Birthday Parties for 5 - 7 Year Olds

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello! I am thinking of having a tie-dye activity for a 6yo birthday party at a park by the bay. I am concerned about doing a tie-dye party with all the chemicals involved, clean up, etc. I don't know anything about tie-dye (my 6yo was requesting this)- has anyone tried this, could recommend eco-friendly products, give tips on how to do a proper clean-up (what/where not to dump)? I have googled 'eco-friendly tie dye', but short of making my own dyes out of pomegranate juice which would now be well out-of-scope, I'd just like to know if people do these things nowadays and how. Thanks!

    I don't have a specific dye to recommend, but having done tie-dye with kids I'd highly recommend using the squirt bottle method ( - that way you don't have big tubs of dye to clean up (or spill!), and it's less messy overall and takes less dye. Rit specifies that their dyes are non-toxic and safe for sewer systems ( - I think that might be the best you'll get with dye that's still colorfast and not homemade. But hopefully someone has an amazing eco-friendly option I haven't seen yet!

    Tie dyeing with kids is a wonderful activity!

    The “riskiest” part is the initial soda ash soak (slightly caustic to the skin); you could have the kids wear gloves through the process (which you will want them to do anyway so they don’t stain their hands). Easiest may be for you to do the soda ash soak yourself and wring as much water out as possible (over the soda ash bin; you can reuse it).

    Let the kids tie their shirts according to the design they want - spiral, scrunch, stripes, then let them have at it with the dyes in colors they choose.  Trick is to get enough dye for color saturation (tie dye shirts that are mostly white just don’t look good), but not so much that they muddy everything up.  

    There are PLENTY of tie dye tutorials on YouTube - watch a few to get the hang of it. Cover the work surfaces with plastic, and have them wear little aprons. I did this with a group of 5 year olds and it was an extremely popular activity. 

    Buy a group tie dye kit from Dharma Trading Company - Procion dyes (not Tulip) are the way to go.  You can mix colors yourself to get more shades.  Dharma will be very helpful if you have any questions - their customer service is outstanding. Get some Synthrapol and tiny plastic covered cups so they can each bring some home to wash their shirts in.  Have them leave the shirts covered in a plastic bag after dyeing for at LEAST 24 hours; 48 is better. Instruct the parents to rinse them really well until the (cold) water is running almost clear, then wash in hot water with the Synthrapol (alone). They will likely need to wash separately a time or two after that as well. 

    You and the kids will LOVE it. Yes, it can be a bit messy, but so rewarding! Have fun!

    You might talk to the folks at A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland. They specialize in natural dyeing and are a friendly staff. The owner has written two beautiful books on natural dyeing. They are only open Saturdays for in store shopping. Also, depending how set your child is on tie-dye, maybe also look into eco printing. It's a beautiful effect and very easy - they can help you with that too! Lastly, you can also check out dharma trading co for supplies. They have lots of white clothing, bags ect and dye products, but Less on the eco friendly side. 

    My daughter’s Girl Scout troop did a tie-dye project a couple of years ago, and I was quite frankly shocked by how much water is required and wasted in the process. I would gently steer your son towards another project. 

    PS I responded yesterday but forgot one important thing - have the kids write their names or initials in their shirt tags with permanent marker - once they’re doing the activity it’s very easy to get them mixed up, and you really can’t tell them apart once they’re dyed. 

Parent Reviews

PS I responded yesterday but forgot one important thing - have the kids write their names or initials in their shirt tags with permanent marker - once they’re doing the activity it’s very easy to get them mixed up, and you really can’t tell them apart once they’re dyed. 

My daughter’s Girl Scout troop did a tie-dye project a couple of years ago, and I was quite frankly shocked by how much water is required and wasted in the process. I would gently steer your son towards another project. 

You might talk to the folks at A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland. They specialize in natural dyeing and are a friendly staff. The owner has written two beautiful books on natural dyeing. They are only open Saturdays for in store shopping. Also, depending how set your child is on tie-dye, maybe also look into eco printing. It's a beautiful effect and very easy - they can help you with that too! Lastly, you can also check out dharma trading co for supplies. They have lots of white clothing, bags ect and dye products, but Less on the eco friendly side. 

Tie dyeing with kids is a wonderful activity!

The “riskiest” part is the initial soda ash soak (slightly caustic to the skin); you could have the kids wear gloves through the process (which you will want them to do anyway so they don’t stain their hands). Easiest may be for you to do the soda ash soak yourself and wring as much water out as possible (over the soda ash bin; you can reuse it).

Let the kids tie their shirts according to the design they want - spiral, scrunch, stripes, then let them have at it with the dyes in colors they choose.  Trick is to get enough dye for color saturation (tie dye shirts that are mostly white just don’t look good), but not so much that they muddy everything up.  

There are PLENTY of tie dye tutorials on YouTube - watch a few to get the hang of it. Cover the work surfaces with plastic, and have them wear little aprons. I did this with a group of 5 year olds and it was an extremely popular activity. 

Buy a group tie dye kit from Dharma Trading Company - Procion dyes (not Tulip) are the way to go.  You can mix colors yourself to get more shades.  Dharma will be very helpful if you have any questions - their customer service is outstanding. Get some Synthrapol and tiny plastic covered cups so they can each bring some home to wash their shirts in.  Have them leave the shirts covered in a plastic bag after dyeing for at LEAST 24 hours; 48 is better. Instruct the parents to rinse them really well until the (cold) water is running almost clear, then wash in hot water with the Synthrapol (alone). They will likely need to wash separately a time or two after that as well. 

You and the kids will LOVE it. Yes, it can be a bit messy, but so rewarding! Have fun!

I don't have a specific dye to recommend, but having done tie-dye with kids I'd highly recommend using the squirt bottle method ( - that way you don't have big tubs of dye to clean up (or spill!), and it's less messy overall and takes less dye. Rit specifies that their dyes are non-toxic and safe for sewer systems ( - I think that might be the best you'll get with dye that's still colorfast and not homemade. But hopefully someone has an amazing eco-friendly option I haven't seen yet!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Birthday party entertainment for a 7 year old

March 2012

I am looking for an entertainer/juggler/balloon artist/magician for my sons 7th birthday party. It will be a backyard party for around 40 people mostly kids). Any suggestions for a fun entertainer that is reasonably priced would be greatly appreciated. joann

Joan, We have had Thomas John twice and he's great. A good juggler and entertainer and funny to both kids and adults. Also very reasonably priced. 'Thomas John' thomastrumanjohn [at] Good luck.

Our 8 year old just had a birthday party at our house with 'Lick your eyeballs' as the entertainment (the name refers to the way geckos without eyelids clean their eyes). The kids were all fascinated by the creatures they brought - geckos, tarantulas, frogs, toads, turtles, snakes, hissing cockroaches, a giant monitor lizard, and maybe some other creatures I'm forgetting. Their website,, has photos of the kinds of animals to expect. The kids get to touch, hold, and even feed some of the animals. Nick and Audra, the presenters, were excellent with the children and presented lots of interesting information at a level the kids enjoyed. They really made it a memorable party. Two of the guests at our party hired Lick your eyeballs for their own parties within weeks! Their contact information is LickYourEyeballs [at]

Birthday Party Ideas for a 7 Year Old Boy

Oct 2011

I'm helping to plan a birthday party for my nephew who is turning 7 years old. We're looking for some new and creative ideas other than a magician or a Lego block building party. Anything new under the sun out there for a smart group of ten or so little guys in the seven year old age range? Thanks, -Susan

Our son had his birthday party at Albany Bowl and it was a total blast. The provide two lanes, I think, as well as pizza and drinks. You bring the cake, they have plates etc. If you don't want the kids drinking soda i am sure you can sub for something else. I can't remember how much it cost but the prices are on the website. anon.

You should call Owen from East Bay Vivarium! I have been to two parties in public parks (one for kids and one for adults) where he came to do his reptile presentation. It is fascinating for both kids and adults. He is very funny and was great with both crowds. Everyone gets to touch some of the reptiles and it is educational too! anon

I only heard about this yesterday, and thought it was a great idea. How about a Quiddich (a la Harry Potter) party? UC Berkeley has a Quiddich team, and a few members of the team will come over and teach Quiddich to the birthday child and their friends. It sounds like fun! I don't know if 7 is too young, as my son is just a bit older. Another idea is to take your son and a few of his friends to the Musee Mechanique to SF via the Ferry. I did this for my son's 7th, and he loved it. mom

Great question! Part of the answer depends on what you all want to spend on the party. If you're willing to consider doing an organized thing outside of the house and can spend a little, things we've done which were great include:

Head Over Heels gymnastics party
Berkeley YMCA gymnastics/playroom party
Playland Not At The Beach birthday party

We've also done a Captain Underpants themed party, complete with music and red capes (ordered inexpensively online) as party favors. == Party On!

We had a lot of fun at Pump it Up with our kids. It has lots of inflated jumping houses, slides, etc. If you want to keep it low cost, Capture the Flag at a park is lots of fun. -parent of twins

My daughter's school just had this wonderful bubble-making guy and the 2nd graders loved him. His videos look truly extraordinary. Mike Miller:

I also would recommend Thomas John the juggler. He's very funny and not as expensive as Mike and most animal people: thomastrumanjohn [at] Have a great party!

A party at a climbing gym like Berkeley Ironworks. We had one for my 5 year-old daughter last year and it was a great success. Susan

I just threw a Astronaut Training party for my 5 year old son and it was such a fun - and educational! - theme. We learned about the planets and space and what makes our earth so unique among the other planet in our solar system! I found some discarded refrigerator boxes and with creative use of white paint and duct tape, turned them into rockets and Mission Control. I made jet packs out of tin foil covered cereal boxes and plastic juice bottles (and yes, more duct tape). Oriental Trading ( has some great space related party favors (inflatable space shuttles, little aliens, sticker sets). I found this website super helpful for planning this and other fun birthday parties: Have fun! Loves party throwing!

rock climbing in oakland:

airplane party at hayward airport:

indoor skydiving in union city:

robot party in oakland & moutian view:

have fun! have a 7yr too!

The first idea that came to mind is a ''Mad Scientist'' party. You can set up some fun, messy experiments (vinegar and baking soda, making slime or goop, potato clocks?) for the kids to do. You can do crazy hair and make ''lab coats'' out of thrifted white mens work shirts. You could also do an explorer party with a fun treasure hunt/obstacle course and a dig for fossalized bones. Love to plan parties!

Hi, Quite a few students of mine ages 5--9 have told me about their wonderful birthday party experience at Pump It Up. Happy birthday & Have a great time! Sherry

Have you looked into Happily Ever Laughter Parties? I cannot say enough great things about them. They do characters for boys and girls. The costumes are handcrafted and the performers are simply wonderful. Aimee

Birthday places in berkeley for 7 year old boy

March 2011

Any idea of places to celebrate 7 years old boy birthday. Indoor or outdoor in Berkeley or Oakland. but not very expensive - for May Month. all advise are welcome sb

Berkeley Adventure Playground at the Marina - kid heaven
Tilden Park - a great place to set up games on the grass and have a picnic
'Playland Not at the Beach' in El Cerrito has birthday party options, including pinball (my kid proclaims it 'hella fun'
A visit to the East Bay Vivarium (keep the group small, it gets crowded in there). Use discretion: they feed small animals (chicks, rats) to big snakes.
Oakland Zoo
Lawrence Hall of Science
Chabot Space Science Center

...I suddenly want to go to a party!

Adventure Playland at the base of University, near the Kayak rental place is FREE. They give the kids hammers, nails, paint and brushes and they play and build neat forts and stuff. There is an AWESOME zip line to fly down too. My kids love that place. Right outside is a lovely beach and grassy area with picnic tables to have lunch and eat cake. I cant remember if there are grills. There may be. Reenie

Games for 6-y-o boy's at-home birthday party

Aug 2010

We're having our son's sixth birthday in our yard and I'm having trouble dredging up memories of games I played at parties as a kid. I can only think of Pin the Tail On the Donkey and treasure hunts. What other games have worked for your kids? (Or which games do you remember from your childhood!?) We'll probably have about 15 six-year-olds and a few siblings ages 3, 4, 5, so we're planning on doing a lot of loosely structured games that keep everyone excited over a couple of hours. Food is going to be cake and pizza and a few snacks. FWIW, we're absolutely not getting a jumpy house/entertainer/etc. etc. -- just doing this one the old fashioned way. Thanks! birthday planner mom

Hi we just had my daughter,s 6th birthday and had about the same number of thing we did that was fun was a table where they could design their own t-shirts...i bought some plain white t-shirts and fabric markers and glitter spray and sparkly stickers and so everyone made their own t-shirt and it was fun to see all the creativity...another popular part was the ''Body Boppers''i had bought at the Oriental Trading Company...not very cheap but the kids sure had a blast with them...and then we had pinata ofcourse have fun! love birthday parties

I prefer the station approach at this age. Treasure Hunt: Do you have a sandbox? If so, buy shiny or interesting objects at the dollar store, michael's or online such as: buttons, gems, fake coins(real coins are fine), confetti rocks, real pebbles and shells etc... and hide them in the sand. Provide each interested child with a small cup, write their name on it with a sharpie. When their cup is full, they can transfer it into a labeled ziplock bag to take home.

Stuffy Dress-up: Ask the kids to bring their favorite stuffed animal to dress- up. For those who forget, you could have a bin of washed and used stuffies to give out. Provide ribbons, pipe cleaners, stick-on jewels, scissors, scraps of cloth, clasps etc... and kids make simple outfits, capes, accessories for their stuffed animals.

Stuffy Transport: Install two pullies and a rope (the old-fashioned laundry line) and attach a basket. Kids spend a lot of time transporting the stuffed animals from each location. We had it attached to the deck and the treehouse with a kid on each end.

Motors & batteries: buy little motors, alligator clips, 9-volt batteries, small paper plates, markers and let the kids explore. If you attach the small paper plate to the motor (a little tape helps), the kids can figure out how to get the paper plate to spin. Decorating the paper plate makes it look really cool when it spins.

Bubbles: Buy a bubble machine and place up high. Kids run around and try to catch the bubbles.

Lego: Provide lego flats (the bigger the better) on a low, flat table. Buy miscellaneous pieces (Toy-go-Round) if you don't have any and challenge the kids to build a lego city.

Buy rocket balloons and any parents who stick around can help blow up the balloons (they often come with the pump). They fly high into the air and make a loud screeching noise. Really fun!

I've attended a lot of kid birthdays and a game that seemed to be fun for everyone was ''Musical Present''. Kids pass a wrapped present around while the music is played. When the music stops, the kid holding the present gets to unwrap it. The next present goes in and if it lands on the same kid, he/she passes it to the left. All the presents are the same and/or similar. Have fun! anon

At our outdoor birthday party last month, we had some ideas for games, but it turned out not to matter, because the kids spent the entire time throwing water balloons at each other. We hired one of my son's camp counselors to help at the party (we have no local relatives) and she spent most of the time filling water balloons (which was great, because my husband and I were free to do other things!). She also came up with the great idea of having the kids find balloon pieces on the ground and trade them in for tickets (we bought the tickets at a party supply store). We had some vague idea of having them turn in the tickets for prizes, but in fact kids were pretty happy to just have a bunch of tickets!

I personally hate pinatas, but my kids like them, so we always get one of those. You can fill it with little toys if you're anti-candy. Parent of two summer birthday kids

We just had our 6-year old's birthday party at home so have some ideas for you. We did a 3-legged race and a water relay. For the water relay, kids are divided into teams and each team had a sponge. Behind each team was a bucket of water and about 10 yards away was a cup. The kids dipped the sponge into the water, ran to the cup, and squeezed it out. In the past we've also had a jellybean race where kids have to push a jellybean down the hallway with their noses. You could have a spoon race where each kid has a (hard-boiled) egg on a spoon and have to run across the yard without dropping it. To even things out, use bigger spoons for smaller kids. Have a race where kids have to do different things to get their next clue to go to the next location (go to the kitchen and everyone drinks a cup of milk, when the last person is done give them a clue which sends them to the driveway where each kid has to write his/her name in chalk, etc.). You can have kids collect leaves (or you do it ahead of time) then paint one side and press it into paper or onto T-shirts. Tie a balloon around each kid's ankle and everyone tries to pop everyone else's balloon. You might divide kids by age.

Know that my 6-year old didn't participate in any of the games and few of the younger kids did either. So keep it flexible and be ready to switch to another game if one isn't popular and have things for a free-play option.

You asked what we remember from childhood and one of my earliest memories is of my 4th birthday party where my parents hired a neighborhood girl to do magic tricks for us. I'm sure watching it as an adult I would find it really corny but as a child I was transfixed. I couldn't believe she could put an egg (I saw her crack it!) and flour into a hat and come up with a little present for me. So last year we hired a couple of high school kids who were magicians/jugglers and the kids LOVED them. I know you said no entertainers, which is usually the way we go too, but we wanted to see if we could make special memories for our kids. It worked! They still talk about it more than a year later. Will and Eli can be reached at rouge_et_noir_jugglers [at]

Mostly, just stay calm and relaxed. Sugar + running around with friends for a few hours is a great party. Have a fun party!

Get yourself a Stomp Rocket Jr! This is great toy, easy to set up: kids stomp or jump on a plastic bladder that shoots a styrofoam rocket up into the air. Great for all ages--easy to engage with, fun to watch. Sometimes the rockets get stuck in the trees, but even that can be kind of entertaining, as kids and adults try to get them down.

A popular kids birthday party game in Germany is Topfschlagen, or Bang the Pot. My son's only four, so I've only done it with that age thus far, but I figure it's good for several more years. Here are some instructions in English: --

Some of my favorite classic party games from my youth (besides pin the tail) include treasure hunts (for the goodies or cake), spider webs (strings run throughout a room that they have to untangle to get their prize), putting together a puzzle without the box/picture, musical chairs, simon says, and red light/green light. You could also try a couple of activity stations such as ''decorate your cupcake'' station, a simple craft station (make a cereal necklace, color/paint a small wooden figure) or anything that fits with your theme (if you have a theme). Have fun! Birthday girl

HI! Good for you! How about potato sack races (i went to the thrift store and bought pillow cases), three legged races, musical chairs, hot potato, red light-green light, a pinata?, quiet crafts are good. Like painting your own ''treasure box'', tacking paper rolls to a fence, even the ground, and letting them paint as wanted. We always do ours in the park/home, no jumpies, and my experience is it's great to have games on hand, but free play works best, with options. Put out chalk, bubbles, and hoola hoops, you're good to go. OH! And frost your own cupcake kills a good 40 minutes! Good luck and have a blast! (ooh, that reminds me, water guns/rockets are great too!) another old fashioned mama

We always do themed parties, so the games are adapted to the theme, but there are SO MANY choices! Try googling ''tag games'', ''circle games'', ''outdoor games'' or ''camp games'' and you will get tons of results.

You mention treasure hunts, and there are many possible variations on that: simple ''find as many X as you can'' or scavenger type hunts with a list of items or follow-the- clues type, in teams or as a group. Plus things like ''fishing'' for prizes in a wading pool or hunting for small toys in a big bin of sand or some other appropriate material.

Tag games: freeze tag, amoeba tag, hospital tag. Circle games: Duck Duck Goose, Farmer in the Dell, Doctor Doctor, Who's Got the Button. Hide-and-seek, plus variants like Sardines. Follow-the-leader, obstacle courses.

Racing games: relay races of various kinds, pass-the- object games (like the one where you tuck an orange under your chin and pass it down the line without using hands), build a car or rocket or boat and race it on an appropriate course.

Cooperative challenges: Cross the ''river'' using a limited number of ''stepping stones'' (various ground rules about whether, when and how the stones move make this one more or less challenging); Knots (stand in a circle, close eyes, everyone hold out right hand and grasp someone else's hand then repeat with left, open eyes and group attempts to untangle itself back into a circle without letting go of hands); Line up by name in alphabetical order (or birthday in chronological order etc.) without speaking.

Lawn and schoolyard games: Croquet, bocce ball, ladderball, foursquare, dodge ball, hopscotch.

Miscellaneous: water balloon toss, beanbag toss, Red Rover, Red Light Green Light, Simon Says, tug o'war.

You can also do non-competitive activities, like crafts, blowing bubbles, etc. Have fun! Partying Mama

Oakland Aviation vs. Mad Science Bday party for 5 year old

May 2010

We are considering having a small birthday party for a 5yo at either the Oakland Aviation Museum or at a park with Mad Science. Anyone ever host a party at/with either? birthday mama

Hi - I don't know anything about Oakland Aviation, but my 7 and 8 year old daughters just attended a Mad Science party and absolutely loved it. My younger wants it for her birthday next year. It appealed to the various ages at the party including the adults. Sandy

My son and his friend did a joint birthday party with Mad Science for their 6th birthday. It was a huge hit with every kid and every parent that attended. The instructors were very fun and engaging, the activities they brought were simple yet enjoyable and we ordered the hovercraft which the kids just loved. Can't recommend them highly enough. Happy Mad Science Mom

Didn't see the original question. I took our kids to the Oakland Aviation Museum a few months ago. ONLY aviation museum I've ever been to where you can't actually get on a plane and look around. We were pretty disappointed. sad dad

Sports birthday party for 7 year boy

March 2010

My son is turning 7 in a few weeks and I'm looking for a place to celebrate his bday that would be around some physical activity. The jumpy house thing is over for him. A friend of his did a basketball party but his dad is a coach and had access to a court. He organized games around basketball for the kids and spent no money. It was an absolute blast for all the boys. The other option is the bowling place in Concord but too many of his friends have done it and he wants something different. He would like something around martial arts but the only place where they also do bday parties for kids that's also a martial arts academy is at the far end of Concord. We live in Moraga. Does anyone know of a martial arts academy where they also do parties that's closer to our area? Or if you have any other suggestion for a place where they do bday parties around a sport or fun physical games that would be easy, fun and not too expensive I would really appreciate it! Patricia

Hello! At the Berkeley YMCA we can do sports parties. It takes a little extra effort and flexibility to set it up since we have to find gym time and a coach. But we are able to do basketball, indoor soccer, even volleyball. A party like this would generally be 1-1.5 hours in the gym and then 45 minutes or so in a party room afterwards. For more information, just call or email me directly. 510-665- 3238. Eden

Try the Lafayette Community Center for a dodge ball party or indoor sports party. My son loved his party, and you don't have to be a resident.

Maybe your son would enjoy a party in a climbing gym? I heard that Bridges Rock Gym in El Cerrito hosts birthday parties and even slumber parties... Meg

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

Place for large indoor party for 5 year old

Dec 2009

Hi, I'm looking for updated recommendations for where to hold a birthday party in late February for an active boy who will be turning 5 years old. We are committed to the idea of inviting his whole preschool class, so we need a venue which can accommodate 20-25 kids. It probably needs to be inside, since the weather is unpredictable that time of year. Any recommendations would be most appreciated. Also, if anyone has attended a party at the Albany Bowl recently, would this be appropriate for 4 and 5 year olds? Mom in Berkeley

The Western Aerospace Museum at Oakland Airport, recently renamed the Oakland Aviation Museum, has great birthday parties for kids. We had my son's 5th birthday party there and invited his entire preschool class. Everyone had a great time and really enjoyed sitting in the many interesting aircraft and playing with the flight simulators. They're at the North Field of the Oakland Airport, (510) 638-7100. happy airplane birthday

We just held my 6-year old's party at Head Over Heels Gymnastics in Emeryville and it was great. Lots of room, great leaders/teachers who organize the kids and lead them through obstacle courses, and time for free play. I am planning to do it again for my younger boy! Lisa Rothrauff

My daughter went to a few parties at Pump It Up in Concord when she was smaller. It was always a hit with the kids. I know they also have a location in Oakland, if that is closer for you:

I just had my 5 year old son's birthday party at Pump it Up in Oakland. I had the same issues (number of kids, space, weather.) Although I, as an adult, find pump it up obnoxious, slightly tacky, and a bit expensive, the kids loved it. They ran around for 80 minutes, jumping, yelling, laughing, chasing each other, playing air hockey and having a grand time. It was really perfect for them and my son was in heaven the whole time. mom of happy 5 year old

Pump It Up. We've been to the one in Concord, but there's one in Oakland. Great for larger groups and lots of physical moving around.

If you still haven't found a venue, I would check out the Albany YMCA. I've recently starting working bday parties there and they all turn out to be very successful. It's reasonably priced with a lot of space to accommodate an entire class plus some. There are fun activities such as art, basketball, dodgeball or just the plain Gymnastic mats with HUGE obstacles, trapeze, rock wall, etc. to play with.. whatever your child is into. Good luck! Sarah

You didn't mention yout budget for the birthday party, but a few places I know of are:
- Pump It Up in Oakland, near jack London Square. For about $300 you will have 2 hours to jump in two big rooms of huge bouncy houses and slides. Its a blast for the kids and easy for the parents. They help with the party room and there is a throne for the birthday kid. Fits 25 kids. So much fun, we've done it two years in a row.
-Head over Heels Gymnastics in Emeryville. About the same price I think and good, active fun.
You'll be happy with either of these places. Happy Birthday Fun

A Music Birthday Party for 5-year-old?

Nov 2009

My son, who is turning 5 at the end of February, wants to have a music birthday party. He wants to invite all 17 of his age 4-5 classmates. And he wants to have it at our house. Does anyone have any suggestions about how to do this? Anybody arranged something like this for their kid before? Not a good party planner

For my niece, my brother built a little stage and the kids sang karyoke style. They had musical instruments, tamborines, shakers, etc. plastic blow up guitars. The kids had a lot of fun. Lots of items at a Party City, or Michael type store, for great ideas Ali

I'm not quite sure what you are asking, but one idea for a music party would be to hire someone like Enzo Garcia. He is a musician who does lots of music for kids, very participatory and wonderful. He does parties. Check out his website:

call a Music Together teacher, they have music and instruments and could do a private party. partying mom

If you can handle 17 5 YOs in your house, I'd suggest keeping it simple. Kids don't need entertainment when they have that many buddies around. As parnets we think they need more, but they're happy with firends, cake and fun.

Here are some ideas: Borrow all the musical instruments you can and have a parade around the block. Tell kids to bring their favorite instrument if they have one. You ca nget a baton (or broom stick) and lead the parade Have a craft project related to music that kids can opt in to do. You can print colloring pages from a book or online. Instead of a crappy toy filled party bag, buy a decent harmonica for each kid. Have your Ipod player going to have a dance room...Sippy Cups, Snacktime by the Bare Naked Ladies and the They Might Be Giants kids CDs are awesome!

My best idea I did was to ask that in lieu of a gift, please consider donating $5 toward a larger gift of the child's choice. This started a trend amungst our group of friends. Parents don't need to shop or wrap, but they still can if they want. If you're worried about being rude, you cna state that they should bring a recycled toy or $5 toward something the child gets to pick out. That way you don't end up with 10 crappy birthday gifts that the child forgets about within the week. Miss Manners be damned, it works and 95% of parents think it's great! Whatever you do, don't stress out. mom of two boys

my sister used tim cain as entertainment for her daughter's 4 year birthday party and the kids had a blast. he plays guitar and sings and all the kids were jumping around and loving it. he also engages them in activities like acting like an animal, etc. my sister was very happy with him. paula

Music Together offers ''housecall'' classes- I went to a birthday party hosted by a music together leader- it was fun and easy on the parents because the entertainment was already take care of! enjoy music parties too

I had a musical birthday party arranged by Nanci Armstrong of Dancing Out Loud. It was wonderful. Nancy specializes in young children and does a great job with them. We had one meeting in advance to 'walk through' the party and let my daughter make some choices about how things were going to go. On the day of the party, Nancy brought everything she needed and it was splendid. You can look her up at Feel free to contact me for more information. Laura

Bakery for Cookie Decorating Party for 7 year old

Sept 2009

Hi: My daughter is turning 7 and wants a cookie decorating party. Can you reccomend a bakery in the east bay that does that? Thanks East Bay Mom

How about cupcakes??? My daughter was recently invited to a Cupcake decorating party - it was fun. Don't know the cost since she was a guest. Teacake Bake Shop 5615 Bay St Emeryville, CA 94608-2407 (510) 655-0865 mom of 9 year old

Hi: We attended a birthday party for a 6 year old at The Nutty Cookie in Emeryville. It was a balst! This is an actual cookie company that offers birthdays too. The party involved the kids seeing how cookeis were made, then they got to cut out, bake and decorate their own cookies and were send home with their creations. The mother/daughter owners are very nice and accomodating. Checkout their web site 510-597-0200 Sacha

Site for small 6yo birthday party

March 2009

I'm trying to organize a small (less than 10 people) birthday party for my 5yo. I definitely don't want to do it in my home and I also don't want to spend tons of money. I'm not sure a park will be enough entertainment. Any other ideas? party mama

Don't worry: a park is plenty of entertainment for 6 year olds! We've had a variety of park parties for our 2 kids for years now, and the 6-yr olds have just as much fun as the 3-yr olds. In addition to the land and play structures at any park, we always bring the following:
- craft for craft table
- bubble machine (available for $20 at Target)
- indiv bubbles for each kid
- balls, outdoor games, etc.
- Food and birthday cake, of course! THe only drawback to a park party is herding all the kids. They tend to roam! Christine

Here are some party ideas for parks that we've done. You can make a park environment entertaining depending on the theme you choose and how creative you get about the organization of it. For our son's 4th birthday party, we did a Dora party in Golden Gate park, complete with a Map Man treasure hunt, map invitations, a game of musical chairs, and a Dora pinata. For his 9th birthday, we did a Star Wars, ''episode 9'' party with pinata, themed scavenger hunt for star wars items hidden around the park and other themed games. For his 7th party we did an airplane theme with passport invitations, paper airplane making, obstacle course made of pool noodles to represent the landing on a tarmac... etc. There are great web sites on party ideas. Lots of creative crafts for games, decorations, etc. Party Planner

Is $100 too expensive for the entertainment part? We just got back from holding a 5 year old birthday party at the brand new ''Bridges Rock Gym'' and Yoga place in El Cerrito. The party worked great. The staff provided a brief orientation, climbing harnesses, and up the walls the kids went. All of them. One 4-year-old guest got scared halfway up, but she had a great time later on the tightrope, and said she wanted her own 5 year old party there. Cost is $100 for first five kids. There is no upper age limit, but 5 seems a reasonable lower limit. Having parents learn to ''belay'' ropes for kids is very helpful, but is not required. Bryce

5 year old girls birthday party

April 2008

My daughter is fascinated with nature and wants to have a birthday party at a butterfly farm. I have not been able to find any such venue in the Bay Area. Do you know of any place like this or a nature based venue that might offer parties for small kids. I'd love to get any recommendations for a party in early June. Thanks! Jennifer

Probably the best birthday party my daughter ever had was at the Crab Cove nature center in Alameda. The docents who ran the party were really well-informed and great w/kids, and the kids learned a lot. Plus it was really cheap! This was a few years ago but at the time it was $50 and they did the party favors. parent of a nature lover

Looking for something different for daughter's 6th birthday

March 2008

I am looking to do something different for my daugter's 6th birthday party. I am tired of having birthday's at Gyboree or Pump it Up and also tired of going there for other birthday parties. I thought of Libby Lu, but they just pretty much stamp your kids with glitter hair spray, makeup and rush you out. I do not really have time to pull anything together either. Any advice would be appreciated. Lucy

Just held my daughter's 9th birthday party at Evarize Fashion Cafe in Berkeley. She and her friends sewed clothes for their stuffed animals, dolls, etc. The girls were totally engrossed in what they were doing. Erica had lots of material, ribbons and buttons for them to go through to make their selections. Then she worked with them on cutting, stitching, etc. The whole experience was a real treat: fun and creative, and adorable clothes to show for it. Erica is really on a mom's wavelength when it comes to putting a party together. She also does classes (for as young as six) and a camp in June:, (510) 845-0376, erica [at] lindas

Hello Lucy, Children's Fairyland offers fun birthday parties in Oakland. It's a small amusment park for children ages 1-8. The web site it Maybe they will work for you. Either way, good luck and I hope it's a great party! Kendra

If you want a really fun and unique party for your daughter, call Marianna Sucher at 925.254.1122. She creates ''fairy parties'' for girls. She is an herbalist/aromatherapist and will customize a party that includes making some special herbal creations. Marianna loves her work and it shows! She has a magnetic personality and will create a party that is filled with beauty, creativity and loving energy. marika

I used Social butterfly for my daughter's 5th birthday party. She had a princess party. The kids had a ball. When my daughter turns 7 we are going to have one of her spa parties. She brings & sets up everything. Here's the website. Let her know that Shelly from Tracy referred you. Shelly

What about Fairyland in Oakland? Does she take ballet classes? There are ballerina birthday parties at the Berkeley City Ballet. Or bunny birthdays at Bunny Central, a rabbitry in the East Bay. Does she like arts and crafts projects? How about a mosaics party at Snapshot Mosaics in Oakland or an Arty-Party at Mocha in Oakland love interesting birthday parties!

Check out the Buddy Club -- they put on a series of shows for children, and you can make a party of it by reserving a room for your daughter and her guests afterwards. In the East Bay, they're held at the Berkeley-Richmond JCC. My daughter (now 12) had a couple parties there several years ago and, as birthday girl, was even incorporated into the entertainer's (magician, juggler, etc.) act one time! anon

Our favorites have been at MOCHA in Oakland -- creative art projects, where you can work with the teaching artist to come up with something your child will like; I've been to/given parties with themes of clay, hats, making books. Another fun location is Lawrence Hall of Science -- try party animals, or the household chemistry one.

I didn't see the original post, but I wanted to recommend a unique party venue for bday parties. Today, we had my 5-year old daughter's party at Lucky Juju Pinball in Alameda, and it was a huge success. We also had my birthday there last Fall. They have 3 rooms of pinball games(really old ones and more recent ones), 2 jukeboxes, and a central area for food(bring your own) and shmoozing. The folks who run the place are really nice and easy to work with. The grown-ups and the kids all had a fun time. In fact, many of the adults said that it was the most fun they'd had at a bday party in a long time! By the time I got home today, one of the attending parents has emailed me to get contact info for her kid's next bday. My daughter is hooked on pinball now! (You can check it out on weekend nights, when they charge a flat fee for up to 6 hours of free play.) You can get more info on their website: Lots of fun!!! Dawn

The person who takes care of my pets when I'm out of town also does bunny birthday parties and school events for children. She arrives with 10 to 12 rabbits of various ages and breeds and does an educational program / ''petting zoo'' with her soft, child friendly bunnies. The best description is on Georgia's website at: where she has pictures and videos of previous events. Lisa

Lego Party for 6 year old

Jan 2008

My almost 6 year old is busy planning his lego birthday party in his mind but I think I might actually need someone to help me with this! Can anyone recommend a service or individual that can put together a Lego birthday party for the 6 year old set. I went through the archives and found people liked Lego Parties but no name suggestions! Looking for Lego Help jo

Check out the teachers at Marin Engineering Center, where they have lego classes and the teachers also do parties. lego expert's mom

I don't know anybody to lead a LEGO party, but I've thrown two of these parties for my boys. This is what I did. I hand made individual LEGO brick cakes. Now it's easier becaue the have cake pans to do it: I bought buckets of bricks and wheel/car parts off of e-Bay. There are a ton of them for sale there. The kids had building contests and car races. I think I had a car pinata as well. For goodie bags, they got to keep their cars. I went to Target and bought the cheapest sets I could find ($2-3 each). You could probably do this online as well. I went to Sweet Dreams in Berkeley and got LEGO brick candy for them. Hopes this helps. linda

Check out if you are looking for a cool Lego cake! Cake lover

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Place to have a 5-year-old b'day party in December

Nov 2006

My daughter's birthday is in mid-December. I am looking for a reasonably priced large space in the East Bay to have a party for about (15) 5-6 year olds. Ideally the spot would be connected to an outdoor area in the chance that the day is not raining. The indoor space does need to be significanlty big since these kids love to run around. Any ideas? Thanks jean

You might try the Berkeley or Albany YMCA. Neither of them have outdoor spaces. But you can do a kindergym party and/or an indoor pool party at the Berkeley Y and the Albany Y has a great gym party room Ann

Pump it up in Oakland on E16th a place full of jumpers and activities, Round Table Pizza (Pinole has a play area) Chuck e Cheese's (Newark)and (Fairfield) The health Museum in Berkeley across from the main library, the YMCA used to have specials for children's parties, If it is open Adventure playground in Berkeley. cookiehead

Birthday treats after event in Elmwood (5-y-o)

April 2007

I'm looking for a spot close to the Julia Morgan Theater to take some of my 5-yr old daughter's friends for birthday treats after a performance. Walkable would be ideal, but short drive okay. Any ideas? thanks Kathleen

How about Cafe Roma at College and Ashby? They always have lots of yummy desserts and are very kid-friendly. It's about 6 blocks from Julia Morgan, which I'd consider walkable, though your definition may vary. There are lots of restaurants around that intersection if you want to explore. Mmmm, carrot cake

Just down College Ave about 2 blocks south of the Julia Morgan is Ici, a new ice cream parlor with delicious hand made ice cream such as ginger snap or blood orange sorbet. There are handmade cones with a dab of chocolate in the point and amazing ice cream cakes. This would be a great place to take a crew of girls. Get a cone and then check out the windows at Basic Bird for kittens and rabbits or walk across the street to Sweet Dreams toy store.

Another option is Cafe Roma for hot chocolate and scones or cookies, corner of Ashby and College.
Nabolom, just off College on Russell next to the fire station, has all sorts of yummy pastries and cookies.

And finally, the favorite Elmwood destination of kids for blocks around, and easy on the wallet: Dream Fluff Donuts, on Ashby just below College. Have fun! Ginger

Ozzie's soda fountain in Elmwood comes to mind--lots of fun for 5-y-o's! in the same neighborhood are Nabolom bakery, Ici (fancy-schmancy ice cream, prices to match), a couple different coffee shops, and donuts. katy

Rainy day party for 5 & 6 year olds

Jan 2005

Hi. I'm looking for ideas on having an indoor birthday party at our small home for about 15 kids. If it's nice it's no problem, but I'm afraid it will rain, and we'll have a lot of 5 & 6 year old boy energy that may not be too interested in arts and crafts. We can't afford to hire someone to come in. Anything besides pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and musical chairs? Also, in previous preschool experience, the parents would stick around too but is that the norm for this kind of party/age group? Thanks!!

They may not like arts & crafts, but they could probably be enticed into a huge Lego project!

Pick the room in your house with the least furniture -- in ours it's the dining room -- and clear out as much of what IS in there as you can. Remove chairs, push tables against the walls, roll up rugs, take away or barricade anything fragile or hard to clean. This will give you as much open floor space as possible. Then channel their energy into sanctioned activities. A tower-building contest with Lego, K'Nex, or the like. A pull-string pinata. Games that are physical but don't involve running, like a pass-the-egg-from-spoon-to-spoon relay, or that old standby, pin-the-something-on-the-something. (An old circle-game favorite of mine is ''doctor, doctor'': One person, the ''doctor'', leaves the room. Everyone else stands in a big circle and holds hands, then ties the circle into knots by twisting and passing people under and over others' arms. The people in the circle then chant ''doctor, doctor, we need help!'' and the ''doctor'' comes back and attempts to untangle the circle by directing everyone else where to go.)

Or heck, let them go out and play in the rain! (Just warn parents ahead of time to have the kids bring their raincoats and boots, and have a lot of warm towels and mugs of hot cocoa ready when they come in.) They will probably have more fun in the puddles and mud than they would doing anything you could devise. I've got a winter birthday boy too

I did an indoor party when my son was about 7 or 8 that was really fun for adults and kids. You need to be able to team the kids up in groups of 3 or so, with multiple adults to help (almost one adult per team is good, you can make do with fewer if necessary.)

I set up a ''riddle hunt'' with riddles from somewhere like the NSF website (example: what kind of rocks are at the bottom of the Mississippi River? A: Wet rocks!) I handed them the first riddle, and once they solved it in front of an adult (who had the answer key) they had to hunt for the next riddle. The clue for where the riddle was might be ''I'm short and stout'' and their clue, color-coded to their team, was in the teapot. All the clues were in the same places, but I mixed up the order in which they had to do them so they were in different places solving different riddles at the same time. They were quite honorable about leaving the other teams' riddles intact.

I think I had about 8 riddles total, and it actually took almost 90 minutes for all the teams to finish. They all finished at exactly the same time, more or less, and I had prizes for all anyway so it was competitive, fun, thinking, active, only moderately noisy, and easy to do inside.

There are riddles for younger kids too. But you have to think about whether your kid likes this sort of thing. (Mine said it was his best birthday ever!) And it does take some thinking prep time, and printing or writing up clues on colored paper in advance. I had as much fun planning and watching and helping as they did solving. One idea for you, good luck! Nancy

I recommend for lots of ideas. It helps if you come up with a theme that you can build your activities around. We had success with that many kids (boys and girls) with a Scooby Doo Pirate Adventure theme, with a treasure hunt in which they had to perform tasks to get clues. (Although ours was last summer and we also had access to the back yard, but lots of it took place in our house too.) Also at this age, many parents look at birthday parties as a nice break and chance to do other things. I would only expect those parents you know well and are friends with to stay, unless you specifically ask people to stay and help out. Good luck and have fun!

I just had this exact birthday scenario yesterday for a 2 1/2 hour birthday. So, here are some ideas that worked. Fishing: wrap little prizes in tissue paper and use ribbon to tie. Make the ribbon bows big enough to hook from a ''fishing pole''. We made the poles out of 2 Ace hardware dowels (75cents) and metal hooks ($1.50). 2 to 3 prizes each or fun/silly messages. Balloon volleyball: blow up 2 balloons per child. Put them in a bag until you are ready to use them. Spread them throughout the house being used for the party and let the kids play with them. Boxes: Galvin Appliance has great washer/dryer boxes. Get a couple. The kids came up with things to do with them. The only ''game'' we played was ''pass the basket'' where we wrapped poppers (get them at the dollar store) in tissue paper, played music and stopped it and one child picked out a wrapped popper, and did this until everyone had one. My husband showed them how to use them and all at once (more or less) they let them go. Yes, we did a pinata too but put the same amount of candy in a ziplock bag. We also decorated our own cupcakes. I gave everyone a plain cupcake with a cupcake holder filled with edible things to decorate the cupcake with (sprinkles, marshmellows, m's, gummy bear). At the end of the party the kids came back and we made ice cream sundaes with icecream, canned whipcream, and sauce and sprinkles.

Be ready for alot of energy and let it loose. Don't worry about keeping too much order or over structured. The kids loved being with each other and it was fun and safe and wild. If you have legos or anything put them in a visible corner where kids can play if need be. Have fun

Nail salon for 5-year-old's birthday party

April 2004

I am looking for a nail salon which would be willing to host a birthday party for my soon to be five year old. I am looking for a salon that would do mani/pedi's for about ten little girls. I would like for the salon to be near a restaurant (casual) that we could have a cake, or the salon would be willing to let us have cake there. I need a salon that is clean and friendly. I have been to Mani-Pedi in Potero Hill which offers parties. It is perfect except that it's catering more towards people who live in the neighborhood and can go home for cake etc..and will only allow the party in the salon for about 30minutes which just isn't long enough. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I am willing to go as far as SF or Walnut Creek...As a last report I would entertain the idea of a nail professional coming to my house for the party. Has anyone out there been crazy enough to do this type of party with any success??? cannon

I haven't been there for a party, but Cool Tops is a fun atmosphere and offers hair-do and manicure birthday parties. They're in Lafayette and San Ramon.

I went into one of my regular nail salons to get my monthly brow wax a few months ago only to discover the place had been taken over by a pre-teen/teen mani/pedicure party. The girls that were there looked like they were having a ball. It is a cool birthday idea for some girls. I tried to imagine myself at that party, and I wouldn't have had a good time. It would have been too much for me. My younger sister and her friends would have totally been into it. The salon that was hosting the mani/pedicure party was the salon on Grand Ave by the eye doctor. Can't remember the name of the salon though. They have good rates in general and it looks like this isn't their first party. You could probably get a good rate. Hope this helps. beth

2003 & Earlier

New ideas for daughter's 5th birthday

Dec 2003

I'm looking for some alternatives to LHS, the Zoo, Mocha, Gymnastic, or Fairyland for a fun place to have my daughter's 5th birthday party. Can anyone recommend any other places? I've thought of those pottery painting places but most are small and might not suit a group of 5 yr olds...thanks for any thoughts! Susan

  • Junior Center of Art and Science Lake Merritt in Oakland
  • Sulphur Creek Nature Center Hayward

    Nervous about planning a 5-year-old birthday party

    Dec 2003

    hi i am planning on having a 5th birthday party for my son and am a bit nervous. i won`t know most of the parents or the kids for that matter since we are new here and am on a budget so can`t get an entertainer any ideas on what to do? i`ll have music and food and its around noon but am a little self conscious and can`t think of anything other then pass the parcel and musical chairs!!! how long should these thing last for? my son is an extrovert and is desperate for a party and has had a very hard time with his health recently so really deserves this to go well. anxious single mum mary

    I have always found children enjoy treasure hunts. I would split the kids into two group (say red and blue) and then the children would follow clues to find treasure - they would have their goody bags with them (make sure they have their names on their bags) and each treasure found would include enough candy or stickers or trinkets so each child got one for their bag - and the next clue for them to continue. At other children parties, parents have used polaroids as clues, or cute rhyming clues. For the trinkets, I have found lots of variety from Oriental Trading Co. - what I ordered was usually just fine. I noticed this webpage had a few good ideas for the pirate theme and activities (www.dltk- and when I tried Google there were many sites that came up with ideas. Good Luck! fiona
    We have been to a couple of 5 and 6-year-olds' parties that were lots of fun but didn't involve expensive entertainment. One was at a neighborhood park so the kids played on the equipment and gathered around for hot dogs and gift-opening. The other was at someone's house and involved food and a pinata. Neither had lots of organized games, but the kids seemed to be having lots of fun. Another fun thing is to give little party favors to the guests (brown paper bags decorated and filled with inexpensive trinkets). Good luck, and have fun! Jamie
    Simple party ideas: Pin the X on the X (fill in the blank with whatever interests your son these days)- use tape, and there doesn't have to be a winner; group treasure hunt (find simple clues that lead to the next clue, etc., all the way to the treasure chest - a paper bag full of goodies for all. Adult can read clues, or you can make picture clues); treasure dig (bury little trinkets in a deep pan of rice or beans; dig with hands or little spoons, depending on how long you want it to take); simple decorating craft (assorted stickers and colored Elmers glue, little shells, beads, pebbles etc. glued onto shapes or frames or juice-can lids, and glue a magnet on the back); decorate own birthday cupcakes (assortment of frostings and toppings - quite a mess, but simple); simple relay races such as potato-on-spoon or having oversized clothes to put on/take off; variation on musical chairs (no one sits out, but you still remove a chair each time, and see how few chairs you can get to and still have each child at least touching a chair). Try not to make all the games have individual ''winners'', since that will inevitably leave some kids out (maybe even the birthday boy!). Two hours should be plenty at age 5. R.K.
    Dear Mary, My heart went out to your son who has had a hard time with his health lately and I thought about your birthday party dilemma. Below are a few ideas that I hope will be of help to you. My daughter just celebrated her 5th. She wanted to invite her whole class, as well as a bunch of old friends, but I pared it down to 7 kids by explaining that there would be a school party and a ''special Friends'' party. It was a very fun time and not too much work.

    I think that birthday partys should be kid-focused and fun. I knew all the families, so we made it a ''drop off'' party. That doesn't sound like something you are in the position to do, so maybe you could hire a teen to run some games like the ones described below so you could also have time to chat with parents. Just a thought...

    I'm assuming this will be an inside party: I would plan for 2 hours, max.

    Have an area with some interesting open-ended toys out, where kids can play if they're not participating in a game. If you can score a refridgerator box and cut some doors and windows out, you're really in business.

    Here's an example of a schedule: Party is from 12:00 to 2:00 pm.

    12:00 - 12:30 Arrival and Craft some sort of craft project - for my daughter's recent 5th birthday party, we had a table set up where the kids could decorate some ''binoculars'' I had made up out of empty toilet paper tubes stapled together and strung with yarn (check out East Bay Depot on San Pablo Ave @ Ashby 547-6470, very cheap and interesting stuff!). There were cups of markers (50 cents a pack from Ikea) and some sheets of stickers for decorating the binoculars.

    12:30- 1:00 Games Have kids sit in a circle and explain your house rules about having fun and being safe, where the bathroom is, what's off limits etc. Pass the Parcel would be great fun, the only hesitation with Musical Chairs that I would have is that, basically everyone except one child loses, and some kids aren't emotionally mature enough to take it in the spirit of a game at this age. Maybe Musical Statues instead: the music stops, everyone freezes into a funny pose, etc. Or a ''Cake Walk'' type game where everyone wins a small prize.

    Some fun circle games that don't require expensive supplies:

    1)''Bear and Tiger''- need one stuffed Bear and one stuffed Tiger (or whatever stuffed animals you choose). 2 children on opposite sides hold the stuffed animals. Explain that the Bear is trying to catch the Tiger. Children pass the animals around as quickly as they can, trying to make make the Bear catch the Tiger, or helping the Tiger escape the Bear. No winners, good fun.

    2)''Paper Bag Guess'' Label some paper bags with each letter of birthday boy's name and put an object that starts with that letter inside. Pass bags around and children guess contents. Example: ''S'' bag has a sock, etc.

    3)''Pistacio Vacuums'' This was originally peanut vacum, but changed due to some children having allergies to peanuts. Supplies needed: A pound or so of pistacio nuts or other small, light objects, drinking straws, cups. Place a spread-out mound of nuts or whatever in the center of the circle. Show how children can use their straws to suck a nut back to their space and place it in their cup. On ''Go'', everyone races to fill their cup.

    4)''Snowball Fight'' of ''Clean Up Your Room'' supplies needed: a lot of socks, balled up. Ask children if they've ever been asked to clean up their room. In this game, you win when your side of the ''room'' is clean, i.e. has no socks on the floor. Children can be divided into two teams or even better, adults against kids since it's a pretty even ability game. Lay a rope or something to demarcate the dividing line, (after first having removed the breakables from the room) toss the socks out and yell ''Clean up Your Room!''. This usually goes until everyone is too weak from laughing.

    5)''Fruit Roll Up Race'' Have an adult set this up while the other games are going on. Supplies: one fruit roll up per child (remember to allow for siblings, etc.) string, and miniclothes pins (from good old Ikea). In an area that will allow space for each child to stand side by side, unroll and suspend fruit roll ups from a horizontal string, about at child head height. Secure with clothes pins. Children place hands behind back catch the end of fruit rollup in their mouths and eat. ''Can't use your hands!''

    1:00 - 2:00 Free Play and clean up from games, then food, cake and pinata and more free play at the end.

    A pinata is a standard grand finale to kid birthday parties around here, if you've got the space for children to swing wildly at a suspended object! Check out the Paper Plus Outlet on San Pablo Ave 525-1799 for pinatas, balloons and thank you notes, etc. Pinatas are usually filled with candy, but can also be stickers and other treats. Giving children a small paper bag with their name on it pre stuffed with and party favors you might choose (see for personalized pencils @ 2 dozen for $5) gives them a place to store pinata loot and also serves as a party favor.

    I don't like to have my children open their gifts at parties at this age, as I prefer the focus to be on fun and celebrating, but many people do. I wish you and your son a great birthday! Please feel free to contact me if there is any more info you need. All the best to you. Katia

    Winter birthday party for outdoorsy 5-year-old

    Nov 2003

    My son is turning 5 in December and I am totally at a loss on what to do for his birthday. He loves the park and the outdoors, but since it's winter, it will be cold and likely raining (it has the past two years!) I will be inviting about 10 friends. I would love some ideas for either a party at home with entertainment like a magician, balloonist, etc., or other clever ideas/games or an outing to a great indoor place that isn't too pricey. Thanks! Desperate mom

  • Habitot Children's Museum (2)
  • Sacramento Train Museum / Train Trip

    Dance school party?

    July 2003

    I am looking for recommendations for a birthday party for a 5-year-old in the Walnut Creek/Lamorinda area in early-to-mid August. It's really hot at that time of year and having an outdoor party at home isn't really feasible. We have, in the past, had parties at the Lindsay Museum, Pixieland, and the Oakland Zoo. My daughter claims she wants a small party with just a few friends. She loves to dance - is there any dance school which would do a little party? Any suggestions at all would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! Hoping for great ideas!

    As an experienced party giver of two girls I highly encourage you to listen to your daughter's request. After fretting over how to creat a great birthday party and spending too much money on a child (they really don't care) and going to some really nice low key birthdays where the kids had a blast I want to recommend this: your daughter wants to dance, so have each friend bring their favorite dance costume(s) and favorite dance music and let 'em at it. SAVE YOUR MONEY! Provide extra music, extra dress up, make cupcakes (kids don't eat cake) and put a plastic dancing figure on each one. Let your daughter provide ideas for the party too. If you don't have much room in the house do it in the backyard (extension cord for the music box). Finally, it is okay to have 4,5, or 6 friends and no more. That's really about the right amount for your daughter's age. Sometimes when too many kids are invited you can get some very unhappy birthday children. Mostly, kids just want to play and that is a managable amount along with the dancing. For party favors there are some $1 sticker books with a girl dancer and outfits to put on her. Good Luck. Mary

    Party games for 5 yr olds

    December 2002

    My daughter's 5 year old birthday party is coming up and we are planning a simple event with approx 10 children. We would like to play some party games such as duck duck goose and pin the tail on the donkey. We are wondering if anyone could recommend any fun games of this nature for the gang to enjoy. Many thanks.

    We played some games at my 4 year old's recent party that were a big hit:

    1. ''Clean Your Room'' - need a bunch of old socks, balled up and a jump rope. Divide group into 2 teams on either side of the jumprope laid out on the ground(we played kids vs grownups. Toss the socks out - everyone pelts them at the other team whilst yelling ''CLEAN YOUR ROOM!'' Object is to get all the socks on the other side (never happens - just play until everyone collapses into sillies).

    2. ''Stomper Tails'' (Outside game) Need some crepe paper streamers. Tuck a length into each child's waistband, long enough to trail to the ground. Run around madly and enjoy your tail. 5 year olds may enjoy trying to stomp each other's tails off. Enjoy the party! Katia

    Check out for a long list of group party games and other party planning ideas. Or, make up picture bingo cards on your computer that are related to the party theme (4x4 is a good size) and play bingo (with candy markers, of course). Also, most girls that age love crafts. Check out Oriental Trading Company at for really cute but cheap, easy- to-do crafts. Have fun! Julie K.
    I highly recommend any kind of cooperative ''Treasure Hunt'' for that age group. You can make picture clues (or words, read by an older helper) that lead the whole group, clue by clue, around all over the house, yard, park, or whatever. At the end is a ''treasure'' (candy, party favor, new game to play, etc.) for everyone. R.K.
    One game that a friend of mine did at her daughter's party was really fun -- she gave each kid a different colored bag and had hidden different ''treasures'' in her yard, all wrapped in the different colors of each bag. The kids were instructed to find only the treasures that were wrapped in ''their'' color. It was nice because the kids didn't fight over the stuff they found, and it became kind of a cooperative hunt rather than a competitive hunt. Kerry

    Party ideas for active 6-year-old boy

    Dec. 2002

    I've checked the web and don't find exactly what I want - a bday party for an active 6 yo boy. We want to keep it small (7 kids), so we don't want to rent a big space but we want them to run around some place besides our house. Other problem - the birthday is in January so planning an outdoor party means we have to have a contingency plan. We were thinking about hiking and then picnic, movie and our house for cake if it rains. Is the Bkly Y too limited for the age? Is the climbing gym in emeryville suitable for a 6 yo? Has anyone done a bday party at the hammer park at Bkly Marina or have any other success stories to share? Lisa N.

    Two great birthdays that we did have been bowling at Albany Bowl adn Adventure Playground at the Berkeley Marina. Both parties were a great time. The staff at both sites were wonderful and it was easy to bring the food, cake, etc. Bennett
    We had my son's 6th birthday party at the rock climbing gym in Emeryville, and I thought it worked very well. Some kids really took to the climbing, and others weren't as into it; I brought supplies for drawing and an art project, which I think occupied people when they weren't climbing. It also helps if you and/or your partner learn to belay so that more kids can climb at once (it's pretty quick and easy to learn). I think it's an especially good site for a smaller birthday party--12 kids or fewer, although we had just over 20 and it was manageable. You might also want to investigate Albany Bowl--we had a 7th birthday party there, and it was a blast. Pam
    March 2002

    I am wondering if anyone has any great games to recomnmend for a 5 year old birthday party. For various reasons, it will probably end up being a fairly big sized group (over 10) and i'm a bit intimidated by the idea. I'm looking for non-competitive, simple game ideas that could ideally work either outside (weather good) or inside (weather bad) -- but any and all ideas are most welcomed. party planning mom

    Here are a few home-based ideas that have worked well for us with a variety of pre-school ages.

    1) Decorating your own cake or cupcake. If you make a cake in a cool shape (castle, with layers, or a rocket or flower cut out of a flat cake, etc.), they have great fun throwing all kinds of sugary stuff on it (I give each kids a couple tiny cups of different stuff, most bought at Spun Sugar on University). It looks pretty awful when they're done, but it's very inclusive; all the kids feel ownership, and they love doing it. You can also just use a flat rectangle and apply all kinds of themes (circus, fair, jungle, etc.) by using tiny toys as well. Cupcakes work too, though it's not as much of a group game.

    2) Making costumes. This works best with a base that's fun to wear by itself if kids don't feel like doing any decorating. Our biggest success was with jetpacks (I saved cereal boxes and similar shapes for a couple months, and I save all kinds of little shapes to glue on, like egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, other rolls, wine corks, jar lids for control-buttons, pipe cleaners, paper cups to be the jets, etc., and I spray-painted everything a silver metalic color; we used duct tape, pipe cleaners and brass fasteners to attach everything; I got elastic from that re-use place on San Pablo at Ashby to make arm straps, and they were off.) We've also made wings using hangers covered with girls' tights (so they're anything from bees and butterflies to fairies) and antennae made with headbands and pipecleaners.

    (3) Making a collage mural with a giant piece of paper from the Art Store, lots of cool shapes and pictures you cut out or buy, and lots of tape (avoid glue and paint if you're indoors). Take polaroids in front of it that each kid can take home.

    (4) If you're outside, have them strip to their underwear and paint T-shirts with regular acrylic paint. Remember to put newspaper inside each T-shirt until it dries so front and back don't stick together. We did this with 4-year-olds, and they loved it. Laura

    I used to be a parks and recreation leader way back in the dark ages... I advise you to solicit one extra adult for ever 4-5 children you have at the party. Otherwise its gets to difficult to coordinate and keep everyone safe. Having parents of children stay with their sibs make for a big party, but can help keep everyone happy and playful. Having parents that are willing to clown around and participate in activities makes them easier to run.

    Games to quiet a noisy bunch down:

    Story games work great:

    Write up a 5-10 minute story and include each child in it and have the child contribute on the fly (by naming a favorite toy, animal or something). Many times the results are hilarious and the children really love them. ( This is reminiscent of ''sniglets'' I think they were called... where you name so many nouns and verbs and they are inserted into a story randomly.)

    Party Hat making: You can set the kids to making party hats from newspaper, construction paper, all sorts of stuff. Just make sure you have some rough designs and if needed some parts cut out already. A party hat fashion show after is also a hit.

    Games to exercise a bunch with too much energy:

    Balloon popping. You can put ''toys,'' ''fortunes'' or ''matching puzzle pieces'' into balloons before you blow them up. The children then retrieve and pop several balloons and work to use or read or put together their treasures. Balloons can be hidden, hung, put into a big random box, floated on the ceiling with helium...

    Hunting games: simular to easter egg hunts... Hide something the kids must find. This can be a bag of goodies, a small toy, a piece to a puzzle. Realize if the area they will be ''hunting in'' is the party area, your items might be found before the game begins!

    A good circle dance with ''The Hokey Pokey'' works great and is completely non competitive. This is a bit tough with 5 year olds and the left/right knowledge is above them, but if you can get the adults to dance along too, the kids pick it up QUICK! You can pick up a CD of the music fairly easily.

    Sing along on old MacDonald and having the children be animals and make the animal sounds is REALLY FUNNY. You can break them up into groups to make the sounds or give each child an animal to be... A great ice breaker. - Sue

    The best party we ever had was spent mostly playing with a large number of cardboard boxes (we had recently moved and I think our boxes were mostly from IKEA). If you have the time you can collect boxes from appliance and grocery stores (actually liquor stores are excellent for boxes) and build castles or forts or tunnels ahead of time -- or let the kids build and paint with poster paints... (wearing old clothes of course). Another option would be to visit the Art Depot and pick up recycled wonders for making collages and sculptures, etc. Art Depot would probably even send someone to your house to do a crafts project , but that would cost money.

    For us the best activity was rolling across the lawn in a long thin box. The kids did this over and over until the box finally died.

    Two more suggestions - (1) Have at least one extra adult, but maybe not all those parents, and (2) consider serving drinks in heavy bottom glasses instead of paper cups (I read this somewhere and it really cuts down on spills!)

    Good luck, enjoy! Heather

    Twister is a fun old standby. It's physical and it doesn't really matter who wins. You could also engage a couple of teenagers to play with them games like London Bridge, (as of last year they still played it).

    If you don't mind simple cleanup outside, get some sidewalk chalk and have them draw a single item together. Make a mural. Do the face painting thing (some teenage girls are very good at this and love doing it).

    I hired my son's favorite character from TV (an impersonator) and he kept them entertained for over an hour, which was about half of the party time. The rest was spent in eating cake and ice cream and opening presents. marianne

    Successful activities at our 5 year old parties have included, at the more expensive end: renting an astrojump; at the less expensive end: making bug homes in little critter cages (which cost on the order of $3 each), adding dirt, grass and rocks, and having a treasure hunt for plastic bugs (or let them take home the real bugs from your yard or the park); at the least expensive end--decorating their own food--for example frosting cupcakes and building candy towers on top of them. Wooden spoon puppets or paper plate masks also are activities 5-year-olds enjoy--or just decorating plain paper bags as party bags. And it never hurts to hire a teenager to help out and play some energetic ball game or run races with those that just won't do the more organized activities. Kids also enjoy silly games like dividing into 2 teams and seeing which team can make people on the other team laugh the soonest (but this one is maybe better for the 9-year-old set). Games like duck-duck-goose, hot potato, guess who has the marble, and many others can be played in such a way that everyone has a chance to ''win''. For example, we would pass around a bowl filled with little prizes and then stop the music. The person holding the bowl would pick a prize and then leave the circle. In the end, everyone gets a prize. Invite enough teens and adults to guard the perimeters, and have fun. Cynthia

    Special party for small group

    August 2001

    This is the first birthday party for my daughter since the divorce and I am not sure what to do. Initially, I wanted to throw a party in the park, only later to realize I have only about 3 children to invite to my daughter's party. I have not kept up with most of the families from our marriage and most of my daughter's new friends are from school and I simply don't have their phone numbers! I wanted to do something very special for my daughter, but don't know what I can do with a group of three children. (Granted her father is throwing a big party for her, I was thinking to do something other than a party, perhaps take them to a theater, or a hiking adventure?). Please, I need some creative help here. Thank you!

    Some ideas: go to Stow Lake and ride paddle boats and have a picnic. Have a formal, dress-up tea party. Have a group sleepover (4 girls would be a manageable number). Trip to theater with stop at Fenton's afterward. Maybe a trip to a live theater performance with stop at Fenton's or a lunch afterward. Check listings for what kids events/activities are on going right now. If all kids swim, go to WaterWorld with another adult to help supervise (may be a bit pricey for all of you though.) Even a trip to the Oakland Zoo for four 5 y.o. girls can be fun - bring a picnic along, play some games or do an animal art project or two in the field, go on some of the rides, give out some animal favors (the Zoo gift shop or Oriental Trading Company will have some.) Janna
    Please don't feel that you have to do something large and elaborate. 5-year-olds can melt down pretty damned quick at large and (overly) stimulating events, especially when the focus is on them. An outing to some place like Tilden Park--merry-go-round, Little Farm, pony rides, steam trains, take your pick--should satisfy most kids. Or just have a tea party at your place, with a couple of games and a treasure hunt (whose prize is the party favors). Another thing to remember is that refreshments can be simple finger foods; in fact, think about just having a small, special cake for immediate family, and buy or make decorated cup cakes for the party. (Experience FINALLY taught me that big birthday cakes are kind of wasted on children, but cup cakes--with individual candles--always thrill them.) Good luck! Melanie
    I would suggest you have a party in a park -- with just the three other girls. The rule we always followed was one guest per year, so that's not far off. Invite the girls families, too, and if there is a friend from school you'd like to track down, the school office may be opening in the next week or so and they might be able to either give you the phone number or pass along a message. You could do the merry-go-round, or steam train, or pony rides in Tilden, or take the 4 girls to Oakland zoo.... or just play in the park. Each of my kids has had a party with less than 4 kids, at some time...and its no biggie. Fun is Fun! Heather

    Party for about ten 7-year-old girls

    October 2000

    I'm looking for a place for my daughter's 7th birthday party. She's done Golden Bear gymnastics, doesn't want to do it at Head over Heels. Any other ideas for about 10 girls? Thanks so much! Nancy

    Try the Lawrence Hall of Science for a party. They are really fun and basically worry free as the facilitator guides the kids through the activity. We especially enjoyed the bubble party. You can also request the party room after for cake. That way you are not in the main dining area. Good luck and book early, Jamie
    We just had a very successful birthday party for our 7 year old daughter at Brushstrokes on Page St. and 5th St. in Berkeley. We had 8 girls and they all had a great time painting their pottery. There is a picnic table outside for cake, etc. Emily
    For girls or boys, Albany Bowl puts on a great birthday. They supply shoes, lanes (including bumpers so the kids get confidence), pizza and a helper to coordinate it all. We had my son's 7th birthday party there, and they were very friendly and flexible. It was the easiest party to date. We also did Advnenture Playground, but the weather might be a factor for a November birthday. Bennett
    You didn't say when the birthday is but I'm going to assume you're looking for indoor locations. I've been trying to organize my son's first birthday party and have actually found a few places that would have been perfect if he was older: 1. Lawrence Hall of Science 2. Lindsay Wildlife Museum 3. Berkeley YMCA Splash Party 4. If outdoor ok, then Oakland Zoo Good Luck! ek
    Several years ago, we had a successful birthday party at the Berkeley YMCA. They have a shallow pool for the kids. I think they spend an hour in the pool, change in the dressing room,and then go to a nearby room for food, cake, presents. I don't remember too well, but I'm pretty sure they supplied plenty of noodles and other pool toys. Nancy

    Birthday adventure party for six-year old

    Feb. 2000

    I have just moved to Oakland from San Francisco and have been wondering what kind of birthday-adventure party that I could give my six-year old this year. Last year we had a western birthday party in Golden-Gate park, complete with pony rides. This March I was hoping to do a rodeo, but have been unable to find any. I have also considered Tilden Park, but their pony rides don't start until summer. I was hoping to find some kind of adventure themed party this year preferably in Berkeley. I like the idea of doing something that relates to nature in some way, animals or hiking, but anything adventurous is good-maybe a ride on a steam engine? Does anyone have any fun suggestions, I have to plan early and am stuck, as to what to do. Thanks.

    We recently went to a great party at Bay Island Gymnastics (BIG) in Alameda for a six year old that was terrific. Check them out. Curryville
    I don't have the perfect suggestion for a March birthday party in Berkeley with a rodeo or steam train theme (unless your son is not completely Tilden-steam-trained-out by this age!), but I thought I would mention another fun steam train outing which is within striking distance and which does run year-round, plus mention a fun rodeo which takes place in May. Eileen

    The Niles Canyon Railway in Sunol ... (see recommendation for Niles Canyon Railway in Sunol )

    As for rodeos, we took our 9 year old to his first rodeo last May ... (see recommendation for Rowell Ranch Rodeo

    Entertainer for 6-year-old's party

    November 2001

    Can any body recommend a good entertainer for kid birthday in east bay? My son will turn 6 year old in December, I am thinking to have an entertainer to come over if I could find one. Thanks Xinli

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