Oh how us moms love to dream up, plan, prep to have a party! But seriously? Birthday parties are ALWAYS more work than we anticipate. I would love to see more moms enjoying the celebration of their little ones without being totally exhausted! So, today I’m sharing the helpful birthday party tips I’ve gathered from my own experience and some of my friends:
1) Start planning with the end in mind.
Think of your birthday party approach in the long-term: (like your whole mothering experience, long-term) and the short-term (as in this upcoming birthday celebration you’re planning). Here’s what I mean:
How much energy and interest do you think you need to devote to birthday parties for your kids as they grow? As my first child approached her second birthday, I knew that I didn’t have it in me to throw a big celebration every year for each of my kids. I figured that our family and friends might appreciate it if we didn’t make weekend plans for them on a regular basis too. (We want to have a big family!) So- we’ve adopted an every-other year birthday party tradition. On odd years (1,3,5, etc), we do a big party. The even years we do a smaller celebration that requires little planning.
We’ve always combined my daughter’s parties together since they are about two years apart. Go about it however you like, but take a minute to reflect on the long-term plan so you’re not setting yourself up for an unattainable standard you set with your oldest. Deciding in advance how often you do birthday parties for your family today will prevent the stress of going back-and-forth later.
Alison of The Alison Show, has some wonderful points to reflect on as you approach party planning. She hosts all-female dance parties that get around 700 women (mostly moms!) in attendance. Alison knows how to throw a KILLER party. She suggests approaching your party planning like this:
- Start by determining your priorities for the event: must be three or less priorities that you can control. Then, write them down.
- Focus on your unique strengths. Give yourself time to develop them.
- Clear out any party poopers! Alison’s advice: “Let go of the person you thought you were and love the crap out of the person you are!” The event might not go exactly as you pictured, but enjoy what it is!
2) Adult to kid ratio–important!
There is no way you can enjoy your child’s day when you’ve got ten four-year-olds needing like twenty-seven billion things over the course of the party. Here’s a generally accepted kid to adult ratio to follow:
1-year-old party: Luckily, we all know this is really a time for the parents to get together- so you’re going to have plenty of adults. You’re set.
2 year-old party: 1 adult to every 3 kids. Many parents won’t feel comfortable dropping off their two-year-old anyway, so the moms will likely offer to stay. Toddlers won’t follow a schedule or care what is happening anyway, so let them do their own thing in an enclosed, non-public area.
3 year-old party: 1 adult to every 4 kids. These kids will start to enjoy some structured activities: keeping them simple is ideal for everyone. Plan for some free time! Enclosed areas are also a must for this age.
4 & 5 year-old party: 1 adult to every 4-5 kids. Parents usually feel comfortable dropping off their kids, so this is when the ratio becomes important! The kids will want to do more complex activities, but they will still need help with everything!!!
6 year-olds, up to tween parties: 1 adult to every 5-6 kids, depending on the simplicity of your activities. Doing crafts? Lean toward having more adults. Playing easy games in the backyard with ten-year-olds? You can get by with less adult supervision.
What is the other adult there for?
Let me tell you: Showing Jack where the potty is, serving cake, getting out the napkins you forgot to grab, head-counting the kids to make sure no one has escaped, giving hugs when Emmy falls apart because she didn’t win the game… Take a breath! Getting some fun photos of the action, helping Charlie and Aiden be patient while the other kids are still working on the last activity, grabbing more craft supplies than you ever thought you’d need, and giving YOU a potty break, should you need one!
If you plan to have a ton more adults than this ratio, you may want to think of some separate entertainment for the grown-ups so that they aren’t too bored! Or not! Depends on your priorities for the event.
Lastly, adult means ADULT. A friend of mine hired some 12-year-old neighbor girls to come help with her daughter’s princess party. I thought it was a great idea! They dressed up like princesses and had a lot of fun… Only problem was the teenagers didn’t have the maturity to remember they were paid to help, not guests at the party. If you are going to hire teenagers for your party, be very specific about what you want them to do. Write it down for them, and make sure they understand why you are paying them to come help.
3) Expectations vs Reality.
Realize that the amazing party planning sites you’ve been using to get inspiration… They are not realistic… unless you plan to hire all the staff they did to pull it off. They usually use an event-planner to design the party; they often use catering specialists to showcase their best work: cookies are delivered by the cookie lady, the hor’dourves are delivered from a different place, and so on. And, they always have a professional styling photographer getting the shots we see on Pinterest!
I used to think that if I could plan and prep for several months in advance, that I could get a similar result, but nope! I don’t have supernatural capabilities to be five specialists at once. I’m totally ok with that! My main goal for birthday parties are for my daughters and their friends have a safe, fun time. And Ideally, I’m not too pooped at the end, right? …Although, I wouldn’t mind an invite to one of those elaborate parties I’ve seen on Kara’s Party Ideas..!
If you decide to do a bigger party, remember that it takes a lot of TIME to prepare. Doing as much in advance will allow room to make it all happen.
Here are several ways you can prepare ahead of time for a more smooth party:
- Decide on the party theme a few months before the big day. Write down your goals/priorities for the event.
- Decide on activities several weeks before. This way you’ll have plenty of time to gather any needed supplies as you’re already at the grocery store and not stressing out when they are out of stock.
- Make/order decorations weeks (or more!) before the party. If it’s something you’re looking forward to, why procrastinate! If you have some decorations you can put up earlier in the week, go for it! It’ll add to the excitement leading up to the party.
- Make the cake a few days ahead of time. Seriously- it’ll still taste fresh, and you won’t have sticky frosting all over your kitchen.
4) Just do what will be appreciated.
That includes you! Will the kids (and their moms) love getting a loot bag of party favors? You could skip favors if you’re not feeling it! If your six-year-old will enjoy an elaborate display of decorations and you enjoy doing it, go for it to the extent that will be enjoyed by all!
Remember that the party isn’t about “you”, it’s about the person you’re celebrating! So you may need to do a little compromising with your family to make sure everyone is on board for how this party is going down.
Make party decor that can later double for playroom decor. This no-sew banner is a winner!
- Make a “stencil” from a piece of cardboard.
- Cut fabric.
- Hot glue fabric to a piece of string.
- DONE! After the party, hang in the playroom with clear thumb-tacks.
5) Communicate details in your invitation.
If you’re doing a joint party for siblings and don’t want parents to feel obligated to bring a gift for both kids, then say something like: “One gift is more than enough for the birthday girls”. If you want them to be hungry for lunch, say so! Do you want parents to stay and supervise? Tell them. You don’t have to have physical invites ready (or at all!) to let parents know your plans. You can text ‘em with info you want them to know now, and then remind them with a cuter invite as you get closer. The ideal time to deliver the invites is ten days before the birthday party.
6) Sometimes less is more.
My oldest turned six in January and I can confidently say we did her birthday celebration right. The previous year, we had a My Little Pony party for her, combined with her little sister and there were sixteen or seventeen little guests! Everything went fine, but we NEEDED all three adults that offered to stay and help. I enjoyed preparing for the party but by the end, I was totally exhausted.
This year, my daughter was sad we weren’t hosting a party for her sixth birthday. However, that opened up a great moment for us to discuss something really important: we are so blessed. There are kids that live close by that don’t have a house, clothes that fit, or a family that loves each-other like she does. She will get a few special things on your birthday, but her birthday won’t be everything she dreamed of and that’s okay! Here’s what we did on her sixth birthday:
We played together as a family earlier in the day, and then we invited a few neighbor friends over for a “late-over”! (Sounds a lot like a party, huh?) Read on: I texted the moms to have ’em come over at like six pm with some jammies and a toothbrush and we’d just play til eight! No gifts, just a fun little time. I did not plan one thing. We didn’t have any treats or cake, but everyone had an absolute blast!!!
This is how the “late-over” ended up going:
Friends came over, they played with toys for about thirty minutes. Someone asked if we could have a dance party- (we do this all the time at our house). We grabbed the ribbons on the floor from the few family gifts she’d opened earlier, and we did some ribbon dancing! I danced with them to my heart’s content and we even ended up choreographing a dance together. We all stood in a circle and each girl made up a move. We started on one end and built upon the first move and repeated it until we got to each girl. Then we had to perform it for Abby’s dad! They ran outside on the tramp to cool off and they thought that was so fun. A few girls colored while I cooked some chicken nuggets, cut up some orange slices and let everyone decide what princess name they wanted on their paper cup. I pulled out a princess tent from the basement and ended with a quick show on Netflix! We had the girls get in their jammies together and brush their teeth as the parents came to pick them up.
A few of the girls told me that this was the funnest “late-over” they’d EVER been to. (Lol- also the only one they’d been to, but it was fun to hear their enthusiasm). Food for thought- if you don’t have the energy for a real party, but still want to celebrate your child- what we did is the way to go! Tell the parents, you are just doing a get together- no gifts, but come over and play. No pressure for anyone! I had so much fun- everyone seemed happy!
Main birthday party tips to remember:
- Make a plan far in advance.
- Arrange for enough adult supervision/help.
- Focus on your (written) priorities for the event, and don’t worry about doing everything! It’s not going to turn out perfectly.
- Sometimes less is more.
- Take lots of pictures (or assign a helper for that) and ENJOY THE MOMENT!
*Giveaway!!! I have an extra 7+ feet of banner that I would love to mail to a reader that would like it!
First person to comment here on the blog by saying: “Send me the banner!” gets it! I’ll grab your address via email and ship it to ya as a gift for reading. It’s perfect for a party, or just to pin it up in a playroom!
Happy Birthday to all our kids this year, and I hope whatever you decide to do, that it is a happy occasion!
What birthday party tips have you learned? What would you add to my list?