Family & Relationships

Planning the Perfect Children's Birthday Bash

By April Taylor

Does planning your little one's birthday bash leave you feeling overwhelmed? If so, you may be infected by the "perfect birthday party bug." The symptoms may include, but are not limited to: stress, an empty wallet, and feelings of failure. New parents are especially prone to infection but it is possible to build immunity. I have found that setting realistic expectations and careful planning are the best defense.

The first step is to set a goal for your party, and examine your expectations. Do you want to throw a big bash for the whole neighborhood or a small intimate party? If a big party is a must, then be prepared to plan and delegate some responsibilities to reduce stress. I recommend smaller parties that include immediate family members and close friends. This will help to reduce the urge to create perfection. Regardless of the size, having a well-planned party is essential.

Purchase inexpensive three ring binders or a divided notebook to use as a party planner. It may be more work the first time around, but as the birthdays fly by it will become a valuable time saver. Use it to log the details in planning each party, including listing important contact numbers. Also, jot down ideas for future parties.

I find it easiest to plan a party around a specific theme. It can be a color scheme, cartoon character, or whatever catches your child's fancy. A quick search on the web can be a treasure chest of ideas.

Setting a budget and sticking to it will not only save you money; it will also reduce stress. It IS possible to have a great party that doesn't cost a fortune, nor leave your child feeling disappointed.

Find out what is most important to you child and spend the bulk of your budget in that area. Would your child be more impressed with a pile of presents or a carload of guests?

After determining the size, theme and budget for your party, its time to decide the best location. Your theme itself may determine the location but if not, you should carefully weigh your options.

If your budget is a major consideration, consider having the party at home. This is a great way to create an intimate memory, and saves you the extra work of lugging presents and decorations to another location. On the other hand, home-based parties can lead to stained carpets, cake on the ceiling fan, and other such birthday sugar induced oddities.

When hosting at home keep your guest list in proportion with the size of your home. There is nothing more stressful than having more kids than space. Public parks, swimming pools, bowling centers, skating centers, malls and fast food restaurants are often kid friendly locations for parties. The cleanup is often less involved than a home party.

I start my parties with a few games, kid friendly foods or non-sugary sweets for snacks, and then move on to gift opening, followed by cake and ice-cream and more games. This keeps the sugar rush contained toward the end of the party.

Arrange your schedule to best fit your goals, and be certain to jot it down in your party planner. Keep a list of party games and directions in your planner and always have more games than you think you will need.

When it comes to decorations and favors it is easy to get overwhelmed and overspend. Just keep it simple. Try paper plates, cups, and plastic wear to make cleanup a snap. To keep you budget under control check your local dollar store for these items as well as inexpensive party decorations, wrapping paper and party favors.

It is important to plan and to have a schedule but don't become a slave to it. Expect the unexpected to happen and the best way to deal with it its to laugh. Birthday bloopers make great memories! Just ask my kids to tell you about the birthday party where we all ate cake and ice cream with our fingers. Birthday parties don't have to be perfect to be a blast!

April Taylor is free lance writer, independent party consultant, and mother of four. Her less stress party planning ideas and consulting have evolved over years of trial and error with her own children's parties. She may be contacted at

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