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Planning your child’s birthday party should be fun and easy – not stressful. Yet the demands of work, home and everything else can leave you wondering:
“How will I pull together a great party for my child without having to invest a ton time or money?”
I’ve been there, done that, and here is my all-in-one guide for saving your sanity while hosting a great party.
The venue – at home, or at a party venue?
This is something which is up to you. Having your party at home can be a great way to have more flexibility or to pursue a specific theme more easily, since party venues can be restrictive on things such as what type of food may be served, what types of decorations may be used, and so on.
On the other hand, a party venue relieves you of the need to provide entertainment or party games since it’s all there. Also, most party venues offer you the services of a party host for an extra pair of hands cutting the cake, serving drinks and so on. You don’t need to worry about clean-up at a venue either.
I’ve also found the hard way that cost isn’t necessarily cheaper to have it at home – there are a lot of “hidden costs” to having it at home: props, prizes for games, more food options equates to higher costs, and so on. You’ll probably find that one of the more affordable local venues is similar or even cheaper than having the party at home, without any of the worry of having anything accidentally knocked over or broken.
Themes are totally optional! Most kids care a lot more about having fun than whether there is a theme. If you want a fun easy kids birthday party theme, some options that I’ve used in the past very successfully are things like:
- Specific colors – a one, two or three-color combo
- Seasonal – you wouldn’t believe how easy this is! I did a “winter wonderland” theme for my youngest’s last birthday. Depending on the season your child is born, a beach / luau party can be a great option, or an orange and black fall theme, etc.
- Pick a popular theme which is readily available such as licensed characters, etc.
In my experience, the fastest and easiest ways to get inspiration for a theme without having to make anything yourself is to browse what’s available in the invitations and party plates / decor you plan to use. Pick something your child likes, and you’re set! Below are some starting points for invitations and decor that I recommend.
There are many fun and easy ways you can do your invitations, including making your own. Unless you’re super-organized though, you’ll probably find that email invitations are faster and easier than purchasing printed ones or making your own.
If you want to stand out more from the usual Punchbowl / E-vite invitations, I highly recommend Greenvelope for email invitations. They have a great selection of kids birthday party invitations in all kinds of colors or themes. They look really trendy, and you can have Greenvelope handle the RSVP’s for you electronically. You have plenty of options where you get to set things up just the way you want there. You really feel like you’re getting the “white glove” treatment, yet pricing is still cheaper than printing and mailing your own invitations. And your invitations will stand out to your guests – I found the Greenvelope email birthday party invitations for kids to look a lot classier than the Punchbowl or E-vite ones.
In elementary school and beyond, I’ve noticed that email invitations like those above tend to be by far the most widely accepted and usual method of inviting people: parents often have email addresses for other parents from their child’s class even if they don’t have their physical address.
Party plates and decor
Whether the party is at a venue or at your home, you’ll probably want to provide your fun paper plates, napkins, cups, etc (check with the venue if this is allowed before purchasing these – most venues let you use your own but some require you to use their plates etc). Party plates and decor items are a great way to bring out your child’s party theme. If you wish to add extra decor, I typically recommend just one or two decor items like a centerpiece or wall poster – you don’t need to go overboard on this.
For all of these items you can drive to your local party stores to get some ideas, although if that seems like unnecessary work, you buy party plates and matching themed party decor online at Walmart and at Target. I find this is especially helpful when I don't want to trek down to my local store only to find they're out of stock. Online has more options and I love that I can browse any time of day or night and I don’t have to worry about if my kids are making noise, unlike in a brick-and-mortar store!
Favors are totally optional. This is an area where you can definitely save money by having cheap easy favors, or none at all. Some party favors I’ve seen are things like:
- small toys (I mean really inexpensive – things you can get at the dollar store in a pack of 4 for a dollar).
- small individually wrapped chocolates (e.g. Dove brand) in a small bag or mini box – great for all ages
- a few crayons attached to a printed-out coloring sheet
- A mylar balloon each (this can serve as part of the decor during the party)
- special school items – a cute matching pencil and ruler, for example – great for all ages
Don’t get hung up on party favors. Keep them fun, easy and simple. If you’re really into your theme, these can also be a great way to continue the theme, but there is no obligation to “theme” these. For added kudos, I do individually wrapped chocolates for parents, in addition to whatever favors I give out to the children. It really makes your child’s party memorable in the eyes of the adults as well as the kids.
Thank you notes
Thank you notes are an absolute must for your guests – especially if you did not open the gifts at the party itself. Even when opening the gifts at the party, I feel it helps teach our children good etiquette to write a thank you note to guests. For the younger set, writing 15 or so thank you notes is a monumental task so I recommend writing most of the wording yourself and having your child fill in the blanks. e.g. “Dear _____, Thank you for coming to my party. I had a lot of fun! Thank you for your gift of ________. Love, _______.”
I have two recommendations of best places to get kid-themed thank you notes, depending on what you want:
1. Simple & affordable thank you notes:
For cheap and simple thank you notes, check out Target – you can navigate straight to their selection of thank you notes here and pick a simple brightly colored theme that is child-appropriate. You can also shop in-store, but selection may differ from what you see online. It's not always easy to find kid-friendly thank you notes at Target though.
2. Thank you notes that REALLY stand out:
Yes, it is possible to host a fun easy children’s birthday party without requiring a ton of extra work yourself. Just follow the steps above and you’re set!