A list of 17 indoor and outdoor children's birthday party ideas that won't break the bank!
Published: May 31, 2018
By: Christina Katz
I don’t mean to brag, but my husband and I have thrown quite a few awesome birthday parties over the years. However, when reflecting back over all the parties we’ve thrown, it’s clear to me that the most memorable parties were not the most elaborate or even the most expensive. They were simply the messiest. Messy and birthday parties go together better than you might imagine. After all, what could be more festive than a little bit of parent-approved pandemonium?
In that spirit, here is a list of 17 indoor and outdoor ideas that won’t break the bank.
- Take aim, color. Mark off a square play arena outdoors with five-feet-tall bamboo garden stakes and blue painters’ masking tape. Fill squirt guns or squirt bottles with non-toxic watercolor paints, don a pair of clear swim goggles, and let the kids decorate each other dressed in white t-shirts and leggings or sweats. The only rule is no one leaves the field until the paint is all spent.
- Take a whack at it. Fill a store-bought piñata two-thirds of the way full with cooked, well-drained spaghetti. Add small plastic toys, foil-wrapped granola bars, and plastic wrapped candies. To extend the fun, hang the piñata on a pull cord threaded through an eyehook so you can pull it up and down as kids swing at it with a bat or broom handle. Secure a tarp underneath with duct tape (indoors) or camping stakes (outdoors) for easy cleanup.
- Eggcentric art. Break the tops off real eggs and pour the yolks and whites into plastic storage containers to make quiche or a soufflé later. Keeping empty shells in the carton, fill each with acrylic paints of various colors. Outside or in the garage or basement, hang a large canvas against a sturdy wall or fence and let the kids take aim and fire until they make a masterpiece. Use plastic drop cloths to catch the splatters as needed.
- Franken-beauty. Make natural facial masks out of banana, avocado or cocoa. Sit guests around a large table in pairs to take turns applying masks to each other’s faces. Be sure to have some hand mirrors handy so everyone can see what all the squeals are about.
- Construction Junction. Supply lots of sheets, blankets and pillows for fort construction. If you can mount a few hula hoops strategically around the room, they come in handy. You might also supply bandanas and bungee cords. Be sure to inspect the results for hazards. Keep food and drinks strictly separate.
- Reach for the foam. Play messy Twister in the yard by mixing foam shaving cream and food coloring. Wear clothing that can get stained. If stains aren’t desired, simply use white shaving cream for the same effect.
- Pudding slide. Make about a gallon of chocolate pudding. Drop large spoonfuls of pudding onto a Slip & Slide. Have guests take a running start down a low-grade slope. To make the slide more slippery, have guests sprinkle it with water from a sprinkler can or set the hose sprayer to mist. Add more pudding or water, as needed.
- Slime ball. Find an online recipe to make nontoxic slime and let guests prepare it. Then play a game of hide the bouncy ball in the slime. Use a blindfold and a timer to see who can find their party favors the fastest. Enjoy the groans.
- Picasso footsie. Roll out a long sheet of paper and pour puddles of acrylic paint at one end. Have each guest step in one color per foot and walk across the paper. Switch to the other side of the paper to balance out the look. Hang art on a fence or wall to dry.
- Musical silly string. Put half the group in the middle on a plastic tarp. Encircle guests with the other half of the group. Turn on the music. Have the inside group move in one direction and the outside group move in the other direction, while spraying the inside group with silly string. When the music is turned off, switch groups.
- Pasta fling.Cook one box of spaghetti per party guest. Fill some five-gallon buckets two-thirds of the way with water. Add enough flour to thicken the water, then add spaghetti. The only rules are: use your own spaghetti, no bucket-dumping, and no touching – just throwing. Put them in the square play arena and get the heck out of the way.
- Mud puddle fun. On a sturdy table at playing height, fill a small kiddie pool with dirt and just enough water to make mud. Add digging and pouring toys for an hour of industry for young guests.
- Duck-Duck-Dump. Have kids sit in a circle for a game of Duck-Duck-Goose. But first, hand them a cup of water and a half-cup of flour to pour over each goose’s head.
- The opposite of tiny bubbles. Make bubble mix with ten cups of regular Dawn Dish soap and five gallons of water. Let it sit overnight. Do not agitate the solution as you pour it into a small wading pool slightly larger than a Hula Hoop in diameter. Have guest don a pair of clear goggles and stand in the middle of the pool without splashing. Let two party guests lower a Hula Hoop over the guest and then pull it straight up into a giant bubble.
- Three-legged color run. Set up a start and finish line for a short jaunt. Tie the legs of two guests together and have them wear clear swim goggles and white play clothing. Have other guests stand on the sidelines and throw color from bags of nontoxic Holi colors (the type used for Color Runs, available online). The winners take on the next pair of challengers until everyone has run. The most colorful pair wins.
- Sloppy volley.Divide guests into two groups. Put a line across the center or your play arena like a tennis court. Everyone has to stay on their own team and wear swim goggles. Place a table of supplies within reach of the backcourt. On the table, supply large bowls of chilled mashed potatoes, Jello, pudding, and cooked oatmeal. Tint food with food coloring if clothing can be stained. On your mark, get set, food fight!
- “Trashion” runway. For a couple of months before the party, don’t discard your reusable recyclables. Spread them out evenly in tarps with plenty of clear tape, masking tape, painter’s tape and duct tape. Pair guests up into design teams. Give a time limit like one hour. The assignment is to design a runway-worthy fashion for each team out of only the trash that’s been supplied. Have a runway show afterward to display the results.
Like most parents, Christina Katz’ first instinct is not necessarily to throw the messiest party. But she’s learned that sometimes it’s fun to throw tidiness out the window for the sake of big birthday fun.
Making Messy Work For You
Remember, the key to throwing an unforgettable party isn’t about choosing the trendiest theme or the hottest destination or decorating your guts out with the latest Pinspirations. The key is simply to let kids make a mess and have fun doing it. These tips will save you some sanity.
- If you can’t go outside, consider using a well-ventilated garage, shed, or basement.
- Check out the painting supply section of your local store for inexpensive items to protect your party space.
- Have a designated photographer who may not be slimed, spaghettied or painted.
- If you only have one messy activity planned, save the best for last.
- If you go with a totally messy party, go with messy food, too, buffet style or make-your-own.
- If you don’t want kids to get stained or dirty, you can still make a mess. Just use smocks, shower caps, and bandanas to cover up.
- The sky’s the limit when it comes to making messes. Use your imagination; then consider safety precautions, as needed.