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Second birthday parties are a special occasion for both toddlers and their parents. While toddlers are more aware of what’s going on compared to when they were one year old, the party is just as much for the parent/s as it is for the birthday child. So let me share some tips on how to plan a fantastic toddler birthday party that everyone will enjoy.
As a parent who has planned plenty of parties, I totally get the desire to create memorable moments while hosting a party where the little ones have a great time. It can be a juggling act, so it is super important to remember the basics:
- The appropriate duration
- Age-appropriate activities for the kids
- Creating the right environment where everyone can relax and have fun
Here is my complete roundup of toddler birthday party ideas for making your party the kind of magical event that you will remember for years to come (even if your toddler won’t!).
THE COMPLETE TODDLER BIRTHDAY PARTY PLANNING CHECKLIST
PARTY TIME FRAME
When it comes to party timings, I find that keeping the party relatively short is beneficial for both children and adults. For two-year-olds, an hour to an hour and a half is usually enough for the party’s core.
I find that super simple games with minimal, easy-to-understand rules work best at parties for toddlers. They ensure both toddlers and parents can dive right in and have fun rather than trying to figure out what to do.
Check out my best toddler party games list in my kids’ party games post for some brilliantly fun ideas.
THE RIGHT PLACE TO HAVE A TODDLER PARTY
There are numerous places to host a toddler birthday party, from having it at home, in your garden, or at the local park to hiring a venue.
The most important thing to bear in mind is that you want a party space that is safe, secure and has enough room for everyone to move around and enjoy the party.
Take a look at my list of kids’ party venue ideas for inspiration.
PLANNING A TODDLER BIRTHDAY PARTY
SELECTING A THEME
Nothing in the kids’ party rule book (!!) says you have to have a theme, but having one can help create a fun vibe that helps make the party more exciting and enjoyable for toddlers and everyone else.
I’ve got a big A-Z list of kids’ party themes to inspire you. As a rule of thumb, current popular cartoon characters, animals and traditional themes like superheroes work well.
Alternatively, you could keep it super simple by choosing a colour theme.
You can bring the theme to life right from the start by incorporating it on the party invitations, through party decorations, tableware and the party food and birthday cake.
CREATING A GUEST LIST
In my experience, there are a few useful things to remember when putting together the party guestlist.
First, I’d suggest limiting the number of guests to avoid overwhelming the birthday boy or girl.
This really is a party when you can get away with just inviting close friends and family. (Make the most of it, the big entire class parties are still to come!!).
It is also worth focusing on guests in the same age group as the birthday child if you want to attempt some party games. This makes it so much easier to plan and lead the birthday games.
I think it’s safe to say that all parents are expected to stay with their toddlers throughout the party.
Another thing to note if this is the first birthday party you are hosting for your child is that it is well worth sending the invitations out as soon as you know the date.
The more time you have to gather in the RSVPS, the easier it is to plan a truly brilliant party for your toddler.
INVITATIONS AND DECORATIONS
There are so many ways to tackle party invitations these days. You can keep it as simple as sending out a plain Save The Date message by WhatsApp or your favourite social media channel, send a digital invite you’ve designed or downloaded or go old school and send out paper invitations.
As I mentioned earlier, the birthday invitation is the place to start if you want to bring a party theme to life. There are various online platforms, such as Etsy, where you can find customisable templates suitable for a toddler’s birthday party.
Or you can design your own from scratch using Canva. I use Canva for all my birthday party invitations and thank you cards.
Don’t forget to include all the essential information on the invitation:
- Location address
- Start and finish time
- Request for details of any special dietary requirements
- RSVP contact details and deadline (a deadline focuses the mind!)
Moving on to decorations, the sky is the limit. You can keep them as minimal or as maximal as you like. If, like most parents I know, you want to keep to a sensible budget, you should aim for a few well-chosen decorations, enough to bring the party theme to life.
I always try to pick eco-friendly options as much as possible to reduce the environmental impact of the party; it feels particularly pertinent to do so when planning parties for the youngest generation.
- Banners and bunting: These are great for indoor and outdoor parties and add a pop of colour to the celebration area. If you stick to paper, they are also eco-friendly.
- Paper balls and pompoms: I love paper balls and pompoms. They look so chic. They are also way more environmentally friendly than balloons, even biodegradable balloons.
- Tableware: Go for colourful, fun, and toddler-friendly tableware to make the eating experience enjoyable for kids.
- Party hats: We gave out party hats at our daughter’s second birthday party; they were intended for toddlers, but just as many adults wore them, which led to some great photos!
FUN TODDLER ACTIVITIES AND PARTY GAMES
You don’t need to go overboard with toddler birthday party games and activities. For starters, you won’t have much time to do too much if you keep the party to 1.5 to 2 hours.
Here are some ideas for age-appropriate games and creative crafts to keep the little ones entertained and engaged.
Here are a few favourites that always go down with toddlers.
- Pass The Parcel: This classic game is a rite of passage for kids, but it’s a good idea to adapt it for toddlers to play. I suggest you swap the parcel for a balloon or ball. Then everytime the music stops, the child holding the balloon/ball, gets a small prize or sweet treat.
- Bottom Shuffle Race: Get the tots to sit on the floor at one end of the room and set a finish line at the other end of the room. When you shout ‘GO’, they have to shuffle along on their bottoms until they cross the finish line. Get all the parents to cheer for every child crossing the line and then give out celebratory little prizes to everyone.
- Sleeping Lions: This game is useful for calming over-excited children before they have their party food. Ask all the toddlers to lie on the floor as still as they can. You can either give a small prize to every child who stays super still or a child is out if they move, at which point they can have a small prize for trying!!!
Crafts are a lovely way for little kids to have fun creating something with their parents. Here are two ideas to get you started:
- Decorate Your Own Party Hat: Provide plain party hats and an assortment of stickers, markers, and other decorations for kids to personalise their hats.
- DIY Fruit Stamping: Who said art couldn’t be tasty? Cut fruits like apples, oranges, and lemons in half, and use them as makeshift stamps to create colourful designs. Set up a designated area with art paper, washable, non-toxic paint, and fruits.
A bubble machine works is a really fun party idea for keeping mini party guests entertained and mesmerised at a birthday party. I have to say that most adults are pretty captivated by bubbles too.
Bubble machines work particularly well for summer birthday parties in the garden or park, where the bubbles can sparkle in the sunlight.
FOOD AND SNACKS
SERVING TODDLER-FRIENDLY FOOD
My top tip for toddler party food is to keep it super simple. If you want to be clever, you can time the party between mealtimes, so you only need to provide snacks rather than anything more substantial.
Stick to food that is easy for little tots to enjoy, so think mini and small! But at the same time, avoid anything likely to be a choking hazard.
So if, for example, you’re serving fruit salad of skewers, make sure it is cut up small enough to swallow, especially grapes, which are known to be the perfect size to get stuck; you must always cut them lengthways.
I’ve put together some content on how to get kids’ party food right.
I’ve also got a really useful roundup of easy kids’ party snacks you can make yourself if you fancy having a go at creating some fun food rather than buying everything.
One of my go-to party snack choices is popcorn. It’s easy, everyone loves it, and it can be personalised with various flavours.
You can even create a popcorn bar, though I would suggest using clear jars with lids that can only be accessed by adults so that tiny hands don’t get in and cause mayhem.
Here are some ideas for popcorn bar toppings:
- Gummy bears
- Chocolate chips
- Caramel sauce
- Peanut butter
- Mini marshmallows
- Dried cranberries
- Cinnamon sugar
Can a party be a party without cake?! Now, the thing I think is worth noting here is that there are several ways you can go about party cake for toddlers.
- You can make a birthday cake and decorate it yourself – or ask a willing relative to do it as a gift.
- You can order a birthday cake in a design that fits your party theme
- You can forget about a birthday cake altogether and go for cupcakes instead because cupcakes are much easier to pass around to tiny little toddlers’ hands.
If you go down the cupcake route, you can display them on a cupcake stand to give them the wow factor and even pop a couple of candles on the top-tier cake.
This is the cake my super talented mum created for my daughter’s second birthday.
MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT
CREATING A PLAYLIST
I believe in the power of a good playlist to get a party started. A selection of brilliant songs will help set the right atmosphere and keep energy levels high.
Creating a playlist with a mix of toddler-friendly songs and familiar tunes can make the party more enjoyable for children and adults.
First, I make sure to include popular children’s songs that toddlers are familiar with, such as nursery rhymes and songs from their favourite TV shows.
It’s also a good idea to throw in some upbeat, family-friendly pop hits that get everyone moving and dancing. Don’t forget to add a few slower songs for those calmer moments during the party, like snack time and going home time.
There is nothing to say you have to book an entertainer for a toddler’s birthday party. In fact, in my experience, it is far from essential for this age group.
However, if you want to hand the party entertainment over to a professional, plenty of options will work.
My biggest tip of all, though, is to BOOK EARLY!! And always go with a recommendation from a friend or someone you know wherever possible.
Here are some ideas for the kinds of entertainers that work best for toddler birthday parties:
- Do remember that some kids don’t like clowns (nor do some adults!)
- Balloon Artists – what toddler doesn’t love a balloon animal?!
- Bubble Performers
- Musician – to lead an interactive musical activity
- Magicians – make sure their set is age appropriate for little tots
- Character performers – dressed up as a Disney princess or Marvel superhero to lead a princess party or superhero birthday party
PARTY BAGS OR FAVOURS
It is entirely doable to skip party favours for two-year-olds, so you could make the most of this fact, knowing that you have years of doling out party favours at parties ahead of you!!
However, if you do want to give the mini guests a little something, you can either go for a party bag filled with three or four little things, or you can give out a single party favour.
As with the decorations, I firmly believe it is a good call to stick to eco-friendly fillers and favours, or at the very least, avoid the kind of cheap plastic junk that is just brightly coloured landfill.
I’ve got a whole section on party favours and fillers for kids’ parties you can browse through for inspiration, including content with a big list of eco-friendly party bag fillers.
TIPS FOR A HASSLE-FREE PARTY
And finally, here are a few tips on how to make sure that your party is hassle-free.
- Always make sure that there is enough space for all the guests to move and play freely. If you’re having the party at home, it is worth rearranging furniture to create a designated party area.
- Set up a space with toys, games and soft mats or cushions for toddlers to enjoy themselves.
- Try and keep a separate area for party food. This helps to avoid mess, accidents or toddlers helping themselves and getting into mischief.
- Use wipeable table covers or paper tablecloths that can be disposed of at the end of the party.
- Make sure to childproof the party space, whether it’s your home or a hired venue. Cover up any sharp corners and remove any fragile ornaments or expensive tech.
Hello, I’m Luci, founder of Mums Make Lists (Est. 2011). Over the last decade or so, I have combined my experience as a mum, journalist and shopping editor to create useful guides and lists of ideas and inspiration to make it easier for busy parents to plan and host kids’ parties and find great gifts. Plus I create beautiful party printables, from invites to party games. Read more.