Outrageous Kids Birthday Party Trends
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All Grown Up1 of 11
By Elizabeth Jenkins
Kids' birthday parties used to mean a cake from the local supermarket, a handful of balloons, and crepe-paper streamers. Not anymore. With snow machines in the summer and solar-powered bouncy houses, today's tot celebrations are over the top. See the outrageous trends that make turning 5 (or 6, or 7…) a gala occasion.
Menu Makeover2 of 11
Pizza, chicken tenders and French fries are no longer the only meal options at kids' parties. "As children are exposed to more adult foods, their palates become more developed at a younger age," says Los Angeles caterer Nathaniel Neubauer (ContemporaryCatering.com), who has served sushi and grilled vegetables—even caviar—at the request of the young honorees.
Let It Snow3 of 11
Who says you have to live in ski states like Colorado to have a powdery celebration? With the right space—and the help of an ice company that can blow snow—anyone can create a makeshift winter wonderland. Southern California event planner Lisa Gorjestani (DetailsEventPlanning.com) constructed a faux mountain atop bales of hay for one birthday girl. "Snow on a warm California day is fun, comfortable and fairly easy to do," she says. "It only takes about 30–40 minutes to set up, and kids love it." Just be sure to indicate on the invitation how guests should dress, regardless of current temps!
Eco-Kids4 of 11
Now that schools are educating children about the importance of recycling and gardening, it's only natural that birthday parties are going green. Santa Barbara events guru Merryl Brown has coordinated several eco-friendly parties, including this one, in which all the food and flowers were locally grown, the bouncy house was solar-powered, and the eggs that were part of the table decoration came from the birthday boy's backyard. "The centerpieces were organic lettuces and herbs charmingly planted in vintage food tins," says Brown. "They were later planted into the garden as a party activity."
Singing Sensation5 of 11
Thanks to hit TV shows like American Idol, people of all ages now dream of performing in front of superstar judges. That may explain why Chicago event planner Debi Lilly (APerfectEvent.com) was tasked with organizing an Idol-themed bash for her 9-year-old daughter. "She planned the entire party with her friends and even made signs for the judges," says Lilly, who set up a karaoke machine so the girls could take turns performing. "We were positive, and everyone was a winner!" she says, adding that anyone renting a karaoke machine should make sure to get tracks with lyrics for maximum fun.
Toast of the Town6 of 11
For one 9-year-old girl, California events expert Kristi Amoroso, dreamed up an elegant soiree centered around fairies, stardust and sparkle. Plastic glassware resembled an elegantly cut crystal goblet one might see at a fancy dinner party. Lining the rim with pink sugar, she made basic lemonade look like it was prepared by a mixologist. Why the formal touches? "In general, kids—especially girls—are interested in sophisticated, creative ideas," says Amoroso. "Little girls at this age like to feel grown-up, and with so much available online, they see more elegant options than ten years ago."
In the Details7 of 11
With websites like Etsy available, it's easier than ever to find ways to carry a theme through, from the invitations to the favors. But by hiring a planner, like L.A.'s Leesa Zelken (SendInTheClownsLA.com), you won't need to spend a minute trolling the Web for ideas. Why have services like Zelken's become so popular with parents? "Knowing that the many watchful eyes of fellow parents will be in attendance can be a motivator for a more well-thought-out celebration, full of bells and whistles," says Zelken, who recently planned a bash for 100 kids featuring mind readers and spa-like chairs.
For the Boys8 of 11
Now that creative centerpieces and elaborate buffet tables have become more common, event planners have had to find clever ways to keep the decor boyish when the honoree is a young man. For one rugby-themed bash, Sonoma, Calif., planner Kelly McCleskey-Dolata (ALittleSavvyEvent.com) used wheatgrass to design centerpieces that looked like miniature rugby fields. "Since this event was for a boy, flowers didn't seem appropriate, and I wanted something that went with the theme," says McKleskey-Dolata, who also built a field from AstroTurf that she ordered online and then spray-painted.
Bite-Sized9 of 11
Since shot glasses of gazpacho and trays of sliders have become expected at adult soirees, it's no surprise that the interest in miniature portions has trickled down to kids' parties. Los Angeles pastry chef Diana Sproveri, who creates gourmet cake pops (Lollibakes.com), now has younger fans requesting her treats. "Smaller-portioned ideas are always great for kids, because they can eat dessert on their own with a lot less mess," she says. "There are so many wonderful ideas out there that a cake on its own isn't as exciting as it used to be."
Off to Camp10 of 11
New England event designer Desiree Spinner (DesireeSpinnerEvents.com) recently faced one of her toughest clients—her son Luke, who wanted a camp-themed party for his sixth birthday. "He thought up the theme on his own and wanted to replicate the 'night out' experience from his summer camp," she explains. Spinner erected a tent, served s'mores, and set up chairs in front of a rented big screen so the kids could watch The Berenstain Bears Go to Camp once the sun went down. "They loved it so much they watched it twice before their parents came to pick them up!"
Do Them a Favor11 of 11
A little candy, bubbles, and temporary tattoos have been common favors over the years, but party-throwers are getting more creative with their parting gifts. For one boy's celebration, Debi Lilly had a life-size racecar built entirely from balloons, and then gave guests the chance to sit "inside" and have their picture taken. Afterward, each child was able to take home a cute card with their Polaroid picture inside. "It is beyond important to keep kids busy during the party," says Lilly. "No matter how many activities, kids still blow through them so fast and are asking What else can we do?"