Give your kids the party of their dreams and stay organized in the process.
Kids may look forward to their birthday parties all year long, but let’s face it: For many of us, planning that party can be stressful, yet another project in our already hectic lives. It can feel overwhelming even before you consider kids’ high expectations for the perfect birthday. But don’t panic—we are here to help! To keep you organized, here’s a timeline of everything you need to make the planning process run smoothly, whether you are hosting the party at home or at one of the many local birthday party places. From when to book the venue to when to buy supplies (hint, not as early as you may think!), we’ve got you covered.
Six Months Prior
This might seem like a very long time in advance to start planning your child’s birthday party, but if you’re thinking of doing it at a party venue, it can book up fast. Now is the time to start getting an idea of what your child wants, including themes, places, and the size of the guest list. It wouldn’t hurt to start calling possible venues about availability.
Three Months Prior
Book the venue! Better to be safe than sorry.
Start thinking about a theme. If your child is old enough, discuss it with him. You can start putting together a Pinterest board to collect all of your ideas and inspiration. This is also a great way to get the birthday boy or girl involved, says Seri Kertzner, owner of Little Miss Party Planner, a party planning service in New York City and the Hamptons. “Kids love talking and planning for a specific theme especially when it comes to the look of the cake,” she says. “Let your little one help you sketch a picture of the cake to show your bakery.”
Do you want entertainment at your child’s party? Now is the time to start thinking about booking clowns, magicians, or any characters that will make an appearance. Be sure to ask all entertainers about set-up requirements and backups in case they are sick.
Two Months Prior
Confirm the date with the venue and go over the details. Be sure to find out what they will they be providing in the way of food, cake, decorations, and favors. Pick menu items and décor and make a list of anything additional you will need to buy or prepare. Make arrangements to get whatever is not provided by the venue.
This is also a good time to start thinking about the guest list. If your child’s in school, there might be a policy in which all children in her class must be invited. If not, decide on the size of the party and be sure to keep your budget in mind. Many venues offer parties for 10-12 kids and can charge a hefty price for additional guests.
One Month Prior
Mail (or email) invitations and make sure they have a clear RSVP date. This is also
another prime opportunity to get your child involved. The experts at MarthaStewart.com suggest, “Have him or her draw on paper (or a blank puzzle) and color in the designs, cut out pictures to glue onto blank invitations, or put stickers on cards.”
Make sure you line up help for the day of the party. Confirm that a babysitter, close friend, or relative will be on hand to help in whatever way you need.
Start shopping for supplies. “You don’t want to shop too far in advance for kids ages 3-6 years old—that may be too early,” says Marla Mase, of owner of Party Poopers, a party planning company in NYC. “Remember, kids change their minds a lot—and what they liked three months ago may be very different than what they like today.”
Two Weeks Prior
Order the cake if you don’t plan on baking it yourself.
And if you are baking it yourself, check the recipe, make your shopping list, and get the necessary ingredients.
If the party is at home, start thinking of games and activities for the
children to play. There are plenty of online resources with ideas, and be sure to ask your child because he may have a very specific idea of what he wants to do at the party.
One Week Prior
The party is getting close! This is the time to start tying up loose ends and confirming all details are correct.
Follow up on any unanswered invitations.
Prepare the goodie bags.
You’ll need the bags themselves, of course, and the contents to go in them. And remember, you can give small games, pencils or erasers, or even small books in addition to, or instead of, candy, to cut down on the sugar.
Make sure you have enough storage on your phone for pictures. Time to make some tough decisions! But better than being caught without a camera available at the party.
Get the space ready. If you are having the party at home, now is a time to clean, clear space, and move valuables and breakable things out of the way.
If the party is not at home, confirm the timeline with your venue. What is the order activities? When should the food arrive? And so on.
Have a back-up plan. “If you’re hosting a party outdoors you must
have a back-up plan, including a space indoors. Check the weather and two days out make your call. Board games, snacks, and movies, and you’re set if you find you need to make a last-minute change,” Kertzner says.
The Day of the Party
Deep breaths! Hopefully, you have planned far enough ahead to only need to take care of a few minor details and prep work on the big day. Here are some things to consider:
• Get the house ready for the big day.
• Decorate, set the table, prepare activities, and confirm with entertainment that morning.
• Bake or pick up the cake.
• Know where the candles and matches are.
• Set up the food.
• Clear a table for presents.
• Make sure to have a pad and pen on hand when you open presents to record who gave what.
Finally, “Be relaxed!” Kertzner says. “The most important thing is for your kids to have a good time. If you chose a good venue they will take care of every detail so you can be a guest and enjoy your child’s party.”
Several Days After
Write thank you notes. Have your child assist you in thanking her guests for coming to her party.
Younger kids can dictate their message to you or draw a picture on the notes; older kids can sign their names, while those who can write their own notes should do so themselves.
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