How to guide: Plan a kid’s birthday party!

Planning a kids’ birthday party can be an exciting but challenging task. I’m Zoe, and I have years of professional experience planning and running kids’ birthday parties. As well as this How To Guide, I have links to step-by-step plans and ideas to make this process as fun and stress-free as possible for you.

This comprehensive guide will take you through the process, helping you organize the funniest, most memorable celebration that will bring so much joy the birthday child, their parents, and all the party guests. Let’s dive in!

Step 1: Determine the Party Theme

Consult with the birthday child to select a theme they love, such as superheroes, princesses, animals, or sports. You can pick, based on activities, movies, or pretty much anything- but if you want to keep things simple we suggest having a Google and seeing which themes have content ideas online already!

Any theme will be super fun- so just pick one. The main consideration here is whether your kid can sit still for a movie/craft/tea-party or whether they need some physical activities.

We have a post on party theme ideas for 4 and 5 year olds.

Step 2: Set the Date, Time, and Venue

This could be the weekend or after school one day. We think weekends are better as we know kids can crash after a long day of school.

Times: The best times are in between meals so that you can just cater some simple snacks and reduce the fuss. We suggest 10.30-12.00 (or 12.30) in the morning or 3-4.30 pm in the afternoon.

We think 1.5 hrs or 2hrs is the best party length. Decide if you want to allow some time for parents to come and mingle at the end (or whether you want them to stay for the whole thing even!) so you can include this in the invitation.

The Venue. Here there are 3 decisions to make:

  • Is the party at a specific venue where someone else is running it (such as an ice rink or jungle play)? In that case, the decision is made.
  • Do you want to have it at home? Pros: can be cheaper, kitchen access
  • Can you hire a local community space? Pros: can be bigger, less cleaning up and planning involved.

Don’t feel pressure to hold the party in the week of your child’s birthday- pick a weekend that suits you best- your child won’t mind.

Step 3: Create a Guest List

Based on the size and capacity of the venue you have picked, choose how many children to invite and then discuss it with your child.

In our experience between 10 and 15 worked really nicely for one or two hands-on adults to facilitate. If there are more children, we suggest getting more helpers (grandparents, aunts, uncles, other parents…etc)

Also, be sure to check- some schools have whole-class policies. If you’re not inviting the whole class, do discreet with invitations and mention on the invitation that unfortunately you don’t have the capacity for he whole class so please keep this event discreet.

Step 4: Send Out Invitations

Don’t overthink this- it can be simple! We suggest sending invitations out 3 weeks in advance (2 weeks is fine- and if it’s less then so be it!)

The easiest way to do this is through email and watsap so we think digital invitations are perfect but if you love the classic hard copy invitations then you can do this by self-printing templates found online.

Step 5: Plan the Decorations

I have a lot to say about decorations! I think they have the potential to massively transform a space and create real excitement and impact- but they DON’T have to be complicated (keep it bold and simple!) and they DONT’T have to cost a fortune!

I tend to always suggest 5 top tips for party decorations:

  1. Big bunches of colourful balloons
  2. Large themes wall hangings (you can use themed disposable tablecloths for this!) or tinsel curtains
  3. Props! Giving the kids a wearable item relating to the theme, or having them craft something makes them interact with the decorations, bringing the theme to life and literally dispersing the decorations all around the room. For example (pirate patches, flower necklaces, princess crowns, fireman hats etc…)
  4. Decorative snack tables are functional and can bring a theme to life! again- kids interact with this
  5. Music! Have magical soundtracks playing that fit the theme and bring an amazing atmosphere to the space- there are so many options on Spotify and youtube. All our party plans also have curated music suggestions.
  6. BONUS IDEA: extra atmosphere can come from props like disco lights, facepaint and face-glitter and bubble or smoke machines! These are unnecessary and may or may not suit your theme but often the are hire-able so if you want to notch it up- it can be a very fun addition.

Bunting, flower garlands individual hanging decorations, photo booth corners and big balloon arches can look amazing- but they are a lot more fuss, and we think the suggestions above are more affordable for the same fun and impact!

Step 6: Organize Games and Activities

We suggest a combination of engaging theme-related activities and quick, fun party games!

The theme activities can involve, scavenger hunts, adventure storytelling and enacting, craft activities, dance parties or obstacle course challenges.

The games are best when there are physical and familiar to the children so they can be fun from the start without having to learn new rules. Physical games will help with concentration and keep all the guests engaged (which is the whole point!)

Here are some classic party games that can be adapted to suit any theme:

  • Musical Statues (could be adapted to ‘animal statues’ or ‘princess statues’ or ‘frozen aliens’ etc)
  • Simon Says (could be adapted to ‘wizard says’ or ‘the king says’ or ‘jungle guide says’ etc)
  • Grandmothers footsteps (could be adapted to ‘lions footsteps’ or ‘wicked witches footsteps’ etc)
  • Musical chairs (could be adapted to ‘musical toadstools’ or ‘musical thrones’ etc)
  • Duck Duck Goose (could be adapted to ‘princess princess dragon!’ or ‘lion lion tiger!’ etc)
  • Scrub the Deck! (The pirate ship game- we have plenty of suggestions to adapt this in our party themes)

Step 7: Arrange for Food and Refreshments

Keep the snacks simple! That is our biggest tip! We have another How To Guide on exactly this but the main points are:

  • Have some individual bowls or pods of cut-up carrot/cucumber, grapes, and cheese chunks for the kids.
  • Have some groups bowls with chocolates or crisps or sweets
  • Each child gets a slice of cake (or equivalent like a cupcake or cake pop)
  • Have 2 juice jugs and one jug of water and go around pouring whatever the kids prefer

That said, we LOVE a creative food table here at parties universe, so we also love giving creative ideas for this set up- but that’s really for our satisfaction. It is completely unnecessary for the kids and if it stresses you out, then don’t do it. The day will be just as fun!

Step 8: (don’t) Prepare Party Favors

We suggest themed party props that also double as party favours. Keep it simple- we think this is one step you can manage without but it can be nice to send kids home with some cake if they didn’t eat any during the party.

You can also use this opportunity to give them balloons to take home- which helps your pack-down!

Step 9: Set Up Prep

Depending on numbers we suggest leaving one hour for decorations and one hour for preparing food and snack tables. If you have to help your child get dressed- leave extra time for this.

Have your helpers arrive half an hour early so you have time to brief them and delegate the last bits of food or decorating. This means you’ll be ready to be completely present and join your child in welcoming the guests!

Step 10: Capture Memories

Assign someone to take photos or record videos throughout the party. This is something you don’t want to be busy with. You should delegate is to be as present as you can with your children. Capture a mix of candid pictures and group photos!

Make sure this person also gets great pictures of the birthday cake cutting and a whole family photo around that time. It can be easily to forget from the thick of it so delegation is key!

Good Luck!

With this step-by-step guide, hopefully you feel a bit calmer about prepping for the big day. You have absolutely got this! Have a fantastic celebration!

Best of luck,

Zoe x

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