DIY Outdoor Birthday Party Ideas Cool Enough for Big Kids
Throwing a big kid’s birthday party in the winter months has been tough these past couple of years. Nothing guarantees a sad birthday tween more than a cold, masked, socially distanced, and minimally attended birthday party. While there are some cool big kid birthday party venues in New York City, most people still aren't comfortable celebrating indoors. But, armed with a little creativity and a can-do attitude, we've found eight DIY—or do-it-with-a-little-help—ideas for outdoor birthday parties that ensure your next big kid celebration ends in some wide birthday smiles!
Find more all-ages ideas to celebrate in our Guide to Kids' Birthday Parties in NYC.
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The key to a successful outdoor birthday party in the cold winter months: Keep 'em moving, like this wild game of laser tag.
1. Laser Tag Birthday Party
We threw an indoor laser tag party right before the world went into lockdown and my daughter deemed it the best birthday ever. She was desperate to do it again, but I didn’t want to have the party inside. I did a bit of research and found you can rent the taggers by themselves. They arrived at my doorstep with full instructions and spare batteries included. Cue 12 tween girls literally having a blast and hiding behind trees in the park. The best bit: At the end, you just throw them back in the box and drop them at a UPS Store—return postage is included. It was so easy, and she was delighted!
2. Soccer Birthday Party
Socceroof in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, is home to semi-outdoor, five-a-side pitches for rent that are perfect for parties. They're covered by a roof but open on the sides. However, you can also stage your own game in a local park or playground. Organize your own games, and enlist the help of fellow parents to coach or referee. Another option: Consider hiring a soccer coach to come to you.
3. Hip Hop Dance Birthday Party
A dance party appeals to pretty much any age and can be held anywhere. Bring a Bluetooth speaker, some lights, and hire an instructor to get the kids busting their best hip-hop moves. Dancewave can provide instruction in many different genres at your location.
4. Ice Skating Birthday Party
The city's family-friendly ice skating rinks are a great option for a winter birthday party, particularly for older kids who don’t need so much help. Venues like the rink at Prospect Park's LeFrak Center Lakeside offer rooms adjacent to the rink that can be rented for birthday parties to warm up and enjoy food. Or, keep it all outdoors (and cost-free) by setting up your cake and snacks on the adjacent picnic benches instead.
Set up an obstacle course at your next outdoor birthday party to entertain both kids and adults.
5. A DIY Obstacle Course Birthday Party
Want to keep the kids moving, focused, entertained, with a bit of healthy competition? A DIY obstacle course works like a dream. Include sack jumping, crawling through tunnels, dribbling a ball around cones, balancing (hard-boiled!) eggs on spoons, spinning around a broom, and then capturing a flag or baton to race back to the start for your next team member to go. Choose to buy an easy-to-find bundle of equipment, like this, or scout out your local park for natural obstacles to incorporate. At the end, hold an Olympic-style medal ceremony with prizes!
6. A DIY Scavenger Hunt Birthday Party
A scavenger hunt provides a relatively simple outdoor DIY party theme. Use these scavenger hunt templates for inspiration. Younger kids can search for natural things, like acorns, spying a woodpecker, etc., in a park. Older kids will enjoy the challenge of decoding cryptic clues, with the next clue being given at the site of the answer to the first one, and on and on until they find the "treasure"—cake and goody bags! If this seems a lot, you can also consider booking a group outing to one of these themed scavenger hunts.
7. A Painting Birthday Party
The great outdoors are the perfect place for an art-focused birthday party, especially if someone else can do all the thinking, planning, and messy bits for you. Creatively Wild Art Studio can bring the project idea, materials, and instructor to your outdoor venue.
8. A Birthday Tea Party
A tea party may sound a bit little kid, but if you add in a whole bunch of sweet treats and some classic campfire games, it can be a big hit for older kids, too. I went all out, finding fancy teacups, plates, and a teapot from a thrift store, made finger sandwiches, mini cupcakes, and bought macarons. We took blankets, lit a barbecue in the park, toasted marshmallows for s’mores, and brought flasks of hot chocolate which we drank out of the fancy cups. Then we played "Telephone," "I went to market...," and "Two truths and a lie." It’s a little bit of work, but if you’re all in for DIY, it’s also a lot of fun!
I’m happy to report that DIY laser-tagging was a huge hit this year—with no tears in sight. Keeping kids moving has been the key to success at our outdoor winter birthday parties with hot chocolate providing both warmth and fuel. One day we hope we’ll be blessed with snow on the day of a party so we can hit our favorite sledding hills for the easiest kind of DIY party.
Photos by the author