8 Ways to Keep Kids Entertained During a Birthday Party

published Jun 2, 2022
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Does anyone start planning their kids’ birthday party with a ton of pie in the sky (or should we say cake in the sky?) ideas only to find themselves wondering a few weeks later if any of it is doable? I’ve been there countless times myself, which is why I’ve gone to plenty of trampoline park, laser tag, and bounce house birthdays with my 5-year-old in the last few months to know that the professionals have a foolproof formula for keeping both kids and parents happy. 

That being said, it’s not often (if ever) that an off-site party or one planned by an event extraordinaire like Mindy Weiss is affordable or rational. (Have you seen the caliber of fetes Weiss has thrown for celebs like the Kardashian kids? Psalm’s Hulk Smash birthday last month was seriously epic, my son was all kinds of #GreenWithEnvy). A part at home, at a local park, or even a grandparent’s house can play out just as nicely; you just might need some creative games or crafts to keep the whole crew engaged and entertained. 

If you’re looking for some fun birthday party distractions to surprise and delight the 5-to- 10-year-old set, and still want to keep some funds on-hand for the other crowd fave, the food, then take a look at our finds! From superhero cape-making stations and sit-downs with sensory jars to giant outdoor bowling frames and crazy [birthday] cake-racing games, these 8 ideas have “pie in the sky” party potential plus a whole lot of post-party practicality. Read on! 

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Fat Brain Toys

If you’re planning a Marvel or DC Comics-curated birthday, you’ll never have to worry about picking up paper goods, party favors, and paraphernalia around your theme — Zap! Boom! Pow! They’ll be available at pretty much any party store. But if you want to shake things up with your own caped-crusader soiree, then consider corralling all the kids for a craft that’ll let each hero and heroine shine (beyond the fictional made-for-movie worlds!). Each kit comes with a felt design and “super name” that can be glued to the provided cape. You can also do some browsing at your local craft stores or Michaels to buy blank white capes, sheets of colored felt, scissors, glue, maybe even some glitter — if you’re feeling gutsy — in bulk.

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If you have a pop music-obsessed party animal on your hands, then you’ve probably already gotten requests for a karaoke birthday party (after seeing “Sing 2” at one of his friend’s birthday parties earlier this year, my son has managed to turn anything into a microphone). You can have a lot of fun with this one, too, for whoever is comfortable, that is. Let them pick a favorite song to sing, and have them perform on a “stage” of your own design. You can even assemble a panel of nonpartisan judges to narrow down the competition. Whoever has the best song-stylings wins, and they can pick a prize from a trophy filled with stickers, shades, cool face decals — anything that a future popstar would find particularly fetching.

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Statement photo spots and styled-for-social-media snapshot walls are great for grownups, but for kids, having something much more tactile and usable to create memories with is the bigger win. I remember absolutely lighting up as a kid if I happened to get a “surprise” gift from my parents during my party (kind of like Andy does with Buzz Lightyear when his mother had that “one last present” mic drop moment). And we can totally see something like this working for a scenario like that. If you’ve just finished opening presents or need something to bide time between play, pizza, and “Happy Birthday,” then gifting your guy or gal with their own digital camera and printer and entrusting them with the role of party paparazzi is a great call. With this one, they can explore 110+ templates to create comic strips and stickers and can add effects, filters, and borders to photos and videos; the photos can be turned into drawings that they and their partygoers can color, too!

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Ten Little

I’ve been watching a ton of “Top Chef: Family Style” lately and, oh my, I wish I could have the culinary chops that some of these kiddos have! If you have a budding foodie in your own family, you can whip up a really cool chef party with minimal effort just by ordering a few recipe-follow-along kits from Raddish Kids (one of the best kid cooking clubs/subscription boxes around!), hitting up the supermarket or farmer’s market a day or two before, and getting some crafty placemats to make the prepared treat all the more special and festive for the guest of honor and their sous chef squad!

Consider these blank placemats a playful and interactive amuse-bouche that the kids can work on before the party gets underway. You can collect and then set up at the table before their creation is served!

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Young + Wild and Friedman

Almost any birthday party theme can be complemented with a fun, hands-on sensory jar activity — especially if it comes after mealtime when every kid needs a few minutes to digest and decompress. If you’re a natural-born crafter, then you might know what to stock up on for your sensory kits, like sand or kid-safe dough, little tidbits and trinkets, bits and baubles that map back to your overall party vibe (in this case, a space theme). But if you need a little help, you can order multiple kits from a place like Young + Wild & Friedman. The company was dreamed up by a mother who wanted to find screen-free, open-ended play alternatives for her own family. Here, you can purchase differently-sized sensory jars for pretty much any party theme from construction digs and dinos to ice princesses and ice cream shop shindigs. Not only is it a fun breather for the birthday boy or girl and their friends, it’s also a great party favor for them to take away.

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Don’t birthday parties in the summer have a palpable advantage to parties planned during the rest of the year? There are just so many great outdoor games and water play options available, and fun in the sun is preferred by everyone. Pitching a life-size bowling brigade outside is total #birthdaygoals for team Cubby, and what's more magical than bowling with unicorns or dinosaurs? With this giant inflatable bowling game, kids can bowl with their favorite "fantastical" friends without ever having to go to the bowling alley. All you need to do is set up the 6 super-sized bowling pins in whatever configuration you please, and your party people are set for an afternoon of strikes, spares, and maybe even some turkeys if they’re thricely lucky!

Added play factor: the multi-colored rainbow inflatable ball is fun to play with on its own, so your kids can keep the good times rolling all summer long.

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Fat Brain Toys

It's a birthday party, so a cake with candles has to feature somewhere, right? Why can’t it be the name of the game before everyone sits down to celebrate your child’s latest trip around the sun? Giggles are guaranteed when kids get together for this topsy-turvy, balancing-act game of Cake Race. To play, the competitors will place rolling candles onto the cakes and lay out all the obstacles. The goal is to make it to all of the green discs first — with teammates following each of their actions (like skipping or hopping on one foot, all while keeping a finger on their nose) as they go — without losing candles or touching the red discs (picturing banana peels, a cat, dripped frosting, etc.). Whoever makes it to the finish line with candles still intact wins!

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Like we said earlier, you can absolutely book an escape room birthday party for your miniature mastermind. Or, you can treat them to an exciting adventure at home (scavenger hunts, included) with their nearest and dearest. This interactive, one-time-use game (okay, it’s one-time use, but it’s still much less expensive than an event at a party center) blends the excitement of experiential escape rooms and digger-motivated excavation projects into one exciting group activity! In this scenario, your critical thinker will work together with friends and family to save a precious baby dragon egg and keep darkness from spreading across the land… If they can overcome a series of challenges, unlock the secrets of the dragons, and break the curse they’ll emerge victorious.