Take the party outside! Plan a fun celebration with these four fun themes for a backyard birthday party.

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Have a Camping Adventure

Nothing says outdoors like camping, whether it’s an overnight stay in the backyard or a few hours of fun. Pitch a tent or two, or make your own by stringing clothesline between trees and draping it with a sheet. Use rocks or weights to anchor the corners. Build a quick teepee with poles, clothespins and a sheet (find instructions on mamapappabubba.com).

Play camping-themed bingo (find printable cards at gluesticksgumdrops.com).  Set up a giant Jenga game, play flashlight tag or charades using camping-themed ideas – think “act like a bear” or “catch fireflies.”

Make tacos in a bag with individual snack-size bags of corn chips – open each one at the top and let guests add meat and their choice of toppings. Eat right from the bag! Have DIY s’mores ready to go by packaging graham crackers, marshmallows, and a square of chocolate in individual bags.

Watch Movies Under the Stars

It’s easier than you think to set up a backyard movie theater. The cost of a home projector and screen can be as low as $125; you can also rent them locally. Spread out blankets and pillows; play a few cartoons or movie shorts before the main attraction begins.

Create trivia questions based on popular kids’ movies and see who can correctly answer the most. Play “name that tune” or have a chopstick popcorn challenge – see who can transfer 10 pieces of popcorn from one bucket to another using only chopsticks.

Popcorn is the perfect movie-watching snack – mix it up with a variety of choices: caramel corn, cheese, cereal mix or candy mix-ins. Buy individual boxes of favorites like Milk Duds, M&Ms and Junior Mints. Pre-package snacks and drinks in boxes or bags for grab-and-go fun.

Have a Carnival in the Back Yard

Your carnival can be as simple or elaborate as you want. You’ll need a few tables for game setup; cover them with bright tablecloths and make fun carnival-style signs on poster board. Amp up the carnival atmosphere with a bubble machine and fun music.

Decorate empty cans and stack them in a pyramid for a knockdown game. Make a ball toss with mason jars or fishbowls and ping pong balls. Have a potato sack race and create a bean bag toss with hula hoops.

Serve classic carnival foods like hot dogs or corn dogs, chicken fingers, bags of cotton candy, soft pretzels, caramel corn, ice cream bars and lemonade.

Get Creative with an Art Party

Tell your guests to dress for a mess! Set up art stations with canvases, paints and brushes. Break out the sidewalk chalk or let them be creative with bins of supplies: pipe cleaners, pompoms, beads, stickers and glue. Look for ready-to-create kits for jewelry, pottery painting and more at your local craft store.

Divide into teams and play Pictionary using an easel and oversize paper. Try “pass the picture – everyone gets a piece of paper with their name and a circle for the face. Each person has 60 seconds to add a feature of the person whose name is on the paper. At the end, everyone has a portrait to take home.

Make “paintbrush” snacks by inserting a craft stick into a square rice crispy treat and dipping the end in colored candy melts. Fill mini paint cans (available online) with brightly colored M&Ms or Skittles candy. Let everyone create an edible masterpiece with a paint-your-own cookie kit.

More Ideas for Outdoor Fun

Be sure to have toys on hand so kids can play while waiting for everyone to arrive: cornhole, sidewalk chalk, bubbles or beach balls to toss.

Use spray chalk to create an oversize tic tac toe board on the grass. Buy large X and O letters from the craft store, or make your own out of heavy card stock or foam core.

Go big! Rent a giant Connect Four, Jenga or Yard Pong from a local party supplier.

Let your decorations do double duty! A piñata makes a fun centerpiece; later, use it as a party game.

Hula hoops have all sorts of possibilities – buy several and have a hula hooping contest, place them flat on the grass for a hopscotch game, use them for a bean bag toss or set up a hula hoop obstacle course.

– Mary Williams

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