Between the ages of 5 and 8 years old, children are immersed in imaginative play. They love dress up, and they don’t look for direction from adults in creating their characters. A birthday party for young children should take full advantage of this phase. Give the children plenty of chance to be the characters, to tell the story, and to make up the party as they go.
Kids Birthday Party Theme Ideas
For an imaginative play birthday party, set the scene and provide enough structure that the party still feels like a party. Once you show the children the direction for a game or activity, though, give them plenty of space to add their own creativity, noise, and enthusiasm.
Decorations. Bynature.ca carries the perfect pirate party decorations: a reusable party banner of pirate flags and reusable pirate hats. The rest of the party could include the brightest red or plainest white play silks as flags. If you have any parrot stuffed animals, they need to either go on someone’s shoulder or perch around the room. Transform the food table into a ship. Put snacks in a treasure chest, easily made from a box if you don’t have a chest handy. Use all of the blue play silks, blankets, and sheets to create a watery scene.
Games & Activities. Every band of small pirates needs to go on a treasure hunt. When we had a pirate birthday party, we had both readers and non-readers, so we created both written and visual clues for the hunt. We made the hunt itself cooperative, so that all of the pirates had to reach the end together, and all of the gifts and favors were waiting at the end of the hunt. For other activities, you could have each guest take turns talking like a pirate and have everyone else try to translate what they say into English.
Food. My son had a brief obsession with pirate-themed food after we checked out The Pirate Cook Book from the library. I had to track down this out-of-print book and buy it. Jiggling juice bar icebergs, fish-shaped sandwiches, and twice-baked potato pirate boats came in handy at a couple of parties. The cake itself could be a treasure map, a ship, or chest of loot.
Favors. Our pirates took home their loot in cloth bandanas, but we also carry reusable pirate party gift bags. Appropriate loot for these bags would be gold (small cookies), jewelry (homemade), and snacks. I’m not sure Caribbean pirates looked for snacks, but I am sure your young pirates will like snacks.
Decorations. How to decorate depends on the kind of dragons your child is interested in. Right now, my daughter is very interested in Chinese dragons. When she was small, she was more interested in the average cave-dwelling, treasure guarding dragon. Keep the party theme to one type of dragon, and create the party space as an appropriate lair. Some dragon parties might have the children fight the dragon, but I think the children will want to BE the dragon—a whole weyr (herd) of dragons.
Games & Activities. I like having one of the party activities be creating one’s own party favor. For a dragon party, a dragon puppet makes a great craft and favor. Children this age can sew, but a party is not the time for a closely supervised activity. Give each child a sock or another basic hand puppet shape. Provide pre-cut dragon scales, eyes, teeth, and other decorations along with glue. Give them general instructions, but they will have a good idea how to proceed. After they let their puppets dry as they eat or play, they can come back to the dragon puppets and all join together acting out a dragon drama. Another quick game could be Pin (or maybe Stick) the Scales on the Dragon.
Food. A dragon cake is great fun to decorate. I baked multiple round cakes and pieced them together to make a big, snaking dragon. I mounted the mouth on a large spatula to hold it open. I used gummy candy to decorate: gummy teeth for the mouth, Swedish fish for the scales, red licorice fire coming out of the mouth, and big gummy eyes staring out at all of the children. Even short of the 4-foot long monster I created, a dragon cake can be made at any scale. Even cupcakes can be made into dragon faces.
Favors. As with pirates, those who party with dragons often end up with gold, jewels, and similar loot. Maybe guests would like to take home a dragon soft toy or mask to continue the dress up and play. At my daughter’s dragon birthday party, guests had to work for their loot. We created a dragon out of a box about 4′ high and 2′ on each side. The teeth were made from egg cartons mounted on giant BBQ tongs. Children had to reach inside the dragon’s mouth to look for treasure. Sometimes they got little nips (though my husband was a very gentle dragon), but they all came away with gifts. The guests were 6 to 8 years old, and they screamed in delight at every bite.