When it comes right down to it, cake keeps kids pretty happy at birthday parties. Still, with a little out-of-the-box thinking, you can tweak what it means to celebrate with friends after one more trip around the sun. Why not shift the party concept a bit to celebrate what makes being with kids a joy?

Here are four fresh ideas to spruce up your birthday-party planning with a focus on exploration and creativity. Don’t worry, you can still serve cake at the end!

Make a visit: Think of a place in your community where kids would love to get an exclusive peek behind the scenes.

This could be a TV studio, fire station, farm, theatre, zoo or even a factory. Think of something that will help kids deepen their connection with the world. If you’re lucky, one of these venues will have a party room you can rent so you can host the entire celebration in one place.

One idea we love is to arrange a tour at an animal shelter. Kids can have an opportunity to pet some mild-mannered dogs and cats, and hear some interesting facts and stories about taking care of our animal friends. On the invitations, your child can encourage guests to bring cat and dog toys for the homeless animals instead of presents.

Artists studio: When you go to a special event that features fun things for kids, a common feature is often a cool craft.

Even if you’re not the crafty type, setting aside a space with two or three maker stations can be simple and memorable. The making and creating can be tied right in to the party, too. For example, they can design their own party hats and party-favour bags. Or, they can make masks that tie into to the party’s theme, or even decorate their own birthday cookies.

They can also make things they’ll enjoy using or displaying at home, such as making luminaries with tissue paper, glue and mason jars. Include glow sticks or a battery-operated candle in their party-favour bags and your child’s friends will be ready to test their creations right when they get home.

Mad-scientist experiments: Round up some safety goggles and old shirts and get the kids ready to make messes and create some chemical transformations — of the harmless kind — right in the kitchen or even in the back yard.

Ideas for kitchen-sink, hands-on science fun abound online, but check with your child’s science teacher; he or she may have a party-ready idea or two waiting in the wings.

You can create stained glass sugar, a giant slime volcano or inflate balloons with gases released from combining baking soda and vinegar.

LEGO Bricks building lab: With a Bricks 4 Kidz birthday party, one of our party hosts will bring plenty of LEGO Bricks for all your young guests and then lead them through a series of fun, creative games that will leave everyone at the bash feeling happy and engaged.

We also provide the invitations and thank you notes. We have packages that are suitable for pre-schoolers through pre-teens.

Contact your local Bricks 4 Kidz chapter to learn about a Brickstastic LEGO Birthday party.