Planning and hosting a great birthday party for your child can be quite a task! Here are some helpful tips and aspects to think about in order to make that party a success.

Planning a Successful Children’s Party
Credit: Noah's Birthday Party on Flickr via CC 2.0

Make your child's first birthday a memorable event with the best birthday party ever! 

Plan Well Ahead

You may not realize at first all the effort that goes into a child’s birthday party. It seems so simple to the outsider or the guest who simply joins in the fun. What goes on behind the scenes, the pre-planning and preparation is often not realized.

Plan ahead! You know your child’s birthday is coming up, so get ahead and start the planning 2 to 3 months before the date.

First you will need to decide what date it will be held and book out the day on your calendar (don’t forget to add it to hubby’s calendar too). You might even need to keep the weekend or week before the party clear of activities so that you have time to do any last minute shopping for those items that slipped your mind.

Make a list of guests you would like to invite (thinking of your guest limit as well). If the party is for an older child, start talking to them about how many friends they would like to have.

Plan and decide on the theme of the party (we will discuss later); think about a venue; find a baker (if you don’t already have one or unless you do your own baking and cooking); start researching age appropriate activities for the party.

The Budget

This is a very important aspect of any event. You and your husband (or partner) should discuss how much you are willing to spend on the party. Also consider the birthday gift you would like to get for your child. The budget determines what and how much you can do for the party. Parties can be quite costly so it is important to know what you would like, what your child would like and what you can afford in order to turn some of these ideas into reality.

Tips on saving costs:

  • Buy bulk: Find a local retailer that sells products in bulk. For example here in South Africa we would go to Makro. Buying in bulk can save quite a lot. Items you could buy in bulk could be food for goody bags, plastic plates and cups, frozen party snacks such as sausage rolls or cheese puffs.
  • Have the party at home and save on venue fees.
  • Limit your guests to however many you can afford
  • Make your own food instead of ordering from bakeries
  • Try not to over cater, so avoiding wastagebanana bread for childrens partyCredit: Sudocream

Theme Your Child's Party

Themes are great fun. They also bring a party together. All children have favourites! Trends come and go. It’s great to use your child’s favourite cartoon character or movie as a theme. For example little girls may be obsessed with Frozen, Princess Sofia or Minnie Mouse. Little boys might love Mickey Mouse, Go Diego Go or the Madagascar Penguins. Whichever it might be, make it fun for them and centre the party on a character. Themes can be used in a variety of different ways within the party.

Theme ideas:

  • Themed cup and plates
  • Themed balloons
  • Themed décor such as party banners or hats
  • You can even theme the food and activities planned
  • Don’t forget that themed birthday cake!

I love themes, you can really create a fun party with them. For example for my son’s last party we had a dinosaur theme because, like many boys, he just loved dinosaurs. I sourced plates and serviettes with dinosaur images on them. I made dinosaur cut outs as décor on the walls. The party packs each had a toy dinosaur in them. His cake was dinosaur themed (see picture below).

You can even take it further if you have time and make dinosaur tails for the children, dinosaur masks, a sand pit with “find the dinosaur” activity or a “pin the tail on the dinosaur” game. The list is endless.

The Indispensable Party Item - The Birthday Cake!

There is nothing better than a child’s birthday cake! I don’t know about you but I love getting my children themed birthday cakes. I’m not a great baker (or should I say I don’t have the patience to be a great baker) so I order exciting cakes for my children from a home baker who makes both delicious and beautiful cakes. To avoid disappointment I make sure I book the cake with the baker in advance. I don’t necessarily have to decide on the type of cake, just that I would like one for a certain date.Birthday cake number twoCredit: Sudocream

If you don’t already know a baker, then start looking for one. There are many bakers and bakeries out there. Some charge a fortune and their cakes don’t even taste that nice. If you can get some recommendations from friends or other moms then that helps with ensuring that you are ordering a trusted product.

If you are baking the cake yourself then look into where you could find special shaped cake tins in order to make a cake in the particular design or shape themed to the party. There is also a wonderful selection of décor items for cakes in retail food stores now. It is very rewarding baking your child’s birthday cake and seeing their excitement at your creation. If they enjoy baking you could even get your kids involved.

Birthday Party Catering

Your party catering will be determined by the age of your child. For example younger children are accompanied by parents, meaning you will need to cater for them as well. Older children however are usually just dropped off which means you only need to cater for the kids.

Catering for adults usually includes finger food, juice, tea and coffee. In terms of finger food, provide food that is easy to eat and doesn’t require cutlery. This makes it easier for parents to snack and watch their children at the same time. We all know, as parents, multi-tasking becomes the norm. Be sensible and thoughtful about how your guests will manage the food provided. I’ve been to a party that provided lovely fresh cut fruit but they were not on skewers and there was nothing to pick them up or eat them with. This meant everyone’s hands had to go into the fruit to select and eat what they liked. Not the most hygienic or easiest way of eating!

Keep food out of direct sunlight and protect it from flies or any possible bugs that may be buzzing around.

Ideas on what to serve:

  • Cocktail sausage rolls
  • Cocktail cheese puffs
  • Cocktail croissants
  • Cocktail skewers of cheese, meat and pickled onion
  • Sandwiches cut into triangles (bread goes hard very quickly so this needs to be made fresh before it is served)
  • Chips and dip
  • Fruit skewers
  • Quiche slices or mini quiches
  • Skewered meat balls
  • Cocktail sausages
  • Fresh vegetables and dip (carrot, cucumber, celery sticks)
  • Chocolate dipped strawberries
  • Sliced watermelon

Some of these suggestions can be doubled up for the children as well.Childrens party ideas setupCredit: SudocreamExtra ideas for children to snack on:

  • Popcorn
  • Muffins
  • Hot dogs
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese cubes
  • Oven bake chips
  • Marshmallows

Party packs are also a standard feature at a children’s party. Plan your party packs according to the theme.

Often party packs will include:

  • Juice
  • Potato chips
  • Chocolate
  • Lolly pop
  • Sweets (depending on age)
  • Toy (depending on your preference)

Make The Special Day Memorable!

Keeping children entertained and happy is an important aspect to any event. When it comes to children’s parties children tend to want something special, something they don’t always get access to. When considering the activities you will have for the children at the party keep their ages in mind.  I have been to a few parties that had activities for the children that were not age appropriate at all. Also keep in mind the weather and season of the party. The weather determines whether you can have outdoor fun or if you need to keep the activities inside.

Boy bouncing on a jumping castleCredit: Jumping Teddy on Flickr via Photopin.comOutdoor Activities:

  • Sand pit play (suitable from one years old)
  • Jumping castles (suitable from two years old)
  • Trampolines (suitable from two years old)
  • Kids motorbikes (suitable from one years old)
  • Splash pools (suitable from one years old – very shallow) - Put water balloons in the splash pool or plastic buckets and shapes can be added
  • Sensory play (suitable from one years old) - You can make a soapy foam tub
  • Treasure hunts (suitable from three years old)
  • Jungle gym play – (he kind of jungle gym will determine age suitability)

Indoor Activities:

  • Treasure hunts
  • Painting (suitable from one years old)
  • Cupcake/cookie decorating (for older children)
  • Crafting (older children)
  • Sensory play such as play dough or scented rice for a play table with spoons, cups and plastic toys
  • Indoor activity play areas at a venue

Once again, plan your activities around the party theme. Dress up for children is lots of fun too! To encourage dress up there could be a prize for the best dressed. 

Planning Children's Birthday Parties: Libby and Penny's Survival Guide
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Where To Have The Party?

It’s important to consider where you would like to host the party. Would you like to treat your little one to a fun hired venue or save on costs and host the party at your home? Take some time to do some research about children’s venues in your area. Often these venues provide packages covering entrance and party packs for the children. Sometimes there may be a small extra cover for additional parents if more than one parent is bringing their child along. Inquire as to whether they provide catering for the adults as well or if you could bring your own snacks and beverages along.

If your child attends day care find out if they hire out the venue for parties. My son’s day care offers to hire the school out for parties including the children’s tables, chairs, the play area (consisting of sand pit, jungle gym and kids motorbikes), popcorn machine, set up and clean up for the party. They also offer extras such as fun water sprinklers, jumping castles and so on at an extra charge.A lot of black motorbikesCredit: SudocreamThe great benefit of hiring a venue for your child’s party is that you don’t need to clean up the mess afterwards. The mess and chaos that comes with a children’s party is not within your own home, allowing you to return to a clean and tranquil home.

Often you will get the odd guest that overstays their welcome and by having the party elsewhere it’s easier to say the party is over and we are all going home! If you are in your own home it’s not quite so easy. However having the party at home does cut out a large chunk of the costs. Make a list of the benefits and disadvantages for the two different scenarios and decide which one best suits your needs…Have fun!