Is your home too small to accommodate a bunch of seven-year-olds running around? Or are you the kind of mom who wants to be more hands-on with party activities? Maybe your budget can't stretch this year to rent a party place. Then maybe it's time to take your celebration to the park. It's the perfect venue for built-in entertainment, room for kids to to roam and the best part - you won't have to clean your house before or after the party.

"As the mother of a four-year-old and a two-year-old, I'm in the middle of those busy birthday party years," says Melissa Kovacs. Some weekends we have two or three parties to attend. From the dozens of parties that I've gone to this year, I've definitely seen a trend away from hosting home parties."

If you're looking for a place to party, then consider these nine mom-tested, kid-approved ways to take your celebration outdoors.

  1. Build-Your-Own Sundae. Everyone loves a bowl of ice cream. At this party, the guests (with a parent's help) swirl on the whipped cream and choose their favorite sprinkles, candies and syrup to put on top. "I was so glad I had this party at a park," says Kovacs. "The spills and thrills of toppings and ice cream were thoroughly enjoyed, and I didn't worry about the mess." Inexpensive plastic sundae or fountain cups filled with ice cream-themed goodies make for a delicious party favor.

  2. In the Jungle. For the minimal cost of a panel of plywood and some poster paint, you can create a jungle-themed wooden stand-up. Invite guests to put their head through the hole to pose as a monkey (or any other animal you choose to paint). You can even include the photos in the thank-you notes. Here are some party favor ideas: children's passes to the zoo, animal crackers, stuffed animals or animal-themed stickers.

  3. Holiday/Special Event Birthdays . Does your child have a birthday near a holiday or a special event like National Go Fishing Day (June 18)? Let the holiday be your theme. Consider a patriotic party for those early July birthdays, or host a costume party if your child's birthday is in October. During Easter week, dye eggs and decorate springtime cupcakes with green coconut grass and jellybean eggs. Turn Mardi Gras into a party with beads for the kids and King Cake instead of a traditional birthday cake.

  4. Going to the Dogs. Hire a hot dog vendor to serve kid-sized and regular sized hot dogs. Supplement lunch with individual bags of chips, drinks and a fruit salad. The food is served hot, and you can mingle with the guests instead of worrying about barbecuing. For more fun, pair this idea with a circus or carnival-themed party.

  5. Hip, Hip, Hooray. Hire a couple of teens from the high school cheer squad to come and teach the kids a cheer. Fun favors for this energetic party can include having the kids make pom-poms or a megaphone. The idea can also work with any sport - football, soccer, baseball. Contact the high school coach to hire a varsity player to come and teach your guests how to dribble a soccer ball, throw a baseball or catch a football.

  6. I'm Sherlock Holmes. Kids love eye-spy games, and that's what makes a spy-themed party a guaranteed winner. Fold newspaper to form your own version of a deerstalker hat. Each guest is given detective kits (magnifying glass, a list of clues, a clue notebook, a pen) and sent on a pre-arranged, supervised scavenger hunt throughout the park.

  7. Old MacDonald. Bring this long-time favorite song to life with a farm-animal party. Invite everyone to wear overalls, sit on hay bales and make a corncob pipe. Inexpensive bandanas can double as party bags with plastic farm animals inside.

  8. It's a Fairy Tale. Hire your teen babysitter to dress up as a fairy to entertain the kids by reading books about "Tinker Bell" or "Abby Cadabby" to the kids. Silver or gold glitter in small bottles can double for fairy dust. Magic wands and crowns can be made easily. You could also have someone dress as a fireman, engineer or cowboy reader and select stories to match one of those themes.

  9. Pooch Party. This is a great way to celebrate if your child is an animal lover. Dog-themed music can play in the background, while guests decorate dog-shaped cookies. Give partiers a jar of homemade dog biscuit mix with a bone-shaped cookie cutter attached to make biscuits for their dogs. "My daughters and I have had a lot of fun making these for our dog, Abby," says Kovacs.

More Ideas

Still can't find a party theme that suits your child. Go to your bookshelf or DVD collection to get the ideas flowing. "Madeline," "Olivia," "Lily's Purple Plastic Purse," "Winnie the Pooh," "Thomas the Tank Engine" or any other favorite book can map out a fun theme. For example, "Alice in Wonderland" (Mad Hatter tea party); "Mary Poppins" (be sure to include lots of chalk drawings and carousels); "The Land Before Time" (stuffed dinosaurs) are a fun party favor.


Claire Yezbak Fadden is an award-winning columnist and freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter @claireflaire.