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Childrens' Birthday Parties kids activities Kids Birthday Parties

Birthday Party Theme Ideas For Kids in Howard County Maryland

Looking for birthday party ideas for your child in Howard County, Maryland? Here are some themes and ideas to help you decide what type of party to have. [Looking for a special place to have your child’s party? Don’t miss my post with 50+ birthday party places in Howard County and birthday parties in Montgomery County.]

Since I have two children, I find myself at many different types of birthday parties lately–some of them original and loads of fun for the kids, and some of them…not so much. I have created this page to help parents out with some ideas, recommendations and resources.

Party Themes and Ideas

    1. Science Birthday Party: There are so many ways to have a science party. This is a wonderful idea for any kid, but will be especially popular with nerdier children. There are plenty of kits you can order for the party or bring in a science performer like Eric Energy. Party favors might include things like this Zanny Marble Kit from Amazon.com

Damu from Mad Science - science birthday party

        1. Who to hire:
          1. Mad Science: I recently saw a great show put on by Damu from Mad Science. He’s a DC Public School teacher with lots of talent and the kids love him. Be sure if request him if he’s available.
          2. Eric Energy: Eric is a popular birthday party performer in the area. He does a great job of getting the kids involved and talking up science!
          3. Harry Potter Theme Birthday party – There is so much you can do with this. Here are a few suggestions:
            1. Hire a magician, if you look you may find someone who is versed in Harry Potter spells. A great example is “Illusions By Vick” (443-540-9631) – He comes in character as Professor Snape and teaches kids about various spells.
            2. Get yourself some Harry Potter posters, or you may find some to download and print. Consider putting a “platform 9 3/4” on your front door.
            3. Serve butter beer
            4. Create “sorting hat” gift bags from paper bags…
            5. Create wands from chopsticks and hot glue.
    1. Talent Show Birthday Party: Kids are always willing to show off their talents, no matter what level they’re at. Why not capitalize on this by throwing a talent show party.
    2. Add to the fun: Create VIP Guest passes for the invitations or just send tickets along with each one. Make star shaped cupcakes. Get photos ahead of time from the parents so you can put up head shots of each kid who’s coming to the party.
    3. Who to hire to help: Catriona’s Castle Karen brings theater to your home or party location. A memorable and extremely fun party for your child!
    4. Painting Party: A step beyond your normal craft party. Purchase canvases and hang them on your backyard fence with nails, consider getting aprons and plastic palettes that guests can take as party favors along with their canvas. The main event of the party will be to have the kids paint a picture of their favorite animal.
birthday party idea - painting party
            1. Dinosaur Party: Kids will love this prehistoric party. The main event for the party will be a fossil hunt, which can be put together by the host or bring in a fossil expert. May be combined with a reptile party.
              1. Who to hire to help: Paleo Jim Fossil Hunting Adventures
      1. Reptile Party: This party works best if you have lots of live reptiles on hand. Don’t have lots of reptiles at home? See below for some ideas on who to hire. Make sure you get a cake that’s shaped like a lizard or snake!
        1. Who to hire: Reptile Wonder’s Nature Center on the Go
      2. Video Games Party: We know that kids love video games. So why not have a video game birthday party. You can hire Game Truck to come to your location. They bring a fancy truck with 4 gaming stations and an experienced game coach to make it all go.
        1. Who to hire: Game Truck
      3. Pony Ride Party: This has always been a favorite for kids. A pony themed party with actual ponies will be remembered for years to come.
        1. Who to hire: The Peppermint Pony
      4. Ice Age Party: Ice Age is a great movie to do a party theme from. Add some creative edges like freezing animal figures in blocks of ice and letting the kids find them and you’ve got some real fun.
Kona Ice snow cone truck for birthdays
        1. Who to hire: Kona snow-cone truck.
  1. Lego Party: Legos are great fun for kids. It’s easy to get lego-themed plates and napkins and perhaps even a lego cake! Start the party by having kids create balloon powered cars and maybe invite a guest who can bring in lego robotics kits for the kids to play with and learn!
    1. Who to hire: The Great Adventure Lab

Party Tips

Whether you’re having a birthday party at your house, or in a party, venue, you’ll need a party theme. Here are some theme ideas.

  1. For Any Birthday Party: Hire someone to do light catering. For example, kids of all ages would love a waffle or omelette bar. Give the Omelet Guys a call. It’s relatively inexpensive, so you’ll get lots of bang for your buck. Another great option would be to bring in someone to serve snow balls.
  2. For any birthday party: get a photo booth. These can be great fun and provide lasting memories. Choose your provider carefully. I’ve had good luck with Shelly’s Sweet Photo Booth (410) 961-2983.

Did I Miss Something?

There are so many great birthday party ideas! I’ve tried to list as many creative and helpful tips as I could here. Have any suggestions or ideas that I may have missed? Please leave a comment! Be sure and see my posts on gifts for brainy kidsparty favors and some great birthday present ideas for six and seven year olds and places to have birthday parties in Anne Arundel County, Howard County, and Baltimore County.

Disclaimer: Please check the references of anyone you may hire that is suggested here. Although these aren’t paid promotions, I do not know any of them well so can’t endorse them completely. If you do use anyone’s services, you do so at your own risk.

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Childrens' Birthday Parties gifted and talented kids activities Kids Birthday Parties

Experiences Instead of Birthday Gifts Ideas for 6, 7 and 8 year-olds

Six and Seven Year Old Kids birthday gift ideas

Figuring out what to get a six, seven or 8 year old for their birthday (or for the Christmas/Hanukkah holidays) can be tricky.  So much depends on your budget and the child’s interests, but coming up with the perfect present isn’t easy.

Educational gifts like these(!) are a good idea, especially the ones that require participation with a parent or friend… but I always try to recommend that people look for experiences to combine with the gift, whatever it is.  I say this because even though children are used to expecting a tangible present, there is no better gift than their parents’ time.  Furthermore, if there is a birthday party with friends and family involved, they are bound to get their share of typical presents anyway.

A great example would be to take them to a children’s theater and see a play.  Then think of a gift that would coincide with the play’s theme or topic and get them something to go with that.  So for instance,  Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Maryland often presents plays  that are based on children’s books –you could take your child to see the play and then present him or her with a copy of the book (or for a larger budget, perhaps a copy of the book on their new Kindle Fire Tablet).

It’s really the experience that they’ll always remember, and that’s why it is important to think about birthday presents this way.

Other experience ideas could be:

Ticket for birthday fun

– Tickets to a baseball, hockey or football game.

– A special sports lesson, maybe one that even includes mom or dad.  This could maybe be in the form of a mother and son tennis lesson perhaps with a new tennis racket to go with it. Or how about a father-daughter horseback riding lesson?

– Heading out to the coast and going on a whale watching boat ride for the day.

– Adopt a species or specific animal at the zoo.  Many local zoos have programs like this, but for example here is the program offered by the National Zoo in Washington DC.  When you adopt they send you a plush animal, certificate and photo.

– A year long membership to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  This is a gift that will keep giving experiences for long after the birthday is over.

– Spa day.  Again, this depends on the budget, but could be a really nice way for a parent and their kid to spend quality time together.

– Go on an outdoor/nature day trip.  This could be whitewater rafting, geocaching or a visit to an aerial adventure place.  For example in Maryland, you could go to Terrapin Adventures in Savage Mill – a crazy, high-flying, zip-lining good time your kid won’t forget anytime soon.

– Find a great class that you can take together.  There are so many examples, and some of them are more far-flung than others…for instance there is a trapeze school in Washington DC, how about a photography class together or you could learn to knit with your child: There are many ways to learn.  Have a look at Wool and the Gang–they offer kits to knit particular items.  You could also take lessons together at a craft store, for instance Michael’s occasionally offers knitting lessons.

pottery stop - paint pottery for a birthday experience

– Do another kind of craft together–either at home or elsewhere.  For example, The Pottery Stop in Ellicott City is a place where you and your child can select a plate, mug or other ceramic item and paint it while having snacks. There’s also a great place on Main Street in Annapolis called Clay Bakers.

– Instead of a gift per se, pick a charity to support with your child.  One wonderful family that I know of selected the Linus Project–a group that makes blankets for  homeless and hospitalized children.  Instead of people bringing gifts for the child they brought blanket making materials to the birthday party.  What a great way to teach a child compassion and a sense of pride in helping others–actually this extends to all the party guests and their parents.  What an especially a great idea if your family has enough “stuff”.  Why not give back?

Other ideas for presents

There are so many kinds of gifts to choose from…and again, it really depends on the kinds of things your child likes to do.  Here are a few more ideas for items that have done well in my household–I also have written a whole post on gift ideas for brainy kids (opens in a new window)–and really every kid is a brainy kid if the present is aligned with their interests–so definitely check out that post for a huge list of learning-enabled toys and gadgets.

My only guidelines would be to try to stay away from gifts that track or pigeonhole your kid.  This is especially true for girls.  Stay out of the “pink aisle” at Toys-R-Us if possible.  I would even suggest that if you wouldn’t get the gift for a boy, don’t get it for a girl either.  There are exceptions to this of course, again, this is especially true if your girl really loves to do hair or something like that, but I am just saying don’t quietly force them in that direction by thinking pink.  Instead spend money on things that really help prepare the kids for the future and don’t just waste time.

– Microscope: A good microscope such as the AmScope SE306R can be great fun for any child and can really open doors for them in science.   Microscopes help kids of all ages understand the world around them better and get them to ask questions and think like scientist.

If you decide to go this route and you can afford it, look for something better than the ones that are offered in the $20-30 dollar range if possible.  Although these are a good start, they will very quickly become a disappointment for kids who are really interested in them.  They tend to have poor quality lenses and poor quality lights making for a dismal experience beyond the basics.

The better ones tend to be more than $100 (and if you get really fancy, alot more than that).  The AmScope SE306R is still rather pricey, but for the features and functionality, that’s a pretty good price.  Most kids are curious–if it “really” works, they’ll think of many occasions to use it.

microscope magnified penny

Another great microscope that is especially good for younger kids (4-8+) is the Celestron InfiniView.  We have this microscope and it is so much fun.  It is more for looking “at” things up close rather than looking “through” them.  It has a stage that you can put objects on and then magnify them onto the LCD screen or your computer.  You can then take shots of what you see-for example to the left is a photo of a penny I had handy as I was writing this.  My girls LOVE this microscope.

– A Kindle: My kids read alot and they really love their ebook reader and checking out free ebooks from the library.  These are great presents and can be convenient for travel and medium-long drives.  Many of the public libraries now offer free downloadable eBooks for kids.

From the comfort of home you can get many great books from websites like Overdrive.com or Axis360. Check with your library to see if they offer free access.  Both Axis360 and Overdrive allow you to download 6 books at a time and you don’t have to worry about overdue fees because after the allotted checkout time, they just go back automatically.

You might also look into the Kindle Unlimited Program-unlimited book downloads for $9.99/month–sort of like Netflix for books. One thing to note is that you may elect to get a Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook that also acts as a tablet computer.  This can be a great idea or a bad one depending on your point of view.  Many times the book reading aspect of the tablet is forgotten in favor of video games…which isn’t that great.  On the other hand, tablets can be a boon to research and can be used for educational games and such.  (Some kids might even want to try to write their own apps for it using the MIT App Inventor program.)

butterfly kits for birthday present

– Insect pets: If the birthday is in spring or summer, a bug catcher kit can be loads of fun and educational.  You could also consider getting a Ladybug or butterfly kit.  These can be purchased from Amazon and typically come with coupons that let you order the insects online or by mail.  In other words, they’ll send your child caterpillars or the creatures that will eventually become ladybugs so they can watch them change and grow.  When they become adults they can be safely set free in the wild.

For more gift ideas, see my post about gift ideas for advanced kids.  Also, here are some related posts if you need ideas for where to have a birthday party or need party favor ideas.

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Childrens' Birthday Parties Food kids activities Nutrition Party Favors For Kids

What To Give Out as Party Favors at a Kids Birthday Party

kids birthday party typical party favors

There are plenty of parents who will join me in my unhappy feelings about the gift bags that kids are given at their friends’ birthday parties.   Of course we’re happy to share the joy of a family celebrating their child and the accomplishment of getting a year older.  And it isn’t that I am ungrateful for all the effort that the parents have gone to in order to have the party to begin with–I am.  I have done it enough to know what a pain it really is…but I have to speak up about the gift bags full of party favors that the kids get to take home with them from your typical party.

JUNK is the word that comes to mind.  Junk food and junk toys. Frustratingly useless stuff that should never even be manufactured is thrown into fancy paper or plastic bags and given out to the kids.

Lets talk about the junk food first.  I realize that many parents don’t give a thought about the ingredients in the cakes they buy at the grocery store, but wherever it came from, unless specified otherwise, you can be sure it is full of sugar (and worrisome chemicals–I won’t even get into the dyes used in some icings.).

It’s a cake, it should have sugar, right?  Well that’s true, but stores go way overboard, especially with the icings–it is really an unhealthy amount for an average sized piece.  And usually that cake is eaten at the end of the party.  So first the kids eat some sugary cake and then they are handed a bag full of candy with more sugar.

Aside from the behavior aspects of so much sugar, I just want to request that parents stop diabeating (to use a word from Urban Dictionary) our kids.  Diabetes is at an all time high, and it is so sad to see obese children–in many cases, it could have easily been prevented with healthier diets and exercise. What is given out at parties just goes to make giving out harmful foods normal, when it could just as easily go the other way.

With a little bit of creativity (and perhaps a homemade cake made from scratch) children’s exposure to sugar and chemicals in the name of a happy birthday could be greatly reduced.  BTW, if you actually stop and think about the taste of some of these cakes that everyone seems to think are so delicious, they really just taste like chemicals. Try it yourself the next time you get a chance to taste a grocery store cake. It’s not good.

party giveaway options

All kids look forward to and even expect to get party favors.  But can’t we change the tradition to omit the sweets?  My kids know that they can have something from that bag on the way home, but if I have anything to do with it, they never see the rest of the candy again…straight into the trash when they’re not looking.

Happily I can report that many times they don’t even want to try those candies.  So what a waste of money and effort for the gift bag giver, right?  It definitely doesn’t help that my kids usually are not happy with the limitations placed on their newly acquired desserts…making me the bad guy.  Lollipops, Swedish Fish, candy rings…nothing but sugar and chemicals…they weren’t necessary to begin with.  Lets find better things to include in those bags!

Then there are the toys.  I think most of the stuff comes either from the dollar store or maybe Oriental Trading Company.  Usually they break easily or never really did what it was supposed to do to begin with…the only useful thing I usually find in those same gift bags are pencils…but oddly, at least going back a few years, the pencils were being given out at party after party for my two and three year-olds…and since these were normal-adult sized pencils, they weren’t really something that my kids could make the best use of.  (I am happy to report I have a lifetime supply of colorful pencils stored away.)

Ok, so I hate to make a complaint without providing some ideas for solving the problem.  First, I think it is useful to point out that the parents probably wind up spending at least 3 or 4 dollars per gift bag.  That money could surely be spent in better ways–maybe on just one useful thing that goes with the theme of the party.

For example for a pool party, you might give away goggles, diving toys or maybe those pool noodles.  Maybe for a dinosaur themed party you could give away a book about dinosaurs or dino action figures.  For some parties, the gifts might be something from the party itself–for instance if you have a craft party, the craft the kids create would be the thing they take home or maybe they get a pack of sculpting clay.

How about a paint-it-yourself birdhouse?  Maybe even include some bird seed.  Another dea is to give away plants or crafts (or both) — for instance tree in a box – This option was very popular at my child’s 7th birthday party.  You can even get Giant Sequoia seeds.

Another idea is to go to Ikea and purchase live bamboo plants and if you want to get fancy but some of the 75 cent vases to go with them. Kids are surprised and really enjoy taking care of them and they’re really difficult to kill. This year we purchased a cactus plant for each kid who came to the party. They loved it! By the way, I saw the sale depicted below at Ikea on a recent trip (September 2019)…

Plants for Kid's Birthday Party Favors

If it’s in the budget, you could hire a caricature artist for the party. The party favor could be a caricature of each of the guests. This is truly fun for the kids, and in the best circumstances will be keepsake that the child will treasure.

Here are some possible suggestions for party favors instead of candy that wouldn’t be expensive, but at least go a bit beyond the usual junk:

  1. 10-pack of scjence safety goggles-These are a no-brainer for science parties…but wouldn’t be a bad addition to any gift bag.
  2. Bamboo Plants – Every kid loves plants. Bamboo is cool to look at and difficult to kill…making this a fantastic party favor.
  3. Tickle Plant Seeds
  4. Binoculars
  5. Straw Hats
  6. Playdough
  7. Balloon Racers
  8. Balloon Helicopters
  9. Water Toys
  10. Goggles – Swim parties or any summer parties would benefit from this.
  11. Flip-Flop Keychains
  12. Maracas
    Egg Shakers
  13. LED Rubberband Helicopters
  14. Rocket Copters
  15. Parachute Cord Bracelets
  16. LED Finger Lights
  17. Fishnet Gloves
  18. Glow Sticks
  19. Putty Balls
  20. Flashlights
  21. Glow Stick Eyeglasses
  22. Bubbles
  23. Neon Compasses or Square Compasses
  24. Echo Microphones
  25. LED Balloons
  26. Puzzle Balls
  27. Playing Cards / Uno Cards
  28. Mechanical Pencils (I know what I said about pencils above, but mechanical pencils have a special effect on many kids–for whatever reason they think they’re exciting and want to use them. Since you can get a 24 pack for less than 10 dollars, it can be a good deal for a worthwhile party favor!)
  29. Little Stampers

For other ideas, see my list of birthday party places in Howard, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County. I suggest party favors that go well with the party venue.

We’ve also recently been to a dolphin themed birthday where the hosts gave each child a hula hoop with an inflatable dolphin hanging in the middle.  At “Five Below” you can get a hula hoop for about $2.

Pineapple party favors - Creative ideas for what to give out at kids birthday parties.

There are lots of other clever ideas. For example, we recently went to a pool party where the hosts gave pineapples to each guest. The pineapples were decorated with sunglasses and Hawaiian Leis. This fantastic because aside from the novelty it gives kids a reminder that fruits can be fun and interesting.

Aside from things like that, I would recommend that parents try to stay away from giving any food at all in the party favor bags if you can.

And here are a few other resources:

This website has some homemade favor ideas.

Here are some ideas for places to have a birthday party. And if you’re looking for great gift ideas for brainy kids, I’ve got that too! You may also want to check out my Costco Review as well as my review of Lifetime Fitness.

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gifted and talented kids activities

After School and Weekend Activities in Howard County Maryland

After school bus stopping

I was recently told about a relatively unique after school/weekend activity for kids: Chinese Dance Lessons.  The source showed me videos and told me the teacher is wonderful.  I was so impressed with the simple beauty and grace of the dances, and how they involved the dancers’ whole bodies and facial expressions.  I am always looking out for other interesting after school ideas.

My kids currently do: Roller Skating Lessons (fun/very cheap), Ballet Lessons, Piano Lessons and Swimming.  These activities fluctuate by time of the year and the amount of energy my wife and I have to spend driving them around.  We’ve done gymnastics in the past as well.

Other popular sports activities:

If you’re interested in academic activities for the gifted and talented kids, I have heard great things about Johns Hopkins Gifted Youth Program.  They have interesting courses after school, in the summer and on the weekends.  Also, for young kids who don’t attend preschool, Glenelg Country School has activities for kids during the week.  There is also after school academic programs in math and science.

What ideas do you have? By the way, here is a list of places to hold a birthday party in Howard County–many of them would also be great after school activities!