Birthdays are special for kids, and as the parents you want to plan memorable and fun parties that put them in the spotlight. But it’s easy to get in over your head with the planning, and before you know it you’re stressed out and you don’t enjoy the festivities at all. With these stress-free party planning tips, your party can be unforgettable for both you and the guest of honor, with maximum fun and minimum hassle.
Keep Your Guest List and Your Agenda Manageable
One of the most common mistakes parents make in party planning is inviting too many kids, especially for children under five. One rule of thumb is to invite the same number of guests as the age of the child, but it might be more realistic to add three to that number for preschoolers (so a four-year-old could have seven guests). For any age, twelve is a good upper limit for a guest list.
Less can also be more when it comes to planning games or other entertainment. The trick is finding the proper balance: Too much empty time and your house will quickly become a zoo, too many activities (or games that are too complicated) and the party goes from lively fun to an overscheduled task. For a two-hour party, three or four games should be plenty, but it is wise to have the materials for a few other simple activities on hand in case your games are shorter than planned. Here are a few ideas for games that require minimal planning and maximum enjoyment:
- Scavenger Hunt in Teams
- ”Just Dance” Tournament
- Pin The Tail on the Donkey (or pin the bow on the Barbie, or pin the sword on the Ninja Turtle, whatever fits your theme)
- Win, Lose or Draw on an easel
- Simple Charades
- Simon Says
- Races (Running, crabwalk, skipping, etc.)
Create a (Flexible) Schedule
A big part of the stress-free party planning process is a schedule. A week or two before the party, sit down with your birthday boy or girl and determine which games you should include on the agenda. Make sure you have the materials you need for each, and then write out a tentative schedule for the party. Decide when you’re going to serve cake and ice cream, when each game is going to happen, and when (if at all) the guest of honor is going to open presents. It will ease your stress if you have everything ready the day before, like candles and matches for the cake, a trash bag for wrapping paper and a notebook and pen to write down each gift and giver.
Make the Food Simple but Fun
Another mistake that can amp up the stress level of a party is planning an excessive and elaborate menu. Kids at birthday parties are usually so excited that they leave quite a bit of food on their plate, so don’t overdo it. Cake or cupcakes, with ice cream, juice boxes or soft drinks and maybe something salty like chips, popcorn or pretzels should be more than enough. Add in some fresh fruits and veggies to keep it healthy, too!
If you do want to serve lunch or dinner, keep it simple. And don’t feel compelled to make separate food for any adults who might stay with their kids; they can snack on the food you prepare for the kids. One key to stress-free party planning is not planning the things you don’t have to!
What steps do you take to throw a fun party without stress? Share your ideas below.