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12 ideas for your pre-teen’s birthday party

When kids get older, planning birthday parties becomes a bit more challenging. For pre-teens, it can be challenging because they are still caught in the transitional phase between tween and teen. Tweens aren’t thought of as little kids but aren’t quite teenagers yet either. The tween age is the years from 9 to 12. So, though your soon-to-be 12-year-old is almost a teenager and there are many cool teen birthday party ideas, they aren’t quite there yet. That’s okay, though. Don’t rush the teen angst. It will arrive soon enough, and there are plenty of exciting ideas for tween birthday parties.

The key to planning a birthday party for your pre-teen is to navigate the slippery slope of having fun and being cool. Thankfully, there are a lot of fabulous tween birthday party ideas to make your tween’s special day pretty awesome.

How to choose a tween birthday party theme

A good place to start in choosing a theme for your tween’s party is with their interests and hobbies. Do they play sports or a musical instrument? Is there a movie or TV show they’re obsessed with? Or you could always just go with something that’s super pre-teen-esque, like this cool emoji party idea that @onefinedayparties shared on Instagram.

In honor of soon-to-be teenagers, here 12 more tween birthday party ideas to celebrate your pre-teen.

Birthday party ideas for tweens

Have a 12 party

Celebrate everything 12 with a 12-year-old birthday party. Think about things that come in a dozen like flowers, doughnuts, cookies, cupcakes, eggs, and even strikes in a perfect bowling game, and tailor your pre-teen’s party with all things 12. Be sure to invite enough family and friends to the celebration for an even dozen.

80s movie marathon

Hosting a backyard movie marathon is an entertaining way to mark your 12-year-olds birthday. The hardest part will be pulling together the outdoor screen and projector. Have plenty of snacks on hand and put 80s classics like “ET,” “The Goonies,” and “Ghostbusters” on the bill. Other movie marathon ideas include Harry Potter, Marvel, Star Wars, or the classic coming of age movies.

Pre-teens watching outdoor movie
New Africa/Shutterstock


Invite friends over for a make-your-own pizza and sundae party. Have plenty of pizza and ice cream toppings available, as well as ice cream flavors. Make fresh dough or use frozen if you’re nervous about mixing your own. Once party-goers are done cooking, they can eat while watching movies like the “Back to the Future” trilogy. Of course, you can still serve birthday cake, too.

Outdoor birthday party ideas

Video game tournament

Whether parents approve of all the screen time or not, pre-teens love to game, and it’s a birthday party. So, why not set up an outdoor gaming tournament using a screen with whatever game is hot at the moment. Set up snacks and pizza for those in-between game moments. Get into the spirit with little trophies for the top three finishers and hand them out before cake.


If the birthday tween is all about soccer, check out outdoor and indoor sports facilities. Most have options for soccer-themed parties that include pizza, cake, and one or two other sports options.

Saddle up

A birthday is a perfect opportunity to try something new. Saddle the whole family and a few friends up to enjoy a picturesque trail ride. Trail ride birthday packages typically include different age-appropriate options with add-ons like food and campfires.

Tweens on a trail ride birthday party

Nerf fun

Tweens still have a great time loading up Nerf blasters and running around the neighborhood. Go online, order a Nerf blaster, and extra darts for each guest. Go to a local park and let them have their fun. Bring snacks, drinks, paper products and of course, cake for afterward.

Paintball or laser tag

A step up from hosting a Nerf war at the park is organizing a paintball or laser tag party. Either one would be a hit. Laser tag may be a better winter option, so you don’t have to stress the weather.

More fun tween birthday party ideas

Skate away

An ice skating party is a cool way to celebrate 12, especially if the birthday falls in the winter. If not, most rinks are open year-round and host parties. Skate rentals are always available, and some packages include lessons for novices. Not into the cold, head to a roller rink instead for a roller-skating party.

Mall scavenger hunt

A lot of tweens love malls and scavenger hunts. Combine the two for a fun afternoon or evening at a local mall. Divide guests into teams with a list of items to find. Set a designated meetup time and use parents as team leaders. When the scavenger hunt is over, head to the food court for pizza and cake.

Host a sleepover

Old-fashioned sleepovers haven’t gone out of style, and tweens do love them. Have games like flashlight tag, charades, or the perfectly named Sleepover Party Game ready to go. Make your own pizzas and cap off the night with a movie.

Destination birthday

If your tween has been dying to visit a city like New York, Boston, Chicago, or San Diego and wants to forego a party and presents for a birthday destination weekend, see if it fits the family budget and schedule. This kind of birthday celebration can be a fun getaway for the whole family.

Final thoughts on tween birthday parties

You’ll want to be sure that your tween’s birthday is extra special, no matter if they’re turning 10, 11, or 12. Of course, 12 is the last birthday before your tween is officially a teen. So, a 12th birthday is one to be savored with a special party, and with our fun list of ideas, you’re sure to find one that will make yours happy.

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