How to Host an Active Birthday Party

Celebrate the birthday kid with active play at your next party

Active birthday party - kids playing musical chairs

Maria Teijeiro / OJO Images / Getty Images

If you've been around the birthday-party block a few times, you know the possibilities are endless (and can easily become overwhelming). Simplify matters by planning an active birthday party, one that includes plenty of physical activity and good old running around. It's healthier for everyone, and always a lot of fun. The guests will have such a good time—and be so worn out—they won't notice if the napkins match the plates or care about what comes in the goodie bags. And putting active play in the spotlight means less emphasis on cake, ice cream, candy, and presents.

Sports Theme

If your child is a sports fan or avid athlete, it's a no-brainer. You're all set for a party dedicated to his favorite team or game. You can decorate with team colors, or those that call the chosen sport to mind: black and white for soccer; red, white, and blue for baseball; green and brown for football; and so on. Or you can opt for an all-star sports theme, celebrating many sports with a fun mix of decor and activities.

For games, play the real thing if you have space (or see below for venues to consider). You can also adapt many sports to indoor play. Consider hiring a high-school student-athlete, or even one of your child's coaches, to teach party guests new skills and run them through some fun practice drills.

Keep plenty of water on hand for thirsty, sweaty kids, and serve half-time style snacks like orange slices and bananas.

Active Games for Any Theme

Even if your child wants another, non-sports theme, you can still incorporate plenty of physical activity into the party. Many outdoor and indoor games, as well as relay races, can be adapted to work with different themes—whatever the birthday child enjoys. Of course, you can always mix these active games with more traditional, less-active options that also tie into your child's chosen theme.

Active Venue

For the simplest party of all, outsource. You'll pay a price, but you'll save wear and tear on your home, as well as planning time. And you might not need extra supplies or equipment. Invite guests to join you for an active outing, such as:

  • sledding, skiing, or snow tubing
  • bowling
  • inflatables/trampoline center
  • batting cages
  • miniature golf
  • ice skating
  • roller skating
  • gymnastics
  • hiking or snowshoeing
  • swimming
  • horseback riding
  • ballet or another type of dance
  • martial arts
  • climbing – outdoors or at a climbing wall or gym
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • volleyball
  • laser tag
  • paintball (for older kids)
  • open gym (at a fitness or community center)
  • school track for a field day event
  • playing at a playground or adventure park

Most venues are happy to host parties. They may provide a private room for you to use, as well as party favors or coupons for kids who attend, to encourage them to come back and play again. Depending on the type of outing, you may not need to plan any other activities for the birthday party. And you just might introduce some guests to a new sport they'll enjoy for years to come. Now that's a nice gift!

By Catherine Holecko
Catherine Holecko is an experienced freelance writer and editor who specializes in pregnancy, parenting, health and fitness.