Ask anyone about their happiest childhood memories, and they’ll probably mention their birthday parties. A child’s birthday is a whole day that’s purely their own, and one that only comes once per year. Cake, presents, party games, dancing and of course, the all-important goody-bags – what could be better?
If you’re looking to throw the perfect birthday party for your little one, but you don’t know where to start, look no further than this guide. We’ll talk you through the entire process of organising a brilliant kid’s birthday bash. We’ll offer you plenty of handy hints and ideas for making your child’s special day fun, memorable, and run smoothly from start to finish.
1. Examine Your Budget
The first step to throwing a successful kids’ birthday bash is to assess your budget. Do this before you make any promises to your child about what kind of party you’ll throw. You don’t want to guarantee something that you won’t be able to deliver, or to end up having to borrow money to cover the costs. It’s easy for seemingly small expenses to add up without you really noticing.
Start by deciding upon the total amount you’re willing to dedicate to this celebration. Then, break this budget down into what you can afford to spend on each individual element.
• Venue hire
• Transport to and from the venue
• Decorations (e.g. banners and balloons)
• Entertainment (e.g. magician, clown, balloon artist, bouncy castle hire)
• Food and drink
• Napkins, tablecloths, plates and cutlery (hire or purchase)
• The birthday cake
• Party invitations and thank-you cards (including postage)
• Goody bags, crafts, and party game prizes
You might need to cut costs in some areas if you want to splurge on others. For example, if your kiddo has their heart set on a party at an expensive trampoline park, you might consider making the cake yourself, rather than hiring a professional baker.
2. Find a Theme
All great birthday parties have a theme of some sort. This can be anything from a colour, to a TV programme, to a mythical creature or character. Some great ideas for kids’ birthday party themes include:
• Medieval (knights and princesses)
• Under the sea
• Soft play
• Outer space
• The jungle
Obviously, you’ll want to tailor this to your child’s special interests. The theme will influence everything from the decorations to the entertainment. You could even ask the party guests to dress up accordingly!
3. Decide on Guest Numbers
Next, you’ll going to decide on how many guests to invite your child’s party. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
• How many guests can my child handle without getting overwhelmed? For younger kids, the child’s age plus one is a good rule of thumb. For example, invite 5 kids to a 4-year-old’s party.
• Will family members attend (grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins) or should this be a kids-only party, with family visiting on a different day?
• Should parents drop their kids off and go home again, or should they stay for the party? (Generally, parents stay at parties until their child is around 6-7 years old. This may differ for children with additional needs, or venues that require extra supervision.)
• How many guests can my budget afford? (Remember you’ll have to feed everyone, and provide goody-bags for the kids.)
Deciding on your guest list before choosing the venue will allow you to filter suitable party locations based on their capacity. Don’t forget to count caterers, venue staff, entertainers and the parents of young guests (if they’ll be staying for the party).
If the venue is already decided (because your child has requested a party at a specific place), find out their capacity before you compose your guest list.
4. Choose a Venue
Certain themes naturally lend themselves to particular venues. For example, if your child loves princes and princesses, an ancient castle might be an excellent location. Or if you’re planning an under-the-sea themed bash, why not see if your local aquarium offers group discounts?
If your theme could work anywhere, search around for hireable halls and function rooms. These venues are like blank slates, ready for you to decorate to suit your theme. Make sure it’s somewhere that is easy to get to, and has ample on-site parking. The venue should be no more than a 30-minute drive away from wherever your guests live.
Before booking the venue, ensure the capacity is large enough for your needs, that it’s available on your chosen day, and that it’s within your budget. Alternatively, you can always host the party at your home, to save on costs.
5. Create a Party Timeline
Now you can decide on a rough timeline for the party. The most important thing is to settle on a start time and end time. Your guests will need to know when they should arrive, and when they should expect to leave. This way, the parents of attending children can plan their day around the party.
To begin with, have a rough idea of how long you want the party to go on for. For toddlers and pre-school children, an hour to an hour and a half is appropriate. Avoid the hours of 1pm to 3pm, as this is prime nap time.
School-aged children do well with 2-3 hour long parties. Ideally, hold it on a weekend or school holiday. A party on a school night may clash with after school clubs, parents’ work schedules and bedtime routines.
6. Design the Perfect Party Invitations
Once you’ve booked the venue, finalised your guest list and decided the start and end times, you’re ready to design and send out your party invitations! Make sure to include:
• The birthday child’s name and age
• The full address of the venue
• Start and end times
• A way for your guests to RSVP (phone number, email address, or reply slip that they can fill out and give back to you) and a clear deadline for replying
• Gift ideas (optional)
Warn parents if the party will be fancy-dress, held outdoors, or involve crafts/messy play (so that they can dress their child appropriately). And if the party is outdoors, be sure to have a plan in place for bad weather. Will the party still go on if it’s raining? If not, will you move the celebration indoors, or reschedule it? (Mention this on the invitation.)
To make a real impression on your guests and get them excited for the party, we’d recommend ordering custom party invitations from 123Print. You can edit one of our pre-existing templates, or create your own design to perfectly match your theme. Your invitations will be printed on high-quality cardstock and sent to you complete with envelopes.
7. Organise the Catering
Food of some kind is expected at any child’s birthday party. A brilliant way to save money here is to make or prepare it yourself. Traditional children’s party fayre, such as sandwiches, mini sausage rolls, crisps and biscuits are cheap and easy to throw together. Finger buffets also go down well with fussy kids, as they can choose what to eat.
If you’d rather go all-out, you could book a catering service, order in, or take the children to a restaurant or diner. Make sure that whatever you choose is within your budget.
Don’t forget the birthday cake! Are you going to make your own, buy one from a shop, or have a custom cake made by a professional baker? The choice is yours. Making your own is the cheapest option, but also the most time-consuming.
Remember that a lot of children have food allergies and intolerances. Their parents should inform you of this in advance. If you’re worried, include a note on the invitation asking anyone with dietary requirements to get in touch.
8. Book Entertainment
The most important part of any kid’s party is the entertainment. If you’re hosting the celebration at a soft play centre or a laser tag arena, for example, then the entertainment speaks for itself. But if you’re hosting the party at your house or a ‘blank slate venue’, you can choose whether to make your own fun, or hire a professional. Here are some popular ideas:
• Hire a bouncy castle
• Book a balloon artist, clown, magician, puppeteer, etc
• Face painting (hire a professional face painter, or buy some paints and do it yourself)
• Slime making
• Crafts, such as painting, tie-dying shirts, or making your own bracelet or keyring
• Retro party games, such as “pass the parcel”, “musical chairs” and “pin the tail on the donkey”
Whatever you choose, ensure it’s age-appropriate (not only for the birthday child, but for the other guests, too).
9. Make, Purchase or Hire Decorations
If you’re hosting your child’s party at home or at a hired hall, you’ll need to think about decorations. This, of course, doesn’t apply if the party will be held at somewhere like a paintballing centre or an aquarium.
You can hire a professional to decorate the venue for you, if you have the spare cash. If not, you can make or purchase the décor yourself, and have a family member or friend help you decorate.
Balloons, banners and buntings are the classic birthday party decorations. Really, they’re all that’s needed for a basic celebration. However, if your party is going to have a theme, try to tie in the décor with it. Pink and purple sparkly buntings, for example, would suit a princess party – but may not work well for a safari or pirate-themed bash.
10. Build the Goody Bags
Any great kids’ birthday party has goody bags (also known as party bags). These are small bags (made of paper or plastic) that contain a small number of treats and toys. Every child who attends the party gets to keep a goody bag and bring it home, including the birthday child.
Prepare your party bags in advance, choosing a few treats and toys to go inside each one. Foam aeroplanes, candy necklaces, plastic animal figurines, crayons, bubble blowers and stickers are great go-to goodies. On the day, don’t forget to add the obligatory slice of birthday cake wrapped in foil!
If you’ll be having retro party games, such as pin the tail on the donkey, don’t forget to organise prizes for these, too.
11. Send Thank You Cards
After the party is over and your guests have all gone home, you’ll probably be completely worn out. But don’t relax quite yet! There’s still one last thing to do, and it’s one of the most important tasks of all: sending out thank you cards.
Everyone who attended the party deserves a card or a letter thanking them for attending, and for bringing a gift for the birthday child (if applicable). If any of the attending children’s parents helped you out with the celebration, it’s polite to thank them, too.
123Print offers a wide selection of thank you cards that would be suitable for any event. All of our cards are fully customisable – and you can even design your own, to match your theme. Aim to have your cards sent out within a week of the party, so that you don’t forget who gave what!