8 Steps to an Awesome Birthday Party

Birthday parties are kind of a big deal around here. Each girl spends months choosing and planning her theme. But, I don’t have to spend a lot of time — or money — to make it happen.

After 15 years, I’ve got it down to a science. Our home parties are not only a huge hit with their guests, but they’re fairly simple to for me to put together. Because it’s the same basic formula every, single time.

We’ve had a Fancy Nancy tea party and a Charlie & Lola pink milk party. The girls have celebrated birthdays with a Halloween theme and a Christmas theme. They’ve requested a typical slumber party — and a completely off-the-wall marshmallow party. It’s different every time, but the planning is always the same.

I’m coming up on my 30th kids’ birthday party (a pretend slumber party, because she’s too young for a real one), and even though it’s months away, I know exactly how it will go.

Here are my steps to a successful home party:

  • Make Your Own Invitations 1 of 8
    Make Your Own Invitations
    My favorite invitations are created by building a white 30% opacity layer over a related photo. Then just type in your information and print at the nearest photo counter. I've also used clipart and Word to print them myself at home. It was perfect for this train party invitation — I printed 3 to a page, then used a hole punch to notch out the corners and make it look like a ticket.
  • Keep Decorations Simple 2 of 8
    Keep Decorations Simple
    We don't do a lot of decorating for kids' parties — they mostly want to play and eat cake! A few balloons indoors and something to set the stage on the way in are really all you need. A themed wreath is always a hit. For our truck party a few years ago, we lined the walkway with orange soccer cones and taped construction signs to the door.
    Photo and wreath tutorial via Hoosier Party Girl
  • Dress Up the Birthday Kid 3 of 8
    Dress Up the Birthday Kid
    If the theme is fitting, consider asking the guests to dress up — perfect for a pirate, princess, or super here party! Even if you don't go that far, try to find something related to make the birthday kids stand out. My girls love to theme a birthday party on their most recent Halloween costume so they can wear it again. That's how last year's tea party became a Fancy Nancy Tea.
  • Open with an Easy Craft 4 of 8
    Open with an Easy Craft
    We always open our events with a related craft. It allows time for stragglers to trickle in without missing much and gives the kids a chance to settle down so they aren't keyed up and chaotic. We've made place mats for a tea party, picture frames for a fashion show, and decorated construction hats. The Olympic ring posters we made this year are my all time favorite.
  • Food, Games & Activities 5 of 8
    Food, Games & Activities
    Let the food be part of the theme! We have had cookie or cupcake decorating and homemade pizzas within the party. Mersene Norbom, from Indulge by Mersene suggests including cookie decorating as part of an activity rotation — keeping kids moving, spread out, and focused on simple fun throughout the party.
    Photo Credit: Conway Confidential (used with permission)
  • Have a Backup Plan 6 of 8
    Have a Backup Plan
    I had made a cardboard Wheel of Wow as a decoration for a Webkinz party several years ago. It included a Twister spinner, and when we had a few extra minutes at the end, I pulled it out and let the girls take turns spinning for goodie bags! Mersene suggests a video game station during the party, which is always my backup plan. Rock Band and Just Dance are great group games when you have just a few children left at the end. When things move faster than planned, be ready with something to occupy the kids until parents arrive.
  • Setup a Photo Station 7 of 8
    Setup a Photo Station
    At each party, I take a group photo of the kids in costume, with a fun backdrop or a pose that's somehow related to the theme. I print it for each child after the party, and let my girls write a thank you note on the back.
    Photo and Mario Brothers theme via Hoosier Party Girl
  • Give Simple Favors 8 of 8
    Give Simple Favors
    Instead of a bag of junk the other parents will hate you for, offer a small, related token as a party favor. One of my favorite parties tied everything together — the girls began with stamping a bakery box, spent an afternoon baking cookies, then took home a $1 store spatula tied to their treats!

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