Planning the perfect birthday party

In the almost 5 years since I have become a mom I have come to learn that birthday parties are a pretty big deal to little people. In fact, when my daughter turned four she believed that she was four two weeks before she actually was because that was when we had her party. No pressure or anything.

This last month I recently had a birthday party for my girls and following, what I think, was a great success, I thought I would jot down my party planning guide.

1. Decide on a theme: While a theme isn’t necessary, it can make it easier to plan and find ideas as you have a starting point to work from. I am lucky in that both of my children are girls and their birthdays are 3 weeks apart. At the moment they are young enough that they don’t mind having joint birthday parties and this year they decided on a ballet party. We have a wonderful friend whose youngest daughter is the same age as mine and as we share the same friends we thought that we would do all three little girls at once. Her daughter loves ponies and so the ballet pony theme was born.

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2. Budget: The cost of a party can be stressful and when you add in food, entertainment, décor and gifts, can quickly spiral out of control. Decide on your party budget beforehand and then decide what you can include and leave off. Your budget will also probably determine the number of guests that you can invite and the type of party you can have. One idea is to have a joint party, either for both of your children or with a friend (I did both this year, absolute winner).

3. Invitations: Try and keep them simple, remember that you are planning a children’s party and not a wedding. If you can, get your child involved in making or choosing the invitation. I generally prefer email invitations and so I get my little ones to help me look for Pinterest ideas and sit at the computer with me when I make them. If your little one is in school it is worth remembering that most schools actually have a policy where you have to either invite all the boys, all the girls or the whole class, if you are going to hand out invitations at school.

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4. Décor: If you have gone with a theme it should be fairly easy to decorate accordingly. Most shops now have a fantastic range of co-ordinated party items ranging from plates and cups to streamers and even piñatas. It doesn’t have to be fancy, remember that your audience consists of people who still need their bottoms wiped so some balloons and streamers will probably do the trick.

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5. Food: Probably one of the more important aspects of your party. Decide on a mix of savoury and sweet items and plan ahead to make life less stressful for yourself. For more party food ideas, click here and for a couple of recipes click here.

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6. Party Games: When you get a bunch of children together you rarely need any other entertainment however there are times where party games can be a fun addition to your party.

7. External Entertainment: If you have a larger party or want some more hands off entertainment if can be fun to book in a magician, face painter or even a jumping castle. There are many to choose from however before you decide on one remember to make sure that the entertainer is recommended (usually those found on children’s sites with reviews are) and age appropriate. One fantastic option is to go with a Clamber Club party.

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8. Party Favours: This one can be quite a controversial one. It is crazy that after throwing a party and providing all the entertainment and food, one is still obligated to send home a party pack just for coming. I have been to parties where it seems like the cost of the party pack must have easily been the biggest part of the budget. I have decided that I don’t want to give ‘stuff’ as a party packs anymore. The majority of the time, the party packs that my little ones come home with get lost, broken or discarded before we even reach the end of the day. It just seems like a huge waste of money to me. I am now trying out edible party favours and this year I went with cupcakes. Each one was home made and individually packaged. I can tell you that even with the individual containers these cost me a fraction of what gifts would have done. I am now convinced that, if I am going to give out favours at all, is the way to go. A friend of mine has done sweetie goodie bags as her party packs, which worked really well. Each child received a themed paper bag was allowed to fill it with the sweets from the party to take home. It is a great way of using up the left over party sweets and doesn’t add any additional cost to the party budget.

9. To Do lists: Now I know that this point definitely isn’t for everyone but I thought I would put it down because it is how I like to do things. I find that most days I have so many things that I need to remember to do that throwing in birthday party planning is a recipe for disaster. As such I make to do lists. Not extensive ones, but if I just divide up the party tasks in the weeks leading up to the party then it doesn’t become overwhelming (if I stick to it that is).

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10. Relax and have fun: This is an important one. No matter what size of party you end up having, remember that your child just wants you to be a part of it. Watch them play, get involved and take photos. While there will be things to co-ordinate, try not to disappear for hours organising things.

So, in the almost 5 years since I have become a mom I have also come to learn that the party doesn’t have to be huge and fancy and expensive for your children to love it. I have been to some parties where people have clearly spent an obscene amount of money and others where they have spent very little. I have been to (and thrown) parties at external venues and parties at people’s (and my) houses. I have been to themed parties, girl’s only parties, mixed parties, big parties and small parties…. you get the idea. No matter what party, the end result has always been the same, I have taken home exhausted, happy children.

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