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Tweeners will feel too old for most of the standard indoor playground party venues, yet they're too young for something adult. But don't worry - you can definitely have a wonderful birthday party for your tween or young teen that all participants will love! Best of all, these ideas work for both genders. Let's take a look:
1. Capture the flag party - at dusk
To really put a more grown-up twist on a fun activity, do a capture-the-flag at sundown! We actually did this for my oldest son's 13th birthday, and it was a huge hit with the guests. We bought this glow-in-the-dark capture the flag kit, which comes with glowing wristbands for each team, and glowing orbs to be used as flags, which everyone loved.
If you don't have a good layout to do this easily in your yard and/or neighborhood, consider doing it at a park. In that situation, I would not do it once the sun has actually set - at dusk is fine. Even in our yard and neighborhood, we found that the kids had a blast playing this while dusk was falling, but not once it was actually dark; they came inside at that point.
Tip: since you'll typically be planning this at least a couple of weeks away from the event, carefully check the projected times for sunset for the date of the party so that you can decide what time to have the party. Sunset now and sunset on the party date may be at different times.
2. Escape room party - at home, or at a venue
Even if you host an escape room birthday at home, you won't have to do a ton of work! There are lots of printable kits available for download with instructions. Most of these are very affordable compared to any venue option. I loved the look (and pricing!) of the printable kits at escape-kit.com.
On the other hand, a local escape room venue seems initially attractive since you can let professionals handle everything. But then again, unless they offer party packages and/or allow food and drink, you'll still need to go to your place for birthday cake and any other food or drinks you want to offer. So with everything added up, it may be cheaper and offer you more flexibility to have it at home, but the choice is up to you. Either way, the tweeners are certain to enjoy the novelty and excitement of an escape room party!
3. Bowling party
Don't forget bowling! It's an activity which appeals far beyond elementary school age. Also, since it's indoors you don't need to hope for good weather, and it's a great option for a winter birthday. Most bowling alleys offer pre-made party deals that include food, drink, and shoe rental. If you've got just a small group, you don't necessarily need to go with their party package - it may be cheaper and more fun to just buy what each person wants to eat there, and their preferred choice of drink. Plus it'll feel more grown-up to them.
4. Amazing race party
I loved this Amazing Race party idea at momof6.com, and best of all there are no costs so long as you have some basic items at hand. Although it's designed as an outdoor party, while reading it you can easily see how the activities could be modified for indoor play.
5. Murder mystery party
Tweeners are finally at the age where they can enjoy a murder mystery party! Please note, this type of party involves some acting. While the kids need not be great actors to have fun and to make it work, this will appeal to kids who at least have some interest in theater and drama. You can expect to need a minimum number of each gender (most kits try to keep it as flexible as possible by using gender-neutral characters, but you can still expect to need at least 1 or 2 of each gender). Therefore if you have an all-boy or all-girl party, this might not be your best option.
I like the Million Dollar Mystery kit at nightofmystery.com - it's designed for tweens. The kit consists of a PDF download that includes a host guide, schedule, introduction, invitations, name tags, info, and more.
Tip: This is best played by guests who already know most of the others present. Speaking from personal experience, it can be confusing and disorienting to meet someone for the first time when they're acting a role at a murder mystery event. This is because it can be surprisingly difficult to separate the character from the person if you don't already know the person. So this option is best if your tweeners are all in the same friend group.
The bottom line
There are more options for tween birthday parties than you might have thought. Tweens of both genders will enjoy the birthday party ideas I talked about here. And the birthday child and guests will enjoy the novelty of parties that they were too young to do before!