Not quite a teenager but almost there, the 12-year-old can be a tough case when it comes to birthday party ideas. Kids themed birthday parties along the lines of fairies or farm animals no longer work, but teen-style co-ed house parties may still make parents uncomfortable. However, most 12-year-olds are actually quite easy to please as long as you plan an activity that's fun for them and their friends and let them have some say in the choice of party and the planning.
Without a theme, decorations may be more challenging than they used to be, but in fact they may be simpler than ever. Decorate with streamers in balloons in general bright party colours like blue, red, green and yellow or consult the birthday boy or in the birthday boy or girl's favourite colours. Themed cups and plates are probably not desired, so just use disposable plates and cups in the party colours or ordinary white paper plates and plastic cups.
Food is simple at this age as well. Have a barbecue with hamburgers and hot dogs or make or order pizza and serve up soda pop. Have plenty of crisps and pretzels on hand and bowls of favourite fruit for a healthier snacking option. If the birthday celebrant has a favourite type of takeout or delivery food, such as Chinese, make it a special treat or take her out to the restaurant for a family meal before friends come over. Choosing a birthday cake is as simple as asking the birthday boy or girl what their favourite cake is, whether it's chocolate marble cheesecake or angel food. Alternatively, base the birthday cake on the birthday celebrant's favourite activity, such as karate, baseball, ballet or saxophone. Just make sure it's not too childish: decorate the cake with elegant ballet slippers, not a little-girl ballerina.
Activities can either be low-key at-home activities, like karaoke followed by a movie marathon with gummy candy and popcorn to munch on, or some form of group sporting activity. Indoor laser tag, rock climbing, miniature golf and roller skating are just a few of the options, and many places will offer birthday party packages with food and cake. If that option is too expensive, consider a traditional or mall scavenger hunt. A mall scavenger hunt can be a ton of wild fun and lets you make sure you know where the kids are. It can be conducted in many different ways, from a freebie shopping spree where the kids have to collect free items like straws from the food court or loose buttons on the floor to information hunts where they have to count the booths in the food court and the buttons on the elevator. If each team has a digital camera and the mall allows pictures and videos to be taken, you can also have a picture-based scavenger hunt with a list of tasks that have to be performed with camera proof, such as hiding behind a potted plant with a salesman from a store on the list.
Most birthday girls, at least, will want to make a sleepover part of their birthday. If the main birthday party event will be large, you can suggest that only a few selected friends remain for the sleepover. The girls might enjoy a spa-themed sleepover where they can give each other chocolate and other homemade facials and do each other's nails. Have some different-coloured nail polishes, nail polish remover and cotton balls, funky emery boards with girlie colours and themes and nail stickers and gems on hand to keep the girls entertained while they gossip, if they're not too exhausted from laser tag or the scavenger hunt!