4 tips to create a birthday experience

One of the hot new birthday party trends is experiences. But parents are often left wondering just how to go about creating something that moves beyond predictable party fare and into experience territory. Turns out there a few key ways to create a fantastic birthday experience.

Match the experience to the child’s interests and personality

Make the experience party focused on something the birthday girl or boy really enjoys. 

One fun approach is basing the experience on what your child wants to be when they grow up. Whether it’s a hip-hop dancer, firefighter, scientist or spy, there’s likely a way to make that experience come to life for the birthday bash.

At Brookfield Zoo, birthday party goers visiting Hamill Family Play Zoo can try out a variety of roles. “Not only can they pretend to be a zookeeper, they can also imagine themselves as a veterinarian or learn how to garden,” says Diane Wehrmeister, director of catered events at the Brookfield Zoo.

Parties should also match the birthday child’s temperament. One misconception about experience parties is that they have to be loud and exciting and over the top. Not true, says Sarah Miller, owner of The Sweet Buddha in Glencoe. 

“We have different parties for different personality types,” she says. She describes the yoga and the jewelry-making party options at Sweet Buddha as “very low-key” and quite different from the louder hip-hop dance or messier slime making parties she also offers. 

“The number one rule is to have fun,” says Elena Lojo, owner and chief mad scientist at Mad Science Chicago. While the science-themed birthday parties are highly educational, the focus has to be on having a good time. “We sneak in the science while they’re having a blast,” she says.

Do something that’s out of the ordinary

Often just one “Wow!” turns a party into an experience that makes the birthday kid’s face light up. Lojo says it’s always fantastic if you can capture a sense of awe or wonder. What that may be varies by child, and the options are endless.

“Kids love doing something different,” Miller says.

You don’t have to go far to find some fun twists, even on something like going out for a birthday dinner. 

For example, a birthday dinner at SafeHouse in Chicago offers what Agent Blonde, Peggy Williams-Smith of Marcus Hotels & Resorts, calls a “one-of-a-kind espionage experience.” 

Personalizing the party also adds a unique twist that makes a trip to somewhere you’ve been before, like the zoo, a special outing that’s all about the birthday celebrant. 

Make it interactive

“Children remember what they did more than what they watched. They’re not into sitting, they’re into exploring,” Lojo says. 

Miller agrees that kids love being an active participant. She says one key to a successful birthday experience is for it to be very hands-on. “Even the little ones want to do or create something on their own,” Miller says.

Have parents join in

Parents and kids having fun together can be the very best part of an experience birthday party. “We love when parents are participating and really engaged with their kids. Sometimes the parents are as amazed as their kids,” Lojo says. 

Parents do need to be sure to let their children take the lead, though. After all, getting to see the experience through their kids’ eyes can leave parents as thrilled as kids about to eat birthday cake.

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