Keep in mind when planning a kid's party event that kids of different age groups will differ in their interests, need for supervision, diets and attention spans. Infants and toddlers require constant supervision, so consider that their parent(s) will be attending the birthday party also. With school-age kids & teens and their greater capacity for interaction, a true 'kids party' will evolve.
Whatever age, involve your child and get their input in the birthday party planning process. It will offer opportunities for problem solving and decision making. Remember to manage expectations; your child’s and your own. It is a kids party; one busy day that will find a few unexpected events, lots of fun and memories.
Start by deciding how much you would like to spend on the event and also write down a limit to your spending. This will help you refine your choices as you proceed with planning your event.
Your event budget will help determine whether you will host the party at home or at a party venue
. Birthday party venues tend to be more expensive, but a lot of the work is taken care. Also consider the number of kids and parents you would like to invite. Keep in mind, typically 10-20% of those invited will actually attend. Your budget should include kids activities and games, game prizes, food & drinks, a cake, invitations (and stamps if applicable), decorations, and party favours / loot bags
If you would like to incorporate a theme for your event, try to get feedback from your child about what they would like. After all, it is their party. Themes can help with other decisions, such as the look of the invitations or decorations for the event, the food items that you select, and the party activities. Often times, party entertainers
or party suppliers
can help provide theme options, which makes planning a lot easier.
For every birthday party event, food is essential. Whether a snack and drinks or a meal, people look forward to and enjoy the food. Finger foods are usually a hit with kids and parent alike, as you can provide enough variety to please most guests. They will also enable more movement and socializing. Some guests might have
allergies to specific foods such as nuts or shellfish, so consider keeping those off of the menu. Try to plan a menu with food items that you can prepare ahead of time. You will be quite busy on the event day; minimizing distractions will be a big help.
Select an event date and time when you think most families / kids will be able to attend. Take into account holidays and other events. Weekends are usually
a better time than weekdays, however if you are stuck, a Thursday or Friday evening may be an option as most people are winding down their week. Keep in mind nap times for younger kids or bed times (for infants and toddlers) and meals or snacks. Remember, you will not please everyone.
Depending on the time of year, the size of the party, the amount of involvement you would like to have, you can decide if you would like to host your event at home with the option of a children's party entertainer or venue
Send out your party invitations 3-4 weeks before the event date. Requesting an RSVP by a specific date (usually one week before the event date) will help your planning and enable you to decide on how much food and favours/loot bags to prepare (if needed).
As for creating the event invitations themselves, there are several options:
Traditional Invitations: Most department stores have pre-illustrated invitations that you can fill in, stamp and send.
Customize Invitations: If you are computer savvy, you may consider creating invitations yourself, or you can have invitations custom made for you with.
Electronic Invitations: Electronic invitations can be created and sent easily on the internet if you and your guests are computer savvy. They also help organize your guest list and are cost effective, considering that one such as Evite.com is free.
If you have a theme for the event, decoration ideas should be easier to find. When selecting party decorations, keep in mind clean up and whether they might stain or damage your walls or furniture. Certain types of tape are easier to remove, but if you are concerned, stick the tape onto your clothing to layer it with some fibres. This will decrease the chance of tape peeling off your wallpaper or paint when you remove it.
Your child(ren) may wish to get involved in putting up the party decorations. If you have toddlers attending the event, try keeping them out of reach so that the decorations do not become part of the activities.
Party favours or loot bags are traditional way to say ‘thank you’ to your guests. These can be prepared ahead of time. If you have a party theme, your search may be more targeted. Keep in mind the age group of the kids. For infants
and toddlers, avoid any type of treat that might become a choking hazard. You can opt for quantity, such as goodies and a few dollar store toys, or quality by selecting one item per child, such as a children's book, puzzle or game. Recruit your child’s help to hand out their thank you gifts as the guests leave. This will help to wind down the event for your child and provides a good lesson in etiquette.
Keep events for infants and toddlers no longer than one to two hours long. This is more than enough time for the kids to warm up to the environment, participate in some party activities and have a snack or light meal. Consider opening presents after your guests are gone. There will be enough excitement during the party, and a group of toddlers may find the experience more frustrating than enjoyable. At this age, the concept of sharing is still new. With school-age kids and teens, parties can run between 2-4 hours depending on the activity. Get your kids involved in the planning. They will enjoy getting involved and providing input.
Events with party entertainment
or at a party venue
will make planning the agenda quick and easy. Many party organizers have pre-set options and lots of age appropriate suggestions.
Remember the camera and/or video camera. Make sure that your batteries are charged and you have film or room on your memory card.
Another creative way to remember the day is to create an on-site guest / scrapbook. Purchase an age appropriate guest book / scrapbook. You can make it even more special by having Polaroid camera to take pictures of the guest of honour with other kids at the party. Paste the pictures into the book and have your guests sign right next to their picture. By the end of the party, you will have an amazing keepsake of this special event. This will work best if delegated to a trusted individual, as you will likely be too busy to prioritize it on the day of the event.
During the party event, designate an area for food and drinks, such as the kitchen. This will help minimize clean up and damage too hard to clean areas like carpets or sofas. Have garbage bags and wash towels ready. Before the party, ask a few individuals to stay behind to help. If you cringe at the thought of clean up, another option is to have your event at a party venue
. This way, clean up is not a concern.
Infants have such a short attention span, that you will likely do best with a variety of age appropriate toys in a safe area where they can explore and interact. Toddlers are generally more active and mobile. You may find that setting up various children's play stations (see below) will keep the kids entertained, mixed in with a directed activity or two. School-age kids and teenagers will likely have stronger preferences for the type of activities or party games they would like to engage in. If you are trying out a game that you have never facilitated before, it may be prudent to try it out ahead of time during a play date or a family get together.
Infant/Toddler Play stations
This activity encourages exploration. A variety of children's play stations/areas can be set up around the house for your party guests to explore. The stations can evolve from the toys that you have or can borrow for the day.
Suggestions would be:
with age appropriate toy fishing rods that the kids can “catch” plastic fish or hook plastic rings with.
Dress-up Station with a variety of costumes, hats and make-believe props for imaginary play.
Craft Station with paper, markers/crayons and stickers. Each child can create their own keep sake to take home, such as party hats or door plaques.
Sports Room with soft balls, bean bags, buckets and some music so the kids can expel some energy.
Free Play Area with toys such as dolls and trucks that the kids can explore on their own with.
This activity promotes listening. Music and movement is a great combination for energetic toddlers. You will need music that can be turned on and off easily, and a room that the kids can jump around and dance in. Prizes are optional. Explain to the kids that you will be turning the music on for dancing time and when the music stops, they must stop also or they are ‘out’. Those still ‘in’ can continue to play until there is only one more person left. That person wins.
What Animal Is It?
This activity helps to develop communication. Have stickers, pictures or stuffed animals available; enough so each child has a different one. With the kids sitting in a circle, each child can take a turn telling the others about what animal picture they have and what noises that animal makes.
This activity promotes exploration. You can do this with stickers that the kids can turn in for a prize, trinkets that could be prizes themselves, or items that you identified on a list (this option is better for older kids). If you wish, you can have prizes ready for the winner(s). The night before the event, hide your search items and if you have a list, make sure that you have enough copies of it and pencils so that the kids can mark off what they have found. Set boundaries for the children, so that they know where they can go and where they should not. This will help keep them out of the kitchen. Have a system for calculating points. Each item can be a point, and the child that collects the most items wins. If you can, delegate someone to facilitate the hunt, as you will have many things to manage that day.
Green Light, Red Light
This activity promotes listening. With the kids and a facilitator, this is a simple game that makes listening fun. One child is the ‘traffic light’ calling out ‘green light’ or ‘red light’. For kids younger then eight years old, an adult may need to be the ‘traffic light’ to help facilitate the game better.
The ‘traffic light’ stands on one side of the room and the rest of the kids on the other side. The objective for the group of children is to get to the other side of the room without being caught by the “red light”. The ‘traffic light’ turns away from the group calling out ‘green light’, then when he/she turns around calling ‘red light’, everyone must stop. Anyone caught moving still is ‘out’. The ‘traffic light’ continues with ‘green light’ or ‘red light’ until all but one person is out. That child is the winner.
Duck, Duck, Goose
This activity encourages participation. Have the kids sit around in a circle. One child can volunteer or be selected to be the first ‘Goose’. The ‘Goose’ walks around the outside of the circle tapping each child on the head and calling out ‘Duck”, until he/she decides to call ‘Goose’ identifying one child with a tap as the new ‘Goose’. The new ‘Goose’ and the old ‘Goose’ race to get around the circle to sit in the empty spot before the other child does. The child without a spot is now the ‘Goose’ and the game goes on.
This activity promotes creativity and team work. You will need one roll of toilet paper for every two kids. Pair up the kids. Their objective is for one of the pair to wrap the other with the toilet paper to see who can create the scariest mummy.
This activity encourages teamwork and hand-eye co-ordination. Who can keep their balloon up in the air for the longest? You can vary the rules by using only hands, but not touching for more than one second, or using only the head or having partners. The child or pair that keeps their balloon from touching the ground for the longest wins.
This game helps develop listening skills. It is a party game that has stood the test of time. You will need one less chair than there are number of players. Set them up facing outward, into the shape of a circle. Have some music that you can easily turn on and off. Instruct the kids that when the music is on, they can walk around the chairs but cannot sit on them. When the music stops, the children need to find and sit on a chair that is vacant. One child will be without a chair and will be ‘out’. Each time the music stops and a child is ‘out’, take away another chair. The last child with the last chair wins.
This activity promotes the use of sense of smell. In separate identical bowls or identical bags, fill some different and distinct fragrances, such as lavender, chocolate, cinnamon, coffee and/or orange rind. Each participant takes a turn to be blindfolded and presented with each item one at a time. The child who identifies the most items correctly wins.
This activity helps build social skills and problem solving. Collect a picture or create a label of various people that each child is likely to know. Each child should receive a picture or label. With tape, stick one picture/label on each child’s back. Do not let that child know who it is. Each child’s is to try to figure out who they are by asking questions about themselves. The only answers permitted are ‘yes’ and ‘no’. The first child to guess who they are wins.
This game helps develop language skills. Have the kids sit in a circle. One child can volunteer or be selected to call out the first word. The next child has to call out another word that rhymes with the first and so on. When one child can not get a word to rhyme, they are ‘out’ and the next child has a try. The last child left wins.
This game promotes listening and communication. Have the kids sit in a circle. One child can volunteer or be selected to whisper the first sentence into the next person’s ear. The objective is to see if the same sentence will come out of the last child’s mouth. There is no ‘winner’ to this game. It is just fun to try.
Getting to Know Each Other
This game encourages conversation and interaction. Have the kids sit in a circle or around a table. Each child takes turns asking questions about the others as a group. Questions can be: Who has a pet? Who has brothers or sisters? Who plays sports? Depending on how many kids, you can encourage more depth of description into the answers.