Around the World Party Take the kids on a vacation without leaving your house! Set up one room like the interior of an airplane, and several other rooms like countries, each room resembling a different place (Tahiti, France, China, etc.). Have the kids start the journey in the airplane room, and serve the passengers peanuts and drinks. As you stop at each "country," bring the kids into that country's room. Each room can have snacks and an activity related to that country. For example, in the Japan room, the kids can eat fortune cookies and learn how to fold origami.
Under the Sea Extravaganza Decorate the party area with relics of the sea, such as seaweed, seashells, and starfish. Swimming and water games are good choices for this party, but that isn't the limit. One idea is to fish for prizes (each guest sends a fishing rod over a wall and someone on the other side attaches a prize to their line). Prizes can include Goldfish Crackers, snorkeling gear, or towels.
Younger kids might enjoy playing in a sandbox, while all ages can play Sharks and Minnows, a version of tag where the person who is it (the shark) has to tag the other players (the minnows). When a minnow gets tagged, they become a shark. In the pool, this takes the form of the shark closing his or her eyes and listening for swimming minnows. If someone gets caught out of the water (shark yells, "Fish out of water!"), the person on land becomes the shark!
Service Birthday Party Some kids may scoff at the idea of a service-oriented birthday, but you would be surprised how many kids love to help! In place of presents, invite guests to bring toys for donating to a charity. Service ideas include making cards for hospitalized children, tying blankets for displaced families, or making key chains for needy kids. And kids love taking a field trip to do a fun service project. Take the party guests to deliver their cards and toys or to sing at a nursing home. For service ideas in your area, check out volunteermatch.org, SERVEnet.org, or idealist.org.
Western Birthday This party is a favorite for younger kids. Make invitations in wanted poster format, with your child's picture at the top. Have the guests come dressed in cowhand attire, and let them practice roping using rocking horses and stuffed animals as the targets. Hide prizes in a sandbox and let the guests pan for "gold." A favorite activity is a squirt gun war with Mom or Dad as the villain.
Rocking Seventies Birthday Both kids and teens love going back in time for a little disco fever. Have the guests come wearing seventies attire such as bell-bottoms, platform shoes, and flared jeans. Decorate the room with a disco ball and let the kids rock out to the sounds of the seventies. Have the guests tie-dye their own shirts or socks. Other activities include decorating records with paint and stickers or learning a seventies line dance such as the Hustle. Don't forget the cake--decorated in the shape of a big, yellow smiley face!
Luau Birthday What could be better than a birthday in Hawaii? Ahead of time, ask around and find someone who knows how to hula. When the kids arrive, welcome them with a lei and a hearty "Aloha!" Teach them fun words they can use: mahalo (thank you), 'olu'olu (please), pupule (crazy), and, of course, Hau'oli La Hanau (Happy Birthday). Barbecue hamburgers, chicken, pork, or shish kabobs--and don't forget the pineapple juice! Challenge party guests to a hula hoop contest or a limbo dance off. Set up a volleyball net and let the guests play some beach volleyball. Ask your "hula expert" to teach the kids a few hula moves, and then let them go crazy to tropical tunes!
Pirate Party The Pirates of the Caribbean movies have increased kids' interest in pirates, so why not use that to your advantage? The kids can come dressed as pirates (eye patches make great party favors). Encourage them to use pirate accents.
Of course, the big hit of the party will be the homemade treasure hunt: Hide a bag of chocolate gold coins, and lead the kids to the treasure using clues. The trail of clues continues until the kids find the treasure!