Kids’ parties are freer outside! We’ve got great tips for hosting themed parties throughout the year. They all suit 5-10 year olds in a garden or park.
Be clear in the invite that salopettes, winter coats and gloves are needed! Once you’re sure you’ve managed expectations, kids will love an outdoors party at dusk. If you make the excitement & challenge of darkness the theme, you’re less dependent on snow as the main attraction.
We love a dark month take on an Easter egg hunt. Hide a range of glow-in-the-dark treasures in your garden including a top prize. An upgrade from slap bands and bracelets is glow-in-the-dark paints and art supplies. This ties in nicely with an end-of-party communal activity. Equip each child with a head torch.
If it’s a smaller party of kids 6-7 years plus you might have confidence in wrapping the event up around a fire pit. Pre-cooked sausages only require token warming. Mega marshmallows are easier to fit on skewers than standard size ones. If the kids are younger or you’re hesitant about risk, then move inside to paint T-shirts or tea towels with the new paints and for simpler feeding.
Mega marshmallows for easy skewering
Torchlit treasure hunt
You can theme your outdoors fancy dress party in the invite or just offer prizes for the best outfit. Northern cities like Quebec, Cologne and Basel all host big February parades, so get your inspiration for cold climate party outfits there. Otherwise your child might have an absolute passion - rugby, baking, chess, ancient Rome - so go with their theme ideas and work out a couple of related games.
If you’re able to set up a sound system outside, then dance-offs are the best way to keep everyone warm and running around. Dance-off ideas include judging freestyle moves, sudden freezes, musical chairs etc.
Sweets are key in northern European carnivals - you can hide them, throw them or use them for prizes. Food needs to be warm but not messy. Macaroni cheese is filling, hot, easy to ladle up from big dishes and won’t stain that fancy Elizabeth I dress….
Longboard parties are inclusive as it requires less experience than harder to master pennyboards. On a flat surface, roller blades are also easy to start on. The invite should make it clear that kids bring their own helmets.
Renting or building a simple obstacle course will keep everyone challenged. Some kids can work on their stance and their cruising technique. If others are comfortable honing tricks, this can be done in the same setting. You need a generous tarmacked area for the cruisers anyway.
If your own driveway isn’t sufficient for more than two or three skaters, then local school grounds have large tarmac expanses and are normally empty at the weekend. This will allow you to draw up some tracks and maybe finish the session with a race.
Burgers tie in nicely with the LA heritage of skateboarding. They are easy to serve and eat outdoors and offer customising, which kids love. If you’re an experienced tailgate picnicker, then beef and veggie burgers with a range of extras and condiments will make everyone happy.
Burgers, tailgate picnic style
Longboard stance & cruising session
Theme: Mini Olympics
April still isn’t reliably warm at most latitudes. A session big on activity and movement is best. In 2020 the biggest sports event will be the Tokyo Olympics, and in 2021, China and the US will host indoor and outdoor athletics world championships. Mascots and accessories will be for sale - perfect as party prizes and to theme your child’s day.
Athletics offer basic, fun, race-based competitions without special gear. Make sure in the invite that kids wear trainers and loose clothing. Devise a friendly, inclusive points system. If there’s an age or skill gap, use a handicap system. Otherwise most kids enjoy flat races, jumping, low hurdles, and something team-based at the end. Most kids’ sports coaches know a tonne of fun, play-based warm-up drills that you’ll find online. The birthday kid will know their favourite games from PE. And the more active the group is, the happier and quieter they’ll be when they sit down to eat…
A nice touch in the spirit of global sport is to serve food from the host country. Hot food can be a little harder to organise in quantities. Remember cooler bags insulate warm food too if you want to serve mounds of rice or noodles.
Dishes from the host country
Mini global sports event
Theme: Outdoors art
The best month for outdoors parties! You can likely set up tables and chairs outside for quieter activities in the sunshine. Huge quantities of art supplies with a free-for-all spirit allow the kids to pursue their own projects at their own pace. Tonnes of chalk always draw kids in - let them loose on tarmac, flagstones, rocks. Relax, it will wash away soon enough.
Do you prefer slightly more control? Huge rolls of coloured paper (or paper table cloths) with generously equipped supplies stations down the length of the table will be a success. Chunky crayons, paint tubs, ink & stamps. The attraction here is the large scale, which kids aren’t normally given. Prizes for best effort? A white T-shirt with fabric pens which the winner can bring home - it ties in with your theme.
The table’s already out! You can segue the art projects into the party meal by placing big platters of finger food - no sauces! - down the length of it. This is less disruptive and allows the more enthusiastic young artists to complete what they’ve started, without the more impatient ones being forced to wait.
Finger food for easy transition
Art at scale
Our own XL slip and slide makes for a hassle-free party idea, but there are loads of exciting options! Ensure the invite makes it clear that kids bring towels and swimwear to change in and out of, so they’ll be dry and comfortable once the fun winds down for mealtime.
You can space out designated Cornucopia zones for a variety of water guns. Throw in some hazards for those who want to upgrade their weapon - Hunger Games-style. If the kids are young, don’t complicate it. Have huge tubs available outdoors for filling their water guns easily - at their height - and leave them to it.
Depending on the weather forecast, you can consider a simple warm meal like a chili at the end. They have less body fat than us. Even when running around there’s a risk they’ll cool down during water games. They’ll be ready for slices of water-melon or ice cream after that.
Next level water fights with hazards
Theme: Shaded fun
In hot weather energy levels drop. You don´t want solo responsibility for fifteen sunburnt necks either. A perfect, gentle shaded activity can be a riverside duck race. Search for character rubber ducks. They come as everything from Batman to Benjamin Franklin, which makes selection fun. Prizes for first across the line, first duck to hit sand, etc. Making boats is also fun. Best prepare some colour & design elements like ready-made miniature sails.
Without a suitable riverbank, kids can also create their own shade. Building dens in groups of 3 or 4 is memorable and different. You can make this as hard or easy as you want - high end bushcraft for older kids, where they actually learn a skill, or a pile-up of chairs, blankets and screens for younger ones to choose from.
It’s friendliest if they build in a circle facing each other. At the end they can collect platters of cold food and tuck in - in their own dens. Don’t overestimate the sense of achievement kids gain from erecting a structure - and be on hand to help it stay up...
Cold platters for easy serving
Add bushcraft or camping skills
Theme: Mission impossible
Predictably dry weather allows some fun, forward planning for a spy-themed birthday party. If you have trees or poles, set up a trail of strings at children’s waist height and line the kids up blindfolded. Once the first contenders reach the end of their trail, they can take off their blindfold and pick up an envelope with further instructions.
Their missions can be as hard or as easy as the age group dictates. If you plan around groups of 4 children then each of the kids can be given a big challenge, with loud support from their group!
One might have to hit an archery target before picking up further instructions behind it. Simple code-breaking ties in with the spy theme. As does a final water gun shoot out.
Sophisticated kids in the service of their country deserve sophisticated food. Asian dishes are a little more interesting than kids’ party food in the west and if you throw in chopsticks, then for some Europeans that adds a final challenge and an international touch.
Blind-folded trailfinding, codebreaking and archery
Theme: Ball games 101
Ball games keep everyone on the move in cooler weather. They are highly inclusive if you prepare different challenges for different kids. Football, table tennis and fun versions of rugby or basketball can be tailored to suit all skill levels (see our blog on bridging skills gaps).
If your child is up for trying something new, a slightly more niche sport like volleyball or handball opens the session up equally for everyone. It becomes a fun introduction to a new ball game rather than a showboating opportunity - your child knows their peer group best and will advise.
Guests need trainers and loose clothing. Ensure the warm-up is play-based, there are tonnes of fun drills for this online. Older kids will be happy with agreed rules and a basic game of football or a table tennis tournament. Younger kids could do with breaking it up into simple coaching sessions. Football penalty shoot-outs create fun tension and happy shouting before you wrap up for food. Whatever food is sold in the stadium in your country ties in nicely - hot dogs, pasties, fancy fries or nachos.
This is really just tig with bells on.
Make this as fancy as you want with all out scary dressing up. The simplest version just requires training bibs in pockets. That’s the easiest for the opposition to “catch” - pull out.
All kinds of catching games tie in with this, depending on space. Catchers can grab the bibs from the runners. Runners turn into zombies and you can apply a tonne of fun rules for the zombies. Some zombie paraphernalia, like masks, can be handed over to the new undead.
Model it on capture the flag, British bulldogs or other playground staples. The birthday child is likely to be very excited drawing up rules for this.
Draw up some achievements which are awarded prizes. Last kid not caught, scariest-looking zombie, most effective catcher. Shop shelves will be groaning with scary accessories which make cool, themed prizes.
Hot, savoury Halloween food like gross pizzas
Zombie paraphernalia to spice up classic catching games
Embrace all the light festival gear on offer, from celebrating Diwali to St. Martins. Kids love lanterns and candles.
You can hoist permanent lanterns in the air after the kids have had fun decorating them. Another theme is candle making; this is messy so happily done outdoors! Loads of kits are available. Some require a source of heat and some patience - and obviously a reasonable outside temperature. Simpler set-ups, like beeswax candle making kits, don’t come cheap but make for beautiful party favours once completed.
As the kids will have worked with their gloves off, warming mugs of soup will be welcome. Kids are very accepting of fun & different formats for parties. You can stay out for longer as the candles will look gorgeous in the dark. Replace the birthday cake with Filipino or Japanese hotcakes, or Nutella-filled crepes, so everyone stays comfortable.
If you want a gentler wrap-up you can bring the kids inside for cake and let them bring the candles or lanterns home as favours.
Hotcakes or crepes
Candle or lantern making
If you live in an amazing four-season climate, embrace it with an ice art party! If snow is less reliable, you need an easily accessible chest freezer. There are incredible tips online for beautiful, child-friendly ice projects. For each child to make an ice lantern, you need to pre-freeze sheets of ice (on plastic sheets or trays) and have colourful tea candles for the kids to choose from. Other semi-frozen resources to work with include water-filled balloons or fun shapes. Kids can add liquid colouring for individual artwork.
Let their projects freeze to completion while they eat. An outdoors menu which works in sub-zero weather is your child’s favourite soup with rolls just out of the oven. The easiest sweet treat served warm is churros. Faces light up at hot chocolate too, twice as appreciated outdoors as inside!
Churros & hot chocolate
Ice art (you’ll need a freezer!)