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Unique, Fun, and Simple Ideas for a Three Year Old Birthday Party

Updated on July 15, 2012
Bubbles are always great fun for everyone!
Bubbles are always great fun for everyone! | Source

Keeping it Simple, But Fun

My son will be three in a few months, and I have started attending some third birthday parties for some of his friends. I'm already learning lots of things I want to do for his party, but a few particularly good ideas stand out in my mind, and I will focus on those here. I'm not focusing on cakes or favors (though I have another article about second birthday party favors that applies well to three year olds as well), because I think those topics are well covered already. But I thought it might be helpful to list a few idea about activities/things to play with to make a party special. I feel like there is so much information out there about children's birthday parties that it can get a little overwhelming. And really, all you need are a few nice touches to make a memorable and fun party.

The three ideas I'm focusing on share a few qualities that I think make them winners:

  • They are all activities that it is easy for multiple children to do at the same time. I think you tend to set kids up for failure if you put out one or two really great toys to play with and expect them to take turns nicely all throughout the birthday party. I like all of these because there is plenty to go around, and kids can participate in these activities together.
  • They are all fairly inexpensive. It's easy to get sucked into feeling like you have to spend tons of money on a birthday party, and I know there are so many places that make it all easy to do it at their location (Pump it Up, etc), but these ideas make it easy to have a party at a park or in a backyard.
  • They are somewhat unique so they should hold kids' attention for a decent amount of time.

Snow Cone Machine - Fun, Unique, and Simple!

We were just at a birthday party where they had a snow cone machine. It was a blast for the kids and the adults.

Here's how it measures up on the three qualities I was looking for:

  • Multiple kids can participate at once - granted, this isn't really a traditional "activity" but for my son at least, eating definitely counts as an activity. But as far as sharing goes, it's very easy to make a lot of snow cones quickly, and as long as you make sure you've gotten enough supplies, this can make many kids happy at once.
  • Inexpensive - the machines aren't super cheap, but they also cost a lot less than renting a place, and you can use them over and over again. Once you have the machine, the supplies are very cheap (just ice, cones, and flavoring!). I also think that's nice because spills aren't a big deal.
  • Time consuming - I don't know if it's just my kid, but he will spend a ton of time eating popsicles, ice cream, and snow cones. You may have to still help a three year old eat the snow cone, but if you provide little spoons, they can probably do it themselves. And it takes a while to eat the ice, which is good for everyone!

Bubble Machines Keep Kids Entertained for a Long Time!

I am now a huge fan of bubble machines after seeing my son have a ton of fun with them on multiple occasions lately. They are also super cheap. I am most familiar with the Gazillion brand, and it seems to work really well.

Here's how it measures up on the qualities I was looking for:

  • Multiple kids can participate at once - bubble machines are just as great as can be in this way. Bubbles are for everyone, and the fun seems to multiply the more kids you have running around chasing bubbles!
  • Inexpensive - most machines seem to be $20 or less - such a great deal.
  • Time consuming - kids seem to love to play with these for a long time. At three, they are also at an age where they may start making up their own games with the bubbles that can go on and on.

Craft Area - Drawing or Play Dough

My son goes to a preschool that is heavily arts focused, so I've been trying to pick up some of the ideas that they have there and use them at home more. They engage kids in art in a way that I can't always seem to pull off at home. But I've gotten a few ideas (that may have to go into a later article!) that I may try out at my son's third birthday party. I think the downside of these more complicated ideas is that you have to have an adult pretty dedicated to helping kids at the craft area. But that can actually be an upside, especially if you have a friend or relative who may not know many people at the party, and who would love a special role/job to take on.

The easiest thing to do is just set out some crayons, stickers, and a bunch of paper and let kids draw. I would stay away from markers, glitter, glue, or anything that could get too messy because other parents might not necessarily have a change of clothes with them. This could be fun because kids can take their drawings home with them. You could also get a little more creative in advance and cut out fun shapes for them to decorate.

You can also set out play dough and basic play dough tools. Then you probably won't have kids take anything home with them, but play dough does seem to be pretty fun for kids this age, and they probably won't expect to take it home with them. It can also be a good opportunity to get extra value from a big set of play dough supplies or a cool play dough activity table - I was thinking about buying one for my son and then using it for the birthday party.

How a craft area measures up on the three qualities:

  • Multiple kids can participate at once - the main thing is just to make sure that you have enough crayons and supplies to go around. But as long as you do, art is a great activity for lots of kids to do at once.
  • Inexpensive - you probably already have a lot of these supplies, or they are very cheap, and anything left over can be used at home.
  • Time consuming - art seems to really engage kids, some more than others, but this might be a nice option to complement a bubble machine for kids who don't like to run around as much.

Please Share Other Ideas!

There are so many other ideas, but I'm a big fan of focusing on a few in more depth. And I don't think you need many activities to make a birthday party a great success.

If people have other ideas, please share them in the comments!


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    • twoseven profile image

      twoseven 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      kittyjj - Thanks so much for the comment! It's funny you should post it now, because I just actually bought a bubble machine to use as a little gathering this weekend and then again for my son's 3rd birthday party! I'm excited to see him and the other kids play with it this weekend. It really is amazing how much kids love bubbles!

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Bubbles can always put a happy face on a child. I remembered no matter how grumpy my little ones were, once I presented them the bubbles, they would smile and forget whatever had upset them the first place. Great hub! Voted up and useful!

    • twoseven profile image

      twoseven 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      HawaiiHeart - thanks for the comment! I'm glad others think that keeping kids occupied for a long time should be a top priority :)

    • HawaiiHeart profile image

      HawaiiHeart 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Great ideas - love that they're simple yet would keep kids occupied for a long time too!

    • twoseven profile image

      twoseven 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Brett - thank you so much for the very kind comments, and for sharing! I had fun thinking about this one.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Awesome ideas, I really like your suggestions! They are simple and yet effective, bringing back some old and loved activities.

      Shared, up and useful.

    • twoseven profile image

      twoseven 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      partypail - Thank you so much for the comment! I'm glad these also sound like good ideas to you. Makes me want to go have a party right now!

    • partypail profile image

      PartyPail 5 years ago from

      Snow cones and bubble machines, I'm in! I love that you thought about activities that many children can do together all at once. Great ideas.