Walt Disney once said, “Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional.” Birthdays are your annual opportunity to help ease your children down that fateful path to maturity. This is important as a traditional rite of passage and as a key part of child development as well.
According to the Wall Street Journal, children who have happy memories from early childhood will grow up having a stronger identity, and they’ll have better coping and decision making skills as adults.
That’s a lot of pressure to live up to, but birthdays are a slam-dunk way to score some great memories for your kids.
Read on for some ways to make it easy to help you throw the best birthday party ever!
Make it Matter!
The single most important part of your planning is that the party be meaningful to your child. You might be the biggest Star Wars fan in the universe, but if your child is less storm trooper and more Cinderella, then a Star Wars themed party is not a good choice for them.
Make sure you focus on something they will enjoy. If you’re coming up blank, try this tip from Today’s Parent. Sit down once a year and ask them key questions about their likes and dislikes.
As a bonus, save their answers and keep them in a book year after year that you can give them (or their kids) as a sweet blast from the past.
Dream a Little Theme
Anything can be a theme. But picking one central idea and sticking to it will help make your party both memorable and easier to plan.
Nail Down the Basics
One of the most challenging things about planning a party is that it can get overwhelming fast. Decide on the basics first:
- How many people will be attending?
- Where will you have the party?
- What time of day will the party be?
- What activities do you want to do?
By locking in some basic items early, it will help you narrow down the options later.
Make it Memorable
Your child might adore Finding Dory but if her birthday comes after five other Dory birthday parties, the party will lose its pizzazz. Find a way to make your party different.
My most memorable birthday party was a swimming party when I was in elementary school. Old news? Not when your birthday is in the middle of winter like mine was!
My sweet mother found an indoor pool at a local college. No one from my school even knew this indoor paradise existed, so it was an instant success!
Get Your Hands Dirty
An easy way to break the mold for a party is to make it messy. Not only do kids love to play in the dirt, but Parenting.com highlights many health benefits when they do.
Here are a few easy ideas to get you started.
- Use inexpensive household items in new ways. Kitchenstewardship.com has some great ideas to get you started.
- Make it an obstacle course. Especially for kids who grow up watching their parents participate in Tough Mudder or Dirty Girl races, they will love their own obstacle course party!
- Warn partygoers in advance. Nothing will bring your party to a screeching halt as fast as a screeching parent who doesn’t want their messy angel getting in their car at the end of the day.
Focus on Food
Your party-goers are sure to work up an appetite, and it’s important to plan out your food in advance because:
A) You don’t want hungry kiddos.
B) You don’t want hungry parents.
C) It’s a great way to flex your creative muscles and make your food fun!
People are tired of pizza and cake. Instead, opt for simple but kid-friendly appetizers that can be made in advance and are easy to do. Start with this list of 1000+ appetizers that can appeal to both kids and adults.
Let There Be Cake
Regardless of which method you choose, you are sure to have a centerpiece that will make heads turn.
Invite to Excite!
Make your invitations pop. The old saying goes, “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” and the first impression of your child’s party will be the invitation.
Rather than sending out an e-vite or a pre-packaged invitation from a big box store, make your invitations as unique as your party. To get started, consider:
- 3D Party Invites (Like these from Party Ideas from a Pro)
- Edible Invitations (see Accent the Party for some tasty tips)
- Handmade Invitations. Be creative and unique to make the biggest splash.
Make it Hands On
PBS.org points out why keeping kids involved in activities is important, and they outline an easy cadence that will help you keep kids engaged from arrival to departure.
Down time is for after the party, so keep it hopping and make sure the kids have hands-on activities spaced throughout the day’s festivities.
Embrace the Reason for the Season
Often, we fight the circumstances of the season. My twins were born in December, and we’ve struggled with the conflict of holidays vs. birthdays since they were little.
Rather than fight the season, embrace it with new twists on old traditions.
- Turn a December party for kids into a hassle-free shopping day for moms. Kids play while moms shop away!
- Take busy back-to-school time and let kids choose and decorate their own supplies.
- Celebrate the heat of summer birthdays with wet and wild activities.
- Sieze a rainy spring day to have a “Singing’ in the Rain” day that no one will forget. If there’s no rain, just turn on a sprinkler!
Know your Audience
We already talked about knowing your child, but knowing the audience that will be at the party is equally important. Do you have boys and girls? Will any of the kids bring younger siblings?
Do you have any allergies that you need to account for? All of these are things you need to consider as you finalize your guest list and your plans.
Speaking of Plans…
No matter what type of party you choose, planning will be the key to helping the party come off without a hitch. In the video above, Alison Faulkner shares a list of ten questions she uses in her planning process.
You can follow her planning steps from idea to implementation to make sure you cover all your bases.
Remember Mom and Dad
Let me preface this by saying that the party is not for us parents. The main focus should be on your child and what will make them happy. However, it’s important to not forget the parents.
It’s easy to make some simple accommodations that will make your party a pleaser for parents as well as kids. Check out these ideas from Parents.com.
Although there’s no doubt that these parties will make memories of their own, be sure that you take lots of pictures and videos to keep for years to come. It’s a good idea to designate another adult as the “official” photographer so that you can focus on keeping the party running smoothly.
For older kids, you can distribute disposable cameras and let them be their own paparazzi. You’re sure to get more authentic photos that way. Photo booths with props are also great ways to make sure the moments are captured.
Jut Have Fun!
I know this seems like common sense, but it’s surprising how many people get so caught up in the details that they forget to have a great time. Today.com studied many of the factors that can contribute to a parent’s stress level. At the end of the day, though, this time should be enjoyed by you and your child.
In Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter points out that there are 364 un-birthdays every year. So when your child’s birthday rolls around, we know you want to make it special. From planning to party, these 15 steps can do just that for your child.
Don’t wait – the planning can begin immediately with a simple discussion with your child, so start at the beginning and get to work on your next party. Take your cue from Disney and grow old, but never grow up.