Planning children’s birthday parties can be an overwhelming project. Each birthday is special, and you will want to celebrate your child’s birth in a way that will be memorable. Whether you are planning a birthday party for a baby, toddler, elementary school age, tween, or a sweet sixteen, you want to make each party a joyous occasion.
The process of planning children’s birthday parties does not need to be overwhelming. Following a few easy steps, baring in mind what works and what often does not, and organizing a timeline will give you ease of mind as you plan each special occasion.
Here is the ultimate guide to children’s birthday party planning. Enjoy!
The first thing to consider when planning children’s birthday parties is your budget. How much do you want to spend? For big events, like a sixteenth birthday party, you may want to spend a little more money. For a child’s 1st birthday party, you can keep expenses to a minimum. Having entertainment or hosting a birthday party at an offsite venue will cost more, but could be worth it because it relieves you of much of the stress of party planning.
Having a theme for your child’s birthday party will actually make the birthday party planning process easier. The theme can carry over into all aspects of the party. Invitations, decorations, crafts, activities and entertainment, food, cake and party favors can all be wrapped up in one theme. For younger children, you will obviously have a good idea of a theme that is exciting. As your child ages, let them be a part of the selection of theme process.
Here are some good themes that can be coordinated with all aspects of your child’s birthday party.
One year: The number “1”, balloons, rainbows, flowers, trucks, characters.
Two to four years old: Give them some say about the theme that they would like most.
Elementary School: Definitely let your child be involved in planning their birthday party theme. Include him or her in all aspects of the theme including invitations, decorations, crafts, activities and
entertainment, and food.
Guest List and Invitations
The tried and true rule of thumb when considering which guests to include is add one person to your child’s age. Obviously, a first birthday party will consist of family, close friends and perhaps neighbors. As your child grows, consider adding one guest his or her age in addition to his or her age.
For example, a two year old is fine with one other friend his or her age. A three year old is fine with four friends his or her age, etc, etc. This time tested rule helps to keep parties in check and your child, guests and you will be happy. Once your child is in school, you will need to consider your guest list a bit more in depth.
Start with your child’s best friends. If you want to add more people to the guest list, expand your child’s circle of friends to include good friends and kids they hang out with once in a while. Inviting classmates may work, but be careful of feelings. If you send invitations through your child’s teacher, be prepared to include all classmates. No one wants hurt feelings.
If you are planning an off site venue such as an event at a park, inflatable business, a trampoline or rock climbing business, a pool, inviting a whole class could be feasible. Parents can sign waivers or you could hire extra help to supervise the children.
Depending on your child’s age and the amount of guests you are expecting, planning the right venue is important. An off site venue might be easier to plan than to have the party in your home. Here are some suggestions for venues to consider when planning a birthday party.
Movie Theater: For a small group of more mature children, a matinee is a fun choice. Some movie theaters even have party rooms where children can be served food and presents can be opened before or after the featured movie. The caveat is transportation, but if you have some parent helpers, this should be no problem.
Park or Community Center: Having your party in a park or in a facility such as a VFW or Eagles Hall or a church is a great way to host a birthday party for a larger group of children. The cost to rent a facility usually reasonable. You want to have some helpers such as family, close friends or a few of the children’s parents to help with the party, crafts, games and food. You can make food that goes along with your theme, order food, or have a pot luck party depending on your budge.
Pool Party: Most public pools offer times for pool parties and provide life guards. For a big group of kids who are able to swim, a pool party offers a lot of great themes such as a luau. The kids are sure to have fun and the life guard supervision will put you at ease regarding the children’s safety.
Inflatable Gym: Younger children love inflatable gyms. Bouncy cages, slides, and obstacle courses are often a part of these gyms. Many inflatable gyms provide supervision by employees and a party room for presents, food and cake after the children spend an hour playing in the inflatable arena. Some places even offer employees to help serve food and keep track of the presents opened.
Trampoline Park or Rock Climbing Facility: Older children love trampoline parks and other entertainment gyms. Just as with the inflatable gyms, children are allotted time to play and join together in a party room where employees help serve the food and presents can be opened. These facilities cost a bit, but the hassle free party may be worth it to you.
Choosing to have an entertainer when birthday party planning could be expensive but well worth it because much of the party can be centered around the entertainment. Face painters, caricature artists, balloon artists, or a disc jockey are some ideas for hassle free entertainment that the children are surer to love.
Whether or not you choose to host your party at an off site location or hire entertainment, you want to keep the children busy and limit free play as much as possible. As guests arrive you may want to have a craft table set up.
Perhaps have the children make their own name tag or put together a simple craft that they can take home with them at the end of the party. Once guests arrive, you can move on to organized activities such as games or other entertainment.
Break for a snack and refreshment or a meal if that is what you have planned. Next do some more organized activities. Finally, cake and presents. Moving younger children around in a timely fashion will help keep children from getting into trouble and everyone can enjoy the party.
To serve food or not to serve food may be a question. Shorter parties for younger children do not really require a meal. Snacks and refreshments may be sufficient. For longer parties, you may want to provide a lunch or dinner for the party guests.
Whatever you decide, planning the food to coordinate with the birthday party theme is fun to do. For a luau, serve kebabs. For a picnic, serve hot dogs. You can even get the kids involved by letting them make their own meal such as individual pizzas or a taco bar.
The birthday cake is often a must for any birthday party planning. If you like to bake, you may enjoy creating a unique cake that matches your party’s theme. if you order the cake, there are many designs to choose from at most bakeries.
Whatever your party’s theme, have fun with the decor. Banners, confetti, balloons, lights, and crepe paper are party standards. You can also be more creative depending on your party theme. For example, a beach theme could include sand buckets and shovels, a luau could feature grass skirted tables and tiki lamps, a character party can include images of the character, or a construction theme could include loaders and dump trucks.
Having a timeline can ease your mind during the month of planning a birthday party. Here is a general timeline to consider. You will find yourself checking off the list and have a feeling of accomplishment.
4 weeks before the party
- Decide on your child’s party theme.
- Decide on a guest list.
- Prepare invitations.
- Consider the party venue, entertainment, decorations and food.
3 weeks before the party
- Send invitations. For a smaller party, you can call or send an email or e-vite to your child’s friends
- Purchase decorations or, if you feel creative, plan homemade decorations which will also help with your budget
- Get together party favors
- Arrange for extra help (family, friends, parents, neighbors or a professional party planner)
1 – 2 weeks before the party
- Prepare or buy party favors
- Schedule activities
- Call guests who have not responded to invitations – they could have been lost or misplaced
3 days before the party
- Buy food
1 – 2 days before the party
- Bake the cake if you have not ordered it from a bakery
- Gather together supplies
- Prepare make-ahead food
Other things to consider…
Opening presents at a birthday party can be an important event for the birthday boy or girl but also for the guests as younger children look forward to seeing their gift opened and appreciated. It is an important part of birthday party planning. Keep a list of all birthday gifts and who gave them so you can send a Thank You note after the party. Taking a picture of each gift and including it with the Thank You note is a nice touch.
Have fun planning your next birthday party!