6 things to consider when planning your next kids party

Little kids and their birthdays- they’re obsessed!! Am I right? At church I work with the children 3-11 years old and I tell ya- there isn’t a Sunday that goes by that I don’t hear them chattering away about their birthday and all the awesomeness that they are sure it will entail.  “Luke- you don’t turn 6 for 9 months!” “But it’s going to be AWESOME!” He assured me.  As their parents, it can be daunting trying to make it a special event.  Here’s a little help to get you started and on your way to planning an “awesome” event:

1. What’s Your Budget?

If you have a $ amount you need to stay under, this is the first and most important thing to consider through every part of the party planning process.  Party costs can add up fast, even if you are DIYing it.  Make a wish list of all the things you would do at the party if you had unlimited cash flow- then sit down with the guest of honoree and talk about what the most important things are and focus your attention there (maybe don’t tell them all the amazing things they CANT have, just ask them for help to focus the list).  Remember while you might want to spend the extra cash to have a fancy caterer, they might rather have an amazing cake- and at the end of the day, who’s party is it?

2. Who’s Your Target Audience?

I’ve been to a one-year-old’s party before where there was literally nothing there edible for a one year old (at least not my one-year-olds, though I admittedly introduce table food kinda on the late side… I’m petrified of choking!).  To me this is kinda silly.  Be weary of getting too caught up in making your party look like a snapshot off of pinterest that you forget who’s coming!  My littlest just turned one in February and we did Banana Cream Pie for dessert.  What one year old doesn’t love banana pudding in a graham cracker crust? (well OK, mine ended up more smashing it than anything else…but it sounded good in theory…right?)

But doesn’t he look so dang cute doing it?

By the same token if you are asking/expecting/hoping parents to stay, make sure there is a little something more than peanut butter & jelly quarters for them to chomp on.  I often have a designated “parent food” plate with chicken salad croissants or the like.  Keeping things age appropriate goes for games, crafts, and favors (don’t send small chokable pieces home at a 2 year olds party!)

Party Tip: By the way, if you are wanting parents to stay but not sure how to get that across in a PC sort of way, adding something like “lunch provided for adults as well” to the invite is a nice subtle way to make that clear.

3. What’s Your Theme?

pirate party dessert table: fish bait (gummy worms), pirate jewels (ring pops), scurvy prevention (candy orange slices) and of course chocolate gold coins.

Ah the Theme!  The glue that holds the whole party together.  Depending on the venue, it may make sense in some cases not to really have a theme, but for the high majority of parties PICK A THEME BABY!  This will help you focus your money, energy, ideas, and help you from feeling spread too thin.  When it comes to picking a theme

  • Leave it up to the guest of honor, but sometimes they need a little guidance.
  • Pick it early…I mean like.really.early.  3-6 months ahead of time.  This is where it becomes important that they pick something that is a lasting interest (legos, robots, princesses) instead of a passing phase (that week they were really into pokemon cards).  This could backfire on you if you choose a theme 9 months in advance and the kid has the nerve to change his mind 😉  But I find if the theme was carefully chosen in the first place a little brainwashing that it is still the coolest idea ever (and surf pinterest with them showing them all the cool ideas for that theme) will do the trick.
  • Coordinate colors, food, games, favors and decorations.  Give the party a feel of cohesion and keep it all on theme!

4.What’s Your Venue?

  • How many people can it hold?
  • If its outside what is your weather contingency plan?
  • Will it accommodate the types of activities you have planned?
  • What is the cancellation policy.  After all- what if the guest of honor comes down with the flu??
  • How far will most of your guests have to travel to attend?

5. What’s the Scale?

Is your kiddo someone who thrives on big groups and a little chaos?  Or do they do better in smaller, quieter, more structured settings?  When deciding the scale keep in mind:

  •  Your venue!  A party can loose its zest quickly when there’s nowhere to sit and 20 kids are running around screaming with nowhere to go.
  • Set limits.  It’s a good lesson to learn early in life that we can’t have it all.  If your child is old enough you can even give them a number you think is reasonable (remembering that about 50% of invitees actually attend) and let them pick their guests.
  • Review etiquette. Remind your child that you wish you could invite the whole *fill in the blank* (school, class, church group…) but birthday parties are expensive and the house (or designated venue) is only so big! If they seem really upset about not being able to invite everyone you could offer them the option of trading in getting a birthday present from you for extra guests.  Or if they are old enough, have them do extra chores around the house to earn some $$ to put towards the party.
can you spy the robber amongst the sea of cops?

6. Whats the Flow of the Party?

When planning where to set up food, games, activities, present table, decorations etc keep in mind:

  • Where will the guests be arriving?
  • Where will they leave?
  • How will food be served?  Will food be left out for guests to munch on as they like?  Or will there be a designated eating time?  Little ones will have a hard time focusing on party games with cupcakes sitting around in view!
  • Will everything be done as a big group?  Or will you break them down into smaller groups and have them rotate through the activities?   With younger age groups (like 5 and under) I personally think its best to have 3-5 activities set up and let them wander around from one thing to another as they like.  If possible have an adult manning each station. You can even make up little maps to hand to your guests as they arrive and they will get a kick out of following their map from station to station.  I try to have at least one station specifically geared towards girls and one for boys (think craft table and game area).  Of course that’s not to say the boys wont want to do the craft, but you know- your likely that way to have at least one thing that will really appeal to each person there.
Have the map match the theme of the party.If you’re throwing a construction party call it the “blueprint”

Party Tip: What to do with those older siblings that got “stuck” going to a little kids party?  Enlist their help! Ask them to run the party games, craft stations, or have them help serve the food.  Suddenly they went from feeling very out of place to feeling like a grown up.  And that way their boredom wont lead to any mishaps.

Above all: Come party time remember that more than an intricately planned party with every detail accounted for- guests want a friendly, inviting host.  Do your best to keep your cool despite party setbacks (like when the sprinklers went off in the front yard and soaked everything I had laid out…) and make party guests feel like you are thrilled they are there (even the little girl who wont stop asking you if its cake time yet).

What’s your go-to party tip?  I’d love to hear it!


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