Your son’s third birthday party is probably the first he can really anticipate and appreciate. He’s also ready to play and interact with a group, especially if he’s attending preschool or group day care. Aim for the late morning or early afternoon, keeping in mind that many 3-year-olds still need a nap — and plan for the party to last about 1 1/2 hours.
The best birthday party theme is one that matches your little guy’s specific interests, but if you need a little nudge of inspiration, there are some themes that work for most 3-year-old boys.
If your little guy is into the mighty seas, a pirate theme is both entertaining and relatively easy to accomplish, especially given the popularity of Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” franchises. Plan a treasure chest centerpiece full of party favors, chocolate “coins” or popcorn. The cake can take the form of a treasure map. Use a Jolly Roger pirate flag as a tablecloth or banner.
Give each guest an eye patch and bandana to wear — and throw a few pirate shanties on your music playlist — try “Rogue’s Gallery” or anything by the duo Sharky and Bones. If you’re giving away party bags, use buckets or treasure-chest-shaped boxes and stuff them with more chocolate coins, temporary tattoos, pirate stickers and other themed swag.
Lots of preschool boys — and girls — simply adore dinosaurs. A dino-themed party is almost always a guaranteed hit. Look for dinosaur candles or cake toppers and use a dinosaur inflatable or dinosaur skeleton model for a centerpiece. If you want to do crafts at your party, stencil various dino shapes onto construction paper and let the guests glue on various shapes of pasta “bones.” For the party favor bags, you could stuff large plastic “dinosaur eggs” with trinkets such as small dino toys, stickers, and dinosaur-shaped crayons.
A superheroes-theme party almost demands dress-up. You can ask guests to wear their own costumes — or you can provide capes to borrow and simple domino masks to wear home. If your little guy has a favorite superhero such as Batman or Superman, use that logo to decorate the cake. Otherwise, you can use your child’s initial to create a custom superhero logo.
Alternatively, you could make cupcake toppers with “Pow!” or “Bang!” or similar exclamations printed on colored paper and glued to toothpicks. This is a great theme if you want to incorporate a bouncy house — as guests can “fly” while wearing their capes. Party favors could include X-ray glasses, power rings or even tiny, action figures.
If the solar system, spaceships and stars fascinate your son, choose an outer space-theme for his birthday party. You can decorate the cake with the planets and use a constellation map for the tablecloth. You can also easily re-purpose Chinese paper lanterns to serve as “planet” decorations. Choose some music from science fiction soundtracks such as “Star Wars” or “Star Trek,” or, if you’re feeling a bit more hip, try space-themed songs from kid-friendly pop groups like the B-52s and They Might be Giants.
This party theme takes well to the addition of a pinata in a planet, star or spaceship shape. Offer glow in the dark stars, small alien figures and space-themed ice cream treats as party favors.
Lots of little kids love trains, and if your son is one of them, a train-themed party is sure to please. You can decorate with branded train characters, such as Thomas the Tank Engine and Chuggington, or you can aim for a brand-free celebration. There are plenty of child-friendly songs about trains that you can play in the background, from Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train” and Gladys Knight’s “Friendship Train” to Louis Jordan’s “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” to Dan Zanes’s “Catch that Train.”
The cake can have a series of train cars along its edges. Set up a small train track as the table centerpiece. For party favors, try a train whistle plus a mini-activity book featuring train stickers.