How to Throw a Kentucky Derby Party for Kids

Black and white chevron with purple theme party luncheon table
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The Kentucky Derby is an event often associated with socialites, fancy hats, and fancier parties, but that’s no reason to leave the kids out of the excitement. This horse racing themed party shares plenty of ideas for sharing the excitement with youngsters.

Set the Stage for Your Kids' Kentucky Derby Party

Host the party in a place where everyone can see the race on television. At home, you may want to use the room with the biggest screen. Or, perhaps you can arrange for several screens to show the event, so, just for the day, you might want to bring all of your sets into one room.

You can decorate the party space with Kentucky Derby and horse racing-themed items, such as horseshoes, horses, jockey helmets, roses, and trophy cups.

Wear Kentucky Derby Hats

You can ask your party guests to come wearing Kentucky Derby hats, or you can have some fun making them at the party! Set up a station where kids can use items like paper plates and bowls, along with glue, ribbon, duct tape, and a variety of embellishments to create their own derby hats.

You can even have a contest and award small prizes for things like silliest, most unique, most colorful or most elegant Kentucky Derby hat.

Choose Racehorse Names

Racehorse names are known for being unique, whimsical and even poetic. When guests arrive, help them pick out their own racehorse names. You can put random names in a hat from which they can choose, or they can make up a name to their own liking.

Make name tags that they can wear to show off and call each other by their racehorse names. 

Place Your Bets

Print some racing programs with the names of the Kentucky Derby horses. When guests arrive, give them all a certain amount of play money. Set up a ticket booth where they can exchange their play money for racing tickets according to their favorite picks.

Have a variety of trinket prizes on hand so that after the race, kids can “cash in” their tickets for a prize. Let them pick form the prizes in the same order their chosen horses placed in the race.

Play a Horse Racing Game

Perhaps the kids will want to do some horse racing of their own. They can be jockeys in this game that simulates a horse race. To set up for the race, you will need to set up a track. Use tape to mark off a starting and finish line, as well as to create the lines for however many rows you will need. Once you have made your tracks, use more tape to mark off the same amount of “boxes” in each track. Give each jockey a number from one-to-12 to wear on his back.

Once the players are numbered, have them line up behind the starting line. Roll a set of dice and call out the number that comes up. If a child is wearing that number, she gets to move forward one box in her track. If no one has the number, they can either all move forward or all remain in place. Keep rolling the dice and calling numbers until one jockey crosses the finish line. He is the winner. You can keep playing until everyone crosses the finish line.

Another fun way for kids to play jockey is to have them run relay races while riding on stick horses.

More Activities for a Kentucky Derby Party

  • Play horseshoes.
  • Bob for apples
  • Make personalized horseshoes: cut them from cardstock and let kids decorate them with stickers, glitter and foam letters with which to spell their names
  • Make horse crafts
  • Play horse racing games

Make Themed Party Food

With a horse-shaped cookie cutter, you can make fun, Kentucky Derby-themed food out of kid-friendly menu items such as sandwiches, brownies, marshmallow cereal treats, and even personal pizzas.

Mint juleps are the drink associated with the Kentucky Derby, but for a kids’ party, you could instead serve something like mint milkshakes or mint-infused lemonade.

Ideas for Themed Party Favors

  • You can pick up trophy cups at the party supply or dollar store, fill them with treats and send each party guest home with a winning keepsake
  • Horse coloring books
  • Hobby horses
  • Horse lollipops (look for horse lollipop molds in the cake decorating section of the craft store)
  • Candy apples