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Choose the Best Birthday Theme for Preschoolers

Party ideas for children ages 2-4


Preschool birthday themes

Create a rainbow cake for a preschool birthday theme party: dye each layer a color, bake, cool, then stack layers in the order of the rainbow!

Megan Cooley

By age 2, most kids can grasp the concept--or at least the excitement--of a birthday party. By 3, they want to help plan their own. And by 4, well, there’s simply nothing better than celebrating their big day.

You don’t have to do much to make this age group happy. A cake, a few presents and the Happy Birthday song are really all you need.

If you want to build the party around a theme, though, consider these ideas:

Colors of the Rainbow

Build a party around your child’s favorite color or celebrate all the colors with a rainbow birthday party.

The decorations for this party are simple: pink plates, pink cups, pink balloons, pink everything for a pink party. Green hats, green tablecloths, green streamers, green everything for a green party. You get the picture.

Frost the cake the theme color, of course, but also think about other foods you could tie to the color, such as blue corn chips, orange cantaloupe, red spaghetti sauce on pasta or green salad.

If you go for a rainbow party, buy small packs of solid-color paper products of different colors and arrange them in the Roy G. Biv order on the food table. Goody bags could be arranged the same way, too.

For a rainbow cake, either combine all the colors into the cake batter psychedelically or dye each layer of the cake a different color and stack them atop one another. Either way, frost the cake with fluffy white frosting for a cloud-like effect.

Can’t get enough edible rainbows? Then make rainbow Jell-O, too.

Favors for a rainbow party could be small packs of Crayons and coloring books.

Parade Party

Everybody loves a parade, right? Well, young kids are no exception.

Invite friends over for a “parade party” and tell them on the invitations to bring their bicycles, wagons, strollers and other means of non-motorized transportation. Have some craft supplies on hand, such as streamers and flags, and then give the kids 30 minutes to decorate their rides.

Make a large fabric banner that says “happy birthday” ahead of time and ask two of the older children to carry it at the front of the procession. Give everyone a drum major hat, which will later serve as the party favor, and then parade through the neighborhood banging pots and pans or hitting toy drums. (Be sure to call your local law enforcement first and ask whether you need a parade permit. Most likely you won’t, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.)

When you get back home, serve a long, narrow cake frosted to look like a street or make four small cakes, each resembling a parade float, and line them up down the middle of your table.

Make a Splash

Many children are fascinated by the world that exists under the sea. Tickle their imaginations with an underwater-themed birthday party.

The party colors should be cool greens and blues. Decorate the food table with fishing net, lobster traps, sand dollars and starfish.

Make the cake using a castle-shaped bundt pan, but instead of frosting the finished cake in a traditional way, dust it with brown sugar to make it look like a sandcastle.

Make each child a mermaid tail they can wear during the party and take home as the favor.

Get Sporty

Preschoolers have lots of energy to burn, so why not throw a sports-themed party? You could hold it in your backyard, in a park or at an indoor athletic complex.

Hire some athletes from your local high school to lead the kids in activities. Keep the games simple, such as freeze tag or red light-green light, since this age group is too young to understand the rules of most sports.

Make a soccer-ball piñata and a cake to match, or go with cupcakes that celebrate many sports if your little athlete can't decide on a favorite one.

Serve stadium-style food, such as hot dogs and popcorn, and set the food table to look like a concession stand, with popcorn containers and hot dog boats (compare prices).

Send each child home with a foam football as the party favor.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Set the tone for a transportation theme by sending out ticket-style invitations to the party or make invitations that look like luggage tags.

The party colors should be sky blue with red accents.

The cake could be a 3-dimensional airplane, a round layer cake frosted blue with white clouds and a toy airplane on top, or a sailboat adrift on a fondant ocean.

Send each child home with a balsa wood airplane as a favor.

Bake Up a Bash

If there’s one thing this age group loves, it’s doing real-world activities like washing windows and folding clothes.

Now, you probably won’t invite kids to your house and hand them mop buckets (although it would work for a Cinderella party, wouldn’t it?), but you can put everyone to work doing another popular chore: baking!

Baking parties can get messy, so be prepared and measure out the ingredients in small bowls ahead of time. Have the kids work in groups of two or three and ask a parent to lead each group through the recipe.

The kids can either spoon their batter into a cupcake tin or combine each group’s batter into a large bowl that you then pour into a cake pan. While the cake is baking, send the kids to another room to open presents and play games. After the cake cools, frost it and then invite the kids back to the kitchen to decorate it with sprinkles, candy confetti and other decorations.

And for favors? Chefs’ hats, of course!

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