Birthday parties: what a nightmare! Five years into parenting and yet I don’t feel I’ve got the hang of them (read about the catastrophe we dodged for my oldest’s 5th birthday). Luckily mom and blogger Katelynn comes to our rescue with her tips. My youngest’s birthday is right behind the corner and I will use her precious advice soon.
I feel like it was just a few weeks ago that I was pregnant with #2 and organizing #1’s first birthday. Now I’m here sharing my top 8 tips for planning a birthday party.
The best way I can describe planning a kid’s birthday party is comparing it to watching a Nicholas Sparks movie while on your period, during college finals.
- Emotional rollercoaster
- Eating all the things
- Crunch time – so much to do!
- Planning and prioritizing
- Working on a budget (or no budget)
- Can’t wait for it to be over
I’m not an emotional person. At birthday the limit does not exist. I find myself putting extra effort into the planning, so I don’t think about the fact that my little one is growing up.
Is this just me?
I’m less emotional this time around – y’know, not preggers – but all those memories of the day my Sweet Girl was born are on constant loop in my head.
Something I didn’t realize until I was married is that birthdays are a big deal not only for the birthday person, but also for his/her mom (and dad, too). Now that I’m a mama myself, I like to take note of how my MIL is doing on my husband’s birthday. One day, in 25 odd years, that will be me.
But let’s not think about that. All the tears.
Throw yourself into the planning! Oh, and start as early as you can. I like to hold myself off until a month before the big day.
Birthday Planning Tip #1 – Consider the Date + Time
My family is serious about having your birthday party on your actual birthday. My husband’s is not. However, my husband IS. So, in our house, unless absolutely impossible, we have our birthday parties on our actual birthdays.
Figure out what will work best for your family. Consider:
- If you and/or your husband work shift work
- If you want out-of-town guests to be present
- What kind of party you want (afternoon, supper, morning)
- If you want to do any special activities (lake day, sledding, etc.)
Once you’ve figured out the date that will work best, go ahead and schedule a time that fits your needs. We’re doing a 5 o’clock supper party. It’s going to be short and sweet, but I’m totally okay with that!
Tip #2 – Make ALL the lists. And Prioritize
Once you know what kind of theme you want, activities, date, time, etc. It’s time to make your lists and prioritize. I recommend making 4 different lists
- To Buy
Do a serious brain dump. Write down everything you can think of. Once you’ve done that, go back and cross out things that are unrealistic or overwhelming. The key is to simplify.
Now that you have you minimized (but still long) lists, start prioritizing. Getting the invitations out is probably going to be your first task.
- Buying Decorations
- Planning the Food + Cake
- Prepping the food
Party Planning Tip #3 – Limit the Invites
Go back to that pretty little list you made and count up the total guests. If you’re feeling like it’s too many, start omitting. It’s not fun, but you must draw the line somewhere.
In our house, we make the first birthday a big deal with all the family and friends invited. For the second birthday, there’s less family and a few more friends (we have a big extended family). It’s going to be hard not having all mine and my husband’s aunts, uncles and cousins there, but we have to draw the line somewhere.
Tips for planning a kid’s birthday #4 – Keep it Simple
Again, we want to simplify. While it’s important to make the day special, the child isn’t going to remember every little thing you broke your back (and your bank account) for. Cut corners and make things easy on yourself where you can.
- Food – use a slow cooker or do an easy BBQ meal. Consider ordering out if you have the budget.
- Games – Kids mostly just want to play and run around unstructured. Plan for one activity or game. You don’t want the short party time crammed so full that you’re running around every second trying to keep things organized.
- Entertainment – While you want to make sure the kids don’t totally destroy your home, you don’t need to have a plan for every minute. They’ll likely entertain themselves. Clowns, magicians, live bands can all be saved for another time. Maybe their weddings.
- Utensils, plates, cups – We try to follow a no-disposable rule in our house. I stocked up on reusable plates, utensils + cups a couple years ago from WalMart for a really great price. We make sure the dishwasher and sink are empty at suppertime, so we can just pop the dishes right in for easy clean up.
Tip #5 – Create Traditions
Not only will your kids know what to expect and create lasting memories, you’ll also eliminate some planning and decisions.
Some ideas for you to start:
- Favourite breakfast
- Silly game
- List of personal questions to ask the birthday child
- Order of events (wake up, gift, special breakfast, play time, party)
- Fun touches – wake up balloons, crepe paper door, etc
Planning Tip #6 – Use Pinterest
Head on over and search using terms that relate to your theme. If you haven’t picked a theme, just search generic children’s party ideas. Get a feel for what you want and write it down.
Once you have a pretty good list of what you want to do, go back over it and decide what is feasible and what can be cut.
For example, we’re having a Paw Patrol party. My husband had a (brilliant) idea of finding real life dogs the same breed as the dogs in the show and dressing them up as the Paw Patrol. Obviously, the kids would go nuts for this, but it would just cause a lot of extra work (stress) and probably a lot of money. So, unfortunately, we’re not doing it.
Tip #7 – Outsource
You know when your mother-in-law, Grandma, neighbour, best friend asks what she can bring? Take her up on it! Don’t tell her you’ve got it all covered. Take all the help you can get! Even if it’s for someone to come entertain the kids while you finish icing the cake and decorating the house.
Every little bit helps.
Since we’re doing this party on a Monday, we’re going to have to get most of the big stuff done on the weekend while my husband is home. The day of the party I’m hoping to just be doing last-minute things, so I can spend the maximum amount of time with my little birthday girl.
And I’ll probably get my grandma to come over early to play with the kids before the guests arrive.
Other ideas for outsourcing:
- Invitations (we used Etsy + Staples)
- Use pre-made decorations (you can get all kinds of stuff at the Dollar Tree for less than you’d make it for)
Party planning tip #8 – Keep It Cheap
A lot of the items you’re going to be using will be a one-time thing. Save yourself a ton of money by buying at the dollar store or on clearance.
If you want to splurge on some items, make it things that can be used as toys, party favours, playthings or activities later on.
Even better, sell as much as you can afterwards as a party pack.
There you have it! My top 8 tips for planning a birthday party. I really hope they helped you to be more organized and less stressed. Stay tuned for more tips + tricks. I’ve also made a video on the same topic. Be sure to check it out on YouTube.
About the author
I’m Katelynn, an (almost) 27 year old stay-at-home-mama to 2 precious miracles – Sweet Girl (20 months) + Pip (3 months), as well as our fur baby – a Blue Heeler x Great Pyrenese, Silver. I’m married to my best friend & love of my life (how cliché, right?). Together, we live on a very special yard, close to the family farm and my husband’s home “town” of about 25 people. We’re part of that community, as well as the one I grew up in (300 people), about 10 miles from home. I enjoy a simpler way of life – getting back to nature, reusing + recycling, gardening + preserving. My hobbies are sewing, dirtbiking, reading, spending time at the lake cabin, hunting and watching my kids learn and grow.