Every parent has experienced the stress and joy that goes with putting together a child’s birthday party. Some go all out and others try to avoid them whenever possible. I have three kids so I’ve thrown a few of these, and there are a couple of things I have learned along the way:
Let your child get involved. First, you don’t need to do all the work – they should be helping. Second, it will give them some say in how the party looks. Obviously the younger they are, the less they can do, but find something that is age appropriate. Let them pick decorations, or decide on the location. Have them help you set the table or ice the cake. Anything that gives them a little say in what is going on will be great.
Next, remember that it isn’t necessary to go too big. When they are very young, they won’t even remember their birthdays. So you are essentially doing it for yourself and your family. Keep that in mind when you catch yourself thinking of making 25 monogrammed cupcakes for each of your 2-year old’s dear friends.
Another thing to consider is the gift situation. Your kid probably doesn’t need any more crap, and that’s exactly what they get most of the time. We have a wishlist on a popular online shopping site for the kids to ask for gift items, but we often include the following phrase on the invitation: “Please don’t feel obligated to bring a gift, your presence will be enough.” The gifts that the children do receive are not opened in front of everyone, either. We learned this the hard way when some gifts didn’t even survive the length of the party without losing pieces or being destroyed.
Plan out what the kids are going to do so that it isn’t just a free for all. Free for alls usually end up making your house look like a tornado hit it, one (or more) of the kids will leave crying, and somebody always feels left out. Even putting something loosely-structured in place will work. Party games are really going to depend on the age. If they are too young to win or lose gracefully, skip the games and do an activity with them instead. Let them top their own pizza or decorate a cupcake.
Then there are the goodie bags/party favors. I try to avoid the cheap little plastic things that will be thrown away by next week. If the party lends itself to this, a great idea is to do some sort of craft with the kids. Dump a bunch of building bricks on a table and let the kids build something to take home. Another great idea is making picture frames, and what that looks like will depend on the kids’ skill level. If you have a photo printer or a Polaroid camera, you can create a DIY photo booth and props. This way, the kids can take home a picture of your event in the frame that they make.
Keep in mind that kid’s parties are usually a little awful and a lot stressful, so just plan for that and everyone should make it out alive!