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25+ Tips for a Happy Birthday Party at Home

25+ Tips for a Happy Birthday Party at Home


Is your birthday kid celebrating a birthday party at home this season? My family has tons of experience with at-home parties (it’s the only kind of birthday party we throw!) With a focus on the family and the #StayHome movement in 2020, you might be wondering what to do when celebrating a birthday. With these practical tips, this is sure to be a memorable and very happy birthday party at home!

Little girl wearing a unicorn dress next to a unicorn backpack to celebrate a birthday party at home

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Birthday Party at Home This Year?

My four-year old daughter had been planning her birthday party for months! My husband and I were aiming to throw a barbecue to invite friends and family. Her birthday party was to become our first event at the new house. But it was not meant to be when that virus-that-shall-not-be-named hit and we all sought self-isolation. Her birthday fell on Day 11 at home and I made do with what party supplies I had on hand.

Naturally I was so sad that I couldn’t make her planned out unicorn birthday party happen with all her friends and close family. But I was determined to have a happy birthday party at home for her, despite the circumstances. All the photos in this post were from her birthday party at home this year.

I’ll be honest – We’ve only ever had home birthday parties for my kids. Nothing fancy but always fun birthday parties on a budget. But we’ve always invited grandparents, cousins and friends to join along. It’s definitely an adjustment this year having only the immediate family at the party. These are my tips for hosting a special at-home birthday party! I also include the tutorial on how to make a colorful (and very easy) unicorn cake.

Pick a Theme

Just because you aren’t having a huge party doesn’t mean you can’t choose a kid-friendly theme. Just like picking out a Halloween costume each year, my kids LIVE for choosing their birthday party theme. We’ve done popular characters like Mickey and the Roadster Racers, Elmo and Sesame Street and Tinker Bell as our party themes.

We’ve had birthday party themes based on Disneyland’s it’s a small world ride, favorite football team and Sorcerer Mickey. My kids have also gotten super-creative on their themes and we’ve had an Indiana Jones playing soccer with Darth Vader and a Seven Dwarves Mine Train theme party!

Signature Select Unicorn Cotton Candy

Unicorn themed, even down to the ice cream!

If you’re able to order supplies and have them delivered on time, consider shopping Oriental Trading. I’m a longtime customer and love that they make it so easy, having dozens of kid-friendly themes that are both popular and unique. Sign up for Rakuten and receive an additional discount each time you shop through participating shops online, including Oriental Trading. You’ll also receive a $10 welcome bonus!

Party Decor Made Simple

See what party supplies you already have on hand, which might help you choose a theme. My daughter was insistent on a unicorn theme. Fortunately I had a total of 4 balloons in my party box, all pink. I had one honeycomb disco ball and a few recycled gift bags.

We kept it totally simple and my daughter was thrilled. Here are other things you can do for simple party decorations:

  • Do a search online for free printables and decor you can make using supplies at home based on the chosen theme.
  • Make a pennant out of scrapbook or wrapping paper by cutting out triangles. Staple them to a ribbon and string across the wall.
  • Leftover balloons or streamers make great decorations. Even Christmas curling ribbon adds a fun touch when strung over a light fixture. While you have the Christmas decor down, string up some lights too!
  • Roll wrapping paper down the middle of the table as a festive table runner.
  • Use inexpensive tissue paper to make over-sized flowers.
  • Dress up in outfits that coordinate with party theme (my daughter is wearing a Unicorn Dress from Presley Couture that’s she’s been saving just for this occasion!).

How Well Do You Know the Birthday Kid?

Even if you can’t have friends and family over, there are still ways to include guests in the virtual birthday party! I’ve created a printable, How Well Do You Know the Birthday Kid. Print out this birthday kid freebie and have your child complete it. Post the questions on social media for family and friends to play along. Compare the answers to what your birthday kid wrote down. Send a small e-gift to the winner who gets the most answers correct!

Best At-Home Birthday Party Foods

In our family, we’ve always asked our kids what dinner they’d like on the night of their birthday. It’s family dinner but it’s special because the birthday kid gets to choose! My daughter wanted pasta so that’s what we prepared for her birthday dinner. Here are a few other ideas:

  • Appetizer night  – Instead of a full meal, serve up appetizers like chips and dip (or heat up what frozen party appetizers you already have on hand).
  • Take me out to the ballgame – Hot dogs, peanuts and dressed in team gear to watch a sports-themed movie.
  • Restaurant re-creation – Can’t go out to dinner? Recreate a favorite meal from a restaurant (a quick search online will result in many copycat recipes).
  • A night at the movies – Serve nachos, popcorn and treats while watching the birthday kid’s favorite movie.

Making a Birthday Cake (Unicorn Cake Tutorial)

Naturally the birthday cake is a highlight of any birthday party at home. Homemade cakes are surprisingly easy to make on your own, even if you’ve never done it before. Many families already have inexpensive boxed cakes in the pantry. A white cake mix is a great pantry staple to have on hand!

Homemade Unicorn birthday cake

For my daughter’s unicorn birthday cake, I used a white cake mix. I divided the batter into three bowls and thoroughly mixed in food coloring to create blue, pink and purple. The food coloring will develop into a darker color once baked. I only use AmeriColor Gel Food Coloring because they don’t have any off-flavorings and the colors are bright and bold, even with just a few drops of coloring.

Bowls of cake batter in pink, purple and blue

I spooned the batter into round baking pans sprayed with Baker’s Joy. Then I took an Off-Set Spatula and twirled the batter gently in a swirl pattern to blend them a bit. After baking I loosed the edges of the cakes with a spatula and let them cool in the pans on a wire rack.

Colored cake batter in a round baking pan

Swirled colors of cake batter in a pan

When decorating a cake on your own, use inspiration you find online or just let yourself relax and create something unique! No need for perfection, it’s all about making the birthday kid happy. For my daughter’s unicorn cake, I make homemade buttercream frosting.

Close up of homemade unicorn birthday cake with sprinkles

I iced the cake then spread buttercream on a sugar cone. Using only what decorations I had on hand, I sprinkled pink sprinkles on the frosted cone and set aside to dry. Together my daughter and I chose which sprinkles to add to the cake (lots of pink, you’ll see!) Simple and sweet. She loved it!

Slice of Rainbow cake in a bowl

Check out the inside of the cake, the multi-colors came out awesome. Use this technique to use whatever colors you want for themes that could be animal print, camo or rainbow.

Birthday Gifts and Cards

Since my daughter was celebrating her birthday while many were in self-isolation I knew that sending gifts would be a challenge. I’d already purchased some things for her and put them into gift bags. I made the request on Facebook that family and friends could send her birthday cards. Many were able to make this happen, including sticker sheets and keeping with the unicorn theme to my daughter’s delight!

If you do receive gifts and cards in the mail, the person who sent would probably love to see the birthday kid opening it. Transfer gifts from the cardboard box into a recycled gift bag. Try using Zoom, Facetime, or Facebook live (as we did) to broadcast the party celebrations. We had our daughter open her cards and gifts during the taping where she could thank people virtually.

Friends and families sent gifts in the mail and I put the presents into gift bags.

Don’t Forget to Take Pictures!

With the birthday party happening at home, you might forget to document the “party”. My daughter has had her special unicorn dress picked out to wear for her birthday since she received it at Christmas! I made sure to take her 4th birthday photos outside to document her special day. Take time in the day for a photo session of the birthday kid and have a family member take photos during gift opening and candle blowing.

Activities for a Birthday Party at Home

When choosing what activities to include for an at-home party, it’s important to consider the birthday kid first. What things do they like to do the best? What activities do you often say no about but for this occasion, you could say yes?

  • Minute to Win It-type games use household items you probably already have on hand.
  • Create an in-home scavenger hunt.
  • Dress up in costume.
  • Art-lovers will love crafting time.
  • Dance party where the entire family joins in (GoNoodle is a free and fun site that offers guided movements).
  • Online chat via Facebook live or Zoom with family and friends.

Here’s What You Can Skip

If you’re having a small birthday party at home, you can absolutely do this on a tight budget. That means you can skip some of the costly expenses you might have put out money on before.

  • No need to mail or handout invitations. You can send a text message or an private message through social media about the “party” or try Paperless Post free invites.
  • No party favors! If you wish, you can still do small party prizes that can be emailed, like an e-gift card for ShopDisney to someone who wins one of the remote games.
  • At-home events like pony rides, face painting, bounce houses and princess characters can be skipped for at-home parties on a budget.

My friend Britni at Play Party Plan has 30 Ideas for Special Parties at Home for additional tips and ideas.

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