As birthday parties go, 6 is a great age to have one. The birthday boy or girl is old enough to remember and appreciate a festive birthday celebration (unlike the 1st birthday party that so many parents go full Pinterest on) and still young enough to muster enthusiasm about things like birthday hats, party games, and outdoor activities. A 6-year-old birthday party can still be a family affair (hopefully they’re too young to roll their eyes), and it’s unlikely that there will be drama surrounding the guest list just yet.
On the downside, a 6-year-old is old enough to make demands, and there can be pressure to spend tons of money on a venue. If you’re looking to avoid dropping the price of a short vacation on whatever trampoline park/luxury bowling alley/kiddy day spa is popular in your neighborhood, look no further. Instead, here are 15 original 6th-birthday-party ideas you can execute in your own home. Because let’s face it, kids will be kids, and they’ll likely have the same amount of fun running around the yard as they will being shepherded from one coordinated activity to another.
DIY Water Park
Skip the pricey trip to your local theme park and set one up in your backyard. Six is the perfect age to really appreciate the simple joys of a slip-and-slide, many of which are available for under $20. As a kid, pulling my plastic, kid-size slide into the base of a kiddy pool was just as fun as visiting a water park. Water balloons on their own can provide hours of fun, and if you’re looking for more structure, plan for games. For example, there’s one in which teams compete to fill up an empty bucket with water from a sponge which they dip in a full bucket and pass down a line.
You could even buy or rent one of those blow-up water slides, but it will cost you. Most cost upward of $300, and renting a professional one can come to the same price for just an hour or two of use. But we promise a low-cost alternative like a kiddy pool and a slip-and-slide will offer just as much fun.
Summer birthdays may miss out on the opportunity to celebrate at school, but who else can celebrate around a bonfire? Roast marshmallows, make s’mores (made extra safe and easy with these s’mores sticks), and tell some age-appropriate spooky stories. You can even organize a nature scavenger hunt, or set up blankets for stargazing and print out constellation maps.
Glow in the Dark
Perfect for the winter birthday when everyone’s stuck indoors, the glow in the dark party requires little more than some blacklight lightbulbs and some glow sticks. You have guests decorate white T-shirts with highlighters and watch as they glow in the dark. Strobe lights can provide extra fun. Offer Wint-O-Green Lifesavers, since they spark when they’re bitten into.
Arts & Crafts
If your soon-to-be-6-year-old has a creative side, an arts-and-crafts party could be the way to go. Kids will feel fancy painting on mini canvases, and craft stores usually offer tons of ready-to-paint wood things like frames, birdhouses, or letters (who doesn’t want to take home some newly decorated initials?). Sand art is another easy classic, as is decorating frames made of popsicle sticks (bonus points if you have a Polaroid on hand to fill up those frames). No matter what supplies you have, kids will revel in the chance to get messy.
This one’s inspired by one of the best birthday parties I attended as a kid. We each painted our faces green, donned a black cape and witch hat, and went a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood collecting “ingredients” for our potion, like gummy worms and olive “eyes” from neighbors that had been clued in. I’m pretty sure there was broom-riding involved, but if you don’t wish to purchase an excess of brooms, putting on the “Monster Mash” for a game of freeze dance should do. In this scenario, scary stories and movie viewings are the cherries on top!
Cake Decorating Party
Why just eat your cake when you can decorate it too? Set up a table with all different icing, sprinkles, candy, and fruit. (Pro tip: Cover the table with a disposable tablecloth beforehand, and at the end of the party you can just fold it up and throw it out in one fell swoop. Give each kid a cookie, a cupcake, or some combination of baked goods, and let them go to town. They’ll be entertained for hours at little cost — this affordable Funfetti cupcake and icing set makes 24 complete cupcakes. But the best part about this theme is it requires minimal intervention from adults, freeing plenty of time for parents to chat. Alternatively, you could set up different stations where small groups can take turns making simple baked goods. Think chocolate covered strawberries or pretzels, Rice Krispie treats, using cookie cutters on sugar cookie dough, icing cupcakes, or making cinnamon rolls from pre-made dough.
A carnival party will offer endless fun while allowing each guest to participate in the activities that they choose. With a little help from some friends and family, you can set up simple game booths like a ring toss, donut on a string, and that one where you throw a ping-pong ball into a fishbowl. Guests can win tickets at each station, which they can later cash in for small prizes like temporary tattoos, glow sticks, stickers, and candy. Throw in a face-painting station and a snack table and you’re good to go.
If your kid is obsessed with Peppa Pig, JoJo Siwa, or Trolls, your best option might be to buy a few character-themed decorations and call it a day. You can incorporate character-themed crafts and snacks, or even have a viewing of your child’s favorite movie. A Frozen birthday party might feature blue jello and Frozen-themed karaoke, while a Paw Patrol birthday could include making puppy chow (that super-easy cereal-based dessert) and dog-themed face painting.
Good Old Fashioned Games Party
We’re talking Twister, tug-of-war, and red light/green light 123. Do kids even play those types of games anymore? Now they do. Introduce them to the wonders of tag, shipwreck, 7-Up, and four corners. Kids can also put on skits, play charades, or try their hand at whatever board games you have.
Invite guests to come in their pajamas or robe and pamper them with face masks, cucumbers over their eyes, and mini mani-pedis. Serve juice or smoothies with little drink umbrellas. Kids can make their own body glitter from aloe vera and extra fine glitter, though temporary tattoos would also do the trick. Other easy crafts include decorating mirrors or adorning flip-flops with strips of ribbon.
If your kid is the type who loves receiving those science experiment kits for their birthday (remember the crystal growing things?) a science party might be for you. You can demonstrate simple experiments with a big wow factor, like Mentos in Coke, or the classic vinegar and baking soda volcano.
For most kids, having all of their friends in a room with music, pizza, and cake is enough. But if you have an aspiring chef on your hands, you could take the party up a notch and have each guest customize their own pizza. Just buy pre-made crust or dough, and offer up sauce, cheese, and whatever other toppings a 6-year-old might delight in. You can offer chefs hats for extra cuteness. The best part is, kids tend to eat things they were involved in making.
Before you say “no way” and keep scrolling, remember that you can have a sleepover party without actually inviting your little guests to stay the night. Have everyone come over in pajamas, put on a movie and offer plenty of popcorn and other munchies. Have the kids make pillow forts and tell silly stories, and schedule pick up for right before bedtime.
Start the party with a little dress-up, featuring fun accessories like feather boas, hats, tiaras, fake mustaches, beaded necklaces, stick on earrings, or gloves. Encourage guests to bring their stuffed animals, serve drinks in teacups with finger sandwiches and cookies. After eating, have story time and games.