How to organise a child's birthday party - by age | Bub Hub

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How to organise a kid’s birthday party – by age

Four year old boy celebrating his birthday, blowing candles on homemade baked cake.Children’s birthday parties can strike fear into the hearts of mortal parents.

They can be fraught with tears and tantrums – and that’s just the parents!  But they are also memorable and a joyful way to celebrate your beautiful child with family and friends.

So how do you avoid last-minute panic and create an event that enjoyable for your guests (and you)?  Plan, plan, plan. And start planning in plenty of time – we suggest about two months before the big day.

With the knowledge and experience of our many Bub Hub forum members who’ve organised many  hundreds and thousands of kids’ birthday parties between them,  we’ve put together a guide to kids parties by age group.

1st birthday – party tips

Step 1: Location

Will it be at home? At the local park? For a first birthday, home is the most common place.

Step 2: Time

Always avoid your bub’s nap time, but apart from that it comes down to what you prefer.

Step 3: Invitees

As your bub is still young, they won’t really have “friends” to invite, as such. It would be your friends and family – and that might include other kids too. Limit the numbers though, as bub could get overwhelmed by cuddles from so many people.

Step 4: Theme

With kids this little, they may not really be fussed on a particular theme, but it can be fun to do anyway. You could do a Teddy bear’s picnic or bright colours theme.

Step 5: Food

This will depend on the time – whether or not you’ve organised it over a meal time. For parties with no meal – just make your ordinary finger foods and drinks for the adults. For littlies serve cheese cubes, carrot sticks, homemade mini muffins – anything their little hands can grasp and munch away at. If you have a theme, try to do some foods that match.

Step 6: Entertainment

One-year-olds usually aren’t mobile or co-ordinated enough for structured games, so tearing open pressies and blowing out candles is fun enough for your one-year-old. You could arrange a play area and put on some music so the kids can dance, or get someone to read a story. The adults will be entertained enough chatting and catching up among themselves. If it suits, try to get music or stories that match your theme. Renting a ball pit might be a nice change of pace and something the kids would enjoy.

TIP: Keep it simple. Enlist help to watch the little ones. Avoid balloons, nuts, or hard lollies.

2nd birthday party tips

Step 1: Location

As with their first birthday, at home is usually the go – but a park or an indoor play centre might be fun as the kids are getting more mobile.

Step 2: Time

Again, avoid nap time. Apart from that you should be good.

Step 3: Invitees

These will mainly be your friends and family again.

Step 4: Theme

Your little one might have a favourite character or even just a favourite colour by now – so go ahead and use one of those if you want a theme. You can go little bit further than the previous year with invitations, partyware, and a cake to match.

Step 5: Food

Try mini quiches, veggie sticks, cheese cubes, homemade pies, muffins, sausage rolls, and pizzas. Serve water, and maybe juice as a treat. Adults will still need to be catered for as well, but many of the same foods can be used.

Step 6: Entertainment

Keep games quick and simple, such as Ring a Ring of Roses. Keep entertainment short so they don’t become bored. If you want to hire someone, try a clown or a puppet show. For simpler play – put toys on mats in different areas and the children will wander between them. For example, dolls in one area, cars in another, animals else-where and so forth. That way they can play together or individually depending on what they want to do.

TIP: Try a children’s party centre – food, drinks and entertainment are included in the price and there is no cleaning up. For at-home parties, keep wipes handy and mention the toilet to any tots who are in training.
FORUM: Chat with other parents about your ideas for your child’s next birthday.

3rd Birthday

Step 1: Location

The kids would probably love to go to a park at this age. At home parties are always great but better for less mobile kids.

Step 2: Time

Morning or midday when they’re at their most cooperative. Limit the party to two hours or less.

Step 3: Invitees

Again family and friends – but your little one might have some friends of their own this time around.

Step 4: Theme

Littlies love make-believe so have a dress-up party. Pick whichever genre your child likes best (e.g. superheroes, fairies, princesses, pirates) and get all the kids to dress up in that genre.

Step 5: Food

Similar to a two-year-old party will be fine – mini quiches, veggie sticks, homemade pies – and parents can eat the same if they are staying (and they probably should to help wrangle all the kids). Maybe make a healthy punch as well as water for drinks.

Step 6: Entertainment

This is a great age to hire entertainment if you can afford it. You can hire fairies, superheroes, magicians, or even a jumping castle! Dress-up boxes are also a big hit (unless you’ve got a dress-up theme). Include some short games – try Pass the Parcel, Musical Chairs, Pin the Tail on the Donkey – and get enough prizes to go around.

TIP: To quieten hyped-up kids, change to passive games such as Pass the Parcel or storytelling. Remember to show all the kids where the toilet is – some might still be toilet training too, so keep that in mind.

4th Birthday

Step 1: Location

If you haven’t for previous years, this might be a good time to hire out a party venue like an indoor play centre.

Step 2: Time

Similar to the three-year-old – a time that they are most co-operative like morning to midday.

Step 3: Invitees

By this age, your child should have some little friends they can pick out themselves to make a list. Sometimes the parents will leave them at the party, so make sure you’ve got some help on hand to supervise. One general guide is to let your child invite the same number of friends as they age they’re turning – so a 4-year-old invites four friends – too many more could be overwhelming for the child (and the parents!)

Step 4: Theme

Try a mad hatter’s party; get the kids to make a funny hat each. Or, have a dance party with a disco ball and lots of their favourite songs.

Step 5: Food

Set out toppings and get kids to decorate their own pizzas or cupcakes. Alternatively, consider a caterer – some even clean-up for you! If you’re going to a play centre, the food will usually be included.

Step 6: Entertainment

Games like Musical Statues, What’s the Time Mr Wolf, balloon races, or a treasure hunt are great. For hired entertainment, try a reptile show or craft party.

TIP: Keep a first-aid kit on hand and the phone numbers of parents who leave the party. Make sure all the kids know where the toilets are.

Don’t forget:

  • Lolly bags/party favours – Look out for costume jewellery, stickers, little cars and pencils. Visit $2 shops and add a few gems to your shopping basket at the supermarket each week. Stores like Kmart, Target and Big W stationery sections can also be a treasure trove for party bags.
  • The camera – Make sure cameras/phones have fully charged batteries, and have plenty of memory to catch all the special moments.
  • For at-home parties, you’ll have to get your humble abode ready for lots of littlies:
    • remove breakable objects
    • cover sharp corners and power sockets
    • put safety gates on stairs
    • shut away pets
    • restrict the party to certain areas to minimise mess

So get a jump on the next children’s birthday party you need to plan – and keep this age guide to kids’ parties at hand! For more ideas and directory lists of party planners, party venues, entertainers and more, see our kids birthday parties & celebrations info hub.

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