Planning a summer birthday party? These 20 outdoor party ideas and themes are inspired by real-life moms and party planners and are ideal for summer weather.
They work for boys or girls and for a range of ages—from babies to tweens. You can do them in your own backyard or at a local park.
If your child can’t go to overnight camp this summer, bring the camp to you! Play camp games and sing camp songs, make gimp bracelets or tie-dye t-shirts, go on a nature hike, and don’t forget the best part: s’mores.
Good ideas: mini pup tents, nature scavenger hunt, s’mores cupcakes, trail mix bar.
Messy Art Party
Let kids get creative with tons of art supplies. Arts and crafts do double duty as a theme and an activity. No games required when kids are busy crafting. It’s easy to make the food look great: rainbow-coloured sweets and cupcakes make excellent eye candy—and an assortment of ripe summer fruit would fit the theme, too.
Good ideas: mini canvas painting activity with a paint palette for each child, decorate-your-own cupcakes, splatter-paint t-shirts, empty picture frame photo booth with dress-up stuff
Ice Cream Social Party
I scream, you scream… An ice cream social or a banana-split party with lots of DIY options is something all kids can get behind. But you may want to forgo a cake, with all the sugar involved!
Good ideas: toppings bar with toppings in flower pots, ice-cream-cone balloons, pin the cherry on the ice cream cone game
Obstacle Course Party
An obstacle party is a surefire way to keep kids entertained. Get inspired by the TV show Wipeout… using a tarp or water slide, big red exercise balls or giant playground balls, set up a sprinkler, buckets of water, and wear your swimsuits! Keep the decor simple—it’s all about the activities!
Good ideas: pool noodle obstacle, make use of that Ikea tunnel, hula hoops and a kiddie pool at the bottom of a slide, “mud pit” chocolate pudding (go ahead, make a mess!)
Show a movie under the stars or even make it a “drive-in” movie with toy cars or homemade carboard box cars. Rent a movie screen or rig a DIY screen from a dropcloth. Or just set up sleeping bags and/or camping mats and all the pillows and cushions you have.
Good ideas: a treat wagon with movie-theatre favourites like chocolate-covered raisins and gummy candy, movie ticket invites, flavoured popcorn mix-and-match station
There’s a reason this is a popular summer birthday party theme for kids: it’s fun! Food and decor are no-brainers—almost anything goes: streamers, balloons, every colour under the rainbow, popcorn, animal crackers, pretzels, hot dogs, bubbles…nothing is too over the top under the big top!
Good ideas: themed invitations like these vintage-style circus “tickets” from the Toronto-based 800Canvas, carnival games with prizes, popcorn boxes filled with popcorn or candy
Zoo or Safari Party
Whether your child is wild about pandas, penguins, parrots or all of the above, you can build an animal-themed party around it. Put all their toy animals to work as decor and make a tissue-paper forest plus green streamers as vines.
Good ideas: animal-themed crafts (necklaces with animal beads, wild-animal masks, design-your-own animal), adopt-an-endangered animal gift, animal crackers all around!
Nerf War Party
Battle it out with a high-energy party that’s on point for active kids. Any kind of blaster toy or super soaker water gun will work too. This party if you’ve got a decent-size backyard or can borrow one. Set up bunkers using cardboard boxes, tires, kids’ playhouse, a picnic table on its side, a beach umbrella…whatever you’ve got!
Good ideas: “launchable” snacks like cheese balls, blue punch, plastic-cup target practice area, plastic safety glasses for kids
Sound too ambitious for your backyard? Find local indoor battle sports arenas.
Any food or decoration that comes in a primary or secondary colour is fair game for a rainbow party. Any kind of colourful art or craft activity is perfect for this type of party, as is a colour-themed scavenger hunt, and hands-on cupcake-decorating. (Tip: Give each kid a mini paint palette with a selection of toppings in each paint cup and plain-white-frosted cupcake in the centre.)
Good ideas: fruit and veggie kebabs in all colours, rainbow piñata, rainbow layer cake, pinwheels as favours, rainbow pasta salad, sprinkles, sprinkles, and more sprinkles
Bubbles and Balloons Party
Let’s not overthink it. Kids love bubbles. Kids love balloons. Go to town with giant bubble wands, a bubble machine, balloon animals, and water balloon games. You can also make one of those giant tri-string bubble wands you see at funfairs.
Good ideas: photo op: neat DIY hot air balloon photo booth, balloon cake pops, good-quality bubbles to take home, activity: each kid gets a bubble bin with different types of wands and bubbles and let ’em loose
Beach Party / Surf’s Up Party
Can’t get to the beach? Bring it to you. This is a classic summer theme that’ll cool you off in the heat. Checklist: a sandbox, sand toys, some beach blankets and towels, beach balls, coloured lanterns, coolers filled with beverages, a sprinkler or kiddie pool. Dress code: swimsuit!
Good ideas: watermelon shark fruit salad, snacks displayed in sand buckets (with shovels as serving spoons), beach ball volleyball, sunglasses as favours
Under the Sea or Mermaid Party
Mermaids are a popular party trend, but there are other ways you can interpret this party: focus on awesome sea creatures like octopus, whales, and squid; incorporate shipwrecks and pirates, submarines, Neptune, and more. Balloons are essential, as are seaweed streamers and bubbles, bubbles, everywhere!
More Summer Party Themes
Here are some other great party themes that are ideal for summer, sunshine, patios, and backyards.
This is the old cowboy/cowgirl theme popular with lil’ pardners since your grandparents were kids. Givens are pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, a “watering hole” drinks station, cowboy hats, and bandanas. Good idea: “wanted” sign photo booth.
Spy / Secret Agent Party
This works at any time of year, but using the backyard for a fun day of spy training games, secret missions, and “explosives” (Pop Rocks and balloons) is even better. Good idea: dress the part and add some nose-and-glasses disguises.
County Fair Party
Timeless, wholesome fun for everyone. Go for simple pleasures with corn dogs, watermelon, berries, and lemonade and old-fashioned games like potato sack races, three-legged races, water-balloon toss, scavenger hunts. Good idea: DIY scrap fabric pennant (just cut and tie onto a string—no-sew!) and a pie-eating contest.
Mexican Fiesta Party
Is basically an excuse to eat tacos, guacamole, and queso-topped everything all day long? Sí! Decor and games are easy: pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and of course, a piñata. Every colour of the rainbow works for decorations—you just need the essential Mexican papel picado banners. Good ideas: luchador mask-making activity and a special sombrero for the birthday kid.
Teddy Bear Picnic Party
You could make it Winnie the Pooh, Care Bears, or Rilakkuma theme, but we like to be inclusive of all bears. Think country picnic: checkered picnic blanket, striped straws, and honey-themed foods. Plus, ants on a log! Good ideas: meringue-topped beehive cupcakes.