When your child’s birthday is on the horizon, you want to plan for a terrific birthday party and create fun memories. Here are some easy ideas and tips to pull off your child’s favorite occasion without a hitch.

Get Your Child Involved

Speak with your child about what he wants for his birthday party, and then try to accommodate him. As a parent, it’s easy to get overly excited or run off on a tangent doing what you want to do, rather than asking your child about his wishes. Talk to him about whom he’d like to invite and what he’d like to do.

How Many Guests?

The size of the party helps determine the other parameters of the day. Resist the temptation to invite too many kids. When you invite a smaller number of kids, it makes it more enjoyable for your child, you, and the rest of the guests.

Also consider whether invited children have siblings who will want to attend. Think about how to word your invitation if siblings are not invited. Can your party area include extra children and moms?

Three weeks ahead of the party, send out evites or send invitations by snail mail to children to save the date.

To Theme or Not to Theme?

Themes do not have to be complex. Check out birthday party websites for ideas if your child is not sure what she wants. Keep it simple for younger children; sometimes balloons are enough.


It’s easy to go overboard with party food. But you’re better off if you pick simple finger foods or small sandwiches and healthy snacks to go along with the cake. Check with your guests’ parents to see if anyone has allergies.

Cake and Ice Cream

Decide if you want to make and decorate the cake on your own or buy one. Three-, four-, and five-year-olds are always aware when someone else got a piece of cake with a flower on it and they didn’t, so plan accordingly. The night before the party, use an ice cream scooper to scoop out ice cream balls into cupcake papers. Place the scoops on a cookie sheet and freeze. When it’s party time, pull the tray out of the freezer and serve each child. As a party activity, kids can decorate cupcakes or plain sugar cookies.

Games and Activities

One of the most exciting aspects of any child’s party is the games and activities. Decide ahead of time if you want to give prizes to the game winners, because prizes can cause competition and hurt feelings. Another option is to make sure every child gets a prize, even if it’s just a prize for enthusiasm.

Pick age-appropriate games and walk through them before the party to see if they work for the party space. If you have a large play room or outside space, games where the kids move around, like musical chairs, relays, and races are great because young children have such short attention spans—and so much energy.

If you have messy craft activities, cover tables with butcher paper or paper tablecloths.

Find Help

Elicit help from a mom who can either come early to help set up, or stay late to help restore order. Assign her the task of taking pictures. Or she can write down the gifts and names of gift-givers.

Goodie Bag or Not?

Dollar stores are a treasure trove for tiny gifts like pencils, erasers, and bottles of bubbles. But goodie bags are not always necessary. A craft activity such as a decorated picture frame or painted flowerpot can go home with the artists instead.

Protect Your Pets

If you have pets, lock them up for their own protection. Some children are afraid of dogs, and some kids do not know how to treat pets properly. It’s not fair to your dog to have a piece of cake shoved up its nose, or for cats to get their tails pulled.

Last-minute Tips

The day before the party, grab a shoebox and put your camera, batteries, the cake knife, candles, matches, a permanent marker, pen and paper, large trash bags, and Scotch Tape in it.

Be prepared in case one of the children becomes overwhelmed and needs some quiet time. If you see a child withdrawing, pull him aside and check in with him. Have a quiet area for anyone who needs it.

Jan Udlock

is a mom of 5 and freelance writer.