We all get one chance per year to gather our friends and family together to celebrate our birthdays. When it comes to our children we want to make that day extra special. Planning ahead for your child’s next birthday will help ease the stress of rushing around last minute. If possible start planning at least one month in advance. No matter what your budget is you can throw a successful kid’s birthday party and indulge in that satisfying feeling of making your child feel extra special! Use this guide when planning your next party to guarantee that your party is enjoyable and successful.
Pick a Party Planning Pal
Planning and organizing a birthday party alone can quickly becoming overwhelming. I recommend asking a friend to help you out. Find someone who doesn’t mind, and has time to talk about ideas with you, to help out with shopping, decorating, during the party and with cleanup.
Create a Guest List
Make a list of the people that you are planning to invite to your child’s birthday party. Having this list will help you better plan your party.
Decide your Budget
Decide how much money you are willing to spend on the party. I usually set my limit very low, as a thrifty planner I have learned a few ways to plan a child’s birthday party on a small budget. Keep track of your budget, save receipts and make sure that you don’t go over budget. I know that this is sort of a daunting task, however I have seen to many times parents going over board and spending way to much money on a party that there child may or may not remember. Things to keep in mind when setting your budget are; How many people are coming? – Knowing this will let you know how many plates, napkins, food, and seating to provide. Always account for a few unannounced guests. Reward yourself with a job well done after the party by using anything left over from your budget to do something for yourself. Last year I allotted $75 for my son’s birthday party, and because of thrifty planning and the help of several friends I ended up spending only $48 of the budget on the party so I used the rest to buy myself a bottle of “grown-up drink” for later that night since my son was going home with his grandparents for the night. This method encourages you to stay below budget during your planning process.
Pick a Date/Time
Check with your most important guests (grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc) to pick out a date and time that they will all be able to attend. Take into consideration any events that will be going on locally at the time, such as carnivals, or state fairs. Choose a time that is convenient for your guests. Try not to plan during times when guests may be at church, school, etc. Most parties that I have attended with my six year old have been between the hours of 2:00 and 6:00 PM on Saturdays or Sundays. These are very convenient times and days for our family because it doesn’t interfere with dinner time, bedtime or any of our normal routine. For older children’s birthday parties later times usually work better. My 16 year old sister’s last party was a sleepover which started around 6:00 pm and went through the night.
Choose a Location
When it comes to deciding where to have your child’s birthday party the most important thing to keep in mind is space. Is there enough parking? Is there enough room to play? Are there enough seats? In my opinion the best place to have a child’s birthday party is at home. There are many advantages to planning your child’s birthday at home. There is no rental fee, no hauling cakes and supplies and most of your guests will already know where to come. However, if you do not have the space to host your child’s birthday party at home, there are a few other options. Grandparents homes and Local parks make great free alternative’s to having your child’s birthday party at home. You should also be able to find a local “party zone” like Chuck E. Cheese restaurants or some Toys R’ Us locations have party zones. Community Centers also make great place to host a kid’s birthday party. Skating Rinks, Party ball rooms or swimming pools make great places to have an older child’s birthday party. If having your party in any other location than home it is important to visit the place and scope it out so that you will know how many table cloths, etc that you may need. Also remember to reserve your date and time slot, some places will require a deposit.
Choose a party theme
Choosing a theme for your child’s birthday party makes the party more exciting. It is important to let your child help in this process unless it is a surprise party. I have found that it is easier to give your child three options to choose from instead of just asking them. Sometimes kids can come up with very obscure themes that would be costly to decorate for. A friend of mine has a rule that none of her kid’s birthday parties can have a licensed character theme, so when she let her son choose last month she gave him the options of A. An adventure party B. A Fishing party or C. A sports themed party. He chose an adventure party. She then found lots of ideas for games and décor online by looking up Indiana Jones parties. She felt no pressure to find and buy expensive Indiana Jones décor but the party still felt very much like that type of atmosphere. One year for my son’s birthday party I went to an online party store and looked to see what of my son’s interests did they have on sale. After finding three options that I was willing to buy I presented them to him and he chose to have a Star Wars party. I bought one set of printed plates, cups, and napkins and one set of black plates, cups, and napkins. The total of the entire purchase which is enough for a party of 16 was less than $10. Just in case that wasn’t enough I would just bring out some of my own washable dishes. Some great Ideas for themes are cartoon characters, movies, colors, sports, fishing, rock n’ roll, adventure, dinosaur, safari, or circus. Put a little thought into and ask other people for some ideas, always take your child’s personality into consideration.
Plan the menu
Decide what you will be serving at your child’s birthday party and make a shopping list. Plan to bring more than you think you will need. Always account for guests who have not RSVP’d or guests who bring people with them. Check with all the party guest’s parents for food allergies that may exist. For youngsters the best types of food to serve at a birthday party are finger foods and foods that can be picked up. Different types of sandwiches are a great grab food for young children, cut them into halves to have less wasted food. Pizza, hotdogs, and hamburgers are great go to party foods for older or younger children’s birthday parties. When it comes to older children feel free to experiment a little with something like a taco “buffet” or a salad bar. Make sure to involve your party pal in this process, get together with them the night before the party to prepare all the food, enjoy some of the food and a glass of wine together while getting things ready to keep stress levels down. It can be very tempting to order a cake from a bakery or local grocery store and that is fine if you can fit it in to your budget, but if you are looking to save $20-$50 and you have an extra hour or two then try making your own cake. A cake with a solid color frosting on top makes a great base for small toys, sprinkles or anything that you could add to the top to personalize the cake for the birthday child. You can find low-priced cake transfer sheets on ebay.com or etsy.com that are easy to put on and there are so many options to choose from. Another option that is becoming popular is to just serve cupcakes! Make enough for your guest and get some of the cans of cupcake frosting from the grocery store that match your theme colors. There are several shop owners who sell cupcake toppers on etsy.com that can be customized to fit your party theme.
Plan your activities
Having 3-4 games planned out for younger children is important in having a fun and successful birthday party. Try to keep the games simple and fun. Classic games like scavenger hunts, musical chairs and pin the tail on the donkey are usually the games that go over the best. For children in their teens let them rent a movie or set up a dance floor. Kids in this age range generally just want to hang out and listen to music together. When throwing a party for a teenager a bit of privacy and time away from adults is important. Keep an eye on them without making them feel like “little kids” You could be their (juice) Bartender or waiter for the night that way you have access to the party without being annoying.
Even if you are having a themed children’s birthday party follow my advice and only buy a few items from that theme and buy the rest of the décor in solid colors. For example for a Dora the Explorer party you could have one Dora balloon, three pink star balloons ($1 each at the dollar store), and the rest could be regular latex balloons. If you desire and your budget allows you can purchase small helium tanks from wal-mart or your local party store for around $20. These balloons would make for an impressive bunch and cost you less than $7. Mix in solid colors napkins, plates cups and streamers to match any themed décor that you have. Decorate one table if available for the sole purpose of holding the gifts. Cover it with a table cloth and weight some balloons all around it. Your child’s excitement will grow as he watches the table fill with gifts. Set up a special chair in the corner of the room, decorate the whole area to look very vibrant and have each child sit for a photo, also use this space to let your child open his gifts. Keeping the chair in the corner or against a wall will keep people from gathering all around him and making him feel overwhelmed. If necessary put up signs and balloons leading your guests to the party. Also remember to take them down when the party ends, a great task for your party pal.
If you are giving out favor bags remember to bring a couple extra for unexpected guest who may come to your child’s birthday party. I have another solution to giving out goodie bags. My son has had a pinata at every birthday party for the past four years and I usually make the pinata, so its large and overfilled. As each child arrives to the birthday party I will give them a bag that contains only a party hat and a noise maker. As the party goes on the bags get filled. Any empty space will surely be filled when the pinata is broken.
The night before and the day of the party
Make sure that you have the food prepared and ready to go if necessary. If you are having the party somewhere other than home, you should gather all supplies and decorations the night before the party and load them into the vehicle that you are planning to take, so that on the day of the party you will only need to load the food and the cake. If possible start decorating 1-2 hours in advance so that if you realize that you forgot something your party pal can make a quick run for you.
Follow these tips to throw a stress free birthday party for your child. Keep in mind that they are always watching your every move and if they see that you are stressed out they may not have a good time. Keep your cool and enjoy the party! Try to remember what it was like to be that age and keep your party pal within grabbing distance.