8 Year-Old Girl’s Birthday Party Idea: Ponies and Puppies!

You know, it’s right about the time that the kids turn 8 years old that birthday parties become a bit tricky. An over-themed party involving lots of structured activities and crafts may seem too young for your budding tween. Yet, for some kids, a full-blown sleepover party complete with staying up super-late and watching tons of movies may be more than a tender heart (used to being close to home) is ready for. So navigating the 8-year old birthday party can be a challenge.

Enter the half-sleepover party. All the benefits of fun hanging with your girlfriends in your jammies, eating lots of birthday cake, popcorn, and other goodies, with none of the commitment of a full night away from Mom & Dad. If you decide to go this route, your next step is picking a theme… and I say- why not focus on the things that your daughter loves the best? Which in our case, is ponies (Charlotte just started taking horseback riding lessons) and puppies (she has our dog Bentley that she adores!)!

The Invitation:

After spending some time cruising the internet searching for some cute puppies and ponies artwork, I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, although I did find a beautiful picture of a little girl and a horse for an equestrian-themed birthday party. I emailed the creator, Nathalia, from Firefly Creative Design, and asked if she could create something for me that I could use for the invites and party  goods that also included a puppy in the print…preferably a golden doodle, like our dog Bentley. And when she emailed me back and offered to create the artwork for only $16, I was thrilled!

I uploaded her .jpg file to Picnik, added all of the party details and sent off the invitations. I also used the same artwork to create the thank-you notes for the party.

The Thank You Notes:

The Party Decorations:

We decided that the girls would eat dinner in our dining room, so to make it festive we decorated with tissue paper pom-poms and these little cards with the pony and puppy art. We placed a few beanie baby ponies and puppies in hurricane glass holders and polka-dotted the table with jellybeans.

The Goodie Bags, Cake, Party Punch, and Popcorn Bags:

Our final prep for the party included baking this multi-layered cake, preparing our family-favorite “party punch”, assembling popcorn bags to be passed out during the movie, and putting together goodie bags for the guests to take home.

The Order of Events:

I always say that the decor is nice, but the heart of the party is how you entertain the guests and make the birthday child feel special. So here is how our pony and puppy party unfolded:

6pm- Guests arrived (we invited 9 girls). As we waited for everyone to show up, the girls enjoyed playing Just Dance 3 on the Wii. And let me tell you- this could have been the event to carry the entire party! The girls loved playing this as a group- no one cares who gets to hold the Wii remote, they just want to DANCE!

6:15pm- Dinnertime! Instead of typical pizza fare, we decided to offer a make-your-own salad and pasta bar. This was a HUGE hit- and certainly much less expensive than ordering in pizza! We served two different kinds of pasta (linguine and penne) butter, sauce, or sauce with meatballs. We toasted garlic bread, served up a big bowl of romaine, and the girls could top their salad with carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, croutons, and three kinds of dressing.

7:00pm- Shrinky-Dink Necklace Craft

Everyone loves to make shrinky-dinks! I purchased sheets of the ruff ‘n ready plastic, and used my heart punch to cut out hearts, and then used a regular hole punch to make a hole in each heart. The girl colored their hearts and then watched as we shrunk them into tiny charms in the toaster oven. We also took a group picture of all of the girls, which I printed on special printer-friendly shrinky-dink plastic and then shrunk them into tiny charms to wear on their ribbon necklaces behind the heart. (But I will admit that printer shrinky-dink plastic is very hard to work with, and the results weren’t as great as I hoped- the ink still bled a bit even after trying to dry it thoroughly with a hairdryer set on a cool setting).

7:30pm- birthday cake

The cool thing about our multi-layered white cake was that it was actually a rainbow cake! (After all, Charlotte’s birthday is shared with St. Patrick’s Day!)

7:50pm- the girls gathered onto sleeping bags that were spread out in the family room to watch “Moondance Alexander”, a great movie about a girl and a horse. Most of the party guests (as well as the birthday girl) had never seen the film, so they were enthralled. After about 45 minutes into the movie, we served popcorn.

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8:30pm- The movie wrapped up, the girls put on their necklaces and headed back for a little more Just Dance 3 before the party ended up at 9pm.

The Goodie Bags

Inside each of the goodie bags was a beanie baby puppy and homemade sugar cookies cut into pony shapes and individually decorated by my ever-so-patient and talented husband!

This was truly one of the easiest and least expensive parties we have ever hosted, and Charlotte loved every minute of it. And that was the very best part.

If you liked this party idea, you might also enjoy these other at-home birthday parties we’ve thrown for our kids:

At Home Birthday Parties 350

At Home Birthday Parties YOU Can DO!


  1. Jeannette says

    Love the Half Sleep over Idea – that is great!! Do you have ideas hidden in your blog about boy parties – I have a 6yr old bday to start planning….

    Great blog as always ;)

    • says

      Hi Jeannette- I have lots of ideas for birthday parties for boys…. having four boys! Just click on the “how to host an at-home birthday party” on the right side under “Momof6 How Tos”. Most recently our youngest son turned 6 and we had a lego party for him that was so much fun!

  2. says

    I love the various activities you provided for the girls to enjoy, the rainbow cake, and food options they could choose from. The Ponies and Puppies theme was creative and fun; I thought the personally decorated cookies were fab. I love your whole approach to providing your daughter with a fun, inexpensive party that she really enjoyed.

    I will provide a link to your post, 8 Year-Old Girl’s Birthday Party Idea: Ponies and Puppies, on my blog, The Birthday Wall, in connection with my new e-book, The Birthday Wall: Create a Collage to Celebrate Your Child, a how-to on creating a colorful visual collage to celebrate your child’s birthday. I’m always on the look out for fabulous themes and inspiring birthday stories to share with my readers, and yours definitely inspired me. :)

    Thanks for giving us an inside view into your daughter’s creatively themed birthday party celebration. I’m so glad she enjoyed it.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    Author of The Birthday Wall: Create a Collage to Celebrate Your Child
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter

    • says

      Thanks Dawn! I think that hosting fun, low cost themed parties for your kids that make your child’s birthday magical is something that many parents can really do if they just had someone help them to figure out how! I will definitely check out your blog!

  3. Anne VanBuren says

    Hi! What a great idea. I think I will try something similar for my eight year old. One question about the timing. I thin most movies are at least 90 minutes. How did you fit all of those activities in at the end of the evening? Thanks for sharing your super idea! Anne

    • says

      Hi Anne! The only thing that we did after the movie was go back to a little more Just Dance 3 while we waited for the parents to arrive for pick up. I write out all of the timing for my parties, so I can gauge when I need to move things along, or stretch out in activity…. and I always look up the time for the length of the movie and add that in.

  4. Val says

    Hi! Thought I should let you know you saved my life this week! I had booked a Party at our sports centre for my daughter (also called Charlotte!) and they had to cancel, leaving me just 8 days to organise an alternative! Desperate for ideas, I turned to the web (as you do!) and I came across your post. Thought all your suggestions were great and, best of all, so did my daughter! Our party is on Saturday. The kids are really excited about having a party in the evening – I can see the half-sleepover catching on!
    Thanks for taking the time to share!!

    • says

      Val- you just totally made my day! I can imagine the panic you felt when you realized that your party was cancelled, and I am SO glad that I had some small part in helping you to dave the day! Happy birthday Charlotte!

    • says

      Thanks Ellie! It was so much fun… and my 6 year old wants to have a half-sleepover party too when her birthday rolls around in August! I’m all for it!

  5. says

    Thank you for the wonderful idea. That cake follows the correct scientific order of the colors of the spectrum. Another fun idea my kids loved is the TickleMe Plant Party. Kids plant, paint and take home their very own Pet TickleMe Plants. TickleMe Plants will close their leaves and lower their branchs when tickled. Just search TickleMe Plant to find Party Favors and to show the kids the TicklMe Plant videos of this live plant in action.

  6. deb says

    Thank you SO MUCH for posting this..I was starting to think I was the last sane mom who can’t afford (or refuses to pay for) custom made decorations and cakes….I do these same type of parties each year, but was brain dead and could NOT think of what to do this year that would be new. I LOVE the Wii & 1/2 sleepover idea. B day is in 2 weeks- you just saved me so much stress! Thanks!

  7. deb says

    Oh- I forgot to add something. Sometimes the parties get mis-timed and you are left with time to kill… make sure you have a few huge garbage bags full of dollar store balloons…the kids wont care if they say HAPPY ANNIVERSARY or whatever weird thing the store usually has. Try to get some long, thin ones too. When there is a lull, just dump them onto the floor, tell the kids not to break a lamp and to have fun..they will come up with all sorts of games on their own. When they then get a bit tired of them, then tell them they now have to break AND PICK UP ALL THE PIECES of each balloon..but the key is- they cannot break the balloon with anything other than their rear ends. This one activity can take up a half an hour! Happy partying!


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