Third Birthday: Ideas for a Glow-in-the-Dark Birthday Party

My daughter’s third birthday is next month and I’m ready to go all out.

Party History

Her first birthday consisted of 14 babies from a mom’s group running and crawling around our home. The event was low-key and my Little Miss refused to taste her birthday cake.

Her second birthday was attended by five kids who did two craft projects and then ran around and played. The finale involved a homemade pull-string pinata.

Photo of a  tiny Chinese food takeout container glowing in the darkness. A smiley face drawn in ink is silhouetted on the box. A battery-operated tea light sits next to the box.

Party craft project? Decorate a miniature plain Chinese food container from a restaurant supply store. Insert a battery-powered tea light like the one shown in the lower right of the photo.


Her third birthday will transpire in the dark. It will be held in the morning, so our plan calls for vast quantities of aluminum foil blanketing the windows in our living and family rooms. I am slightly concerned about what my neighbors will think.

Tea light lanterns will hang around the rooms.

Kids will be equipped with flash lights, and glow necklaces.

Party Favors

The bane of any party is the cheap plastic junk your guests take home. We attended a 4-year-old party at Round Table Pizza last month where there was a claw machine and an endless pile of quarters supplied by the birthday mom. You insert a quarter and try to grab a 5-cent plastic trinket, piloting the claw with a joystick. If you don’t lower the claw, the machine does it for you after 30 seconds. The interesting thing is that the kids plugged in a ton of quarters and lost interest halfway through. Oh, and the machine pays off about 70 percent of the time. So I sat and watched the unattended claw operate on auto-pilot, depositing plastic junk in the prize chute every 30 seconds for at least 10 minutes.

Our party favors will be battery-powered flashing eyeglasses from a dollar store. I figure the glasses are good for dress-up play after the batteries die, and the battery compartment is accessible for changing out the batteries. The glasses will be handed out near the end of the party.


I have sketchy plans for party activities.

1. Hunt for Easter eggs with flashlights. The eggs may be plastic, or glow-in-the-dark. I imagine glowing eggs are easy to find though.

2. Hold an egg race, balancing glow-in-the-dark eggs on spoons. Can a 3-year-old balance an egg? I’d better check.

3. Buy several dozen 1″ glow-in-the-dark bouncing balls. Keep them in a box under a strong light in another room. When the time is right, bring the box into the party room and throw the balls into the air. We have hard floors, so we’ll watch kids run in glee. Or scream in terror.

4. Decorate candle lanterns. I found 50 miniature plain white Chinese food takeout containers for $3 at a restaurant supply store (two chain stores on the west coast are Smart & Final and Cash & Carry). Incidentally, Michaels craft store sells similarly-sized colored containers for 79 cents each. Afterward, the kids will insert battery-powered tea lights into the lanterns purchased at Michaels.

Update: The week of the party, my web-ordered party supplies arrived. The glow eggs were a discontinued product, though the retailer (Oriental Trading Company) allowed me to place an order online. The glow balls had a feeble glow (half of the balls that were darker colors didn’t seem to glow) and 7 of 12 of kiddie flashlights were wiggy or outright broken. We’re out $20 shipping, but did return the entire shipment. Read my final party report to learn what activities we devised at the last minute.

Your Ideas

I’m looking for your creative ideas and warnings.

  1. Stop! Think about 5 toddlers waving flashlights in each other’s eyes.
  2. Stop! You’ll have a room full of crying kids afraid of the dark!
  3. There is a much cheaper way to black out your windows. Hold the party at night!
  4. Whatever you do, don’t put on a bear costume halfway through the party and run around growling.

I’ve love to hear your theories on how this party will play out, and if you any ideas for fun activities.


9 Responses to “Third Birthday: Ideas for a Glow-in-the-Dark Birthday Party”

  1. Judy says:

    Yay! Almost three! I have a few thoughts:
    1. kids love those glow sticks, glow necklaces, glow anything (oriental trading company)
    2. three sounds a little young to have a party in the dark. I would make one room a “dark” room–like your daughter’s bedroom and conduct the rest of the party in the light. I would make going into the dark the grand finale when they have there flash lights and decorate it with glowie stars and everything and the balls so it’s not too dark.
    3. maybe you could make some kind of treasure hunt outside but the last stop is the dark room where everything is aglow!
    4. I did a treasure hunt for my kid’s fourth birthday where each clue was a picture of the next thing they had to find it was very easy and they all had to discuss where we’d go next (i also wrote little rhymes).
    5. I love the chinese takeout boxes! maybe you could decorate them, use them to collect clues along the way, the last one could be the led light and then everyone could go into the dark room!
    Okay that’s just my opinion! But I know what ever you do will be so awesome!

    May 21st, 2007 at 3:03 am

  2. Bill says:

    Two words: disco ball.

    May 21st, 2007 at 8:08 am

  3. STL Mom says:

    My daughter would have loved this party at any age. Her brother, not so much. You’ll probably get a lot of different reactions.

    I would just suggest that the room not be very dark — just dark enough to see the glowing things. Even better would be to gradually make the room darker after all the kids get there, so they aren’t going straight from sunny outdoors to pitch black. And make sure there is an open door to a well-lit room, so kids can easily go in and out of the dark. I think as long as kids feel that they are in control, they will be able to handle the dark. Judy’s suggestions sound good too.

    How about glow-in-the-dark bowling? Paint empty one- or two-liter bottles with glow paint, and have the kids roll a heavier ball at them.

    One final suggestion – if you’re going to give the kids small glow balls indoors, especially in the dark, make sure all breakables are removed from the room!

    May 21st, 2007 at 11:57 am

  4. Aj says:

    This sounds sweet: what creative ideas without going totally over the top!

    Would poster board work for blocking out the windows? Our dollar store sells white 3 for a dollar and all other colors 2 for a dollar. You could even decorate it with glow in the dark paint (or let the kiddos do it).

    May 21st, 2007 at 5:53 pm

  5. lisa says:

    1. Caves/hideyholes for the kids to climb into. Like a fortamajig fort, or those collapsing tunnels if you have any.

    2. Some sort of projector, like a constellation projector to project something onto the ceiling. Keeps with the dark theme, but adds some interesting lights.

    3. I second the disco ball idea. A bit of an investment, but what a cool kid’s room accessory.

    4. Blacklight!

    5. Sounds like it will be a great party.

    May 22nd, 2007 at 11:48 am

  6. linda says:

    An activity involving the grown ups could be doing some hand puppet silhouettes, either telling a story, or as a sort of charades, where the kids guess which animal it is you’re making.

    May 22nd, 2007 at 6:10 pm

  7. Karen F. says:

    How about a ring toss game with Inflatable Glow Frisbees and paper towel tubes?

    May 23rd, 2007 at 9:38 pm

  8. kelly says:

    1. Target currently has in the “dollar spot” a pack of 15 glowsticks for 1 Dollar. They come in many colors.

    2. Black Lights. Black lights. Black Lights. They make everything glow. Also come in regular light bulb form so any current fixture or lamp can become a temporary part of the party. They also make the room not quite dark but still all glowy so it might work better for the age group.

    3. Look for halloween or craft things like the link below on the interwebs.

    4. Use blacklight paints to paint up special secret messages or party favors for partygoers or just use it to make a glowing Happy Birthday Banner.

    5. Use Mr. McGroovy’s to make glowy playhouse.

    6. Start off with the party with the lights on and make the lights going off part of the fun.

    May 31st, 2007 at 4:53 pm

  9. katrina says:

    buy some glow in the dark paint and let the kids paint a black or navy t-shirt. Takes a while to dry, but really fun party favor.

    June 2nd, 2007 at 7:06 am