It’s a Piece of Cake!
Tips and Tricks for Planning a Successful Birthday Party
By Jan Udlock
Your child’s birthday is coming soon. Some simple planning and preparation will help ensure that the party day will run smoothly. To get you started, here are some easy ideas and tips to keep in mind.
The first step in planning your child’s party is to speak to him about what he wants for his celebration. As parents, it’s easy to get overly excited or run off on a tangent rather than asking your child about his wishes. Talk to him about whom he’d like to invite and what he’d like to do.
The size of the party will determine the other parameters of the day. Be cautious about inviting too many children. Inviting fewer kids will make the event more enjoyable for your child, you, and his guests.
Another point to consider is whether the children you invite have siblings that may want to attend the party. If you are concerned about extra children, you may want to consider adding a line on the invitation to make it clear that only your child’s friend is invited.
Three weeks ahead of the party send out e-vites or invitations by snail mail. Be sure to include an RSVP date. It’s also a good idea to include a start time and an end time.
To Theme Or Not to Theme?
Themes do not have to be complex. Parents can check out birthday party websites to explore different themes if the child is not sure what he wants.
Fabulous candies and cute cookies adorn the pages of parenting magazines, so it’s easy to go overboard with party food. Choose easy but healthy snacks to go along with the cake. Remember to check with the children’s parents to determine if any of them have nut or wheat allergies.
Cake and Ice Cream
Decide whether to make and decorate the cake on your own or buy it at a bakery or a discount warehouse store. Three, four and five-year-olds are aware that their neighbor got a piece of cake with a flower on it – and they didn’t! To avoid fights, serve each child a cupcake rather than a piece of cake or make or order a cake without flowers.
One party activity is to bake cupcakes or sugar cookies ahead of time, and have the kids decorate them.
To save time on party day, place cupcake paper liners on a cookie sheet, scoop ice cream into each liner, and freeze the night before. When cake is served, just pull out the cookie tray from the freezer.
Games and Activities
One of the most important areas when it comes to planning a child’s party is selecting games and activities. Choose age-appropriate games, and be sure to do a walk-through of the game prior to party day to be sure it will work in the area in which you plan on playing the game.
Cover tables with either butcher paper or a clear vinyl tablecloth if you have any messy activities. The kids can draw on the paper too while they are waiting to be served.
Elicit help from a mom that can either come early to help you put the finishing touches on your party or stay late to help you clean up – or both! Assign her the task of taking photographs. She can also help record the gifts your child receives and who they are from.
Goodie Bag Or Not?
Dollar stores are a treasure trove for tiny (and inexpensive) gifts like pencils, erasers, a bottle of bubbles etc. Yet, not every birthday party sends home goodie bags. A craft activity such as a picture frame or painted flowerpot can go home with the artist.
Last Minute Preparation Hints
The day before the party, grab a shoebox and put your camera, batteries, (film, if necessary), the cake knife, matches, a permanent marker, pen and paper, and scotch tape in it.
Put children’s names on cups with a permanent marker. This will save on paper supplies.
Have a list of all the attendees so the helper mom can write down the name of the gift when your child opens it up.
Be prepared for your child or another child to become overwhelmed with all the activity and need some quiet time. If you see a child that seems to be withdrawing, pull them aside and check in with them. Have a quiet area for anyone who needs it.
Planning and thinking through the different components of a birthday party can help you and your child enjoy their day.
Jan Udlock is a mom of 5 and freelance writer. She loves both jobs – most of the time.
Three-Week Birthday Party Planning Countdown
Three Weeks Before
* Pick theme, games and activities, food, cake
* Send out invitations
Two Weeks Before
* Buy nonperishable items: balloons, decorations, paper goods, drinks, prizes
* Find a helper mom who can help at the party
* Purchase your child’s gift
* Order cake
One Week Before
* Clean house
* Evaluate each room where the kids will play to see what needs to be picked up and put away (breakable trinkets, personal papers, electronic games, etc.)
* Contact any guests who haven’t RSVP’d
* Shop for perishable items: ice cream, candy
* Check on ice supply
* Get out any dishes (punch bowls or candy dishes)
* Make or buy cake; prepare ice cream “scoops”
* Clean bathrooms, wipe down counters
* Cover table with butcher paper
* Collect camera, batteries, permanent marker, paper and pen, cake knife, lighter, and candles
* Write attendees names on cups and goodie bags
* Lock up pets (The noise may scare some children)
* Blow up balloons
* Assign your helper mom any chore that needs to be done
* Take a deep breath and put a smile on your face
Enjoy your child’s party!