10 Questions to Ask When Planning a Birthday Party

Eliza Clark
March 12, 2012

Becoming a parent means one thing for certain: you are henceforth signed up to host kid birthday parties for the next 10-15 years. Woohoo! Some of us look forward to celebrating the wondrous day of our child’s birth. Others tremble at the thought of having to entertain a bunch of toddlers/preschoolers/grade-school kids and keep the birthday boy or girl happy.

Indeed, hosting a kid’s birthday party can be a daunting prospect—expectations for birthdays usually run sky high among the little ones, and trying to live up to their birthday dreams can often seem nigh impossible. Mom, I want a unicorn party! I want a unicorn to come over and bring me a crown and make me the queen! And all my friends will do everything I say! Ah, yes, okay. I will work on that, darling.

Before you start researching magical creatures and how to get them into your living room, it’s probably best to work out some of the basics. Here are ten questions to ask to get started.

1. What is the theme? This might not necessarily jump to mind as the first question to ask, but in your child’s mind it looms large. The unicorn-obsessed girl mentioned above is a perfect example. Do not ask the reason why (there’s really no comprehending it)—just go with it. Knowing the theme will influence a lot of your answers to the questions below. For example, how many event spaces offer live unicorn shows? How many performers specialize in unicorn impersonation? You’re going to have to get creative this time.

2. How many kids do you want to include? Some say that the rule of thumb is to invite as many kids as the age of your child. Two kids for two-year-olds, for example. More common, though, is to think about which circles to include: family, family friends, school friends, neighbors, or different combinations thereof. If the whole preschool class is too many, then you could invite just the girls or just the boys. Some schools have guidelines asking families to invite either the whole class or fewer than five in order to spare young feelings.

3. What is your budget? Closely related to how many kids to invite is how much you want to spend. Think carefully because it is way too easy to spend way more than you imagined. And keep in mind that while it can be very fun to throw a big bash at an event space or hire an entertainer, your birthday child will be just as happy with a homegrown party.

4. At home or at an event space? Again, this question is closely tied to the budget and the number of invitees. It’s also a question of time and energy. Do you have enough of both to plan and host the party yourself? Do you love the personal touch, or do you want to kick back a little as the kids celebrate? If it is an especially busy time, perhaps this is the year to hand over the party planning to someone else. If you do decide to have the party at an event space, think about choosing a place to which your child already has a connection, e.g. the Tai Kwon Do studio where she takes classes. The experience will be that much more personal.

5. Will this be a drop-off party or are parents invited to stay? Questions of space, budget and numbers play into this question, as does the age of the children. Toddlers, of course, need a parent or caregiver in close proximity. Some preschoolers may as well, depending on the child and the context. For old-enough kids, ask yourself this: do you want to spend the time chatting with other parents, or do you want to be entirely focused on the children?

6. What kind of activity will there be? Crafts, games, piñatas, performers? The theme will guide you here, but think also of the kinds of activities your child likes. Are arts and crafts popular? Almost any theme can lend itself to an art project. Does the birthday kiddo like dancing Maybe you can find a few theme-related songs and have a dance interlude. And if a unicorn is really required, well then you can always make Dad wear a paper-maché horn; he’s pretty good at playing horsy already.

7. What time of day will the party take place? How long will it last? For this one, it’s always useful to consult with the parents of the invitees. At what time of day are meltdowns least likely? And how long can the little ones last at such an exciting event?

8. Who is helping? If you decide to have the party at home, the next step is to identify your helpers.  A nice babysitter or two, a teenage cousin, a grandparent, or a neighbor can be a huge help on the day of the party. Do not try to do everything yourself!

9. And now for the really important question: Cake or cupcakes?

10. Last but not least: The presents. Do you let your child open them at the party or save them for later? Opening presents at the party seems to have gone out of style, but with a small group of preschoolers or older kids it can actually be quite fun. (Just be ready with pen and paper to note down who gave what.)

Sorry to say, these are just ten out of dozens of questions what will come up in the party planning process. (Evite or snail mail? Pizza or no pizza? What goes in the goody bag? What color balloons? Coffee or wine for the parents?) But if you can answer the above, you are well on your way.  Happy birthdays, little ones! 


From the Parents

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