How to Plan a Kids Dinosaur Theme Birthday Party
My son, and his sister before him, were huge dinosaur and all things prehistoric fans. Because of that, I’ve had a good amount of experience perfecting the most fun to be had with dinosaurs and their furrier ice age friends at the lowest cost and with the littlest mess for parents. Which isn’t to say there isn’t some cost or some mess. I mean seriously, how much fun can any kids’ birthday party be without a little mess?
Now let’s get to ideas for planning your dinosaur birthday bash.
Step 1.) Pick your era. When planning a prehistoric party, the first thing to decide is what this means. If your children are as savvy as mine are, I’m sure you know the ice age and the Jurassic just can’t be mixed together—or maybe they can, but be sure to consult with your own dinosaur expert before trying this at home.
Step 2.) Set your guest list. Once you have what exactly will be allowed animal wise, set your guest list. How much you choose to spend on party favors and how elaborate you go with the games is definitely going to depend on how many junior paleontologists you have running around.
Step 3.) Pick your location. We have always opted to have our dinosaur parties at home, but you could choose to have one at a local park or perhaps a local children’s museum that offered a special “dig” area. There are also groups that offer “mad science” type parties that could be integrated into a dinosaur theme. This would cost more, but save you from coming up with the games and activities. Then you could concentrate the dinosaur part of the day on favors, cake and decoration.
Kids Love a Dinosaur Shaped Cake
Step 4.) Design or Buy your invitations. I’ve done it both ways. I’ve searched out dinosaur or ice age (especially easy to find when an Ice Age movie is out) invitations and I’ve designed and printed my own using Microsoft Word or Publisher and an ink jet color printer. To be honest, I prefer designing my own. You can buy blank cards at any office supply store. I prefer to use postcards because they are so simple to run through the printer. Microsoft has a decent selection of dinosaur clip art for you to choose from and if you have Microsoft Publisher, you can use one of their templates to quickly and easily design your invitations. Everything will be nicely printed and custom to your child and event and you won’t have a bunch of leftover invitations to recycle. (We never seem to invite kids in the units of 8 that invitations come in.)
Step 4A.) Mail or deliver the invitation. I like to give people around two weeks notice. Much longer than that and they tend to forget, less and they will already have plans.
Step 5.) Decide on games and activities. This is where the fun comes in. Some of our biggest hits have been...
Egg Hunts – for this you can use plastic Easter eggs, or make your own dinosaur eggs with paper mache covered balloons. I like to do a bit of both. I fill the plastic eggs with candy and the bigger paper mache eggs with plastic dinosaurs or other prehistoric party favor. (Check places like Amazon, Oriental Trading or your local Dollar Store for cheap dinosaurs the kids will love.)
Slime – Okay, slime isn’t technically related to dinosaurs, but the kids love it and you can throw in red food coloring to make a cool “lava” flow....Watch out dinos! (Instructions on making slime here.)
Tattoos – Cheap, fast and easy. You can’t miss with a few temporary tattoos. Again pick these up cheap at Oriental Trading or a similar store.
Dinosaur Dig – Have a sandbox? Then you have the perfect place to direct those junior paleontologists. For this I recommend finding plastic dinosaur skeletons—again available through Oriental Trading or Amazon. Give the kids sand shovels for the rough work and buy packs of disposable paint brushes at hardware and discount stores for the more detailed excavation.
Piñata – Piñatas come in all shapes and sizes and many of those are prehistoric. Pick your favorite and fill it with mini dinosaurs and bone-shaped candies.
Egg Race – Oh no! The dreaded egg-thief Oviraptor is after the eggs in your dinosaur’s nest. To save your dinos from extinction you need to move those eggs! And, of course, this won’t be easy as there are lots of other threats in our prehistoric world. To emulate this, I set up an obstacle course and make the kids race through it with an egg (boiled or not, depending on your tolerance for mess) balanced on a spoon. First one or team through wins!
Coloring Pages and Craft Kits – I like to use quiet activities like coloring pages or craft kits as a transitional activity when kids are first arriving. You can buy a coloring book for a few dollars or just print out coloring pages from the Internet. If your guests are older, search for appropriate craft kits at your local craft store. You can also cut cardstock into bookmark length pieces, supply the kids with markers, stamps and stickers and let them design their own bookmarks for their favorite dinosaur reads.
Avoid Extinction – This is a twist on the old favorite musical chairs. Best thing about this game, it is as close to free as you can get. Just print out pictures of a few dinosaurs (one less than the number of kids playing) and lay them on the ground then start the music. When the music stops everyone races to a dino...no dino left? You have faced extinction. Last player/dino left wins!
Pin the horn on the Triceratops – Enlist an older child to sketch out a Triceratops minus his nose horn onto a giant piece of butcher paper or poster board. Then cut horns (marked with each child’s name or favorite dinosaur) out of card stock or poster board. Blindfold the kids, spin them around and see who gets closest to replacing our poor triceratops’s missing horn correctly.
Plastic dinosaurs—If your child is a dinosaur lover, chances are like me, you have a house filled with plastic dinosaurs. These also make a great transition activity. Just set a bunch out in a defined area and direct the kids that way as they arrive. You may find they are more interested in just playing than in doing any of the other more elaborate games you have created.
Step 6.) Decide on your decorations. One of the pluses of those paper mache eggs that you made, is they can if you choose serve as decorations too. Your child’s own collection of plastic dinosaurs can also be used.
Step 7.) Order or decorate the cake. Again, I’ve done this both ways. Any place that offers birthday cakes is most likely going to have some kind of prehistoric choice or you can ask them to just do a jungle theme and you can let your child personalize it with small plastic dinosaurs of your choosing. (Use ones you already have or buy new ones. The “tube” animals are a great size to set up an entire prehistoric world.)
Baking and decorating your own can also be a blast and the kids love it—especially if you use a pan shaped like a dinosaur. Even if you have zero experience in cake decorating, you can decorate one of these. Directions come with the pans, but basically you just need a bag for the icing and a “star” tip. Both easily come by at any hobby store. I do need to warn you though that while it is easy, it is also tiring. It takes a lot of frosting stars to cover an entire T-Rex!
Step 8.) Pick your favors. The paper mache eggs that you filled with toys and the candy from the piñata are all you need for favors. You can, however, find things like coloring books for as little as a $1 a piece if you want to add something more.
Step 9.) Open your doors and prepare for the wave of dinosaur-crazed energy! I highly recommend that you have at least two adults, or older children, lined up to help direct your dinosaur-loving guests. I also like to do a “stations” kind of party so the kids aren’t standing around waiting for their friend to finish before they can begin. This works especially well for the dinosaur dig, tattoos and slime. Have those three going on at the same time, then pull everyone back together for extinction game, egg hunt, race, and piñata. Pin the horn on the triceratops can be a station or group activity.
Step 10.) Don’t forget the thank yous. Again I prefer to print my own. You can either use the same art you used for the invitations or take a picture of the birthday child or the entire group and use that. It’s a great way to make the thank you that much more personal—especially nice if your child isn’t old enough to write a note him or herself.
So, there you are. Ten steps to throwing the biggest, best dinosaur bash your child can imagine. Please let me know if you try one or if you have any tips of your own to add.