Activities for your toddler’s third birthday

With Baby’s third birthday approaching, they're had a little bit of practice with this whole “birthday” thing and may be ready to move past family-only parties. They may even be eager to invite everyone from cousins to neighborhood buddies to daycare pals to the celebration. While a small gathering with grandma, grandpa, cake, and ice cream is pretty easy to pull together, a gathering of three-year-olds can be another story.

What’s the best venue for a toddler party?

As age three draws nearer, most toddlers will have worked through separation anxiety issues and have become more open to new events and activities. As a result, you can begin to broaden your approach to party planning. Take a look at the following ideas for at-home parties and outside events, and see which one might work best for Baby.

At-home parties

  • Calling all superheroes: At this age, Baby and their friends love dress-up and imaginary playtime activities, so invite all attendees to come in their favorite costumes. From capes to tutus to tiaras, Baby’s friends will love displaying their favorite fantasy-wear, and you can cap off the party with a costume parade in the backyard.
  • Put on those pajamas: Even though this age group typically dislikes going to bed at night, three-year-olds love their pajamas! Create a party theme around PJs, and ask everyone attending to show up in their favorite nighttime-wear. For extra fun, Baby’s friends can bring along a stuffed animal and blanket or sleeping bag – and can curl up with them for story time.

Outside celebrations

  • Get moving: Baby and their friends are constantly in motion now, walking and running with increased confidence. Channel this energy by planning the event at a dance, gym, or tumbling center that offers toddler birthday parties. These venues typically handle all event logistics, and the larger space allows you to invite the entire neighborhood or daycare class and avoid hurt feelings.
  • Head outdoors: If you’re looking for a similar vibe, but want to keep costs down, think about hosting Baby’s party at a neighborhood park. You can bring in refreshments and cake, and Baby and their friends can explore the equipment or play organized games in the open space. Some communities allow you to reserve picnic tables or a pavilion (a great option for less-than-perfect weather) so you’ll be able to have a base of operations.
  • Think arts and crafts: At this age, most toddlers have made real advances in fine motor skills and have embraced drawing and painting. If Baby has a creative streak, consider planning their birthday party at a kid-focused art or painting studio. These sites may also offer party-planning services – from refreshments to take-home treasures – so you won’t have to manage event details or handle clean-up duties! And if you’re looking for something similar but more low-key, you can plan an artsy party in your own home, back yard, or even in a public park – three-year-olds and sidewalk chalk make a great combination.

On a final note, while most children on the cusp of turning three have made definite progress on the developmental concepts of empathy and sharing, a stack of beautifully wrapped gifts for someone else can still be a challenge. Be sure everyone attending the party goes home with a fun goodie bag, and it can be helpful for Baby to unwrap their gifts in private after the party!

  • “Developmental Milestones: 3 to 4 Year Olds.” Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 American Academy of Pediatrics. 11/21/15.
  • “Social Development in Preschoolers.” Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 American Academy of Pediatrics. 11/21/15.
  • “Important Milestones: Your Child by Three Years.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 8/16/16.

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