Birthday party for children

Hi there. Yes, you. The parent who’s about to lose his or her mind.

I feel you. I SO feel you. Planning a kid’s birthday party can be like trying to pin the tail on a slippery and infuriated [live] donkey.

Danger, danger! Travails ahead. There might be hair-pulling. (Yours.) There may be a few tears. (The kid’s. Also yours.) I can almost guarantee a few “I wish I never’s…”

Except, it doesn’t have to be like that. Rewind – what? No, it’s true! Planning your kid’s birthday party can be fun. Rewarding. Successful, even.

Here’s the secret (and oh, how I wish someone had filled me in before the first, second and third birthday extravaganzas or, as I now call them, stress-fests): You need a kid’s birthday party checklist.

Oh yes, I went there – the kid’s birthday party planning checklist. (Try saying that three times fast.) AKA a parent’s best friend. But first, a few tips:

Tips for Planning a Kid’s Birthday Party

First, step away from Pinterest. Shut. It. Down. For the love of planning sanity! Pinterest is the devil’s candy, my friend: beautiful, wonderful, and very tempting, but something you don’t want to indulge in. At least, not yet. (We’ll get to that later.) For now, just say no to Pinterest.

Don’t rush. Plan a party too far in advance, and your kid will change her mind on theme, on party favors, on the piñata, on the everything, a hundred million billion times before the actual party rolls around. Do yourself a favor, and give yourself just enough time to plan without going crazy, but not so much time that Kiddo outgrows the Minecraft obsession. A birthday party should not be stressful. (And while we’re on the subject, you may want to go with a less-specific, no-fail party theme. Problem solved.)

Plan with your kid. This one is at your discretion – some kids go a little wild with the party-planning – but I find that child input goes a long way toward overall party satisfaction. This is also the point where I refer you back to tip #1: Step away from Pinterest. Do not, under any circumstance, show your kid photos of Pinterest-worthy themed parties. Just don’t. It won’t end well. (Ask me how I know.) ((Also remember the aforementioned hair-pulling and tears.))

Start with the party location. This is the single most important aspect of your party-planning, since it’ll 1) decide the date; 2) determine how many kids you can invite; and 3) dictate the overall cost of your party.

Then, check with VIP guests. Your kid will be crushed if her BFF is out of town on the big day. If there are any must-have attendees, check on their availability before inscribing your party date in stone.

At this point, you can peek at Pinterest. Peek! Don’t spend hours and hours, pouring over $5000+ birthday parties. But do hop on and get an idea of how to turn your kid’s chosen theme into reality: Think color schemes. And cake shapes. And balloons. And favors. Focus on things you can buy or make easily. (Note, I said easily.) You can have a Pinterest party on a budget.

Now that you tortured yourself with Pinterest, choose just one splurge. (That is, if you’re going to splurge at all.) But if you do splurge, don’t splurge on the locale, and the decorations, and a caterer, and the cake, and the favors. Choose one.

And finally, go easy on yourself. Party planning isn’t easy, even for the professionals. Don’t take on too much. Don’t expect too much. (Pinterest is full of pro-planned parties, no matter what the DIY blogs say.) Don’t run yourself ragged. Don’t go overboard. And when you can, make life easy. Maybe your friends will help make favors, or a chef relative is ready to cook for a crowd. And if not, remember – ain’t no shame in a hotdog-and-chips game. Bottom line: Make your kid happy, and don’t worry about how the party will look on Instagram.

checklist for planning a child's birthday party

Kid’s Birthday Party Checklist

6 Weeks Ahead

4 Weeks Ahead

  • Ask for a class list (if you’re inviting schoolmates)
  • Send invitations (idea: use online invitations)
  • Order the cake (if you’re buying the cake)
  • Order the piñata (especially if it’s a custom design)
  • Plan the menu (check out these kid-pleasing menus)
  • Brainstorm party games & activities
  • Book the party planner, if you’re having one
  • Book the caterer, if you’re having one
  • Book the entertainer, if you’re having one

3 Weeks Ahead

2 Weeks Ahead

  • Pull together your regular party supplies:
  • Rent, borrow or buy party supplies you can’t find
  • Outline the party flow schedule. (A planner notebook can help with this bit.) ((But don’t get overly attached. The day will not go exactly as planned.))
  • Call families who have not yet RSVP’ed
  • Confirm reservations:
    • Party planner
    • Venue
    • Caterer
    • Entertainer
    • Childcare/Birthday Helper

3 Days Ahead

  • Make a grocery list
  • ^ Go grocery shopping
  • Charge your camera/videocamera battery (don’t forget the backup battery)
  • Assemble party favors
  • Organize party supplies
  • Pick up the piñata

1-2 Days Ahead

  • Bake the cake, or pick up the pro cake
  • Do a quick-clean of the house and backyard
  • Decorate
  • Prepare as much food & drink as you can
  • Make up the party favors/goody bags
  • Stuff the piñata
  • Wrap the birthday gift
  • Put the birthday boy or girl to bed early

Day of:

  • Finish last-minute cooking
  • Do a last-minute clean
  • Set up the tables
  • Finish decorating
  • Relax (A mimosa is totally morning-of appropriate. Just saying. And while you drink it, read this. You’ll laugh and then you’ll feel better.)
  • Make a list of the gifts (and who gave them, for thank-yous)

You survived! And I hope you had fun. And if you didn’t, just look at your kid. That’s pure delight, right there. Good job, parent!

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