Birthdays are milestones that mark another year of growing, another year of change. But for many parents, these milestones are more like millstones when faced with the daunting task of putting together their child's birthday party.

The following are 10 tips to help:

  1. Get your child's input. Several weeks before your child's birthday, ask him how he would like to celebrate and discuss his interests. Give him parameters based on your time, budget and preferences.
  2. Consider the options. If you choose to have the event at home, you can either do it yourself or hire outside help. If you have the time and desire to do the party yourself, the possibilities are unlimited.
  3. Make a manageable guest list. The recommended number of children will depend upon whether the party is held inside or outdoors. If the weather is nice and you'd like to have it outside, you can easily invite 15 guests. However, if the party is indoors, limit it to no more than 10 children. Some experts suggest using a formula of 1 to 1 ½ children per your child's age.
  4. Time it right. Unless the party is a sleepover, keep it to two or three hours. Make a list of activities you are planning and the approximate length of time each one will take. Remember that a well-planned party allows for both quiet and active play. Since the children will be arriving at slightly different times, plan a simple but flexible activity to keep them busy and free you to welcome other arriving guests.
  5. Decide on activities. When selecting games, consider the number of children, their ages and whether the games will be held inside or outdoors. Choose ones that are easy to explain, fun to play and involve all the children. Cooperative games are best because they take the spotlight off any one child and focus on the team as a whole. Always plan more activities than you need.
  6. Go for kid-fun grub. When serving food, stick with kid-friendly basics - sandwiches, pizza, veggie strips and pretzels. If you want to make it festive, cut the sandwiches into interesting shapes, or turn the pizza into a clown face with pepperoni eyes, a cherry tomato nose and a strip of green pepper for the mouth.
  7. Ease up on decos. Simple decorations can go a long way. A few helium balloons and crepe paper can make any room look festive. Party favors can be related to the party theme or a bag filled with a blend of fun-to-eat but healthy treats.
  8. Ask for helping hands. An extra pair of hands (or two or three!) is essential no matter what the ages of the children. If there are no willing volunteers, then hire a teen who needs the money and would enjoy the event.
  9. Pick a party entertainer. If you want to hire a party entertainer, check local resources or contact a party retail center and ask for referrals. Once you have a few names, call the entertainers and ask the following:
    • What services do you offer?

    • What ages do you typically entertain?

    • Can the party be tailored to a particular theme?

    • What exactly do you take care of (games, activities, refreshments, cake, invitations, decorations, party favors)?

    • How long do the parties run?

    • How much do you charge?

    • What am I expected to do?

    • Can I get references?

    • Do you have an upcoming public event? (Note, since entertainers are often called upon for special library, festival and fund-raising events, this would be a good opportunity for you and your child to go watch them in action.)

  10. Find a facility. If you would prefer to have the party at a local business, call to see if they offer packaged events based on your child's interest. Because every establishment's offering is a bit different, get specifics:
    • How long do parties run?

    • What activities are included?

    • Do you provide food and refreshments?

    • Free refills on drinks?

    • Is a cake provided?

    • What is the minimum/maximum number of children?

    • Does a staff member host the party (or do you)?

    • What is the cost?

    • Is a deposit required?

Above all, remember that because your child's birthday comes only once a year, it deserves recognition. Whatever you choose, make it special. You are, after all, celebrating a milestone - another year of growth, another year of change.


Related Articles

New Mom with Baby: Breastfeeding at Work


Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children and four grandchildren.