I have talked to so many moms who say “No way,” to throwing a birthday party home, “You must be joking,” to the mention of decorations, and “You’ve got to be kidding me,” to the mere idea of goody bags. I get it. You’re busy and I don’t disagree that it’s easier to just take ‘em to a bouncy place.
I would, however, argue that those parties might not be the most memorable and that planning an at-home party for your child is actually pretty simple. Check out the steps I’ve provided here and see for yourself!
Brainstorm the party theme with your birthday girl or boy: Ask questions and jot down ideas. Is he fascinated with superheroes? Is she into soccer? Heck, when my son turned 10, the theme was his favorite color—orange! It can be that basic. Pick the favorite and you have your theme.
Decide the date, time and length of the party: Two hours is generally enough time and if you’d like to keep it simple, plan a 2:00pm start. That way, cake and a few snacks will suffice.
The guest list: Talk with your birthday boy or girl about who he or she would like to invite. I usually cap guests at 10, as that’s what fits around our dining table, and invite 12 to be on the safe side.
Invitations: Beyond the basics – date, time, location, RSVP date – be clear as to whether siblings are invited or if parents are expected to stay. I prefer electronic invitations and find that Punchbowl works great.
Cake, snacks, and decorations: Use your theme to determine each of these elements. If it’s a soccer-themed party, look for a soccer-themed cake, a superhero party, go with a superhero cake. Elaborate, expensive cakes are fabulous but not necessary and, at a kids’ party, the cake is more about the ceremony of having everyone sing to the honoree and then blowing out the candles. As for snacks, again, consider the theme. For a puppy-themed party, I served dry cereal in dollar store dog bowls and labeled each bowl “puppy chow.” For a Bug Bash party, I had a pitcher of juice labeled “beetle juice.” Bugles (the chips) were “unicorn horns” at my unicorn party. Regarding decorations, keep it simple and inexpensive and hit the Dollar store. I go there for solid-colored plastic tablecloths and baskets for snacks. Then, I might splurge on some themed plates at a party store. Have a chandelier above the table? Hang some streamers from it. Put the cake on a cake stand in the center of the table and let a dozen helium balloons float to the ceiling above it. The impact is impressive!
Set a schedule: Having an activities plan keeps partygoers from being left to their own devices. Since not everyone will arrive at the same time, have something for guests to do during arrivals. A little word find puzzle in keeping with the theme or a guess-how-many “whatevers” are in a candy jar are cute ideas. Next, get the fun going with games like musical chairs and freeze dance. You can even have small prizes for each.
Cake and presents: Now you are about an hour in—halfway! Have all the kids go to the table you’ve pre-set and decorated and do the singing and the serving. When they’re done, it’s off to the living room for presents. Have the kids sit in a circle and have the birthday boy or girl read each card, open each present, and thank the giver. (It’s good to have a chat with the guest of honor ahead of time to remind them of the importance of showing gratitude regardless of whether he or she likes, or already owns, the gift.)
Parting gifts: Again, stick with your theme. If it’s a fairy party, send guests home with a set of wings. For an arty party, go with a set of paintbrushes. You don’t need to spend time or money filling bags with do-dads or candy.
Icing on the cake: Have all the guests sign something for the birthday boy or girl to keep, like a picture mat or a pillow. A photo “booth” is nice too and can be as simple as a colorful backdrop taped up and some funny hats for the kids to wear.