds engaged. Even a painting station or balloon art teacher would help keep them focused on fun.

Outdoor

With an outdoor party, a bounce house is never a bad idea. Choosing a theme like a fireman training or spy school is an extra cool way to invite kids to complete challenges or play games. Set up kids’ party games with a purpose and they will be sure to love it!

At Home

For an at-home party setting up an obstacle course in the backyard is great for getting out the wiggles before it’s time for cake. Additionally, you can always have a cool-down space afterward where kids can build with blocks or play with toys before heading inside.

The budget for parties like this ranges from $100 to $275 depending on whether you choose to hire entertainment and book a venue.

Food

At this age, kids are far more independent but they can also be fussy. Having a variety of healthy food choices that are easy to grab with tongs can help make your party food a hit, but also minimize costs. Think veggies, fruit slices and even individual popcorn bowls full of popcorn and chips (saves multiple hands from diving into the same bowl). Kids at this age may also care less about cake decoration and more about the type of cake. Ice cream cakes or flavours that match the preference of the birthday boy or girl are usually big hits. 

Ages 9 to 11

This age group is particular. They’re right on the cusp of not wanting things to be too babyish but still wanting to have fun. It’s a challenge, but one you’ll surely be able to tackle with these ideas. Be sure to invite your child to help plan so you know they’ll have a party they enjoy!

To help here are a few kids birthday party ideas that include indoor, outdoor and at-home options. 

Indoor

Booking a bowling party, trampoline park or a laser tag event is perfect for 9 to 11-year-olds! Engaging in activities they can do together with their friends without boring grown-ups is just the right call. Consider contacting your local robotics team to come and show the kids how to build their very own robots!

Outdoor

A great outdoor party could involve swimming, scavenger hunts in the park, or a trip to the zoo. The great thing about 9 to 11-year-olds is themes aren’t always “cool” anymore so there are even fewer limitations. Pinatas are always a plus.

At Home

Everyone enjoys a good sleepover party. Watching movies and eating pizza never gets old, but including upping the ante and purchasing a mystery party will make the party unforgettable! Mystery parties for this age group are simple and easy to plan with kits available online.

The budget for parties like this ranges from $75 to $300 or more depending on the venue or chosen activities.

Food

Having a variety of healthy and not-so-healthy but fun foods is the key. For less-sugar options try natural flavour, no-added colour fruit-based popsicles, or try cupcakes rather than a full cake (limits the size of cake-product in each little mouth!). For entrees, pizza is always a good go-to, as are all-natural hot dogs and hamburgers. For more upscale options, ask your child what they’d prefer. Some children like chicken fingers or noodle-based dishes — and these can be easily prepared ahead of time and served on the day. 

Ages 12 to 14

Entering teenager territory can be tricky but tons of fun! Depending on your kid’s personality their party could be a quiet evening with friends or big birthday bash. It all depends.

To help here are a few kids birthday party ideas that include indoor, outdoor and at-home options. 

Indoor

Lan parties are very popular for this age group. For a more active indoor activity try something like Top Golf or even a roller skating rink.

Outdoor

If your teen is outdoorsy, a nature hike might make a great party. Having a beach volleyball tournament or a bonfire is also a great outdoor activity for parties. Consider mapping out their favorite video game IRL (in real life) as a backyard obstacle course as well!

At Home

Whether it’s movies on a projector in the backyard or hanging out inside playing Super Smash, your teen will have an awesome time as long as they’re with their friends. Up the ante by creating brackets and giving out prizes to the ultimate winners.

A budget for parties like this ranges from $50 to $600 based on venue rentals, number of guests and theme. 

Food

At this point, your child needs to be involved in menu planning. Most kids in this age bracket have definite preferences and likes and dislikes can be strongly influenced by what their friends also like to eat. Sit down and plan the food with your child well in advance. Talk to them about costs and options and ask whether or not they’d prefer a sit down meal or a finger-food sort of event. 

Ages 15+

The 15+ age group are usually great party planners and don’t require themes but if you want to collaborate with your teen on what kind of ideas they have, here are a few good starting places.

To help here are a few kids birthday party ideas that include indoor, outdoor and at-home options. 

Indoor

At 15+ irony is king. Playing mini-golf, face painting, and easy party games like making your own soap are all on the table. It’s cool to have fun again at this age, which is great! If this doesn’t appeal to your teen, consider indoor ‘themes’ that are older: video game competition, movie-night and sleepover, spa-day are all great options. 

Outdoor

You might be lucky enough to have a 15-year-old who would like to have a petting zoo, you won the jackpot. Most kids regardless of age love animals and they might even like face paint too. Other options include a day at a fun-park, waterslide attraction or even a splash pad with a bunch of water guns (and don’t forget to pack the water balloons). Other good, but more expensive options, include paintball, spa-day at a spa, ceramic painting or pottery, as well as guided hikes, mountain biking and in-park novelty competition (think big bouncy castles and sumo-wrestler outfits). 

At Home

Planning a horror movie marathon or a spa night is always a good option for a gathering at your home. Plan some pranks to make it extra scary or make stations for lip scrubs, nail painting, and face masks.

A budget for parties like this ranges from $100 to $600 based on whether or not you choose to hire entertainment or rent a venue.

Food

Let your teenager steer the menu. Ask them to plan the food and to help figure out how to organize the event. The more active they are involved, the higher the chance they’ll eat the food (and not let it go to waste). 

Games and Activities for Every Age

Memory Game

All kids love to show off their ability to remember, think and find. Create interesting memory games where you show party guests a series of items at the beginning of the party. And explain that later you will be asking them to recall what these items were. The guest with the most accurate answer gets a special prize (just be prepared to give more than one special prize out in case you have a load of super-star memories in attendance.) The great thing is this game can be geared to any age-group. Younger kids get fewer and simpler items to remember and less time before asked to recall the items. Older kids should have more or harder items to recall and more time before asking for their list. Either way, you get to keep the fun going throughout the entire kids’ party. 

Charades

Charades is a great way to have a few laughs regardless of the number or age-group of people involved. For ease, try to pick topics that are closely followed or known by the party-boy or girl and their friends. Divide the party guests into two groups and  have one group act out the word while the other group needs to guess it correctly within a given time period.

Team Sports

Kids of all ages love silly competitive games and this can be a great way to add a bit of novelty and fun into a birthday party. Organise team games like a three-legged race, relay races, blind man’s bluff and spoon race games and watch kids, teens and even adults compete and laugh, in turn. 

Mummy Wrap Game

Split party guests into teams and ask each team to wrap a chosen “mummy” in toilet paper. The team that finished first — with their mummy completely wrapped — wins! 

Fishing the Prizes

Everyone loves a challenge and fishing for prizes is a great way to create a game and a challenge that will entertain guests. Buy small prizes, such as fancy notepads, special markers, colourful erasers and other stationary or small toy items and attach these to big paper clips. Create a fishing pole using a magnet at the end and ask kids to ‘fish’ for their prize. Let each child have a turn, to make sure the prizes get distributed across the guests. 

Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt can be very thrilling for little kids, pre-teens as well as teenagers! Be sure to pick age-appropriate items to find, hiding places and clues. Harder tasks can be saved for older kids, while easier and more obvious items are for little kids. We used to play this game to ‘trick’ our kids into going on a hike. We’d bring a paper bag and tell them to find items based on colour or texture. For example, one red leaf or one black slug (we’d always return the items to a similar spot as they were found). This game would keep our boys entertained for hours!

Another option is to create a treasure hunt, where kids are divided into teams, given clues and have to find buried treasure.

Disco Party / Freeze-Dance Party

You can play all the popular musical numbers and let the kids enjoy some freestyle dancing or go one step further and make it a freeze-dance competition, where you quickly turn off the music and all the kids must stand still like a statue or “freeze.” Make sure you have a variety of music to keep the dancing different and fun for everyone. 

Build the Best ____ Lego / Count the Lego / Knock down Lego towers

Lego is always popular with kids. Get guests to compete by asking them to build the best Lego structure based on your theme or child’s interest. 


Another option is to pre-build Lego brick towers and ask guests to knock them down with a toy car or a ball. 

Finally, you can put Lego bricks in a jar and ask the kids to guess the correct number. The guest with the closest answer wins. 

Backyard Carnival

You can create a festive carnival feel in your backyard by setting up different stations like a tattoo station, popcorn and cotton candy stand, face painting, hotdog and burger stand, as well as places for various games like ring toss (use old pop bottles filled with water), a mini-golf course, bean bag toss, horseshoes, as well as a stack and tumble game. 

Cowboy Party

At the start of the party, ask each guest to create a homemade wanted poster (consider printing off templates beforehand to give some inspiration). To stick with a cowboy theme, consider creating a balloon stampede (run through a contained box of balloons), a lasso toss (who can rope the yard sign), and even a scarecrow bashing (pinata). Give kids cowboy hats, tin stars and bandanas to help them get into character. 

Chocolate-Making party

Most kids like making treats and most kids like chocolate. For your child’s birthday, combine these two and get the guests to make their own chocolate treats. You can provide the kids with different fun moulds and flavours of chocolate. You can help them melt the chocolate in the microwave and let them enjoy pouring into the moulds. They can get creative while decorating and wrapping the chocolates.

Craft party

All kids love to make and create, which makes a craft party ideal for just about any age group. Little kids can be kept busy with markers, beads and pipe cleaners; older kids may prefer tye-dye or fabric paint. 

Glow in the dark party

You can convert a room in your home into an exciting ‘dark spot’ with glow in the dark stickers and decals. Add a strobe light and some tunes and ask kids to wear white t-shirts and they can enjoy a glow in the dark party. Go one step further and ask kids to decorate a t-shirt with glow-in-the-dark paint — they can keep this as their loot-bag treat. 

Final Thoughts

When planning your child’s birthday party celebration, it’s important to establish a budget, first, and then consider what to spend on each aspect of the party. If certain factors aren’t that important, say your child doesn’t care about a theme, then you spend little to nothing in this area and concentrate on the party component that matters. By doing this you can create a memorable day for your little one, regardless of their age, and not blow your birthday party celebration budget. 

Romana King

Romana King is an award-winning personal finance columnist and real estate expert. She specializes in creating editorial content that uses data to help home buyers, sellers and investors make smarter real estate decisions.