How Old Are You Now?

I remember as a kid asking my mom how old she was, and watching in disbelief as she figured out her age from her birth year. “How can you not even know how old you are?!” I would squeal. Now that I am (let’s see, carry the six … ), this has joined the ranks of things that my mother did that I swore I would never do…and find myself doing.

But for kids, birthdays are A Big Deal. We’ve put together a guide to help you plan a special party for your child, no matter their age. We’ve got picks for venue, entertainment, gifts, even the birthday cake — everything you need to make this party unforgettable.


Something Sweet

Figuring out your baby’s first cake can be tricky. You want something fun and celebratory, but yikes, without quite so much of the bad stuff. Enter Piece of Cake. This Sellwood bakery has lots of
gluten-free, vegan, and organic selections — though you wouldn’t guess it by tasting their creations.

You’re sure to get an “oooooh” when you break out birthday cupcakes from Toadstool Cupcakes. Each cupcake is impeccably decorated to look like fairy toadstools. Inside, you’ll find delicious flavors like banana split, chocolate cheesecake, peanut butter and jelly, and many more. There are also a few wheat-free and vegan choices.

If your child likes to do things a little differently, here’s a fun option. Instead of the traditional birthday cake, try a donut cake. Sesame Donuts will specially make a cake-sized donut birthday cake in the cake flavor of your choosing. Choose from a 6-, 12-, or 18-inch round.


Bring on the Entertainment

Mr. E and Mr. Hoo, the alphabet-singing duo, know how to make the birthday kid feel special, no matter their age. The birthday kid gets a special gift, along with CDs for party favors. You can choose a customizable 30-45 minute playlist from their original songs (we are partial to Monkey on My Shirt), and traditional songs. Best yet, they will even write a personalized song for the birthday boy or girl. $225 for the duo; $125 for Mr. Hoo to perform solo.

Bring the petting zoo to your little animal lover with Critter Cabana. You can handpick which animals you’d like to steal the show, from a list that includes tortoises, lizards, snakes, small fuzzy mammals, birds, and less common animals, like a hedgehog. Each child will get a chance to pet, hold, and learn about the animals. The base rate is $150, with an additional charge of $5 per attendee beyond the birthday family, and a mileage fee.

Bring the fun of science to your home with Mad Science. Guests will be treated to a high-energy, interactive show, with options like cotton candy making, bubbling potions, and rocket launching. Mad Science will even supply the goody bags for an extra cost. The show lasts about an hour, and starts at around $210. Don’t want to deal with clean up? Have the party at their lab for an extra cost.

Where’s the Party?

If your child is the creative type, head over to Mimosa Studios for a painting party. Guests can choose from over 20 figurines to paint — which solves the party favor problem, too! The birthday kid gets to take home a special custom-made birthday plate, complete with the names of all the guests in attendance and a picture of his or her choosing. Outside food and drinks are welcome. Packages start at an affordable $14 per child.

Break out the bumpers and go retro with a bowling party at Sunset Lanes in Beaverton. Your child and guests will get their fill of bowling and arcade time, plus some other freebies like printable invitations. This bowling alley is very kid-friendly, with bumpers, lightweight balls and ramps. Packages start at $174.95 for 10 guests.

Your local community center is an affordable option for making your kid’s birthday party special. (And for making the mess on someone else’s turf!) You can typically choose from a number of different themes, including messy art, indoor play park, pirate and princess, or classic birthday party games. (For older kids, you can also find options like silly science or even a pool party.) Costs vary by type of party and community center, but start as low as $120 for 35 people.

The 3,000-square-foot Play Boutique in Lake Oswego has play structures for wobblers and older siblings alike, along with trikes, wagons and other fun play things. The basic party package includes unlimited use of their play space, snacks, cupcake decorating and party set up and clean up. Birthday parties start at $275 for 15 people.

Channel their inner warrior with an archery birthday party. A reservation at Tigard’s Archers Afield will score you access to their indoor archery range, along with targets, bows and arrows, and a mini-lesson. Pizza is available for purchase. The party is affordable too, at $13 per person, with an 8 person minimum.

LEGO fanatics already know about Bricks & Minifigs, where you can buy, sell and trade LEGO. But did you know they also do birthday parties? A party package will get you an hour of free LEGO play, including use of the LEGO car ramp, time for cake, and a 15-minute minifigure building activity. (Each child gets to leave with one minifigure at the end of the party.) You supply the food and drinks. Packages start at $125 for up to 12 children.

The Perfect Gift

Ages 0-2

Something to Play
With The Earlyears Chicken and Egg Stackers eight-piece set includes four egg cups and four tops. Baby can match the tops and, even more fun, knock them down. $20. At Finnegan’s Toys.

Something to Read
Supertruck, by Stephen Savage. It’s a truck book! It’s a superhero book! It’s the perfect book for little kids! The big, bold pictures will captivate the youngest pre-readers, while the story will appeal to older siblings, too. $12.99.

Ages 3-5

Something to Play With
If your kids love to build, but feel constrained by LEGO kits, Bristle Blocks are the way to go. The flexible, durable design allows kids to attach the blocks to each other anywhere, allowing them to create anything they can imagine. The set includes people and a dog for imaginative play. $39.99. At Child’s Play.

Something to Read
The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak. This book is written by one of the stars of The Office, so you know it’s going to be funny. Kids love this book, mostly because it’s an excuse to make the person reading it (i.e., you) say ridiculous things, from robot sounds to “Boo Boo Butt.” My kids cry-laughed the first few times I read it, and they still get a big kick out of it years later. $17.99

Ages 6-8 & up

Something to Play With
I’ll see your couch fort, and raise you these Fort Boards. This kit promotes STEM learning and all sorts of other good brain stuff, but most of all, it’s fun. Your children can build forts in any shape they can imagine — from the traditional, to an army tank, to a fish-shaped one, and beyond. The durable, non-toxic materials can be used indoors or outdoors. $124.99. At Oodles 4 Kids.

Something to Read
An oldie, but man is it a goodie. The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, is the story of a bored boy named Milo who journeys via tollbooth to the Lands Beyond. While there, he visits the Island of Conclusion (you get there by jumping, dontcha know), embarks on a rescue quest, and discovers a love for knowledge and life. Funny and imaginative, this is one you’ll want to read aloud to your kids. $5.99.

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Ali Wilkinson
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