How to Throw the Ultimate Backyard Children’s Summer Party

When the school year ends, hosting a children’s summer party can help your little ones maintain those school-year friendships or strengthen bonds with seasonal camp friends. Why not take advantage of the warm weather and host a backyard bash?

Whether planning a birthday party or simply celebrating the season, these are the elements you need to create the ultimate children’s party that your little ones will remember for years to come.

A Unifying Theme and Decor

Children are often passionate about their latest interests. Creating a themed party can help you celebrate your little one’s favorite thing. Plus, in decades’ time, you’ll both enjoy looking back on photos from a particular era in your child’s life (“Oh yes, this was the summer I was obsessed with dinosaurs!”).

If your little ones are very young, you might select the theme yourself; if they’re a bit older, they likely have opinions that can guide your decision-making process.

If you’re completely stymied, here are a few potential themes to help inspire you:

  • Summer Olympics. In honor of the 2024 Paris Games, design a kid-friendly Olympics with classic races and friendly competition.
  • Summer artist’s retreat. Whether your little one is the next poet laureate or a visual artist, design a studio where your child and their friends can establish their own backyard artist’s collective.
  • Teddy bear tea party. Invite guests and their favorite plush plus one to your home for an afternoon of herbal teas, cucumber sandwiches, and dainty cookies.
A tea set and flowers on an outdoor table.

No matter the theme you settle on, let it be your guide when it comes to decor. From your event’s color palette to decorative elements like streamers and balloons to tabletop accouterments, plates, and cutlery, select pieces that complement the concept for the party.

A Thoughtful Menu

When designing the menu for a children’s party, you must consider a different set of parameters than you would for an adult soirée

The first must-have element of a thoughtful children’s party spread is a range of healthful snacks, with at least one dish that is free of major food allergens. Foods that are high in protein can help fuel an energetic party and avoid the all-too-common sugar high (and subsequent crash) that happens when little ones gain access to sweets.

A table of sweets, including cupcakes and candies, at an outdoor kid's party.

Adding thematic touches to classic dishes can elevate your children’s party. For your Olympics-themed party, serve crudites and dips in a setup and color arrangement that mimics the Olympic rings. Or at your artist’s retreat, offer Jackson Pollock-inspired cupcakes, with colorful splashes of frosting festooning the cakes.

As for beverages, consider crafting several specialty drinks available in a festive beverage dispenser. Add fruit slices alongside ice for visual appeal, and consider creating at least one carbonized concoction, which makes for an elevated option that both children and adults will enjoy. It’s also wise to have mini-water bottles on hand, so your guests can remain well-hydrated — particularly if your party runs throughout the hottest portions of the day.

Backyard Games and Activities

Children’s parties benefit from some concrete direction. Build your event around a specific activity to keep all the children engaged and happy throughout. 

Most parties for little ones under the age of eight should not last for longer than two hours, so look for an activity that can occupy your guests for an hour or less, which leaves room for late arrivals and time for a snack, meal, and cake (if it is a birthday) toward the end.

Children gathered around a table with craft paper, glitter, scissors, and other crafting materials.

Once again, allow your theme to guide you toward an activity that suits your attendees. 

If your backyard is hosting young artists, consider creating stations where they can experiment with different media — acrylic paints, watercolors, or finger paints on easels in one area and Play-Doh or collage supplies at the outdoor table. 

At your Olympic games, set up a variety of competitive events across the yard and create a podium where your medal ceremony can take place at the end of the afternoon.

Ample Outdoor Seating

Whether you’re hosting a party with more subdued activities or one with lots of action, outdoor seating remains a must.

If your party is happening midday, be sure to arrange your seating in shaded spots — beneath some trees or under the eaves of the pool house. If your party will be spread across your lawn, create seating areas throughout where your guests can rest.

Your seating can be a mix of formal outdoor furniture and more casual options for the children. If you are hosting little guests in your outdoor living or dining area, ensure any upholstery is both durable and washable. If not, consider covering things up with towels or swapping cushions out for hardier slip-covered options.

When creating more informal seating areas throughout your yard, you may consider options like beanbag chairs, picnic blankets, or other spaces where children are free to sit and enjoy a break from the action.

Goodie Bags to Remember the Event

What children’s party is complete without goodie bags?

Keep the theme going until the very end, and send your guests home with something to remind them of the party. At the close of your Olympics party, invite each guest to do a victory lap with their own gold medal, which they can take home. Your summer artist’s retreat might end with each guest leaving with a frame or shadowbox to display their new artwork.