Want to send kids home from a birthday party with more than a sugar high? Crafts are a great way to entertain young guests and provide a fun alternative to the traditional birthday goodie bag.
First, a few starter tips:
- If you decide to pencil in craft time during a party, it's probably smart to sandwich it between a more physical activity, such as a series of relay races or a scavenger hunt, and before cake and ice cream to offer an incentive for finishing the project.
- For older kids, it's also important to check if the birthday boy or girl is interested in crafting at all. If the birthday tween doesn't want to make a tie-dyed T-shirt, for instance, it'll be challenging to entice the friends to follow your lead.
The following 10 craft ideas can work for a range of ages and skill levels. Some require more guidance and supervision than others, so keep that in mind as you plan out the party. Also, to help you stay on budget, encourage parents to RSVP early and to let you know if any siblings will be tagging along. You want to have plenty of supplies to go around, but not overspend.
10: Custom T-shirts
There are many varieties of kids' craft T-shirts, and whichever one you choose, it's a smart idea to ask children to bring their own blank shirts to the party. Otherwise, you risk running out of certain sizes and spending a lot of money purchasing them.
Four- to 6-year-olds will probably do better with fabric painted shirts. You'll need the following supplies for these:
- plain T-shirts
- fabric paints
- paper bag
- smocks or aprons
Prepare a large, flat space, and lay shirts out flat for the young participants. Slip a paper bag inside each shirt to prevent paint from soaking through to the other side. Help kids pick out colors and any stencils they'd like to use. Tape stencils in place. Then, assist with painting inside the stencils and allow the shirts to dry. Or, you could also have them decorate with handprints or fingerprints for a more free-form project.
Older partygoers might like to try out tie dye instead. For these funky threads, you'll need the following:
- a bag of strong rubber bands
- clothing dye
- squirt bottles
Pour the different colors of dye into individual squirt bottles. For each T-shirt, wrap rubber bands around it at intervals a couple of inches apart. Squeeze a different dye color on each separate section of the T-shirt, and wring out the excess dye. Allow it to set for about three hours, then rinse thoroughly, remove the rubber bands and let dry. Just remember that fabric dyes stain easily, so take extra caution with this project.
9: Paper Crafts
If you're a scrapbooker, you probably have plenty of ideas about how to personalize a card or photo frame. Those wavy cut scissors, stamps, paper scraps and punches will make party craft time almost irresistible for the kids, too. We know you want to protect your precious tools, but there are still lots of kids' crafts that use construction paper, glitter and stickers to create one-of-a-kind art works that will grace even the most discriminating refrigerator doors. We've pulled together a group of paper craft how-tos that will produce projects to be proud of. One even makes the key component in a tabletop football game the boys will love:
8: Friendship Bracelets
If you're throwing your daughter a girly, glamorous birthday party, why not make friendship bracelets? Supplies for this project can be as minimal as multicolored embroidery thread; or, you can really glam it up with beads, string, clasps and other doodads. For an extra special touch, pick up a special charm for each girl to string on her bracelet, such as her first name initial.
Unless girls already know how to make this kind of bracelet, it's wise to have someone on hand who can walk them through the different steps. Hobby stores also carry a variety of beading and bracelet kits that should have everything you need, including instructions. Depending on the size of the group, you may want to set a limit on how many bracelets girls can craft to ensure that you don't run out of string or beads before everyone finishes one.
There's a wide variety of friendship bracelets girls can bead and weave with various types of materials. To get an idea of which ones would suit your birthday party the best, check out How to Make Kids' Bracelets.
7: Bead Crafts
For kids with the dexterity (and maturity) to handle small objects, bead crafts offer flexible options for both boys and girls. They're colorful and tactile, and beading projects typically go together fast, which keeps kids interested. Bead crafts can be refreshingly tidy, too, depending on the projects you choose.
Try having the materials on hand for three or four bead crafts, and let each guest choose his favorite. It's probably a good idea to assemble a few of the projects in advance as samples -- or have your older kids do it. That way you'll be able to provide a good visual as well as experienced guidance. We have a variety of how-tos to get you started, but your local craft store will likely have a good selection to choose from, too.
6: Craft Projects that Focus on Recycling
Kids are a lot more environmentally savvy these days, and crafts that showcase Earth friendly practices like repurposing are timely and almost certain to inspire an enthusiastic response. Even better, you can start gathering the materials weeks or even months ahead, and many of them won't cost you a cent. We've assembled some options below that won't have you dumpster diving -- much, anyway:
Magnets are a solid bet for children's parties since they're things that parents can enjoy and easily display. For the host, the great part about craft magnets is their versatility; you can think up some kind of magnet art that will fit most common birthday party themes. For example, kids can make sea creature magnets for an ocean-themed party or T-rexes for a dinosaur theme.
Stock up on these supplies:
- craft foam, sponge shapes, craft paper or clip art cutouts to fit the party theme
- glitter, sequins, wiggly eyes, stickers and other decorations
- crayons or markers
- magnetic backing
- glue sticks
First, write the children's names on each magnet to personalize the crafts. Then, have them decorate the paper or foam cutout. If coloring with markers, children should wear smocks or aprons, since parents might not be happy about their tyke coming home with stained clothes. Lastly, glue the magnet to the back of the decorated shape and leave the finished products to dry during cake time.
Remember how amazing it was to look through a kaleidoscope when you were younger? These neat gizmos are especially suitable for older age groups since they require more advanced cutting skills and involve more detailed directions. You can find many variations for constructing kids' kaleidoscopes online, but according to the article on Science Projects for Kids, you'll need the following supplies:
- 3 small mirrors of the same size
- waxed paper
- construction paper (multiple colors)
First, kids can snip up the construction paper into small pieces, taking care to include a rainbow of colors. Tape the mirrors together in a triangle shape to form a prism. (Have plenty of tape on hand for this step, since they'll need to use a lot to hold the mirrors together.) Next, cover one end of the prism with wax paper and tape it in place. Once that's done, pour the bits of construction paper inside. Standing the kaleidoscope upright with the closed end on the table, look inside the other end of the prism and, presto, behold the dazzling spectrum!
3: Nature Crafts
The budding environmentalists in the group will also love the colors and textures in nature crafts. One big advantage to using natural materials in crafts is that pine cones, flowers, stones and seeds all have a story to tell. Putting together a card describing what the material is and where it comes from adds to the fun -- and could impart one or two lifelong lessons about the natural world.
Another plus is that you may be able to gather some of the materials from your own backyard. We've selected some nature crafts that are easy and educational:
Weaving is an ancient art and one that is uniquely satisfying for kids and adults. Your guests can weave simple placemats to get started, but don't stop there. With some adult supervision, the older kids can make paper baskets to store their party favors in. Try some of the other weaving projects on our list, too. Once they realize how fun and productive weaving can be, children often move on to weaving potholders and even rugs. This is an interest that can last a lifetime.
1: Cool Clay
If you're having a hard time coming up with a craft for a boy's birthday party, this may do the trick. There are many different kinds of homemade play dough and silly putty that anyone from tykes to tweens can have a good time squishing and squashing around. Just let parents of guests know about the craft project beforehand -- that way, they'll be thoroughly warned in case of a play dough surprise in the car seat or a putty stain on the carpet.
Play dough recipes usually call for flour, oil, alum, water and salt. Simply mix together the dry ingredients and bring the water and salt to a boil. Once the water begins to boil, add the dry mixture and stir.
For silly putty, all you'll need is white glue and Borax. Mix the two ingredients together and, voila, you have a clump of bouncy, moldable silly putty. No heat or stove required.
Lots More Information
- How to Throw an Arts and Crafts Birthday Party
- Tree Activities for Kids
- 5 Tips for Planning Green Kids' Birthday Parties
- 5 Fun Party Ideas for All Ages
- Top 10 Pirate Birthday Party Ideas
- 5 Cool Ideas for Kids' Party Invitations
- 5 Fun Places to Have Kids' Parties
- 5 Themed Kids' Birthday Parties on a Budget
- 10 Ideas for a Unique Birthday Party
- Busy Bee. "Kids Crafts." (1/3/12). http://www.busybeekidscrafts.com/Kids-Crafts-Index.html
- Enchanted Learning. "Crafts for Kids." (1/3/12). http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/
- Kaboose.com. "Classic Kids' Crafts." 2010. (1/3/12). http://crafts.kaboose.com/gifts/classic-crafts.html
- Rhatigan, Joe and Rain Newcomb. "Paper Fantastic. Lark Books. 2004.
- Ziggity Zoom Parents. "Kids Craft Projects Out of Household Recycled Materials." 2/20/09. (1/2/12). http://www.ziggityzoom.com/parentsguide/content/kids-craft-projects-out-household-recycled-materials