We all love to throw amazing birthday parties for our lovable littles, but have you ever hosted a birthday party that had you breaking into a cold sweat before-hand, run off your feet during and in an exhausted heap surrounded by a explosion of balloons, wrapping paper and sticky cake mess after the party is over? Well this has definitely happened to me and want to spare you the hassle with these tips that will have you planning and running your children’s birthday parties like a pro.
1. Use a theme:
Picking a theme makes party planning so much easier! Let you child pick the theme and they feel super involved (and may even let you talk them out of that amazing but beyond-your-skills cake they saw you eyeing on Pinterest!) Even if you don’t go for all the cheesy party store paraphanalia, a theme makes it a snap to plan games and food and gives the party a no-ordinary day feeling. Even if you are stuck on ideas for the theme your child has picked, just do a quick search in Pinterest and you’ll soon have plenty of ideas you can put together for an amazing party.
2. Hold your horses on the guest list:
As ‘awesome’ as it would be for your child to invite everyone from their grade 1 class, you have to consider your space, budget, sanity and what the birthday child can handle. With the exception of when our boys were really little (and parents came and stayed) from the time they were 4 or 5 they got to invite the number of guests that equals their age. A four year old will probably find a party with 10 friends too overwhelming, but 4-5 guests? Just right :).
3. Make your road map:
A few days before the party I like to roughly plan out what we are doing when during the party. More flexible than a schedule, but a rough outline gives me a chance to make sure that we can keep everyone engaged the entire party. Trust me, you do not want a bunch of hyped up birthday party guests with nothing to do! I try to make a flexible schedule with a mix of high energy and calm activities and structured time and free play. This is also a great way to involve your child in the planning. You will find they probably have definite ideas of when they’d like to open presents and blow out their candles ;).
4. Figure out your line up:
Always, always make sure you have another pair or two of responsible hands to help you out during the party. If your spouse is around, make sure you give them specific tasks to do so they know exactly how to be helpful. If you're like me and sometimes have to host the party alone (husbands have to work away or crazy schedules sometimes!) absolutely ask a friend or two to be your party minion err… helper or hire your favorite babysitter. Just make sure whom ever you choose is someone you feel comfortable ordering around a little bit :).
5. Let’s avoid the birthday tears:
For younger children especially, birthdays are days filled with high excitement and emotion which can unfortunately lead to some not-so-pleasant behavior. Avoid any birthday dictator meltdowns by practicing good manners with them before hand. Practice how they’ll say something nice about every present. Go over the order of activities with them so they know exactly when it is present time. Have them rehearse how to properly greet and say goodbye to guests. Establish before hand whether they will get to ‘go first’ in the party games. My list could go on… As you can tell, we’ve had a few ‘lovely’ experiences with our own birthday boys ;). But you know your child best so take a moment and think about where they might hit a hurdle during the party and prepare them for success!
6. Take it easy with party favors:
Children love to receive party favors, but you don’t need to go all out and spend a bunch of time or money putting together fancy swag bags. I love doubling up and doing a craft during the party that makes a meaningful party favor. In the past we have painted small wooden treasure chests (pirate party!), decorated superhero capes (batman party!), and built small lego models (lego party!). If doing a craft with a crew small children gives you hives, don’t worry! Things like playdough, hot wheels cars, helium balloons, or stickers make great party favors that the children will actually enjoy and use more than an hour after the party (I see you dollar store junk!).
7. Put someone other than you in charge of photos:
Trust me on this one! I have too many birthday parties gone by with almost no pictures. When you are the birthday party boss, you are one occupied lady. Just ask someone (see #4!) who can take decent photos and you’ll know that you’ll have plenty of wonderful memories saved for the family photo album. As a side note, you’ll also be able to avoid tricky questions years from now when your child asks why they didn’t have a 5th birthday party?! And you’ll be crying inside that they have no memory of the incredible party you did throw but of which you have no visible record.
8. Enlist your little helpers too:
Birthday parties can be especially hard for siblings. Make them feel a part of the party by giving them special jobs to help at the party. Older siblings can be in charge of running a game or scooping ice cream. Younger siblings can be wrapping paper clean up patrol or hand the birthday child presents. The key here is to spread the birthday love and make it a fun and special day for your whole crew!
9. It’s ok to ask for no gifts!
I think it is safe to say that if you are reading this that your child has no shortage of things. I feel so exceptionally blessed that my children really want for nothing and don’t need more toys etc… from their friends on their birthdays. Thankfully there is a growing trend towards no gift or fiver birthday parties and I think these are a great idea. It helps kids to focus on the celebration and fun of being with their friends rather than getting things. A simple note of “no gifts please! Just come and have fun!” and a good conversation with the birthday child and you are good to go.
10. Don’t forget the WHY:
Remember why you are celebrating and what's really important. Actually having a party is more important than having no party. Having friends around is more important than having fancy decorations. Having parents who love and care about celebrating this special day is more important than having parents who are snapping over getting the cake perfect. Just dive in and expect that things might go wrong, but the day can still be a special one for everyone! And enjoy yourself! Really, the whole thing isn't about creating the perfect pinnable party, it's about how much you absolutely, completely love your child.
And one more thing, because I want to help you preserve those memories, I'd love to share my library of free photo overlays wwith you. Super easy to add to all those fun birthday party pics and add to your Chapbooks or Instagram feed. Just sign up HERE for instant access and an easy tutorial to show you how to add them (on your phone even!)
Have any great birthday party hosting experiences? Have an awesome hack for making the party great for you and the birthday child? Just comment below!