Creative Parties for Kids

Ask my first-born about his most memorable birthday party, and he’ll tell you about his 6th birthday. We took about 15 kids to an area horse stable where they each got turns riding horses around the ring. For party favors, they got—in addition to the obligatory goodie bag—bandanas that they wore while riding. It was a beautiful spring day. Great pictures. Great memories. Right?


Wrong. It was, as Son No. 1 will tell you a dozen years later, his birthday party from h-e-double-hockey-sticks.

His friends budged him in line (I didn’t see it, honest). And he got an allergic reaction to either the hay or the horses—and his face blew up good. Real good.

Which only goes to prove, the best-laid plans … Still, you’ve got to make them. So here are some new, creative party ideas that, if you’re mindful of budging and allergies, are simple enough and fun-filled enough for pre-schoolers to 8-year-olds to remember for years to come—with a smile.

1. Meet the super heroes:
Contact your local fire department and arrange a tour of their firehouse. Your guests will get to sit in the fire truck, maybe test out the fire pole and even set the siren singing. They’ll get up close and personal with real firefighters—and it doesn’t get much better than that at that age. Then it’s back to your house for a fire truck-shaped cake.

2. Brush with creativity: Turn them into David Hockneys with a trip to Make-a-Messterpiece in Glenview. Messterpiece opened in September in The Glen (2050 Tower Drive, Glenview; 847-730-5275; and has areas for seven different hands-on activities—from a science experimentation station to a sound studio for drumming to a space to explore gravity and color theory with bubbles and paint. Contact Messterpiece for party rates.

3. Rock on: Throw your very own Rock Concert Party. Create invitations that look like Old School concert tickets to a Springsteen affair (think back to the days before you printed them out on your computer). Find a local high school garage band and give ’em a gig—and a stage in your garage.  Make VIP passes to hang on lanyards for guests when they arrive. Wear “STAFF” T-shirts for you, the hosts. For party favors: How about making “tour” T-shirts?

4. Top Chefs-to-be:
Take your party over to the Young Chefs Academy (2825 Pfingsten Rd., Glenview; 847-715-9474;, a cooking school for 3- to 18-year-olds. The 7-month-old academy hosts a variety of parties—including a Teddy Bear Picnic (kids bring their favorite stuffed animal and decorate a t-shirt for it; they also make from scratch and eat teddy bear biscuits and strawberry preserves), a Tea Party (chefs talk about high tea and kids make little cucumber sandwiches and other tea sandwiches) and a Pizza Party (each child makes his own personal size pizza—from the dough up). For pricing, see

5. Y-r-t  s-i-h-T: A Backwards Party! On your invitations, ask guests to wear their clothes backwards to the party. The celebration begins, of course, with cake and ice cream. It moves on to jelly-and-peanut butter sandwiches or cheese-and-macaroni—use your imagination, just think backwards.

Play a game of deciphering simple mirror-image messages: On a small poster board, make backward “flash cards” with a word or a simple sentence (depending on the age of the guests) written backwards. Count off the guests by two, making two teams. Flash the cards and let the teams try to guess the word/message. Small prizes for everyone.