Planning a birthday party for a teenager can be difficult. They’re not quite children anymore, but they’re not quite adults yet, either. Coolness is paramount to teens at this stage, and so is their social group. And being cool while with their social group is everything. That’s why you can’t just do what you did when they were five, eight, or ten. It was so easy back then. Invite their entire class over for some pizza, cake or ice cream. Then organize some arts and crafts or some entertainment (bubbles!), and sing happy birthday.
No: a teenage birthday has to be fun for the teen and their friends while still being cool.
That said, we’ve got you covered. Here are nine ways to celebrate a teen’s birthday. We think they’re fun and cool – but your teen and their friends will be the final judges of that.
Nine Cool Ways to Celebrate a Teen Birthday
- Paintball/Laser Tag
This sport is a favorite among teens, particularly teenage boys. Paintball games can be held either indoors or outdoors. In the game, participants use a paintball gun to shoot small paint-filled pellets at others, which then break upon impact and splash the player with paint. At regulated paintball arenas, players are required to wear protective masks and gear, use proper safety equipment, and follow all the game rules. But if you’re still concerned about safety, choose low-impact paintball, which is generally safer and results in fewer injuries than regular paintball.
Alternatively, laser tag is a similar concept to paintball, but without any risk of injury, making it more popular for those with younger adolescents. During laser tag, teens use laser guns to target the other player’s sensors in dark, neon-lit rooms. Sensors register hits, and teens, who usually play in teams, win the game by scoring the most points in a predetermined period of time.
- Spa Day
A spa day can be a relaxing and pampering experience, making it a perfect party idea for teen girls. Many spas offer adolescent birthday party packages that come with a variety of services, such as hand/foot massage, manicure, pedicure, facial, makeup, and hair. You can suggest your teen invite a couple of close friends and bring your own lunch and cake to keep the costs low. Alternatively, you can host a DIY spa day in your home with your own supplies!
- Movie Night
The classic movie night almost never fails to disappoint. The trick is to choose a new release that your teen is excited to watch. Just make sure the rating is appropriate for your teen and their friends. If you’re in doubt, check in advance with the other parents to make sure. If you want to splurge on dinner, too, take your teen and their friends to their favorite restaurant either before or after the movie. Also, you can always host a movie night at home, which can be even more fun than going out. They can pile in the couch in your living room, or you can make it more exciting by setting up a movie projector outside and borrowing a few beanbag chairs or picnic blankets for the teens to get comfy. Teens and tweens will love watching their favorite classic under the stars.
- Escape Room
Escape rooms, also known as escape games, are rapidly gaining popularity among teens. Which is why this real-life adventure activity serves as a great adolescent birthday party idea. Players need to use logic, creativity, and teamwork to find clues, solve puzzles, complete various tasks, and crack riddles – all in order to figure out how to escape from the locked room in a specific amount of time.
- The Beach
Who doesn’t love the beach? If you live in any of the coastal cities in California – Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Malibu/Agoura Hills, Thousand Oaks, Calabasas, or San Diego, for instance, there are tons of beautiful beaches that are clean, family-friendly, and have easy access to facilities. Teens will love splashing in the water, swimming, bodysurfing, or surfing. Ensure all teens wear enough sunscreen and follow all water safety rules. Make sure you have enough water and drinks in a cooler to keep everyone hydrated. Bring along a few large picnic blankets, umbrellas, and a grill if you want to make the beach trip into a cookout.
If your teen is a huge sports fan, reserve tickets to the next professional game in or near your city. Call it a party by bringing along birthday cake, hot dogs, and other sports-themed snacks. Your teen and their friends will have a blast cheering on their sports heroes, while all you have to do is sit next to them and enjoy the game.
- Trampoline Party
Reserve an indoor trampoline park for your teen and a group of friends and watch them jump their energy away. Many trampoline parks around the country have ropes courses, climbing walls, ziplines, obstacles courses in addition to wall-to-wall trampolines. This is a great birthday party idea for a large group of adolescents and teens.
Especially if they’re an energetic bunch.
- Paint Party
This fun birthday idea is made even more exciting by the fact that every teen takes home a piece of art that they created. At a classic paint night, each participant receives a blank canvas and a set of paints. The goal is for everyone to create their own interpretation of one piece of art. You can either hire a professional artist to help give your teens direction, or – if you’re artistic yourself – simply create a painting (or have your teen do it) and invite the party guests to follow suit. Teens will have a blast painting together. Art is also a stress-relieving experience, so it’s a double win.
- Master Chef/Cake Boss Party
Does your teen love cooking? Host an in-home MasterChef party – Teen Edition. Split the group up into teams in your kitchen and give them each a surprise package of ingredients they’ll need to use to create a unique dish. Like in MasterChef, give them a minute or two to raid your pantry for spices and any other necessary staples. Then, have them compete against each other to create the tastiest dish in a limited amount of time. Yes, your kitchen will get messy, but your teen and their friends will have a blast cooking up a storm. Even better – they get to eat their creations at the end!
Alternatively, you can also organize a Cake Boss party! Purchase (or bake) some plain cakes in advance, and supply each teen (or team, if there are many participants) with sprinkles, colored icing, frosting, fondant, and anything else they can use to decorate a cake. The best-decorated cake wins!
The Danger of Alcohol at Teen Parties
Parents who host a teen birthday party or celebration should never serve alcohol.
It seems like a no-brainer, but we need to say it anyway.
Alcohol consumption is never innocent, especially when it comes to teens. Because of the delicate and developing nature of a teen’s brain and other major organs, drinking can often cause great harm and even long-term damage to adolescents.
The primary risk of teen drinking is alcohol poisoning – which causes irregular heart rate and breathing and is responsible for thousands of emergency room visits a year. Heavy drinking can cause unconsciousness, coma, and even death. Just a few sips of alcohol can, for certain teens, impair their functioning, decision-making, and level of control. This can lead to drunkenness and risky behavior, including casual sex, fighting, drunk driving, and criminal behavior. Frequent drinking can also lead to an alcohol or substance use disorder.
No one – and that includes teens – is completely immune from addiction.
Teen Parties: Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol and recreational drugs are common at teen parties, especially unsupervised ones. Teens will even drink or do drugs at supervised parties. A creative and motivated teen might sneak in some liquor and pass it around, add a splash of it to the punch bowl, or bring drugs to share.
That’s why, when hosting a birthday party for teens, a parent needs to supervise all the guests at all times.
No matter where or how you celebrate, a mischievous friend can always sneak in alcohol or drugs. Though party ideas above do not include drinking, that doesn’t mean you can simply turn your back on what’s going on. Monitor the party to ensure it’s fun, exciting, and most importantly, safe – for everyone.
And of course, parents of teens should think twice before allowing their teens to attend parties or events where alcohol might be served. This is especially true if their past behavior shows they have trouble refusing alcoholic beverages, or they have trouble with peer pressure: if there’s any chance of alcohol being served, the answer should be an unequivocal no.