Do-It-Yourself Birthday Parties and Party Planning Ideas

Submitted by SpringfieldMoms Contributor Allison Klint.

Birthdays are a treasured memory. If you are looking for birthday party ideas you can organize yourself, look no further. Creative Birthday party ideas can be a simple as 1-2-3. Here are some easy ideas that won’t break the bank. You will be amazed what you can do with ordinary items around the house for your child’s birthday. And don’t fret if your child wants a themed birthday party like Dora or Diego or even Hannah Montana. You can take some of the activities or decoration ideas from the list below and customize.

Here are some ideas sure to bring a smile to your child’s face. Enjoy! · ABC Party · An “Almost” Sleepover/Pajama Party · Bikes on Parade · Cars · Construction Junction · Fire Trucks · Footprints/Handprints (especially nice for 1st Birthday parties) · “I Oughta Be In the Pictures!” Party · Lady Bug or Butterfly · Luau · Powder Puff Princess Party · Rainbow · Teddy Bear Picnic · Treasure Hunt/Pirates  

ABC Party

  • Invitations/Thank-you cards: White paper with letter stickers all over them. Use all the leftover scrapbook stickers you never seem to use. Or send an E-vite.
  • Decorations: ABC’s all over the house in Primary Colors. Either cut them out of construction paper or print them off the computer. Consider using banners from your child’s learning CDs. I have used banners from several “JumpStart” CDs.
  • Cake/Food: Make mini or regular cupcakes and then assemble them to look like the letter of his/her first name. If this is too much work, make a regular cake and write letters all over the top or look around the house and see what little toys (once put through the dishwasher) can fit on top of the cake that goes with the ABC theme. If you are having more of a lunch or dinner and need food ideas, make Campbell’s ABC soup with grilled cheese. I have also seen alphabet pretzels you could use as a side dish. You don’t need to go overboard. Embellish here and there, and it will be a huge hit!
  • Activities: (1) Find the missing letter. Make letters out of construction paper and hide them all throughout the house. If there’s enough time, put the letters in a pile afterwards and see if you can make words or the entire alphabet! (2) Hangman – Put up an easel or have copy paper on hand and play this trusty game. Let the birthday girl/boy go first and then whoever guesses the correct answer takes the next turn.
  • Goody Bags or Party Favors: Send home a bag of AlphaBit Cereal, a pencil and some stickers.

An Almost Sleepover/Pajama Party

(A party where they come in their PJs but don’t stay!)kids in monkey pajamas

  • Invitations/thank-you cards:A card in the shape of a pillowcase or a pajama top. Or send an emailed E-vite.
  • Decorations: Stars and moons.
  • Cake/Food: A cake that looks like a sleeping bag. If dinner is planned, serve waffles and pancakes.
  • Activities: (1) Musical pillows – musical chairs but with pillows (2) pass the Teddy Bear – play music and pass a teddy bear. When the music stops, whoever is holding the teddy bear is the winner. (3) Make designer pillowcases with plain pillowcases and fabric markers. Put cardboard or a paper grocery bag inside the pillowcases just in case the markers bleed.
  • Goody Bags or Party Favors: Pillowcases and stuffed animal.

Bikes on Parade

  • Invitations/Thank-you cards: A bicycle tire. Start with construction paper or plain white copy paper. Fold the paper in half. Cut on the fold to make a circle. Color and add spokes to make the circle look like a tire. Or go to the computer and use clip art. They have lots of bicycles. Print on any color of paper. Remind each child to bring their bike to the party for a parade. Or send an online invitation if time is of the essence.Vanessa Biking
  • Decorations: Use racing flags and helmets as centerpieces and to hang up in doorways.
  • Cake/Food: Bake using a round cake pan to make the cake look like a tire. Otherwise, the dollar store has lots of little bike toys you can stick on a regular 13×9 cake.
  • Activities: Have the kids decorate their bikes and have a birthday parade on your block! Buy streamers they can weave in the spokes of their bikes. Grab cans from the recycling bin, wash them out, tie string to the tops and then fasten them to the back of each bike.
  • Goody Bags/Party Favors: Fill plastic trophies with candy and flags.


  • Invitations/Thank-you cards: A car, of course. Trace one of your son’s cars (either profile or all the way around) on a sheet of paper and then add details. Better yet, ask your husband (he’ll love it) to draw a car. It’ll make him feel like a kid again too! Or there’s always the computer, clip art and even webdings (font). Just enlarge and write in the pertinent information. Also, remind the kids to bring one of their favorite cars with them to them party! (See Activities below.) Or send an online email if you are crunched for time and/or money.Connor toddler activities
  • Decorations: Use or make racing flags to hang up in doorways. Make “Stop” and “Yield” signs out of construction paper or from the computer and place on walls throughout the house. Put a finish line where the cake will be served.
  • Cake/Food: Decorate a regular 13×9 cake with white icing then make a black road with white striping and place a brand-new hot wheels car in the center. Either make stop signs in the corners of the cake or find some miniature ones at the dollar store.
  • Activities:(1) Buy some masking tape and make a track on your kitchen tile or even on the carpet. Let your guests and birthday boy decide where to put the roads if you want. This activity is so much fun! Make ramps by putting down empty food boxes and then run the masking tape over the top. The possibilities are endless here. Who knows you may be nurturing a future city road commissioner or engineer with this activity. (2) Another idea: Red light, Green light with the cars or even with your guests.
  • Goody Bags/Party Favors: 1 or 2 Hot Wheels car(s) and some car tattoos. Oriental trading is a good place to look for tattoos in bulk.

Color Me Happy Party

  • Invitations/Thank-you cards: An Artist’s palette with a rainbow of colors. Make out of white paper. Then add colors with markers. Or a cutout of a crayon box and the invitation is inside the crayon box. Either way, ask each child to wear his/her favorite color to the party. If time is not on your side, send an E-vite.tweens painting
  • Decorations: Colorful streamers galore. Hang them from doorways and light fixtures. Go crazy! Make a few more artists palettes and stick them on the wall or as a centerpiece. Or have your child color some coloring pages and hang them up.
  • Cake/Food: Cupcakes in multi-colors, cake with artist’s palette, a cake that looks like a crayon or a big yellow smiley face. The crayon could be made out of 2 bread loaf pans. Use an 8″ square pan for the top by cutting the square into a triangle. Face the crust side out so it’s easier to ice that part. The smiley face would be easy, just use a round cake pan and buy yellow and black frosting gel to make the face. Frosting gel can be found at Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby or any place that sells cake supplies or crafts. The frosting gel really gives your white frosting the deep color.
  • Activities: (1) Play a modified twister game or Twister if you have it! The modified twister game is just cutting out circles and coloring them each a different color (and make multiples of each color). Place the circles on the floor and then have someone call out a color. The kids find the color and then stand on it. Then call out a different color. (2) Fingerpaint. Lay down a big plastic tablecloth and let them have their day in the sun! If the weather is nice, do this activity outside. Tack a long white sheet of paper on your fence and let them paint a masterpiece. (3) If you feel really adventuresome, have each guest sharpen some crayons and use the crayon shavings for a picture. Take the shavings, place them between two pieces of wax paper, iron them and then cut them into shapes. The ironing part is the coolest, so you might want to set this up somewhere so all the guests can watch!
  • Goody Bags/Party Favors: A box of crayons or a set of watercolors, a coloring book and some candy or fruit snacks.

Fire Trucks

  • Invitations/thank-you cards: A ladder (easy to make), a Dalmatian dog or a fire hat. I’ve seen most of these at local party stores. Or send an E-vite.
  • Decorations: Red streamers. Use your son’s fire trucks for a centerpiece. Buy some plastic fire hats for the guests when they come through the safety
  • Cake/Food: A fire truck. I’ve made this one myself! Use an 8″ square pan for the cab of the fire truck. Use a 13X9 for the back. Buy red, black and yellow frosting gel. Frosting gel can be found at Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby or any place that sells cake supplies or crafts. The frosting gel really gives your white frosting the deep color. Also, keep some white icing too. The two cakes are mostly red. Black is for the tires and parts of the cab. White icing is for the ladders. Yellow is for the siren.
  • Activities: (1) Pin the hose on the fire hydrant. Make a fire hydrant out of construction paper. Use red construction paper. Cut out a rectangle and then a trapezoid for the top. Cut out white/gray hoses with a red triangle for the nozzle. (2) After the cake and presents, take a trip to your local fire station. Just call a week ahead to set up a time. We did this for my son’s 3rd birthday, and it was a blast!
  • Goody Bags/Party Favors: Plastic fire hat, red hots candy and Dalmatian dog stickers.

Footprints/Handprints (Especially for “1st” Birthday Theme!)

  • Invitations/thank-you cards: Paint your child’s hand/foot print and stamp onto white paper. Or send an online invitation with a picture of the soon-to-be 1 year old.
  • Decorations: Make handprints and footprints and cut out. Put them all over the house. Embellish with photos of your bundle of joy’s 1st year!Greta Madiar first birthday
  • Cake/Food: Take one of the invitations and lay it on top of the cake. Decorate around it. Remove the paper once you are about to serve the cake.
  • Activities: (1) Paint with shaving cream. Add food coloring for some extra fun. (2) Buy Make and Bake clay – sold at local crafts stores. Have your guests make a hand/footprint keepsake. (3) Make pictures out of handprints, fingerprints, and/or footprints. Barnes and Noble sells books on how to make these adorable prints. Or online offers great ideas.
  • Goody Bags/Party Favors: If the party is in the winter, fill up gloves or mittens with goodies. Otherwise, cut out a foam handprint/footprint of the guest of honor and stick on a colorful paper sack. Fill goody bags with bite size cookies, mini stamps and stamp pads.

“I Oughta Be in Pictures” 

My grade school daughter was invited to one of these parties and LOVED it!

  • Invitations/thank-you cards: Trace a pair of sunglasses. Make different colored pairs with the pattern by folding colored paper in half. Be sure to cut on the seam. Cut out black ovals for the lenses and embellish with glitter and the like. Information goes inside. Or if time is of the essence, have the birthday girl email out the invitations.
  • Decorations: Make a runway or a red carpet somewhere in your house. Hang gold and silver stars everywhere. Even put your guests’ names on some stars.
  • Cake/Food: A picture frame. Bake with a regular 13″X9″ pan. Decorate cake with a photocopied picture of the birthday girl in the middle and frame her with icing.
  • Activities: (1) Make autograph books. Use scrap paper, hole punch the sides and attach with sparkly ribbon. Have each guest sign each other’s books as they finish walking down the red carpet/runway. (2) Have a catwalk and take pictures. (3) Dress up and take glamour shots that can be used later as thank-you cards. (4) Make jewelry with beads.
  • Goody Bags/Party Favors: Autograph books and jewelry.
  • For TWEEN Age girls, have a party photo shoot.  

Ladybug or Butterfly Party

  • Invitations/thank-you cards: A ladybug or caterpillar. Take red construction paper and fold it into fourths creates a ladybug. Make it resemble a double-paned door. Have the doors open from inside out. Put on a black head and black spots and PRESTO – a ladybug. For a caterpillar, use pom-pom balls or just different colors of construction paper for the body. Add eyes and antennae.ladybug
  • Decorations: Make ladybugs, butterflies and caterpillars out of construction paper and hang them all over the house. Embellish with butterfly nets if you so choose.
  • Cake/Food: Make a ladybug cake. (I’ve made this one before.) Use Pyrex mixing bowls for the body and head. Ice with red frosting gel. Frosting gel can be found at Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby or any place that sells cake supplies or crafts. The frosting gel really gives your white frosting the deep color. Use Oreo cookies or thin mints for the spots and black licorice for the antennae. Or if this cake is not in your future, try chocolate pudding with crushed Oreos in a Styrofoam cup as the flowerpot. Make lollipop cookies in the shape of a flower and stick in the cup. Or the easiest yet – make cookies in the shape of a flower and have the guests decorate them.
  • Activities: (1) Make bughouses out of old plastic butter tubs. Decorate with stickers and gems. (2) Buy magnifying glasses for the guests and have them go explore bugs in your backyard. Set limits so they don’t turn over every stone. Then have them place the bugs in their bughouses.
  • Goody Bags/Party Favors: Gummy worms and magnifying glasses in a Chinese take-home container. Plus, the butterfly nets and/or bughouses if you choose to go that route.


  • Invitations/thank-you cards: Any colorful flower cutout will do. Look online as well. There might be some cute E-vites.Luau Birthday Party Girls
  • Decorations: Yellow/orange/hot pink streamers. Transform your house into a grass hut! Local party stores have tons of items too. You might even think about using things such as banners, etc. from you child’s learning CDs or the Internet.
  • Cake/Food: A white cake with colorful flowers all over it. If dinner is involved, then make BBQ pork sandwiches, pineapple and chips.
  • Activities: (1) Make leis. Buy fake flowers from the dollar store. Pop the tops off. Make sure you can see through the tops of the flowers, so the needle can go through the flower. Thread a large darning needle with cross-stitch thread and pull through flower. (2) Do the limbo. Grab the end of a broomstick and Limbo Baby! (3) Have a hula hoop contest.
  • Goody Bags/Party Favors: A lei, some raisins or other dried tropical fruits and a hula hoop.

Princess Party

  • Invitations/thank-you cards: A crown or any Disney princess invitation.Young Girl Playing By Herself
  • Decorations: Turn one room in your house into a beauty salon. Set up kid tables and chairs. Plug in a portable lighted vanity mirror, if you have one. Collect every princess dress, crown, earring, ring and bracelet you have. (You might be surprised how much you DO have J!) Make a dress-up chest for the birthday girl and her guests.
  • Cake/Food: A crown or a princess. These molds can be picked up at any craft store. I made a princess cake using a Pyrex bowl for the shape of the dress. Then, I picked up a doll at a craft store and stuck it in the middle of the cake and decorated around the doll. I’ve seen these cakes at the local grocery stores and gave it a try. Very easy!
  • Activities: Play beauty shop and dress up. Paint fingernails and toenails. Put on make-up. Adults may join in too! Take photos. The little princesses will have a blast!
  • Goody Bags/Party Favors: Lips gloss and crowns stuffed inside little purses.

Rainbow Party

  • Invitations/thank-you cards: A rainbow, of course. Let that inner child come out! Use construction paper and markers to make beautiful invitations! I’m sure the birthday girl will want to help too! Remember to ask each guest to wear a bright color to the party.
  • Decorations: Lots of colorful streamers. Or make different colors of lollipops and hang them on the walls. Or make pots of gold and bright cheery suns too! Mix and match – color is the key!painting
  • Cake/Food: Make mini cupcakes with different colors of icing and then arrange into a rainbow.
  • Activities: (1) Play Candyland. (2) Play with colorful beanbags. Either buy them online or make them yourself using rice as the filler. (3) Make a human rainbow. Help arrange the children into a colorful order then have them lay down side by side. Take photos of this beautiful smiling human rainbow! (4) If it is nice outside, make rainbows using sidewalk chalk. (5) Make rainbows using glitter, glue and markers. (6) If your child is older, think about showing them how they can make the colors of the rainbow using a prism, a white sheet of paper and the sun.
  • Goody Bags/Party Favors: Gum drops or lollipops in a pail decorated with stickers.  Or if you’re feeling cutesy, put yellow starbursts into the pail for a Pot O’ Gold. These pails can be found at a craft store.

Teddy Bear Picnic

  • Invitations/thank-you cards: Teddy bear cards or red and white checkered tablecloths made out of construction paper or even fabric. Have the guests bring their teddy bears or favorite stuffed animal.
  • Decorations: Place a red and white checkered tablecloth on the floor with a picnic basket as the centerpiece. Or better yet, if it is a nice day, have the picnic outside!
  • Cake/Food: Any kind of finger food. Make the cake the shape of a teddy bear. Teddy bear molds are available at any craft store. Or bake cookies and have the guests decorate them. Try a smorgasbord sundae bar.pj-day
  • Activities: (1) Play tug of war. (2) Hula hoop contest. (3) Play dress up with the bears/animals. (4) Make placemats using clear contact paper. You will use these placemats for tons of play later! Collect old scrapbook paper scraps, old greeting cards or even a deck of cards. Use these items for the decoration of the placemat. Cut 2 sheets of contact paper per placemat. Peel off paper from one sheet of contact paper. Place the old greeting cards (or whatever you choose to use) on the sticky side and then peel off the remaining sheet of contact paper and place on top of the greeting cards (sticky side down).
  • Goody Bags/Party Favors: Teddy bear fruit snacks or gummy bears with a plastic pinwheel.
  • Treasure Hunt/Pirates
  • Invitations/thank-you cards: A map. Cut out large irregular squares from brown grocery bags. Print party details on white sheet of paper. Glue white sheet of paper onto brown square. Roll up and tie with a string to resemble a treasure map!
  • Decorations: Skull and cross bones and treasure chests hanging on the walls. “X” marks the spot on the room or the table where the cake will be served. Lay out eye patches on the table for the crew.
  • Cake/Food: An “X” for “X” marks the spot. Or a white iced cake with a treasure chest on top. Or if you are feeling creative, a treasure map.
  • Activities: (1) Make binoculars out of used toilet paper rolls. Staple the toilet paper rolls together and thread with a string. (2) Bury treasures in the sandbox, the flower beds or under shredded newspaper in the driveway. Just remember to set limits or otherwise your yard might be declared a scientific dig. (3) Invite Jewel the Pirate (from Twinkle and company (see her ad on Bday Party Directory) to your party for extra fun and a treasure hunt!
  • Goody Bags/Party Favors: Binoculars, gold foiled chocolate coins and eye patches.

Wall Football

  • Create a goal post from 2-inch wide strips of poster board (upright pieces and bar should be 20 inches, and post should be about 6 inches). Attach the pieces to the wall using poster adhesive, or something that won’t pull paint
  • Cut 5-inch footballs out of brown cardstock or posterboard (easily found at your local craft store). Sometimes you can find scrapbooking paper that looks like the surface of a football.
  • Get a white opaque marker (see-through) to decorate the ball with strips, stitching, and the child’s name. Put a piece of poster adhesive on the back of each one.
  • Line up the players about 6 feet from the wall with the goal. Blindfold each player, spin them around a few times and let them “make a goal.”
  • Rule: No feeling the wall for the right place! Play several rounds, and give 3 points for each goal.




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