Home     Just for Women     Parties     Party Guide    

Tips for throwing a winning homemade birthday party

Tips from a party mom

Birthdays are probably the most important day for kids. They count down the hours and minutes and even mark that half-way point so your five-year-old one day proudly states they are now “five and a half.” I’ve hosted many at-home parties that my kids still remember, and have been to many where I’ve observed what works and what doesn’t.  Here’s my tried and true list of recommendations so you can plan and execute a truly special event for your kid’s birthday.

FOUR HOURS MAX — that is, unless your child is 4 or under, then two hours is plenty. This doesn’t mean you have to end the party exactly four hours later (or two, whatever the case may be) but it sets the parameters for the kids and gives a time frame so parents know when it’s time for pick-up. Creating a schedule that everyone can follow, including guests, parents of guests, and party helpers makes for a smooth event.

READ MORE: Make your own party invites

ACTIVITIES — are the key to a successful kid event. My crucial advice for the day is this: when it comes to kids you must over-plan Have more activities on the side just because you never know what will bomb — when the kids lose interest in your planned activity, then you’ve lost control. Have 2 or 3 “plan B’s.”

FOOD — keep it simple. Most important: don’t serve at the start. Kids are way too excited when they arrive and aren’t interested in eating yet. Have an activity ready to go once all your kids have arrived and then eat 1.5 to 2 hours into the party, or 45 minutes after for little ones. Food should be simple, like pizza, something quick and easy; make sure to find out about food allergies or special needs before hand. Have water available at all times or a low-sugar drink. 

WIND DOWN — Younger kids will probably be cranky and overtired, and that’s the time to bring out a calming down activity like the “quiet game” where kids who are quieter the longest win a prize. Other options include a simple coloring page, drawing, a craft, puzzles, brain quizzes, story telling, let them sing songs karaoke style, board games, or card games. They may still run around afterwards but this will set the tone that the main event has come to a close.

READ MORE: No-gift parties!

— you will need at least one helper there specifically to run when needed, prepare for the next event and assist with clean up as you deal with the parents and pickup time. If someone has an accident or needs help with something your helper will be there to jump in. I would suggest not nominating your husband for this role but rather someone who likes to do this, enlist another mom, or a teen babysitter. Let Dad be in charge of taking pictures and video-taping.

IF THINGS DON’T GO AS PLANNED — Move on, kids are resilient and go with the flow. Make sure you have a rain date for an outdoor party, or some sort of indoor “plan B.” You need to keep in mind that just because your child likes to color or make crafts doesn’t mean everyone invited will too, so have a variety of activities and crafts ready. One “out of control” child will most certainly influence another and before you know it, you have a mutiny on your hands. Balance your activities so you have some that burn off energy and others that settle them down.

THEME IDEAS: Some party themes to consider: for the music lovers: an “American Idol” event, or a “dance-off.” Or for active ones: an “olympics” with field games and gold, silver and bronze medals.

Alicia D’Amico lives in Chester with her husband, three children and two dogs.