Not a little kid, not yet a teen, having a tween (backtalk aside) can be really fun! They’re old enough to be independent but still like to have fun, and they usually aren’t too worried about looking cool just yet. The level of maturity among 11-year-olds can vary greatly because some tweens will still be holding onto their childhood (rightfully so), while others are more grown-up.
This makes choosing a theme and location for your tween’s birthday party very specific to who they are and their personal maturity level. Make sure to talk to your child about their expectations, because they may not be interested in an at-home party with favors and balloons anymore.
To help you get started, here are our favorite birthday party ideas for 11-year-olds!
1. Cupcake Wars
If you have a tween that loves to be in the kitchen and has a competitive streak, this is right up their alley. You can start your sugary afternoon with chef hats or aprons, which can be personalized for an extra touch. Make cupcakes and icing ahead of time (either from the box or homemade), and have gel food coloring, piping bags, and a ton of toppings on hand. Get inspired by this Cupcake Wars birthday party.
2. Makeover party
At this age, make-up is still a fun novelty that can keep them entertained for an hour or two. Set up stations where the girls can paint their nails and give each other makeovers. You’ll want plenty of make-up supplies that you don’t mind getting ruined and to have them steer clear of carpeting. Another option is a DIY lip gloss with Kool-Aid and coconut oil. If you love a good theme, you can go all-out with glam decorations and cupcake toppers.
3. Movie and pizza party
It’s a classic because it works, and it can feel a little more mature than a themed birthday party with activities. Order a bunch of pizzas or set up a make-your-own pizza bar and rent or stream a movie. You can choose an old classic or a new movie, but make sure to screen it beforehand to be sure it’s age-appropriate. You can go co-ed or keep this girls or boys only with a sleepover afterward.
4. Dress-up party
Depending on your child’s friend group and interests, they may still get excited by the idea of a dress-up party. Choose a theme, whether it’s a decade, movie stars, Disney, or Halloween for fall babies. Decorate and plan the menu and dessert around the theme for some extra fun, and provide some disposable cameras so they can take pictures the “old-fashioned” way.
5. Sweets bar
It’s hard to go wrong when you center a party around food. Choose your child’s favorite dessert, and set up a dessert table with all the toppings they could dream of. You can have a s’mores bar with a campfire, or go with ice cream sundaes, cupcakes, chocolate fondue, donuts, cookies, or candy. Continue the theme with sweets-inspired decorations and a candy-colored balloon arch.
6. Snow tubing
Winter parties are notoriously hard to plan because most outdoor activities are a no-go. Snow tubing, however, is a way to get a rowdy group of kids outside and having a blast in the dead of winter. Typically, kids five and older can snow tube in several different lanes down a pretty steep hill, while kiddie tubing is available on a smaller slope if there are younger family members. Most snow tubing places will have a lodge with a fire, snack bar, and hot chocolate.
7. Outdoor games
While this is a bit of a gamble because it’s dependent on weather, it’s a nice option if you have a spacious backyard. You can set up lawn games like badminton, volleyball, cornhole, or horseshoes. If you want to get a little creative with it, here are some awesome backyard party games, including lawn Twister, DIY pool noodle rackets, giant Jenga, and mini-golf. Throw some hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, cut up a watermelon, and you’re good to go.
8. Scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts are fun for kids and adults of all ages. Have your party-goers break into a couple of groups and send them hunting for clues around the neighborhood or a local park. Make it even more involved by having a couple of parents with mini-vans pitch in to go from location to location. Don’t worry about coming up with riddles and clues on your own, there’s plenty of free printables available online.
9. Water park
While taking a bunch of really young kids to a water park is slightly terrifying, it’s a great activity for a small group of 11-year-olds. They’re old enough to stick together and follow the rules (hopefully). It might be a good idea to bring another adult along, whether it’s your spouse or a mom friend, and it will be less busy if you’re able to go on a weekday. Slide usage often depends on height, so you may want to make sure that everybody is tall enough to participate.
10. Get them outside
If you are lucky enough to have a kid that loves to be outside, a simple way to celebrate is to take him or her and a couple of friends on an outdoor adventure. This can be a long hike, a trip to a local creek or waterfall, fishing, biking, or kayaking. Not only is it good for them, but it gets you out of hosting. Go out for ice cream or snowballs afterward.
11. Fortnite party
If you still want to throw a big birthday party at home for your not-so-little boy, a Fortnite theme is sure to please. Put a ‘chug jug’ label on plastic drink bottles, have ‘boogie bomb’ water balloons, and provide all the kids with a Nerf gun and a ton of bullets. If you’re not comfortable with an in-person party, you can also host a virtual Fortnite party.
12. Posh meal out
Have your 11-year-old invite 2-4 of their closest friends for lunch or dinner at their favorite restaurant. It gets you out of cooking and cleaning, and they’ll feel grown-up. If your tween is struggling to make friends, make it a mother/daughter day with lunch, shopping, and manicures. Sometimes it’s fun to get away from the traditional birthday party and do something a little different.
If you’re up for planning and hosting a Survivor birthday party, it will surely be one to remember. Get yourself some Survivor team flags and shirts, light the tiki torches, and have Dad host. Break the kids or family into two teams, and let the competition begin. There have been so many seasons and challenges over the years that the options are endless. You can have an obstacle course, a gross food challenge, as well as swimming, endurance, and puzzle challenges.
14. Pro sporting event
This is an age where your child may be getting more serious about the sport that they play or more interested in sporting events in general. Depending on the time of year, consider taking them to a professional or college sporting event. This may be more exciting than ever, as sporting events are beginning to allow fans again, although still at limited capacity. Ideas include football, baseball, softball, basketball, horse races, NASCAR, or motorsports.
15. Aerial adventure park
If you have a budding adrenaline junkie on your hands, consider checking out a local aerial adventure park, which will have ziplines and a ropes obstacle course. Many will offer birthday party packages, or you can go as a family and have your 11-year-old invite a close friend. Beware that this is not a good option if your child has a fear of heights!