Oh the minefield of teen birthday parties…
You’ll walk a tightrope trying to satisfy your teen they’re doing something ‘seriously cool’, while satisfying yourself that it’s within the realms of possibility, budget and family rules.
Having worked your way through 15 or 16 birthday parties by now, you’ll be getting pretty good at negotiating and planning teen birthday parties. It’s these teen years you’ll find the hardest to satisfy everyone, but here’s some party ideas that may just help.
5 Alcohol free birthday party ideas for 15 to 16 year olds
By the age of 16 it’s likely your kids are being invited to ‘Drinking Parties’ by now (whether you know it or not!).
So we wanted to offer you guys some other birthday party ideas that aren’t alcohol related and also aren’t considered too ‘naff’; in the eyes of a Teenager.
1. Bach / Holiday House / Crib for a weekend with a big group
Hunt the many holiday rental websites like Book a Bach or Holiday Houses in New Zealand or Home Away in the US and find something cool, beachy (or with a pool) and with plenty of room to spread out and chill.
Or ask around, you could be surprised with just whose sister’s-cousin’s-aunt has one that they rent out, or would let you use for the weekend.
Start your search early, as it takes a bit of organising, but it’s worth the time. Because of the often coastal or lakeside locations, there’ll be endless hours of entertainment with water sports or messing about in the pool and many places have good sized yards to set up some backyard volleyball, lay in the sun, listen to music and muck about in.
Take a wide variety of entertainment like tennis rackets, volley balls, boogie boards, movies, and even that old Playstation with long forgotten games like Sing Star and Buzz games.
If you can borrow a project and a screen, or just use a white wall or sheet, you could even screen old school movies on the wall. There’ll be lots of reminiscing and ‘awww remember this from when we were young’ (you know, 4 years ago) type comments.
Some holiday houses have everything you need, including water sports and sports equipment, and some don’t, just check out the full listing first on the website and ask questions via the links.
At 16 they mostly want to do things and be by themselves, so try to balance ‘having to be there to supervise’ with also being mostly ‘invisible’ and kind of like you’re not there. Take plenty of your own things to do and you’ll keep mostly out of their hair.
You could even ask the teen guests to bring all their own snacks and junkfood for the weekend, so that you’re just providing the staple meals and accommodation.
Budget: $100 – $600 per night (dependant on place and guests numbers)
Holiday rentals are priced all over the spectrum, but do your homework, spend the time and you can definitely find some great places for good prices.
Top Tip: Check for Linen and Cleaning Costs. You can save yourself money by making the teens all bring their own sleeping bags, towels, etc. and then doing a team cleanup at the end. But if you can afford it, spring for the extra cost so you can just pack up and go at the end, which is less stressful.
2. Forest Adventure Games (Paint Ball)
Now we are not talking about the ‘woosie laser tag type’ one you go to when you’re 10! We’re talking a full on ‘forest’ adventure games paint ball fight to the death (ok, not quite to the death, but you know, nearly!).
Picture your teens fully decked out in camo gear, full face masks and impressive looking machine type guns. They’ll even walk different when they strut off into the forest brandishing their weapons for what will be an epic showdown.
If you really want to theme it, you could do so around a Hunger Games, Maze Runner or The 5th Wave type event, picking teams early on and creating other challenges to conquer throughout your day.
You could even extend the friendly ‘factions’ that’ll be created for when you get back home. Keep the camo on and set up army-style obstacle course games, like jumping through tyres, or crawling under nets.
Budget: $20 – $30 per person (usually receive a good discount with a larger group booking)
Top Tip: Take lots of snacks, I know you want us to say ‘good healthy snacks’, but NO, we mean the salty, doughy and chocolate kind and a bunch of water bottles for afterwards. They’ll be exhausted but running high on adrenaline and need fast re-fuelling!
3. High Tea and dressed to the 9’s
Get the girls to pull out their best dresses or raid their mother’s… sister’s… friend’s wardrobes and head out for the fine experience of a high tea. Some girls may never have heard of a high tea, so you may need to show them. You can have a high tea in many places, some average to good, but do your research and find one in your location that goes ‘all out’ and really makes it a true experience and one worthy of a party.
The girls will be served in elegance on fine china, a wide variety of teas they may have never heard of or even knew were available. They’ll have their taste buds delighted with perfect crafted sandwiches, savouries, dainty cakes and sweets all painstakingly handcrafted. Some even look almost too good to eat off their 3 tiered high stands.
You could extend the day by gathering them together for a few hours earlier and getting dressed to the 9’s first. They could spend time curling their hair, trying out some different makeup techniques. Have Mum or someone on hand to take photos of them all glammed up, while they’re having high tea and of course they’ll take a bunch of glam selfies for their online profiles.
You could extend this into a great gift idea by getting them a personalized MasterCard gift from GiftCards.com or similar using their high-tea glam pic!
High tea is an age-old tradition, that’s totally come back to be retro-cool, and the girls will be talking about this event for some time to come!
Budget: $25 – $55 per person (dependant on location and range of eats)
Top Tip: Commit to a group number and book early, as they book up really fast. Don’t rush the experience, allow plenty of time to prepare and really make a whole day of it.
4. Hire a Makeup Artist for a day
Most teens these days love to watch You Tube makeup tutorials and try to re-create the looks of their favourite ones.
Hunt down on the internet local, qualified and experienced makeup artists that share their looks on Instagram or Facebook (so your teen knows they like what they do) that provides a mobile service. A Google search is probably the best place to start for this.
Grab a bunch of friends, pump up the music and make an afternoon of it. Have Mum or someone else on hand to take photos and to provide snacks of course!
If they’ve got 5 friends, get them to pick out in advance 5 celebrity looks they love from magazines or screenshots from a vid (but a bit bigger than their phone!) and arrange with the makeup artist to recreate one of these looks on each of them. Or, have the makeup artist teach them all with their own bought makeup, techniques like mastering the perfect cats eye, contouring, highlighting, strobing or ‘less is more’.
Budget: $100 – $180 per hour (very much depends on the makeup artist’s costs)
Top Tip: Talk in detail with the makeup artist beforehand of what you want, and what they offer, including what type of kit they’ll bring, so everyone’s on the same page.
5. Bonfire Party on the Beach
Find a nice wide stretch of coastal beach, check the fire restrictions in that area thoroughly and apply for a permit through your local authority, if required. Every area will have different rules. In Wellington, for instance, there’s only 2 beaches that allow bonfires.
Once you have a permit, gather lot’s of dry wood in advance (not pallets unless nails have been removed) and make good plans with your teen and preparation around having water sources, hoses, buckets and alike to ensure their safety. Safety and wellbeing is paramount for this sort of party.
Take deck chairs, headlamps, rugs for sitting on and wrapping up in, marshmallows and sticks, ingredients for smores and of course music. You can’t beat sitting out under the evening stars, in front of a roaring fire. You could even organise a ‘big dig’, but bury things your teens will actually want to find.
Parental supervision is vital with this one. But good thought and planning around reacting quickly if things get out of hand, control around unexpected gate crashers, responsibility around complete dousing and extinguishing of fire etc is essential.
Top Tip: Apply for your permit early as they can take time and try to look at the long range forecast to pick a good calm upcoming bonfire night. Douse that fire good, check, walk away, then scurry back and douse it some more! You might want to have an all-weather backup plan too (especially in New Zealand).
Extra Birthday Negotiating Tip:
Lay out your expectations early and upfront with your teen and their friends’ parents around supervision, details, no alcohol etc. Don’t be afraid to spell it out in a text message to friends’ parents. Your teen will HATE that (but soon get over it) and other parents LOVE it and appreciate you being transparent.