When your child hits double digits, birthday party planning can get a little more complicated. The guest list can be problematic enough, but even when you’ve decided on the right number and mix of friends, coming up with teenage birthday party ideas is a whole different challenge. After all, tweens and teens desperately want a party that expresses their new maturity and burgeoning individuality. And parents want fun birthday party ideas that don’t cost a fortune, require a year of planning, or end in tears (although sometimes that’s out of our control).
That’s a long list, but we’re up to the task. Here are a dozen suggested teenage birthday party ideas, all of which will celebrate your child’s milestone and make sure all of their closest friends are having fun, too. (Also, here are 30 amazing ideas for the best gifts for teens.)
1. Night games and a campfire
If your tween or teen is looking for a coed party, start with a barbecue and then play a few familiar games. (They seem more mature if played after sunset.) Think of a ghost in the graveyard, kick the can and capture the flag. You can end the night with a campfire if you have the space and your kids are old enough to practice safety properly. Who doesn’t love toasting marshmallows and s’mores?
2. Scavenger Hunt
Bring back the scavenger hunts you organized for your kids when they were younger, but blow them out and push the boundaries. Divide the guests into teams, hand out clue lists, have the kids use their smartphones to snatch the items on the list, and meet up after about an hour. Don’t limit the clues to simply finding locations or historical markers; This includes some silly acts that teenagers secretly love to do, like singing a hit from their early years or doing cartwheels in the park. This is also great for a coed party. And if you want to extend the party a bit, start with each team having to decorate t-shirts. Just make sure you have a sturdy supply of fabric markers and sharpies.
3. The classic overnight stay
Don’t knock the standby classic of a slumber party. Since the kids are all older, you probably won’t have to deal with separation anxiety in any of your guests. Activities include making pizzas, decorating cupcakes, a sundae bar, and watching a movie. Be ready to create an unforgettable breakfast, like funfetti pancakes or a waffle cutting board.
4. Pool Party
If you have access to a pool, throw a pool party. The activity is easy – swimming and splashing around (although it requires a keen eye for safety; even better if you have other parents supervising). Earn cool points by adding some festive floats to the mix, like a unicorn or a slice of pizza. Spread Unicorn Snot Glitter Sunscreen to keep sunscreen festive. You can end the party at any time with a barbecue or pizza party.
5. Spa Party
Hello sheet masks and pedicures! Level up and feed their eyes with slices of cucumber as they loaf around. You can give out slippers or nail polish as party favors. Why not devote some time to a DIY and make a sugar scrub or bath bombs?
6. Take a field trip
Gather the kids and head to the beach, the zoo, the ice rink, or a hiking trail, or even try to see an outdoor show. Rent a van big enough to haul everyone to the event and create a celebratory playlist for the ride.
7. Dance party
Swap out your regular light bulbs for some black lights to turn your house into a club and throw a dance party. Ask guests to come up with their favorite dance tune so you can add the tracks to the party playlist. Break up the boogie with cake and a game of Limbo.
8. Movie night outside
Instead of going to a movie theater, create a mini drive-in feel by setting up a cozy place to hang out, offer snacks, and choose a movie or two to show.
9. Hotel night
Make a slumber party a little more exciting by taking the kids to a hotel. Depending on the ages of the kids, you’ll probably want to keep the party on the smaller side, but you can get adjoining rooms to accommodate everyone.
10. Slime Party
If your tween still loves slime, celebrate their birthday with a party dedicated to this slippery substance. You can make a variety of slimes and even celebrate your tween with some edible slime. . . but they’ll probably still want some kind of cake.
11. Karaoke Night
Rent a karaoke machine and let the kids go to town belting out their favorite tunes. Bring out old costumes and accessories so each act can be sensational and silly. You might think they’re all grown up, but playing dress up is kinda timeless.
12. Escape room
Make these teenagers work for their freedom and take them to an escape room where they must work together to solve the room’s mystery. Things to know beforehand: Guest numbers may need to be limited to the lower end, as many of these spaces have a maximum capacity of six to 10 people, and some require an adult to attend.