As children get older, between 9 and 12 years old, I have found they want birthday parties about their interests, whether those interests are friends or activities. You may not need to think through a focused birthday party theme or a predictable structure like you did when your children were younger.
“Every year, you want a themed party less and less. It’s less important to you. I just want to spend time with my friends and family. I don’t need a huge party to be happy with my birthday. There used to be a lot more party guests, but now I only want to invite the people who are my best friends and my family.” My 13-year old daughter
This is also the age when my children started asking for parties with just girls or boys. Segregated parties. I didn’t think it would happen, but this is the calm before the storm when teen parties most definitely have boys and girls.
Each phase in childhood, each age range, requires a different approach. Each child may require a different approach as well. Last year, all my son wanted for his birthday was to play mini golf with my husband and a couple of friends. It was a boys afternoon out, and they had a great time. The family always has a separate meal and party from the friend party, so my daughter and I didn’t mind at all.
“I like having a big cake. Mama makes great cakes. Even if the birthday party isn’t themed, you can have the cake themed.” My 10-year old son
“I used to think that every birthday party needed a cake, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a cake. For the past few birthdays I’ve had key lime pie, and I’m really happy with it.” My 13-year old daughter
Don’t worry too much as the parent that you have to come up with ideas for your child’s party. Gradually encourage your child to step up into more responsibility for the ideas, the planning, and the party itself. Brainstorm with your child what their ideal day would be. See how you can plan a party to help them make their birthday wish come true.
“Oh, it’s so cold. Why is my birthday always so cold? I want to be outside with my friends.”
How about a beach party for a winter birthday. Invite guests to dress for summer under their winter coats and play what beach games you can indoors. Wear sunglasses. Serve picnic foods. Play summer songs. Create a whole atmosphere of summer fun to take them out of the cold winter temporarily.
“I want to climb a mountain!”
If you have a mountain to climb, go on a birthday hike. If you don’t have a nearby mountain, go rock climbing indoors. My local recreation center has a rock climbing wall. I reserved it for an hour and sent a dozen kids scaling up and down the wall. When they were tired and hungry, I fed them lunch and birthday cake shaped like a climbing wall with multi-colored hand holds. It was a simple, active party.
“I want to spend all day with my friends.”
A sleepover can be one long birthday party. This is the age when my children were first willing to sleep over at friends’ houses. A sleepover birthday party could turn into backyard camping with a campfire dinner, a dance party, and scary stories with flashlights. They may not need much structure, but it helps to have a few planned activities spaced out through the evening. In the morning, have everyone join in to cook their own breakfast before going home. They end up spending a good chunk of a day together.
Tips from My Children
- The birthday cake doesn’t have to be a cake.
- A birthday party doesn’t have to have a theme.
- Party favors can be one big thing instead of many little things.
- Parents should come to the party.
- Ask your children what they want rather than suggesting a theme.
- Make sure that they really want the flavor of cake before you make it.
- Encourage them not to just settle for whatever you want.
On Friday, I look forward to telling you all about my daughter’s favorite birthday party ever for her 11th birthday. I will tell you that she wanted to be an eco-super hero, but you’ll have to come back to read the rest.