As a parent of a child with a winter birthday, I know how brutal celebration planning can be. The options are usually letting tons of kids hyped-up on sugar wreck your house or forking over the big bucks for an indoor venue.

While you can throw any themed birthday party your kid is into, your best bet is going to be to lean into themes that naturally fit into the cold weather vibe and allow you to take advantage of what mother nature has to offer (think: snow). Your kid’s favorite characters or interests can always be tied into the decor or those annoying treat bags.

In other words, unless it’s pouring rain or there’s a blizzard, an outdoor birthday party is the way to go. Here are some ideas and tips to help you successfully pull it off.

Sledding Birthday Party

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If you live in an area where it snows during the winter, your neighborhood likely has a free kiddie slope, making a sledding-themed birthday party a super fun and relatively inexpensive option.

After you nail down the location, start checking in with guests to see if they can bring their own sleds along so that you’ll know how many you’ll need to rent or buy (or DIY using large cookie sheets). And don’t feel the need to have a sled available for each child — they won’t freeze while waiting their turn.

Once the sled sitch is set, you can move on to planning the food and decorations. And with a stunning snowy backdrop, it won’t be hard to set the mood with a few dollar-store items, snowflake cutouts, or by asking the kids to make snowmen and providing carrots and a few cheap scarfs.

More on the best foods for outdoor winter parties later, but no sledding birthday party would be complete without hot cocoa loaded with marshmallows, so be sure to put that at the top of your list.

And it’s worthwhile to add a note to your invitation for everyone to bundle up, as well as figure out a bathroom option if there are no public restrooms nearby (If a few snowmen melt, so be it).

Camping Birthday Party

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This theme could work in the snow, but if it’s raining, you might have to suck it up and head indoors. If it’s just cold out, go for it.

What’s great about the camping birthday party theme — aside from being pretty cheap — is that you can set up almost anywhere, including your own backyard. And while a real campfire is awesome, just make sure the location allows for fires and that you consider safety in advance.

If you decide to set up in the great outdoors, you won’t have to bother much with planning activities, as kids plus dirt, rocks, and sticks is a proven recipe for fun. But if you want to have an activity or two, a nature scavenger hunt using a printed list and a paper sack for gathering items is a cheap and fun activity that’s sure to keep the kids busy for a while, as is “bobbing” for marshmallows hung on strings.

When it comes to decor, you’ve probably caught on by now that nature is the backdrop, leaving you with the simple task of popping up a tent or two (ask guests to bring portable chairs) and letting your kid choose a few decorations. If a real fire isn’t an option, a fake campfire made by placing sticks over battery-powered string lights in a large bowl or metal tub can double as some pretty cool decor.

Food, again, is up to you, though s’mores are a must.

Backyard Movie Birthday Party

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If kicking it outside at home is more your speed, a movie in the backyard is a relatively no-fuss option. It doesn’t require much planning for activities as the movie is the entertainment.

If the kids do get fidgety, have a few balls or bubbles available to keep them busy. Basically, avoid giving them the chance to ask about playing inside. If you have to get a bounce house to keep them from wrecking your house, do it — all that jumping will keep them warm and tire them out, too.

Because there are so many fun winter-themed kid’s movies (Hello, Frozen franchise), start by asking your kid to choose their favorite, then plan the decorations and food around it. If it happens to be Frozen, you can almost always count on dollar stores and even Target for having all the themed supplies you’re looking for.

For the actual setup, look no further than your linen closet for blankets and pillows for lounging, and a white sheet to use as the projector screen. A basic projector won’t set you back too much, but chances are you know someone who would be happy to lend you theirs, so don’t be afraid to ask. Hang up some string lights for added ambiance, and you’re all set.

How To Keep Guests Warm

Keeping guests happy and comfortable is a must for having them stick around for the entire party. If they’re standing out in the freezing cold with nothing to keep them warm or entertained, you’re asking for a major party fail.

Depending on the location and just how cold it’s expected to be (and if you have the green light on a campfire), renting or borrowing a party tent and heaters could literally save your party. In other words, if it’s doable, it’s a backup plan that you might want to look into.

But as long as you’ve made it clear that it’s an outdoor party and proper attire is recommended (assuming your guests have half a clue), it’s on them to dress themselves and their kids accordingly.

How To Keep Party Foods Warm

The best part of any party, in my opinion, is the food. As long as it’s good and there’s plenty to go around, it almost doesn’t matter if it matches the theme. The biggest factor is that the food is warm and that it’s kept warm.

If you can access an electrical outlet, consider using a crockpot to serve chili, a fondue pot for nacho cheese sauce, and carafes for coffee and hot cocoa. If there’s no source of electricity, chafing dishes can keep pretty much any food hot using disposable fuel cans.

If those aren’t options, you might be surprised how well your cooler can keep foods warm (Did someone say breakfast burritos?). Just insulate the cooler with towels and toss in a few food heating pads. And because pizza is probably on your food list, remember to wrap individual slices or the entire box in aluminum foil to keep it warm longer.

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