This post has a list of the best kids’ party planning tips, based on my experience at planning and hosting kids’ birthday parties for the last nine years.
Kids’ Party Planning Tips
Kids’ party planning should probably be considered an art!
I’ve certainly earned my stripes at planning and hosting children’s parties over the last nine years.
So I thought I’d draw on my experience to share some top tips for children’s party planning.
The trick is to keep things simple if you want to for plan and host a fun and entertaining kids’ party without having a nervous breakdown.
This can be easier said than done.
But I hope you will find my simple kids’ party planning tips list really helpful and useful, as they are based on hard earned experience!
Kids Birthday Party Planning list
1. Three up front essentials
a. Make a budget
I know this is obvious but it’s SO easy for costs to get out of hand!
Work out your maximum budget and stick to it
b. Decide if you want to have a joint birthday party
Whilst your child will have to share the limelight, there are benefits to having a joint party, especially if the guest lists will be similar or the same.
- Stress reduction – a burden shared…
- Cost reduction…. literally 50% saved if you’re lucky!
- Time reduction – there’s two of you working on it, so you can hopefully halve the work load
Do make sure that you are ‘party’ compatible with the person you plan to host the joint party with.
There is no point saddling yourself with a party spendthrift if you’re going to need to watch the pennies.
Equally there is no point saddling yourself with a penny pincher to the point where your guests are nibbling on a shared cheese sandwich whilst watching paint try for entertainment.
A quick coffee to discuss the idea of a joint party can be a good way to go if you don’t know the other person really well already.
c. Book in some extra help from your family
One of the absolute keys to successful kids’ party planning is to rope in extra help.
Book up grandparents or aunts and uncles to help out.
They can help you with food preparation, decorations, greeting people, sorting coats, running games, loo trips, clearing up etc.
2. Setting the time and date
a. Choosing the day
Sunday parties give more time to prepare.
Saturday parties give you more time to recover.
After school parties mean you get to keep your weekend.
b. Setting the time
Kids’ weekend birthday parties always started at 3pm back in the day.
But there’s now a wider scope for when to hold a party.
Morning parties can work well, especially for younger children.
The benefits to a morning party include that:
- Younger children aren’t so tired, so will likely be better behaved
- You can get them out of the way and have the afternoon to relax
It’s also worth going for an in-between mealtime party to escape having to provide a full meal at the party.
This tactic keeps costs down and also saves you the job of serving up food and then scraping it into the bin after a bunch of over excited kids do nothing more than pick at it!!
c. Decide how long the party will be
Two hours is a great amount of time for a kids party, no matter what the kids’ ages.
This gives everyone time to get to the party and time for some fun, games and serving of party food.
d. Avoid high days and holidays
Lots of families will be away or have their own plans on public holidays, special days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and during peak holiday season.
Clearly you can’t change the date of your child’s birthday, but it might be worth waiting a week or two in order to get a fuller guest list.
e. Allow for naps
Some two and three year olds still have naps.
Whilst you can’t take into consideration every individual child’s nap time, having the party outside of main nap-times, means you are more likely to have a full turn out of guests and happier kids.
3. Choosing a venue
a. Choose a practical venue!
A big way to keep stress levels down on the day is to choose a venue that covers off as many practicalities as possible.
I’ve put together a post with over 50 different ideas for venues. It’s a generic list, but most Cities, towns and villages will have some of the venues.
Things to look out for when you’re choosing a venue include:
- Ease of reaching the venue for all guests
- Ease of access to venue
- Good parking
- Adequate toilet facilities
- Space for buggies to be left
- Whether there is a food preparation area if needed
- How far in advance you can access the venue to set up the party
- If you will have to share the venue / a section of the venue with others
b. Venue size
You should also consider the size of the venue.
Too small and you’ll have trouble fitting everyone in.
But too large and you’ll have trouble creating a party atmosphere and could have trouble wrangling the kids and keeping them focused on the party.
You also need to factor in the amount of space you will realistically need for games, sitting down and eating, plus for parents to hang out.
c. Book venues early
Popular birthday party venues can get booked up a long way in advance, so make venue booking one of your first jobs.
Make sure you get a confirmation that the venue is yours.
d. Allow for parents in numbers
It is usual for most two, three and four year old children to have a parent stay with them for the duration of the party.
Oh and be warned, some parents view a child’s birthday party as a family outing!
So a top tip is to be very clear about the space you have available and then very clear on the invitation about space and who is welcome!
e. Allow for babies
If party guests have baby siblings these babies may well be coming to your party as well!
It’s nice to be able to offer nursing mums and dad’s looking after babies somewhere to sit.
4. Party entertainment
a. Book entertainer early
Good entertainers get booked up incredibly early.
Keep an ear to the ground for recommendations.
Plus make a note if your child is at a party with a great entertainer that you could use for your party – clearly you don’t want to just copy someone else if the guest list is the same, but this can work as a tactic.
b. Book equipment early
If you’re planning on having something special at the party, then make sure to book it early and BEFORE you mention it on the invites.
I’m talking about things like:
- Bubble machines
- Bouncy castles
- Karaoke machine
5. Inviting guests
a. Remember children have their own friends!
By three years old most children will start to make their own friends, particularly at nursery and playgroup.
They may be playing a lot with children you don’t really know.
It’s worth checking in with their nursery / childminder to find out who these kids are, so you can invite them along.
b. Save the date
Once your child is at school there are likely to be several contenders for weekend party dates each month.
So send out a ‘save the date’ text or WhatsApp as soon as you know the date you want to hold your child’s party.
Follow up with an actual invitation once you have the details confirmed.
It’s your choice whether to make this a paper invite or whether to send a group text or WhatsApp.
Just remember to put RSVP on there complete with mobile phone number.
c. Check for allergies
Make sure to add a line asking if there are any allergies or special dietary requirements.
It’s pretty easy to cover off meat eaters, vegetarian and vegan food if you plan properly.
Ignore anyone who comes back with simple fussiness requirements!!!!! 😉
d. Do chase RSVPs
I’ve noticed an increasing trend for people to not RSVP to paper invites.
This might just be that everyone’s brain bandwidth is maxed, it may be that the invites never actually reach the parents!!
But whatever the reason, a lack of RSVPs isn’t going to help you plan your party.
6. Party Decorations
Let me remind you of the party planning tip I gave at the start of this post…
Keep it simple!
This is the only way you will keep your sanity, unless you have a paid party planner.
a. Offer party theme options you can actually deliver
Do not. I repeat, do not, ask your child “what theme would you like?”
Spend a little time researching theme ideas.
Then maybe give your child a choice of two themes.
b. Remember themed party decorations often aren’t reusable
Party themes may be incredibly popular but it means you’ll get almost no reuse out of any decorations you buy.
However there is a great hack for this.
Go for coloured decorations with a themed cake and a few themed add ons, then you can mix and match decorations year after year!
Firstly, you need to decide if you’re going to have balloons – see the next point for the eco-friendly issue with balloons.
Helium balloons can have more of a wow factor, but you will need to pay for a helium canister.
A way round this is to simply blow up the balloons with an air pump and group them together to create pretty arrangements.
By the way, most helium gas canisters totally over estimate how many balloons you can get out of them.
Not to mention there’s always someone who’ll want to get their Donald Duck voice on…
d. Try and go for eco-friendly decorations
Balloons – even latex ones that manufacturers claim are eco-friendly – aren’t actually that great for the environment.
One way round this is to go for paper decorations.
Paper pompoms have become super popular, in fact paper decorations is definitely the way to go for an eco-friendly way to decorate your party.
e. Piñatas can be a useful double-up
Piñatas have become really popular over the last few years.
They are a great option for adding decoration to the party and doubling up as an activity.
To be careful about what you provide to hit the piñata with and do be ready to crowd control the kids as they go feral.
I’ve got a post that rounds up some DIY piñata tutorials that is worth a look if you want to make your own.
f. Pin the tail
A great pin the tail graphic is another way to create a decoration that multi-tasks as a party game.
There are plenty of pin the tail printables online, I’ve rounded up a few here.
7. Running The Party
a. Give clear tasks to everyone helping
This really helps free you up to actually HOST the party.
This doesn’t mean you’re being lazy, it’s just that being the host with most is a full on job.
You can’t be charm personified if you’re also gathering coats, showing people to the toilet, guarding the buffet from over-eager hands.
b. Create coat space
There is nothing worse than everyone dumping their coats in the main party area and ruining your carefully curated party theme!
So make sure there’s a clear space for people to leave their coats.
Better still, have a family member on coat duty to do the job for the guests.
c. Have spare clothes for your child
Make sure you have a spare set of clothes if your child is likely to have a toilet accident due to excitement or just because they’re still learning.
d. Remove breakables
This is valid whether you’re having the party at home or at a venue.
Either way you don’t want the cost of replacing something that’s broken.
e. Store toys away
This one is for parties at home.
Only put out toys that you / your child is happy for other children to play with.
This will stop squabbles, diverted attention, unnecessary damage and unnecessary clearing up.
8. Party Food
I’ve just put together a separate post with a checklist of all the things you need to think about to get kids’ party food right. Take a look and then go through the tips below as well.
a. Drink cartons spill less than cups!
Less spillages equal less chance of accidents and less clearing up.
b. Ditch the crockery and cutlery
Now this is one of the best tips I can share with you from my years of kids’ party planning and hosting.
Forget about cutlery, serving platters and plates.
Use clever solutions like these paper snack cones for food instead.
I’ve used them for my daughter’s birthday parties.
They hold just enough for a little treat and can be disposed of easily afterwards.
They come in packs of 40 with their own cardboard trays.
Fill them with popcorn – make it yourself for a SUPER CHEAP snack – or crisps or mini sweet bites.
Paper party snack cones | Party Pieces
C. Make and freeze food in advance
If you’re planning on making food, make it in advance and pop it in the freezer.
You will never have as much time as you think you have to make it in the 24 hours leading up to the party.
d. Sandwiches are too much hassle
Sandwiches can seem like a simple option, but they are a time suck to make.
Pizza makes a great ‘grab it and growl’ style savoury party food.
e. Carrot sticks and hummus
Most kids will eat a carrot stick if prompted!
These are simple to prepare – you can even buy them ready prepared.
Open up the hummus tub and pop it on the table.
f. Have drinks for adults
You won’t be expected to provide food for adults, but it is a good idea to offer some sort of drink.
If possible – and safe – set up a drinks station so that adults can help themselves.
9. Party Games
a. Planning is key
I’ve put together a post listing 30 children’s party games and how to play each of them.
Read the post to plan the party games for your party.
Make sure that you have something suitable to play music on for party games.
You may think you’re iPhone can handle it, but it’s amazing how much sound a large bunch of kids can soak up.
Musical chairs and pass the parcel just don’t work if no-one can hear the music.
Take along your sound system from home, an iPod dock (though double-check how loud this will actually go) or check if the venue has one that you can borrow.
b. You don’t need prizes for every game
If you’re planning a party filled with games let the joy of winning be prize enough for some of them.
Or give out a sweet to the winner each time.
Pick up a couple of games, like pass the parcel, to have actual prizes for.
c. Get pass the parcel right!
Now this is especially relevant if you are planning to have lots of guests.
Back in the day you had one big present in the middle.
These days you need to have a little something in each layer.
It can just be a sticker or a sweet, but don’t forget them.
It’s also worth creating two parcels to be passed around if there’s a big group of kids.
Attention spans can be very short!
d. Masks and puppets are fun
Little children (five and under) love puppets.
Work them into games to add an extra fun element.
e. Craft activities can work well
Craft activities can work really well at kids’ parties.
It’s also a great way to get the kids creating their own party favour instead of having to give out party bags.
f. Create a game box
Gather all the props and prizes you need for games and put them into a large box or bag that you can keep out of the way of inquisitive kids at the party.
This way you won’t be scrabbling around looking for stuff at the party, whilst the kids look on expectantly.
g. Have a games assistant
Get a willing family member to be your loyal games assistant.
They can hand out stickers and prizes whilst you lead the game.
Also prime this lovely person to be able to take over if your child or another child needs you.
Writing a quick games list to share is a great way to keep them primed.
10. Party bags
Party bags, oh the joy of the bag filled with stuff that will be discarded within minutes.
But fear not, there are options.
- If you want to create your own party bags, choose a theme and set yourself a strict budget.
- A good tip is to buy in bulk and break up. Pound stores are a treasure trove for party bag fillers, though I’m not big on all that cheap plastic on an eco-level
- Buy pre-filled party bags
- An increasingly popular idea is to have a craft activity and then the kids get their creation as a gift
- Another trend is to give a party favour gift instead of a party bag. I’ve got a post on great alternatives to party bags that will give you plenty of ideas.
11. Birthday gift etiquette
a. Create a gift box / bag or station
Have a big empty box, bag or table where guests can put birthday gifts.
This frees you and your child up from having to take each present – oh the hardship!!
b. Open gifts AFTER the party
No matter how much pleading there might be, it is much better to open birthday gifts once the party is over. Plus, if your party is at a venue, it’s much better to wait to open gifts back home, because…
- It’s not much fun for the guests to watch gifts being opened
- You will find it very hard to keep a track of who has given what – for thank you card purposes 😉
- The gifts are easier to transport when wrapped
- There is less mess to clear up at the party venue
I hope you’ve found this post on kids’ party planning useful.
Don’t forget to save it for future reference.
I’ve also put together a section on kids’ birthdays and parties.
It’s a growing list of posts on hacks to make the whole kids’ party planning process a little easier – fun even!
You can click here to find the series Kids’ Birthdays and Parties.
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