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Tips for Planning Children’s Birthday Parties

Please welcome Heather from Birthday In A Box. She has written a wonderful guest post with some great tips for planning your child’s birthday party.

Birthday In A Box

Children’s Party Planning Q&A

We understand that planning for a children’s party can be overwhelming, so we have put together answers to the most popular questions.

What is the best time for a children’s party, and how long should it last?

For babies and toddlers up to three years old, when naptime is still a consideration, a one-hour party is long enough. When children are four to seven years old, plan on an hour and a half for the party. By the time children are eight to eleven years old, they can easily handle a two-hour party. Children twelve and up can entertain themselves to some extent, so an evening party or sleepover is appropriate.

The best time of day to have a baby or toddler party is 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. This lets you work around nap time, and is long enough for some play time and cake. As children get older, parties are usually from 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. or 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. This timeframe allows for games, snacks, and cake, but doesn’t require that you serve a meal.

My child has too many toys already! How do I handle this?

One option is to ask your guests to bring an item to be donated to a local organization in lieu of gifts. The birthday child then gets the honor of bringing the donated items to the chosen charity the next day. Here are some ideas:

  • If many of the guests attend the same school, request that they bring a new book for the school library.
  • If your child loves animals, have guests bring pet food to be donated to the local animal shelter.
  • If your church or community runs a food pantry, ask guests to bring their favorite food items to donate.

Other ideas:

  • Have a book exchange. Each guest brings a new, wrapped book to the party. The gifts are all numbered and each guest chooses a number out of a hat. Everyone unwraps the gift that corresponds to their number and everyone goes home with a new book, including the birthday child.
  • Ask for drawings instead of gifts. Ask each guest to draw a picture of something special to them that they would want to share with the birthday child. During the gift-giving portion of the party, each guest shows their drawing to the group. You can save these drawings in a photo album or binder for something special to show your child years later.

If you decide to go the non-gift route, remember to provide clear instructions on the invitations.

How many activities should I plan?

Always add two more games or crafts than you think you will need. These extra ideas will rescue you on the party day if the children finish a game more quickly than you expected. Here is a general rule of thumb:

  • 1-2 games for a toddler party (it is generally accepted to let the kids play freely most of the time)
  • 3-5 activities for a one-hour party
  • 4-6 activities for a two-hour party
  • 5-7 activities for a three-hour party

I’m tired of junky party favors! What else can I do?

Instead of a bag full of little toys, try finding one item that relates to your party theme. Here are some ideas that have worked for other parents:

  • CD of children’s music
  • DVD
  • Book
  • Sand pail and shovel personalized with each guest’s name (beach party)
  • Small baseball, basketball, and football set (sports party)
  • Wings and a wand (fairy party)
  • Sword and shield (knights party)
  • Cowboy vest and hat (western party)

Another popular option is to let guests make their favor as part of a craft activity during the party. For example:

  • Paint a flower pot, and fill it with a plant.
  • Paint or otherwise decorate a wooden birdhouse.
  • Decorate a plain T-shirt with fabric markers, puff paints, and sponge paints.
  • Make a picture frame from popsicle sticks and spray paint it silver. (If possible, take a group photo during the party, and quickly print copies to insert into the frame as each guest leaves.)
  • Look through our selection of craft kits for additional ideas.

How can I make the gift opening less crazy?

Here are a few fun ways to have the birthday child open gifts that cuts down on the frenzy and helps them focus on one gift at a time.

  • Gift Hunt – Before the party, write clues leading to various locations in your home. For instance, “If it’s a gift that you want, it’s a gift that you’ll see . . . When you are looking behind the TV!” After the guests arrive, have an adult gather up the presents and hide them in the locations corresponding to each clue. When it’s time to open presents, hand the birthday child one clue at a time. As he finds each gift, have him open it on the spot.
  • Gift Pass – Have the guests sit in a circle with their gifts in their laps and the birthday child at the head. Tell each guest to hand his or her present one at a time to the birthday child, who stops to open each one before taking another.
  • Musical Gifts – To make the circle strategy more festive, turn it into a game of “Musical Gifts.” Position an adult near a stereo so they can start and stop a song periodically. While the music is playing, have the children pass the presents slowly around the circle. When the music stops, the birthday child opens the gift he or she is holding. Continue to play until all of the gifts have been opened.

Do I need to send thank you notes? Are they really that important?

Yes, thank-you notes are necessary. The note doesn’t have to be long or wordy; it should just mention the gift and thank the giver for coming to the party. Ideally, the notes should be handwritten and sent within two weeks of the party. For children who cannot print yet, you should write the note and have your child draw a picture or sign the bottom.

For more party planning advice, visit the Party Planning Page at Birthday in a Box.

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