Planning Your Child's Birthday Party without the Stress

Child at birthday party

For some parents planning a child’s birthday party can be a blast while other moms and dads find the party planning process stressful and a chore. Whether you opt to host a large expensive kid's party event or prefer a small gathering with family and close friends, it is important to plan a birthday party that is fitting for your child’s age and temperament and takes into account your family’s style and budget.

Young children often get overwhelmed and over stimulated easily. We have all been to birthday parties where children are in tears over costumed characters or overwhelmed with the large numbers of unfamiliar faces. Consider your child’s personality and preference and plan a party where your child can be comfortable, be himself, and have fun.

With thoughtful planning, kid’s birthday parties can be meaningful occasions of joy and celebration with limited stress for adults.

Tips for Planning a Kids Birthday Party

Involve Your Child in the Party Planning:

  • Start by meeting with your child to plan her birthday party. Toddlers may simply tell you the flavor of the cake that they’d like, whereas preschool children often have specific birthday party ideas, “I want everything to be purple - my favorite color.”
  • Talk with preschool and older children about a party theme (if they’d like one), whom to invite, and where to have the event. You might give your child a choice between two outdoor playgrounds, for example. See if your local Bright Horizons center hosts birthday parties.
  • Create the invitation with your child, if you have time, or purchase one. If you decide to make your own party invitations, young children can paint or draw on them while older children might help make the invitations on a computer.
  • Plan the food, cakes and drinks that will be served at the party. If the party has a theme, you can buy or make snacks that go along with the theme (i.e. Pirate Booty for a pirate’s party). You can also involve your child by baking the birthday cake or cupcakes together.

What to Consider When Making the Kids Party Guest List:

  • Small groups are recommended for young children. Some people believe that the number of guests should match the age the child is turning. If you feel a need to reciprocate for other kids' birthday parties your child has attended, consider reciprocating with a fun play date.
  • Do you want to include extended family? If so, consider having a children’s party and then a separate family pot luck or party.
  • Think about inclusion. Be considerate of children’s feelings. If you decide to host a large birthday party, either invite the entire class or don’t distribute invitations at school. It is fine to invite just your child’s close friends, but the invitations should then go out by post or email.

Fun Birthday Party Ideas & Activities by Age Group:

  • When considering birthday party ideas for toddlers, most enjoy simple party activities such as playing with balls, water play, bubbles, giant cartons, or some colorful play dough with a variety of cookie cutters. Find more toddler activities!
  • Preschool children enjoy simple party games, movement, and art activities. It’s helpful to plan the activities with your child. Consider mural painting, dance and freeze when the music stops, or a cooking project. Find more preschooler activities!
  • Kindergarten and elementary school children will probably have more elaborate birthday party ideas and activities in mind. If finances permit, consider an activity such as miniature golf or bowling. A theme party where children make puppets and perform a puppet show is a fun option and not too costly. Find more kindergartener activities!
  • Older children may request a sleep over birthday party. Consider whether this is something you would like to supervise recognizing that you probably won’t get much sleep. That said a sleep over with a small group can be a wonderful close time for children that they’ll remember for years.
  • Need birthday party ideas that range different age groups? Children of all ages enjoy being creative. Consider decorating party hats, making picture frames (and putting a group photograph of the children at the party), or having children decorate their own cupcakes or cookies.

There are many factors to consider when planning a child’s birthday party and stress shouldn’t be one of them. Remember that every family is unique and the ultimate goal is to plan a fun and memorable birthday party for your child.

Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Child at birthday party