Whether you are organizing your first kid’s birthday party, or yet another one in a long series of parties, this guide will help you make sure all is covered. There is a simple guideline for organizing a child’s birthday party: “Be prepared...or be prepared to face the wrath of disappointed and angry children.”
Ideally, you should start planning your party five to six weeks ahead of the party date. But let’s face it; between various deadlines and ASAP requests, bringing kids to various extra-school activities, your party is probably less than one week away. If you are actually planning well in advance, you are a superstar!
Between six and two weeks before the birthday party
- Choose the theme of the party. Although you probably know what your child loves, involving the birthday boy or girl will make them feel responsible and add their excitement on the days preceding the party. Some of the themes that kids love, depending on their age, are: Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, McQueen from the movie Cars, and Elsa from the movie Frozen. If you need ideas for a theme, you can browse concepts from some of our previous birthday cakes.
- Decide on the guest list. The number of participants will depend on the age of the children. If in doubt, choose the same number as your child’s age (a 5 year old would have 5 friends invited). Get an updated class list with parents contact info from your child’s teacher. Make sure you have their phone numbers in case you need to reach them last minute.
- Set the date and your budget. Set an overall budget and then decide on the most important elements (for example the birthday cake and the location). This will help you to make tough budget choices. For the date, most parents prefer weekends for obvious reasons, but consider having it after school in case a competitive party is happening the same day you are considering.
- Define the duration of your party. Generally, for children under 8 years old a 2-hour party is enough for the kids to enjoy and celebrate. For children below 3 years old, you could even get away with less time (the parents will thank you).
- Decide the start and finish time. For toddlers, the best party time is 10.00 AM to 11.30 AM as this works around their naptime. For older children, the party could start at 1.00 PM or 2.00 PM, this will allow you to avoid cooking a full lunch. Also, doing it in the afternoon makes having cocktails for the adults way more socially acceptable.
- Reserve your party venue or hire a party planner. We love working with A Very Special Day. If you can afford it, this can take away stress and allows you to focus on your children on D-Day.
- Book an external entertainment if this fits your budget. Ideas include clowns, a fairy doing face painting, balloon artist, and jumping castles. Make sure you book well ahead to avoid you having to dress up like a clown and test your juggling skills.
- Prepare and send the invitations. Make clear on the invitations if parents are expected to stay or to drop off their kids. If the kids are to be dropped off, be clear about the time of pickup – unless you are ready to charge parents for extended afternoon daycare.
- Write down the flow of the party, including some games and activities. And don’t forget the music! Ideas of activities are Simon says, balloon pop or relay, and musical chairs.
- Order a cake if you are not planning to bake one. The more in advance you order, the higher the chances of getting all your wishes covered. A flying cake for tomorrow, not so much; but give the baker a couple of weeks, and the cake might indeed fluctuate in the and land at your front door.
- Purchase party supplies such as cups, cutlery, serving dishes and bowls, tablecloths, balloons, banners, party hats, candles. Have a backup plan in case you are ordering them online at the last minute and they don't arrive on time. You don't want to scramble across the city on the Friday before the party.
- Organize extra help, in particular, if you are expecting more than ten kids. Remind your girlfriends how you were always there when they needed help. Be resolute! When Johnny has decided to start a food battle with the other kids, you will need all the help you can get to shield yourself and make the parties sign a peace agreement.
- Follow up with the parents who didn’t answer your invitation. You don’t want snarky calls asking you why a child wasn’t invited when they were.
- Order party favors, if you wish to hand them out at the end of the party. Children like to come home from parties with tangible proof that they were actually there. Ideas include stickers, pencils, marbles, and temporary tattoos. Remember to make a couple of extra favor bags for the siblings who might come uninvited to the party.
Three to one day before the birthday party
- Buy food and drinks. Buy additional toilet paper and paper towels for the inevitable spills. Remove carpets and fragile furniture. Yes, plan for the worst, or later you might regret throwing the party (as much as you love your kid, you also loved that flat-screen TV , didn’t you?) Party-proof your house.
- Make sure your camera – if you want to use one - has power.
- Confirm that everything is on track. The cake is on track, the entertainment will be present as expected, and the venue is all set up. No, you are not micromanaging, you are getting ready to produce the perfect show for your child!
- Prepare party favors – try to avoid doing it the day of the party. As D-Day approaches, other urgent things will need your full attention.
- Pick up the cake or get backing. 100% buttercream filling cakes can be kept at room temperature (unless it’s the middle of summer). Cream-based filling cakes should be kept in the fridge to avoid getting spoiled.
- Pick up or prepare the extra food. If parents are staying during the party, do not forget to buy some food for them too. You don’t want them fighting the children for scraps of cake.
- Confirm your besties are coming to help you. Offer champagne after the party as an extra. You won’t regret having extra hands and sets of eyes to help keep the peace.
The day of the birthday party
- Breathe – it’s going to be all right. Then take some extra vitamins (in case you were wondering, yes, chilled white wine is full of vitamins ;-) ).
- Time to decorate! Decorate your home and/or garden. No, a garden party is not ok when the temperature goes below 10 degrees Celsius...not even if the party’s theme is “Frozen.” Collect decorations for the party venue if you have booked one. If your cake is in the fridge, take it out 30 minutes before candles time.
- Party! The time has come. Welcome your guests and follow the flow of the party you have prepared. It probably won’t go as planned, but if it gets as close to 80% of your plan, you can consider yourself among the best of us. This also gives you hope when you see that the end of the party is less than five agenda items away. Don’t hesitate to put someone you trust in charge of taking pictures as you might be too busy cleaning up spilled orange juice or consoling a crying kid. Or you might simply want to hide in the toilet for a bit of a break.
- At the end of the party, hand out party favors.
- Time to clean. Stay strong and tell your help that yes there will be champagne, but not before cleaning (clear heads clean faster).
- Open the champagne bottle you and your friends deserve after such a herculean day. Savor it slowly. PRO TIP: After the second glass of champagne, do not let your friends into the jumping castle!
Three days after the birthday party
- Send thank you notes for the presents.
- Continue the search for little Mary’s shoes. Her mother is certain that she arrived at the party with them on.
- Forget all about organizing parties until your next one.
Ready to get started with the organization of your child's birthday party and wonder which theme your son or daughter would love? Get inspired by our latest birthday cakes.