We hosted our son and daughter’s birthday party last weekend and it was a blast. As is the case with any event you choose to host, there is some planning and work involved, but if you do those things well, you can reap the benefits of that work and enjoy the event alongside your children and your guests.
And, if you haven’t already, print off this Birthday Party Planning Printables Bundle to keep track of all of those fund details.
Then, move on to the next steps…….
5 – Activities
We have always printed on the party invitations “Please, no gifts”, but our uber-generous family and friends disregarded that instruction. This year, when we talked to the people we invited, we said, “Please don’t bring gifts.” And they didn’t. Which was exactly what we wanted. However, not having a designated time where the guests watch the birthday boy or girl unwrap presents meant having one less thing to entertain our guests. And it never occurred to me until after the party was over.
We didn’t even sing ‘Happy Birthday’. *gasp*
Our goal was to enjoy a morning with friends and family eating yummy food and playing, so that was the framework under which we chose our activities.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t sing ‘Happy Birthday’ or unwrap gifts. But because we weren’t doing those things, we had to think about how people would spend their time once they were done with their doughnuts.
Lawn games are a big deal in our family. We love them and play them frequently. And because we do it, our kids love to “play” too. So we decided to have Bean Bag Toss, Ladder Golf & Lawn Yahtzee. All of these games were owned by us or our family members, so we didn’t have to purchase anything.
This was the first year that we had an activity for the kids. There were lots of fun ideas for this on Pinterest, but I chose pumpkin painting because it was simple, fun, and required supplies that we already had (except for the pumpkins).
My original plan was to buy mini pumpkins and give each kid one to paint with sponge brushes. But when I was shopping for a few party supplies at Hobby Lobby, I came across some wood & paper cut-out pumpkins and decided that was exponentially easier and cheaper. So we went that route. And it worked out great.
I’ve wanted to do a Photo Booth of sorts at each of my kids’ parties, but never spent the money or time to create that. I found these photos on Pinterest and decided that I could do something like this with stuff that I already had.
My booth doesn’t look nearly as good. And it shouldn’t. Those were put together by professional party planners. Who get paid to create those. But it served the purpose. It was a cute spot for guests to take photos – of their family and with the birthday boy & girl.
But if I wouldn’t have set some flowers in front of a leftover hay bale, I wouldn’t have this money shot. Which will end up in each of their wedding slide shows. If that’s still a thing in 20 years.
Party Planning Tip: Designate someone – a family member or close friend – to take pictures during the party. My sister-in-law is awesome about this. I don’t even have to remember to ask anymore. The only reason any of the photos from this day exist is because she picked up the camera throughout the morning and just starting clicking away.
6 – Favors
This was my first foray into favors. I refused to do favors at my wedding because I thought they were a waste of time and money. But I found a few cute and cheap ideas on Pinterest that made me realize that I could put together goodie bags that our guests would be able to enjoy as a token of appreciation for coming to spend time with our kids.
I got the idea to color jack-o-lantern faces on orange fruit cups (from Pinterest) and decided to put two or three other snacks in there that weren’t pure sugar. I’ve talked before about my love for all things GoGo squeeZ, so that was an obvious choice. Good old fruit snacks – in orange packaging, of course – rounded out the treat part of the favors. I went with mini play-dohs and glow stick bracelets. I figured every kid has play-doh, so they could add to their stash. The bracelets were a nod to my daughter because she loves all things jewelry and anything that lights up. I was the least excited about that piece, but I reminded myself that this is HER party and that while I see them as junk, they bring a smile to kids’ faces, so I got over myself and put them in my cart.
Favors are another area where spending can easily get away from you. Start by making a budget. Decide how much you will spend per kid or overall, and work within those constraints. Make a list of the contents, packaging and where you will purchase each item.
Party Planning Tip: If your kids are old enough, have them assemble these and talk about how they show gratitude to the people who are coming.
Oh, and if you decide to include glow sticks, be careful not to crack the sticks when you’re tying the bags. Hypothetically.
7 – Purchase
Create a master shopping list organized by store. Using your other lists, write down each item that you need at each store. This will help minimize unnecessary trips and wasted time.
Party Planning Tip: Grab an empty bin and dub it the ‘Party Bin’. As you collect and purchase items for the party, toss them this bin so that they’re all in one, central location. A week or two before the party, grab a few more empty bins and boxes and designate each one for an area or activity (i.e. Food Table, Craft Area, Favors, etc.). Sort all of the items from your ‘Party Bin’ into these separate, smaller bins to make set up easier by taking each bin to it’s location during set up, and then you will have everything you need for that area with you.
8 – Set Up
Do as much as you can ahead of time. It is key to helping you enjoy the event while it’s happening. But, there are things that you can’t do until right before the party begins.
Instead of a birthday cake, we had a donut tower, which I obviously couldn’t create until I had the donuts. I got the idea from Pinterest and the picture had this cute cake topper. I cut out the flags for the cake topper and got the other pieces needed for it and put all of them on the cake stand that the tower would be on. This cut the assembly time for the tower in half the morning of the party. Do this as much as you can.
As you’re making all of your other lists, write down the tasks that you will need to do as well. Write down any times that are pertinent (i.e. pick-up times or cooking times). This will be your golden ticket on party day.
Party Planning Tip: ENJOY YOURSELF
Once the party starts, do whatever you have to do to enjoy yourself. You’ve done the work ahead of time to get you to this point so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. And watch your kids enjoy those fruits too. If you have a second, think back to your goal. And enjoy yourself.
And, if you must, sing ‘Happy Birthday’.