What Can Teens Do for Their Birthdays?

Your teenager might have outgrown the days of the classic birthday party, but each year remains a milestone worth marking -- it's one step closer to adulthood and independence. If you're helping a teenager plan a party or other birthday event, let her take on the bulk of the task -- inviting guests, determining the theme. You can assist in reserving a venue, paying for food and drink and decorating, if needed. And you can certainly make suggestions to counter the dreaded plague of "I don't know." But don't force a party down your teen's throat. Show her some options and then let her choose.

Host a Sleepover

A teen all-boy or all-girl sleepover works well as an extension of an evening spent eating pizza and snacks and watching movies in the living room. Break out the blankets and pillows, have everyone bring their most comfortable pajamas and serve the cake just before the parents head to bed. Check in once or twice during the night just in case. Provide a breakfast buffet of cold cereal, bagels and fruit in the morning -- and be prepared to wait for your turn in the bathroom.

Camp Out

This is just like a sleepover party except it's outdoors. Reserve a campsite, pack the tents and gear and spend your teen's birthday getting back to nature. Roast some hot dogs and some marshmallows and tell spooky stories by the dying campfire light. If you're too far from a suitable park or campsite, you can always have the party in your back yard.

Head to a Theme Park

Take a day trip to an amusement park for your teen's birthday. Let them invite as many friends along as they like and investigate group ticket discounts and birthday party packages. You don't have to head to one of the big roller coaster parks for this idea to work well -- variations include outings to mini golf, water parks or even indoor laser tag.

Try a Game Night

Break out the board games and card tables and throw your teen a game night birthday party. Set out plenty of snacks to fuel the crowd's competitive spirit. Plan on several hours' worth of party time and encourage guests to bring their own favorite games so you don't run short if the party gets large. It can also be a lot of fun for teens and adults alike to have a "casino night," where you teach the guests how to play poker and other games. You might want to make sure other parents are cool with this theme, though, before you send out the invitations.

Catch a Movie

Lots of teens love heading to the movies in packs, so why not make it a birthday date? Buy tickets to the latest blockbuster in advance if possible and give your teen a dinner budget as well so she can take her friends out to burgers or pizza before or after the move. Most teenagers are mature enough to run this outing on their own without a chaperone, which parents might appreciate, too.