Plan a Theme for Your Child's Birthday Party

A theme offers a focus for your child's birthday invitations, decorations, games, activities, food, and favors, and helps the party fall into place. Organize the party around your child's particular interests. Or ask what your child would like to celebrate at the birthday party, and make games and other activities related to that subject. If you need birthday party suggestions, consider the following: your child's favorite toy or doll, a special movie or television show, a sports figure or the sport itself, a current movie or movie star, a popular song or rock star, a storybook or cartoon character, a super hero or monster, a game or activity, a favorite location or outing, a popular hometown hero or local star, an interesting occupation or hobby, a special food or festival, or a holiday or event.

Plan the Birthday Party with Your Child

Let your child help with the birthday party games and other plans to keep him or her busy during the days or weeks before the special event. That way your child will be actively involved in the creation of the birthday party, from the guest list to the games, which is almost as fun as the party itself. Have your child help make the invitations, decorate the party room, plan the games, organize the activities, prepare the fun foods, and create or choose the favors that go home with the birthday party guests. Engaging your child in the birthday party planning makes the birthday celebration last longer and helps him or her manage the excitement and anticipation.

Plan the Time and Keep it Short

A well-planned child's birthday party begins and ends at specific times and doesn't run too long or too short. Two hours in the morning or afternoon is best, depending on your child's energy level for games and excitement, so think about whether your child does better in the morning or afternoon, and plan the birthday party accordingly. Hosting a child's birthday party for a two-hour period allows time for welcoming the children, playing a number of games and activities, opening presents, sharing refreshments and cake, and saying farewells.

Special Tip: Remind the parents of the exact time your child's party ends. Your birthday party guests usually will have had enough fun and games for one day. Also, your child will need some peace and quiet after all the games, and time to enjoy the gifts and memories of the birthday party.

Plan the Birthday Party Guest List

Have your child plan the birthday party guest list with you and encourage limiting invitations to good friends only. That way you can manage the party size. If you prefer a large group at the birthday celebration, ask a few of the parents to help out during your child's party to keep things under control. Also decide whether relatives will be invited, if adults will be included or just children, and especially how to involve siblings in the birthday party preparations.

Special Birthday Party Tip:If parents can't help out, plan to hire baby-sitters or neighborhood teenagers to assist you during the party. The more hands you have to help out during games and other activities at your child's birthday party, the easier your party will be.

Plan Your Child’s Birthday PartyDecorations to Suit the Theme

First decide where you'll be hosting the birthday party—indoors or out. Let the weather be your guide, making sure to plan for children's party games that you can adapt your activities to indoor or outdoor play at the last minute. Be sure you have enough room for your birthday party guests to play games, and that no valuable breakables are in the area. Decorate the party room or yard to suit the theme. Create a backdrop that sets the mood of your child's birthday party by using poster board, construction paper, crepe paper, balloons, special lighting, and appropriate music. Give the birthday child a crown, a cape, a make-over, a new outfit, a certificate of achievement, a distinctive place setting, or a special toy or prop.

Special Tip: Let the birthday child help out with creating the birthday party decorations. It helps to keep the child busy and involved in the upcoming celebration. Create lots of do-it-yourself birthday decorations rather than use store-bought ones to make the party more personal. Close areas of the house or yard that are off limits to children, and remove anything in the party area that is dangerous, breakable, or valuable. Also remove any of your child's toys that he or she does not want to share with the birthday party guests.

Plan Your Child’s Birthday Party Games and Activities

Planning a perfect child's birthday party means being prepared with both quiet activities and vigorous games for your guests. Mixing up the types of games you offer allows them to warm up slowly, release pent-up energy, then cool down at the end of the birthday party. If they don't know each other well, start out with a gentle introductory game. Play a few active games—preferably outside—after the children have relaxed and become comfortable. Then settle down with a quiet game or activity in preparation for your child's birthday cake and ice cream, and opening of the gifts.

Special Tip: You can never plan too many games or activities at a child's birthday party, but you can have too few games—and that can be disastrous. Be sure you plan more games and activities than you think you need, in case the kids run through the games quickly, or the party goes overtime. Birthday celebrations often turn to chaos when there's not enough games to keep energetic partygoers busy. Keep a collection of your child's art materials or boxed games nearby to bring out when there's nothing left to do.

Plan Your Child’s Birthday Party Goodies

Birthday cake and ice cream are usually the highlight of a child's party, but you may want to limit sweets and plan to provide some healthy snacks or meals so partygoers won't overload on junk food. Have handy treats around your child's friends, but make them low in sugar and high in nutrition, such as cheese and crackers, pieces of fruit, nuts, raisins, or cut-up veggies. If you prefer to serve a more nutritious birthday cake than the usual variety, try angel food or carrot cake topped with fruit, jam or softened frozen yogurt for your child's party.

Plan Prizes for Both Winners and Losers of Party Games

Losing a game can take away the fun for some of the guests at your child's birthday party, so don't overemphasize winning, especially with younger kids. Losing games often leads to disappointment, frustration, and tears. If older children appreciate competition, offer a few games that allow them to challenge one another, with group winners instead of individual game winners. And plan to offer enough games to give every child a chance to win.

Special Game-Planning Tip: Every time a child someone loses a game, offer a funny prize, such as a rubber snake or a silly hat. that way, your child's guest doesn't feel bad about losing a game, and still feels like a winner.

Plan for Surprises

Remember the purpose of all this planning is a happy birthday party for your child! Sometimes the guest of honor becomes overwhelmed with all the attention received on this special occasion. Give your child time to relax, and relieve the stress of all the excitement by planning a few quiet games, activities or distractions before and after the birthday party. Understand and acknowledge your child's moods and feelings, and help your child find positive ways to enjoy the games, food and fun of this very exciting day. Sometimes the pressure and attention can get to be too much, so give your child a break in the middle of the birthday party excitement, if necessary, by having him or her help serve the food, set up a game, or plan a special task.

Special Tip: Be sure your child has a proper meal and a rest or quiet time before the birthday party begins. Encourage your child to talk about all the feelings that are bubbling up.

Plan for Problems

Stuff happens, especially at birthday parties. If you expect things to go wrong now and then, you won't be surprised when they do. Keep your sense of humor and try to adjust to the unexpected. If the kids don't enjoy a game, or refuse a food, or won't participate in the party fun, be creative and make some suitable changes that please everyone. If siblings have trouble with the birthday festivities, involve them in the party planning so they can feel a part of the fun. Have them invite a friend to the birthday party to play with, and even let them join in on the games if they're age-appropritate. Or, give them something special to do at the party to help out and make them feel important, like organizing games. And give them a thank-you gift before or after the birthday party to let them know you appreciate their help.

Special Tip: Watch for the child who doesn't seem to fit in while others play games and activities. Extra attention and special guidance during games can help him or her enjoy the party, too.

Plan for Fun

Remember the purpose of all this planning is a happy birthday party for your child! Sometimes the guest of honor becomes overwhelmed with all the attention received on this special occasion. Give your child time to relax, and relieve the stress of all the excitement by planning a few quiet games, activities or distractions before and after the birthday party. Understand and acknowledge your child's moods and feelings, and help your child find positive ways to enjoy the games, food and fun of this very exciting day. Sometimes the pressure and attention can get to be too much, so give your child a break in the middle of the birthday party excitement, if necessary, by having him or her help serve the food, set up a game, or plan a special task.

Special Tip: Be sure your child has a proper meal and a rest or quiet time before the birthday party begins. Encourage your child to talk about all the feelings that are bubbling up.

Plan for Yourself!

Since you're planning everything from the birthday cake to the games, treat yourself to a bath, a quiet moment, or a special activity before or after the birthday party to help you enjoy the festivities. Then pat yourself on the back for a well-planned, creative, and one-of-a-kind birthday party that your child will remember for years to come.

Special Tip: If you plan everything ahead of time, the party will surely be a piece of cake!