Your little one’s special birthday parties approaching: how to begin planning for the big event? You want it to be special, and you need it to be fun and stress-free for your child, their guests, and you.
Here are a few suggestions to make the big day run smoothly, and still be memorable:
1. Involve your child in the planning
Remember, says PBS Parents, it’s their party, not yours. Let them pick out the theme: if they are into princesses, fill it with glitter. If they love Batman, get capes or a Batman jump house, and decorate the house in a Gotham City theme.Have the child help create the invitations, and choose games,activities, and party rentals. The planning of the party is sometimes as much fun as the big day itself.
2. Invite an appropriate number of guests
The standard rule of thumb is to have the number of guests equal to the age of the child plus one. Younger children especially can get overwhelmed in a large group. Other factors that can determine how many guests to invite will be the activities you are planning–if you are planning a sleepover, you’ll want fewer guests than if you’re planning a big picnic.
3. Send invitations
A clever invitation that is crafted around the theme is fun to create. According to the goddess of entertaining, Martha Stewart, invitations should include drop-off and pickup times, any special items they need to bring (such as a swimsuit or towel), and mentions of any special entertainment you have planned, and whether you’ll be serving lunch or dinner.
4. Have a theme
Organizing your party around a central theme not only gives you a cohesive plan, but it creates an excitement that elevates a plain gathering into something more memorable. Whether it’s a Disney-movie theme, or one focused on pirates, superheroes, or spaceships, a theme gives you focus when arranging the decorations, the invitations, the food, party favors, down to the cups, plates, and napkins. Any games you organize can take on the theme. Turn a game of tag into Spiderman-tag.
5. Have age appropriate games and activities
A clown can be terrifying to a two-year old; likewise, it can be boring to a twelve year old. Crafts are great ways to keep kids occupied: face painting, bubbles, or dress-up are all simple ways to keep them entertained. While most kids are great at entertaining themselves, if you’ve got a passel of them, things can easily escalate into chaos.
Planned activities could be simple games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey or tag, or a more elaborate sports game or treasure hunt. Consider renting a bounce house, train, jumper, dunk tank, or a cotton candy machine. A place to jump and slide like a bounce house or a water slide is a great way to keep kids occupied for hours.
6. Have healthy and fun snacks and plenty to drink
A riotous bunch of toddlers is going to burn off a lot of energy very quickly. Have snacks and drinks available–preferably water or juice to keep them from dehydrating without loading them up on sugary soft drinks. While cake and ice cream is the traditional birthday snack, have plenty of healthy snacks like fruit or popcorn–or more substantial food such as sandwiches or pizza.
Have the food be a part of the theme; use cookie cutters to make fun-shaped sandwiches; or rent a snow cone or popcorn machine for an extra festive flavor. Be aware of any allergies any guests may have, such as peanuts, milk, or wheat.
According to Martha Stewart, different age groups fare better at different times of day. Very young toddlers do well after nap. Kids from 3 to 8 fare better from mid to late afternoon. Shorter parties of about an hour are more appropriate for 2-3 year old; as they get older, you can increase the duration by about a 1/2 hour every year.
Don’t forget to take lots of pictures and videos of this special day. A well-planned birthday party is one that will provide fond memories for years to come.