How to plan a kid’s birthday party in 10 easy steps!

After a theme is selected – and your child hasn’t changed their mind (trust me, it happens) – a party can be planned in 10 easy steps. I learned after my daughter’s first birthday party that more prep should be done ahead of time so that I too could enjoy the party! Here’s a cheat sheet of how to successfully plan a kid’s birthday party to remove stress from the day of the party so you can relax and enjoy yourself!

1. Set Your Budget

Determine how much you’d like to spend (or not spend) for the birthday party. If you’re like us, we prefer to save costs wherever we can and would rather not spend hundreds of dollars on the party.

Your budget will determine if you have the party at your house, restaurant, party place, jump zone, etc. Remember, you can save costs by creating most, if not all, of the decorations and printables yourself instead of ordering through online marketplaces like Etsy.

2. Determine Location

Depending on the budget, different locations – Peter Piper Pizza, Monkey Joe’s, etc. – are available around town to host your party. Most places offer party packages that come with certain tableware and balloons. Check around online to see what’s out there and how much it costs. Note: some party places are restricted on themes, so I recommend creating your decorations in order to have your child’s incorporated with the party.

Note: if the party is held outside, it’s a good idea to provide hand sanitizer, wet wipes, sunscreen, bug spray and even a first aid kit (you just never know).

3. Set Day & Time

Select your day, most parties take place on Saturdays but I have been to a few parties on Sunday afternoons. Larger cities (like Houston) have party places that offer packages on weekdays and weekends. Of course if you host at your house, then you can pick whatever time you like, but do keep in mind that the RSVP count will rely on other obligations – think Saturday soccer games or swim lessons.

Time is probably one of the most important decisions you will make. If your child – or a younger sibling – still takes afternoon naps, the party should be planned around this naptime. Trust me, you want to make sure the birthday boy/girl is in the best mood possible for their party.

4. Invitations

I typically start off researching in Google images for “insert theme here + invitation”. Once I get a feel for which ones I like and match the personality of my child, I make a shortlist and ask my kiddo for their opinion. Now that they are older, they typically will be able to pick their favorite….then it’s up to me to create it.

In order to save money, I create the invitations using Microsoft Office or PowerPoint using clipart and backgrounds found online. Then I print at home on cardstock – or you can send to any photo or office printing business – and use envelopes purchased at Hobby Lobby or your local craft supply store.

5. Food & Desserts

If your party takes place during normal eating hours (lunchtime, early dinner time) then heavy finger foods or a meal should be served. Please don’t expect people to come to a party and then not feed them, especially if it’s around meal time. Side note: good idea to have water or drinks for the parents too.

I typically start off researching in Google images food and dessert ideas that match my theme, then create a shortlist of what would be the easiest to make and possibly transport if not hosting at the house.

Today’s trends are for themed dessert tables, candy buffets, personalized labels and matching tent cards. However, you should NOT feel pressured to put together a huge display, just do what you feel is best for your child. After all, this party is about them. My kids just love having their friends and cousins over to pig out on sugar and other treats they normally don’t get.

Once you have an idea of what you’ll be serving, create a combined grocery list as some recipes will call for the same ingredient. Note: save time by organizing your list in sections and order of how the products are sold in store.

Side note: if you’re serving peanuts, foods made with peanut products, or other allergenic foods, please place this information on the tent card or tell parents as you are mingling with each of them.

6. Decorations

Ah, my favorite part! The sky’s the limit when it comes to decorations. I’m fortunate to have a creative mother that has passed down her love for crafts….however I do tend to get a little carried away.

You can do as little or as much as you want, remember the party is about your child and what they like. Kids are happy just to have friends, fun and sugar, but a few sprinkles of banner, crepe streamers, and table cloths can really help your kiddo get into the party spirit.

Again, I start with Google images to see what ideas would look best for the party location and what I can easily re-create according to my budget. Start with the basics: table cloths, happy birthday banner, balloons, streamers, party hats; then move to the next level (if you want): centerpieces, custom placemats, welcome sign, food decorations, photos of the birthday kid, etc.

Giveaways or party favors can be used as decorations too!

7. Games & activities

This is dependent upon the ages of kids attending the party and the location. If the party is at a restaurant or party place, activities are already planned and provided. No need to stress here.

If the party is at the house, then there are a few websites with helpful lists of games that are age appropriate and easily adaptable for younger kids too.

8. Giveaways

Again, these can be simple or personalized for each child attending the party….I’ve been to parties with favors that span the entire spectrum and no matter what it is, my kids always enjoy just having a little takeaway to remember their friends.

Party supply stores and website make it very easy (and tempting) to order favor boxes and themed trinkets. Different websites and blogs have examples of some pretty creative parents – think a “puppy adoption” for a dog or paw patrol themed party.

Here are a few of my favorite websites to browse for favors: Oriental Trading, Party City, Birthday Direct

9. What to make vs buy

This all depends on your free time available, ability and willingness to create decorations, invitations, food and desserts. Most items can be purchased online these days, but if you’re looking to save some money (as we do), the get busy with those scissors! I think you’ll surprise yourself in what you can actually accomplish and how easy it is once you get started.

  • Invitations = make on the computer and print at home
  • Decorations = find clipart images, print and assemble centerpieces, cupcake decorations (use double-sided tape to stick images on a toothpick), placemats, birthday banner, etc.
  • Games = use the toys you already have laying around and spruce them up a little to coordinate with your theme
  • Food = make the cupcakes, cookie cake (use a pizza pan for even baking), veggie and fruit platters, etc.

Of course if you don’t have a lot of free time, party trays or even pizza can be ordered for delivery. Note: did you know that Chik-fil-A nugget trays can be ordered to be baked at home if you need to pick up the day before the party?

10. Time management

This is the biggest concern for me, as my kids are 23 months apart, meaning their parties are 4 weeks apart if I keep with the normal routine of scheduling their party close to their birthday.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep me on track (and on budget) that I carry in my purse as I’m purchasing supplies and looking for ideas. This helps ensure that I don’t buy too much of something or something that I don’t need. In years past, the spreadsheet typically gets shortened as I’m buying and creating and realizing that my original list was a little too ambitious. Here’s a sample of my spreadsheet.

If you tend to procrastinate, it’s a good idea to start at least 4-6 weeks out in planning and creating the party so you don’t get overwhelmed with the details the week of the party. Accomplish one item per week, saving the baking and last minute tasks for a few days before.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Not sure what to do? Contact me below, I’m available to assist parents with children’s party planning in the Greater Houston area.

Created with images by cbaquiran - "birthday cake cake birthday" • umeshsevra - "balloons colors colorful" • juhansonin - "Fake napping"

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