Let kids be kids.

Entertainment Ideas for a Teen's Birthday Party

by Kathryn Walsh

You've heard horror stories about activities at teen parties or made up your own worst-case scenarios that end with ruined reputations and hospital visits. Even if your own teen might be perfectly happy playing board games, her birthday party guests might have other plans. Provide age-appropriate entertainment that doesn't inspire eye rolling, and you can be sure that everyone stays out of trouble.

1. Make Music

Take music out of the background and make it a focal point of your teen's party. Rent a karaoke machine and turn the party room into an all-ages club atmosphere with small tables and chairs. A timid group won't respond well to karaoke, but if the guest list includes at least a few outgoing kids, they're sure to belt out favorite tunes. Another option that both boys and girls will love is a live band. No need to hire a big star or 10-piece band; there's bound to be a garage band among your teen's classmates. Sure, their original songs are going to give you a headache, but you can probably hire them for 25 dollars and some extra cake. A DJ might also be a hit with the group, provided you have an open area suitable for dancing and are prepared to intervene if the moves are inappropriate.

2. Play Games

Unleash your teen's inner competitor with a host of kid-friendly games. On a warm day, set up yard bowling, magnetic dartboards and a badminton court. Arrange a neighborhood scavenger hunt by hiding clues within walking distance, break the guests up into two teams and send them out to follow the clues. Another option is to write up a list of treasure hunt items and head to the mall. Send teens out in groups to try to find silly items like a soft pretzel, a mannequin without a head and a sweatshirt with a city name on it. Ask guests to photograph each item they find and explain that the group who finds the most items within an hour wins. If your party guests are rowdy or young, send an adult chaperon to trail each group.

3. Get Moving

Any sort of physical activity will be a hit with most teenagers, especially the boys. Some teenagers will love having a golf lesson from a local pro, followed by a round of nine holes of play. To please a diverse crowd, head to the closest laser tag arena or bowling alley. Some arenas even have party rooms where you can serve cake and pizza, eliminating the need to host messy teens at your house. No matter the season, you can probably find some local sports team playing nearby, and taking in a game is an easy way to keep guests occupied. Take the gang to a college basketball game or minor-league baseball game -- but think twice before asking management to put a birthday message on the scoreboard for your teen. She might consider that embarrassing.

4. More Ideas

If your area has an all-ages comedy club, considering holding your teen's party during a clean comedian's show. You can attend too, but when you sit a few tables behind the kids, they'll forget you're there. For an all-girl party, hiring a manicurist and makeup artist to pamper the girls will be a big hit; check with each guest's parents before booking this party, since some parents might not allow girls to wear makeup. A small group of mature teenagers might enjoy seeing a play or attending a classical music concert and going out for coffee and dessert afterward. A cooking class at a local culinary center or college might also amuse those teens who have grown up watching cooking shows. Find a dessert class, and your birthday child might get to make her own cake.

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