Let’s face it — your toddler isn’t going to appreciate an extravagant birthday party. They have simple tastes: They want cake, shiny things to wave about, and to run free. Which is why paying top dollar to rent a space for a three-year-old just doesn’t make sense. If you have the space, bring the party to your home, and come up with a theme that requires little more than a creative look into your gear closet and a quick trip to the supermarket. Keep your hosting duties in the one and two-hour window and be sure to cater to the adults who come. After all, they’re the ones who will remember it. Here are some easy and fun ideas for birthday party themes that strike the right balance.
Birthday Party #1: DIY Library
The library can be a magical place of stories, freedom, and fun for your toddler — and they probably really enjoy going to your local library. For this party, you can either host a small group of kid’s friends at the actual library, or bring the library to your house. Read your kid’s favorite story to the group, and then let the kids do their thing. Ask each parent to bring a book or two and have a DIY “book fair” where kids can peruse their options and choose a new storybook to take home.
Birthday Party #2: Little Bakery
This is just like having your child help you bake a batch of cookies just like you normally would, except you get to add a handful of three-year-olds, some fun aprons to dress up in, and a few hours at the end of the day to clean the kitchen up. To get everyone involved, bake a batch of sugar cookies the day before the party, have a few types of icing and sprinkles on hand, and lay down some wax paper. Letting kids decorate (and eat) their own treats is a fun way to keep them fed and entertained. Plus, you won’t even have to worry about a birthday cake with this one.
Birthday Party #3: Movie Theater Party
Turn your living room into a movie theater by arranging bean bags, chairs, and pillows for seating, pop some popcorn and grab some candy for the “snack stand,” rent a projector and hang up a sheet and host a day at the “movies” by showing your three-year-old’s favorite film.
Birthday Party #4: Dance Club
Hang up some streamers, get some balloons, and cue up your kid’s favorite playlist. Little kids love to dance. It’s that easy.
Birthday Party #5: Battle of the Bands
You don’t need any fancy video games or amps to get this one going. Just grab whatever instruments you have lying about the house or in the garage, grab a few pots and spoons for DIY drums, and let kids learn about music by giving them free range to make their own.
Birthday Party #6: Home Bowling Party
Making a DIY bowling alley in your living room or in the garage isn’t as tough as it seems. Just make sure you have a hard, even surface and set up an “alley” complete with music, snacks, and a bowling set that your kid will love (there are plenty of themed sets available here—from Trolls to Toy Story).
Birthday Party #7: Craft Party
Crayons, construction paper, finger paints (washable only!), chalkboards — whatever you can find. Create art stations with different activities at each and let kids take home the work of art that they make.
Birthday Party #8: Play Dough Party
Keep an eye on all of the kiddos to make sure no one eats the play dough — but give them free reign to use rolling pins, cookie cutters, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, and other craft supplies to create whatever they want.
Birthday Party #9: At-Home Magic Show
Forget about hiring a local magician and learn a few of these DIY magic tricks that will wow your little audience. Just throw on a cape and a hat, serve up some popcorn, and let them enjoy the show.
Birthday Party #10: Puppy Party
This one is a winner for anyone, of any age (as long as you have a heart). Invite your friends to bring their dogs over, bake some bone-shaped treats for pups and people, and enjoy the furry fun. Be sure to pre-screen the dogs, though, and make sure that they all have good enough manners to be in the house.