Birthday party ideas for seven-year-old...
June 9, 2015 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Birthday party ideas for seven year old needed; constraints etc. within...

Seven year old girl; we are debating whether to invite her whole grade or selected friends (it's a very small school.) Probably we'd wind up with ten kids--it's right after school lets out and all the parents make other plans and the summer hits the ground running.

We don't want to replicate another party. I don't know why I feel that way--I guess it's just that so far, no one else has replicated another party.

She has been to:
-bounce house parties
-indoor pool parties
-outdoor pool parties
-parties where they show the kids wacky animals
-gymnastics/obstacle course

Floated but discarded ideas:
-rock wall climbing (everything rides on her and the other kids being into this one thing)

Hers last year was at our house w/scavenger hunt, water rocket demonstration, giant balls to roll around the property; art station. We kept it low key and it went well; Mr. Llama handled all presentation-y Pied Piper stuff and I just kept chips coming. The kids were mainly happy to run around with these giant inflatable balls.

We're in Western MA and it's coming up quickly and I'm stressing out about it. Our house itself has a big wooded yard. She likes science-y things, rocks, mushroom hunts, animals, gymnastics, art, music, running around, playing in mud. We find these things go best when we don't expect that anything is going to hold kids' attention for long, when everything doesn't ride on one thing being successful, and nothing pushes the limits of their social skills beyond what they can navigate.

Mr. Llama was really game last year but isn't feeling like the Pied Piper this year (he's been sick.) He might be able to pull it off for some new elements (kite flying??) though. Ideally, I think I'd like to outsource this entire thing but I have no ideas. I'd even like to have it away from our house but I can go either way. What was nice about last year was that when anything didn't work out or stopped working, he'd just go onto the next thing.

The last half hour will be cake/ice cream/song. We won't do present opening (when do kids start to do this at parties? In kindergarten that happened afterwards. I'd just as soon keep it that way.) Parents don't stay anymore, do they? They seem to have not done that at any party she's gone to this year - now we just drop her and run, but if a parent wants to stay that's fine and they will be welcome. I'd just like to know what to expect.

We'll keep it to two hours. Both boys and girls likely to attend; some shy, some less so.

Please help me with my mom stress.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Adding: she likes imaginative 'pretend' type play and does that with her friends, boys and girls. She also plays dress up and princessy type stuff but don't want to do anything in that vein because there are both boys and girls and because not all girls are going to be into it. We want to be kind of inclusive and flexible.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:29 AM on June 9, 2015

Last of my adds:

Laser tag was floated and rejected as too intense for the more reserved kids.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:30 AM on June 9, 2015

Cheap and easy option: take 7-10 to a movie matinee and ask 2 parents to stay or hire teenage babysitters. Then cupcakes after.
posted by k8t at 8:34 AM on June 9, 2015

Roller skating? My girl scouts went in December and even though none of them could skate worth a damn they still had a ton of fun. And learning the skill of skating gave them a lot of confidence, which was nice to watch.

Also, I had a blast skating, and my girls had a blast watching me stumble around.
posted by phunniemee at 8:35 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Parent drop offs are quickly becoming the norm with my 6 year old. Present opening rarely happens especially at a big party.
Some parents in my area are starting to suggest an end to goody bags as no one needs more plastic crap.
posted by k8t at 8:35 AM on June 9, 2015

Could you do a variant on dress-up that was more photo-booth oriented where there are dress-up options that are appropriate to any gender (more like costumes, funny hats, that sort of thing) and then have a photo booth where kids can get pictures taken and then take home a thumb drive or something else with pictures on them? I'm reminded of this AskMe (and resolution) from a ways back.
posted by jessamyn at 8:41 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Could you do an arts and craft theme party? Tie-dye shirts, dream-catchers, bracelet-making, sand-art, or decorate a picture frame are all affordable options.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 8:45 AM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

It's a bit of work in advance, but you could set up a path of treasure hunt/series of puzzles, and it would require little to no attention from you during the party. In fact, they would probably be more excited if it's something they could do without adult intervention. We did something similar for a 7th birthday. There should be at least a couple of readers, so you could even just write the clues, in which case they can go and do the whole thing independently, or you could meet them at each "step" and tell them the next hint/requirement.

Each "step" can be different: some could be a physical task they have to each do, or do together, or there could be a simple riddle they have to solve, or a hint about where the next clue is. These don't have be complicated ("Look behind something that grows tall and has leaves." or "Everyone has to jump through the hula hoop three times.") I think you really only need about 15 minutes of formal activity to get things going, then you just let them loose for an hour in the yard or house. This site is good for ideas, e.g., this or this.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:45 AM on June 9, 2015

Is there a paint your own pottery place near you? The one by us does kids parties and I didn't see it on your list. No stress there, just show up and bring cake.
posted by MadMadam at 8:48 AM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

The local "art for kids" places near us do parties. They bring the supplies and manage the crafting for an hour or so. That plus cake and ice cream and hula hoops fill out your party time.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:54 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Quarters has a Saturday morning cereal bar and unlimited game play that was an awesome place for our 7 year old's birthday - with rare exception the games are age appropriate and it was great watching the kids try to figure out all of the old games.

Other ideas of locations are

Northampton Martial Arts
- They do a great job making sure everyone has fun even when they are new to Tae Kwon Do

Thompson's Gymnastics
Super well organized

Look Park
- rent the pavilion by the spray park and it would be hard to imagine a better summer birthday. I wish my kids were born in the summer!
posted by a22lamia at 8:55 AM on June 9, 2015

I grew up in the area (25 years ago!) and traditionally one would go to Interskate 91, which is still alive and kicking as far as I know. They do birthday parties all the time, kids will get nice and tired out.
posted by genmonster at 9:10 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am in the same exact boat and hoping I can eek out one more year of sprinkler/water slide/giant balls in the back yard along with ring toss, badminton, croquet. We just lay all these things out and step away and let them figure it out themselves.
posted by rabidsegue at 9:22 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

So, uh, for my Son's Birthday last year we paid a $25 usage fee and did a Halloween Carnival at a local park... clearly not quite seasonal, but doing something similar still might work. There was:
- a beanbag toss
- a mystery box filled with gross things like cooked spaghetti, dried apricots and peeled grapes
- a mummy wrap race (which consisted of teams wrapping their friend in crepe paper and then running a relay race with the change over being wrapping the next kid. The kids also went nuts running around playing with the crepe paper afterward
- lawn bowling
- an obstacle course
- Halloween themed food (including green punch with eyeball ice cubes)
- pin the eyeball on the monster (once again - there may be something more traditional than this)
- gift bags at the end were paper bowls covered with tissue paper that they got to punch through...
- and a playground for them to go nuts in.

In all, the site was cheap, the setup was about 2 weeks of work, cooking was a day and a half, and we put probably $200 worth of fun games and decorations up. when we forgot the forks for cake, parents were overjoyed because it wasn't Martha Stewart perfect... Also, the kids enjoyed shoving cake into their faces and then rolling in the field. Everybody had a fun time, there were some things for parents and adults and the kids got to play and do things as they wanted to. There was no set schedule other than the mummy wrap race and a few other occasional instructions on stuff. Basically, the kids drove the party and had a great time.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:25 AM on June 9, 2015

Local ice cream shop does well-priced birthday parties including help make the ice cream, make waffle cones, watch decorating the cake, eat the ice cream and cones, (we took the cake home cause enough but they could have eaten it too). The kids loved it! Each kid got at least a pint of ice cream to take home.
posted by RoadScholar at 9:33 AM on June 9, 2015

Similar idea to the ice cream shop: for one recent party we baked up a huge batch of box-mix cupcakes and then put out an array of icing, sprinkles, chocolate chips, etc. Then we let the kids decorate them (while sampling, of course) then wrapped the survivors and let the kids take those home as treats. We premade one large cupcake to serve as the "birthday cake" with candles, etc.

If you can do this outdoors, even better. =)
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:37 AM on June 9, 2015

Do you have a science museum or zoo nearby? The ones around us host birthday parties. We were at a party at the Children's Museum last weekend, but that might be a little young for your group of kids.

All the parties we've been to (ages 5-8) have present opening during the party. The kids are excited to see their friend unwrap whatever they brought.

Activities we've done that were popular: face painting, paint-your-own suncatchers, someone who made balloon animals
posted by belladonna at 9:53 AM on June 9, 2015

The most successful party my kid ever had was a lip-synch party. We played the top hits of the last few years, created a space that was the "stage" (honestly, this could be just a taped-off area on the lawn), gave them something to use as a pretend microphone, and let them go. When they got tired of lip-synching, they just danced.
And if you have this outside, give them some water balloons if the dancing peters out. Add some cake and ice cream and you're good.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:13 AM on June 9, 2015

Pretty much all of my birthday parties from 7 until I stopped having them (ah, teen years) were free form arts and crafts with pizza and snacks. If your daughter has any interest in this stuff, she can help steer you towards what would be a hit with her crowd (for me it was letter beads and lanyard). Since you have a big outdoor space, tie dying would be AWESOME -- throw in some fabric paint markers, enough t-shirts for everyone plus a few mulligans, and you should be good to go.
posted by telegraph at 10:13 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Decorate your own pizza might be fun. Give each kid a small crust, then let them pick from lots of different toppings. You could do prizes for most creative flavor combo, most artistic design, etc.
posted by belladonna at 10:20 AM on June 9, 2015

Best party I ever did for my daughter was at a local park. You could go through the county parks dept and "reserve" the park and pavilion for $25. It just meant that you got to use the picnic tables. We brought pizza and cupcakes and I brought every one a hula hoop that I bought at the dollar store. That was their goody. They loved it. Easy and cheap... Would do again!!
posted by pearlybob at 11:17 AM on June 9, 2015

We had a 7 year old girl party this year, invited the whole class of 22, 18 showed up. What saved me was that I hired an awesome clown magician who captivated and made them laugh for an hour in our den. During that time they had access to a huge bowl of fresh strawberries, cheese pizza, and a veggie tray with dip--I couldn't believe it but those kids ate all that food. I put balloons out, both helium and regular which I DO NOT recommend--3 or 4 boys did nothing but try to stomp and bust them until they were all gone. After clown and snacks, they went outside and had cupcakes and ran around for a half an hour before parents came to pick them up. I gave them each a small lego set (gender neutral) in goody bag, no candy. An hour and a half was plenty long. No presents were opened during the party, that seems to be the norm in her circle of parties and I like it. The main thing was to have snacks and entertainment ready when they arrive so their not all swarming you and going crazy. In summary, Get a pro clown (or whatever), it is so worth it. Cupcakes, no cake. Open presents later. If balloons are a must, hand out helium later when they are ready to leave.
posted by waving at 12:55 PM on June 9, 2015

The best party I can ever remember was the year my brother turned six or seven. My mom threw him a pirate/Garfield themed party (it was the 80s). There was a treasure map leading to (obviously easy) clues (example "This person lives next door and knows where the next clue is"). We ran around the neighborhood / our house / the park nearby all told for about 30 minutes finding clues. The final clue led us to a steamer trunk in the basement filled with "treasure" aka the loot bags - chocolate gold coins, etc. There was a note that upstairs another surprise awaited. I believe that suprise was hot dogs and cake. It was honestly the best fun. I can't remember a single one of my birthday parties, though I've seen the pictures. My brother can only remember that one too.
posted by SassHat at 1:53 PM on June 9, 2015

"Drive in" party?
It gets dark late so I would choose a short movie like "The Gruffalo". (As it's getting dark we always play classic cartoons- Disney or Bugs Bunny)
Blankets and snacks and ice cream and popcorn.
Kid's get to run around for a while before movie... Face painting station? Make your own sundae station with EVERYTHING? (I buy dollar store cupcake pans and fill with gummy worms, swedish fish, m&M's , etc)
Perhaps you could borrow a projector and screen (I think many places rent them as well). You could rent a big popcorn maker, too.
They could also come in pajamas.
posted by ReluctantViking at 2:20 PM on June 9, 2015

Costume party. Or a reverse costume party, where you provide at supplies and some cheap thrift store dressup clothes, and they end up going home in costume.

Water party. Kids wear swimsuits, you set up a couple sprinklers and kiddy pools. Water balloons.

Or, you provide art supplies and duct tape, kids all bring 3 cardboard boxes, they decorate and assemble them into skyscrapers, and then Hulk (or Godzilla) SMASH.
posted by jessicapierce at 5:27 PM on June 9, 2015

When I was a kid (and semi-obsessed with Beakman's World), my parents hired a guy from a group called Mad Science to run a party of science-based demonstrations. Everyone had a great time, flash paper was set alight, things bubbled, I think dry ice was involved. It looks like they're still around, and though this was in Toronto, it seems like they have some chapters in MA. A science experiment-based party could be a lot of fun, even without hiring someone.
posted by ilana at 9:21 PM on June 9, 2015

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