3 Year Old Summer Birthday Party - Need Inspiration

Updated on April 01, 2012
J.M. asks from Oakland, CA
14 answers

My daughter turns 3 in June and I am already starting to think about her birthday party. I'm trying to get things planned a little in advance, because last year I didn't get it together in time, and totally whiffed it - no party. Whoops. Thankfully she was too little to know the difference, but this year that's not going to fly. :-)

My issue is that I can't stop dithering about what to do. I would prefer not to have it at our house, for a variety of reasons. I would love to take advantage of it being summer and doing something outside, but summer weather here in the Bay Area can be unpredictable. It might be freezing and it might be amazing. I am not opposed to doing it at some place (dance studio, Habitot, whatever) but then there's the question of what do we do with the adults (parents) during the party?

If we do take our chances with the weather and plan for an outside party, like at a park, I'm not sure what kind of activities to offer. I feel that three year olds need to have at least one point of focus to keep them engaged. There will be a few smaller kids there too. Do we plan a couple of little games? Or do we just bring a bunch of balls and other toys for the kids to play with and leave it to them to have fun?

I can't believe I'm having so much trouble figuring this out. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!!

ETA: Wow, thanks for the answers already! I wish I could consider having it at home, but it's just not feasible. She attended a party at Pump It Up a few weeks ago and it was really not a great experience for her. :-(

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So What Happened?

Thank you for all of the great suggestions. We decided to take a chance with the weather and do an outdoor party. We've reserved a picnic area at a great park with a big playground and lots of room to run around. We'll bring balls and other things to play with, bubbles, and I'm going to try to convince her older brothers to do some face painting. I really appreciate all the ideas and inspiration!

Featured Answers



answers from Los Angeles on

Rent a bounce house, my 3 yr old loves them and even older kids love them. Adults even like to get in there with their little ones! You just can't go wrong with a bounce house.
Agreed with Momma L. that parents will be entertained enough with food, drinks, talking to each other and watching their own kids and just seeing them have a good time.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Houston on

Don't worry about entertaining the parents. That is what snacks and drinks are for. They should be helping watching their kids anyways. Have balls, games, bubbles, play music the kids can dance to, bring water balloons if it's going to be hot, rent a bounce house...

I am a party entertainer (I do balloons and facepainting) and so I do a lot of parties for 3 year olds. I'm assuming some kids will be a little older too, so even doing facepainting would be fun.

There are tons of ideas online for parties themes, games and activities.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

I only have one child that has a birthday in a month where the weather is predictable, so we try and take full advantage. Last year (for his 3rd) we rented a bounce house and put it on our back patio. We served pizza, pasta salad, veggies/dip, chips and cake. The kids had an absolute BLAST and the adults hung out, both inside and out. Out of all the bday parties we've had for our 4 kids, that was probably the best.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

can you do a party at a venue that has both indoor and outdoor space. the acquarium, a botanical garden, a nature preserve. These places have great preplanned party formats where they do an age appropriate activity.

good luck to you and yours,
F. B.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

We did a birthday party at Studio Grow last year. You can just let kids play and then gather them for cake, etc. parents of little ones tend to stay near their kids and chat with other adults nearby.

This summer, we are thinking of doing a party at the splashground in Pleasant Hill. It's affordable and I think the kids will LOVE it. I think you can even rent out the whole pool area with lifeguard, too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Pump it Up! We have had many parties there and the adults have just as much fun as the kids, if not more!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

We had a cowgirl-themed birthday party for our daughter when she turned 4 last summer at a horse farm. (There were quite a few 3-year-olds & 5-year-olds there, too.) It was a great party; all the kids made western themed crafts, played games & had pony rides. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day. (We did have a rain date planned, just in case. If the venue will give you a free rain date, that's a plus.) We live on Long Island (NY), so there are quite a few farms/horse farms out here. I don't know much about your area or if there are many farms there. All the kids had a great time, and my daughter still talks about it. There were plenty of picnic tables for the adults, and I ordered a few platters of sandwich wraps for them. The kids had pizza & wagon wheel pasta. The farm handled pretty much everything, so it was great. We were able to invite family & my daughter's friends to one party, and everyone had a nice time.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I have triplets and on their 3rd birthday I had the theme Mickey for boys and minnie for girls, had at home, decorated the playroom with red and black (color for mickey) balloons,cut outs of mickey/minnie(u can get from their websites they have birthday theme), hired a balloon twister who made dogs,cats,princess balloons based on each child's wish....as for favors dollar tree has lots of favors based on mickey/minnie...HTH

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I know what you mean about the weather being unpredictable here, but as you know there are some places that are consistently warmer than others. Concord for one. And there is a Children's Fairyland in Concord that is great for birthday parties!

They have a park for the kids to run around and play with those balls you mentioned, along with a small lake with ducks. All kids love ducks! And then there is Fairyland with a handful of rides made for kids your LO's size! They will have a ball!

I would also plan at least a few games. Pin the Tail on the Donkey is always a hit! Even older kids like to play that (as long as you don't tell their friends - haha) So I would do that and then maybe a game of Simon Says or Red Light Green Light and then maybe even hot potato. These are all old games that kids still love to play. Technology is wonderful, but kids are the same now as they were 100 years ago - they love simple!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pocatello on

my son has a July birthday and I get so anxious about the weather. Between family and friends we have at least 50 people so home is okay as long as the weather cooperates and last year it was 97 degrees and humid. Luckily there was shade and did not rain....anyway summer birthdays are tricky!!

What has worked for me is renting a park from the surrounding park districts. Make sure there is a lot of shade in case it is hot hot and a shelter in case it rains. I like the park because then I did not have to worry about games. I bought each kid a bucket for the sandbox and container of bubbles and they all had fun! This summer will be his 4'th and so far this has worked out for us. Check your county preserves and area park district. Our parties are really for us to catch up with our friends because we all get so busy with kids and activities so one drawback (at least my husband thinks so) is that most public places will not let you have beer. He just wants to be a good host...never has been an issue yet..it is for a kid after all! Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I say have it at a park but pick a nearby restaurant or hall (next to the park) to move it to in case of rain/cold. You can even bring a big tent (hv it inside the tent at the park).

For activities at the park, bring:

hula hoops

butterfly wings for dress up

bean bag toss

balls, toys

In case of rain or cold weather, plan to move to the nearby hall or restaurant. For the hall bring balloons, streamers, table cloths, banners, table runners, centerpiece (all inexpensive @ the Dollar Store) to dress up the place.

For a move to a restaurant reserve a little room or inlet, bring one table top centerpiece, confetti for the table, fun colored napkins, dolls, fun little puzzles, travel games, crayons & coloring table cloth to keep the kids seated & entertained.

If need be, you can move it to a nearby coffee shop (not as ideal but it can be done in a pinch). In a backpack keep one roll up matt or piece of cloth for a place for kids to sit on ground against a wall in corner if you HAVE to move to a busy coffee shop.



answers from Sacramento on

I'm sure you've received lots of amazing ideas, but I thought I'd add a little note about my experiences with having birthday parties for my son. We live in the greater Sacramento area, I don't have a large house, and his birthday is in December. I've done his birthday parties at home (his last one he turned 6). I time it for approximately 2 hours. We start out with some unorganized play time until all children arrive, then we do a craft, after the craft, we do an organized game, then we eat (I plan them Saturdays around lunchtime), we open presents, have cake then the children do more unorganized play. It's during that time that parents get the hint that the party is officially over, and they leave as they want. We've done themes--thomas the train, pirates, superman, etc. Sometimes the craft is actually a snack (I can remember having the kids make their own english muffin pizzas and fed the adults papa murphy's pizza). For guests, the rule of thumb once he turned 5 was one guest for each year--I don't count parents and sibs as the 5 he invites.

This year, my son being in kindergarten has been invited to lots of birthday parties--parents hold them at Bounce U, Whacky Tacky, Sky Zone, Chuck E. Cheese and Incredible John's, but I still did his 6 yo birthday party at home. I imagine next year, we'll choose one of those spots.

Really at 3 years old, you don't have to do too much. Invite family who have children her age or invite children from playgroups or childcare, but you don't have to do too much yet. If your house is too small, is there a family member who will co-host the party with you and allow you to use their house?

From 5 yo on children really get what is going on, and that's when you'll have to get organized.

Whatever you decide, just remember kids love birthday parties because of the cake, so have a good one and enjoy. As the saying goes, they grow up fast.



answers from Houston on

If you do opt for a park party there are a lot of different theme parties in the oriental trading catalog. They have them all grouped together its really easy to see what can be done. We just use the catalog for ideas and make it up as we go. You could also opt to have it at a local movie theater. I kno tue kids went to one and while they watched their mivie the hubby and i went to another one...ALONE!! Or look for somewhere you can have a tea party. This year we are doing a carnival theme for the 6yr and a dance party for the 12 yr. Hope this helps.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi. I have a similar issue with not having a big enough house and my son's bday is in December. This last year we had his party at Encore Gymnastics in Pleasant Hill. It was a great experience and I would recommend it for 3 year olds. They even allow you to bring in whatever food you want and that makes it very affordable. The parents can sit in the audience area and watch the kids at the different stations.

So one else mentioned Children's Fairyland in Concord. I think they are referring to Pixie Playland, which I would recommend also but you will need good weather.

Lastly, last summer I saw a few parties at the park where they had a BBQ but had a bouncy house delivered and picked up at the park. That way kids could play on the playground or in the bouncy house.

Good luck!

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