Lessons Learned: Throwing Kids’ Birthday Parties

Party: The word conjures up a few specific images for me.  Kitchen conversations.  A frosty beer on the porch with good friends.  That glorious I-ate-just-enough-but-not-too-much full feeling you get when you talk with friends around the table after a successful dinner.  Whether it’s a big shindig for a special occasion or a small impromptu gathering we threw together the night before, I love hosting and preparing for parties. My usual ritual is to designate a specific playlist on my iPod and stand over the stove with a drink waiting on that first knock at the door.  Just before a party is one of the few times that my house is in order and is one of those moments when the anticipation factor is palpable.  I love it.  Cleaning for it.  Planning for it.  Cooking for it.  Love it all.

But I found out last weekend that hosting a kid’s party is a little different.

The internet was a wealth of information for me when planning Jude’s first birthday party, and I have so much I want to write down before I forget it all.  Rather than posting one huge, long, overly wordy and photo-heavy post that nobody wants to read in one sitting, I’m dividing it up, so I’ll be writing all week to capture every little detail.  I figured a great place to start would be with some basic lessons I learned or things that surprised me because this was not a cocktail conversation, dinner-makin’, feet up relaxin’, before-I-had-a-child kind of party.  Not at all. It was still a GREAT time though, and I finished remembering why birthday parties seemed like such magic when I was a kid.  They are for sure a special kind of magic – and a chaos all their own.  So things I learned?

  1. In terms of party prep, everything takes at least 10 times longer when you have a kid around. I did the vast majority of prep work in the days before.  By the time the morning of the party rolled around, all I had left to do was clean my house, assemble sandwiches, and ice cupcakes.  Easy right?  Not so much with a toddler around apparently.  The party started at 4:00 and we were slapping sandwiches together at 3:56.  No joke.
  2. Once guests arrive, if you have more than a handful of children present, it will erupt to absolute craziness at one time or another. Deal with it.  Embrace it perhaps.  But there is no point in fighting it.
  3. The dollar store can be your best friend. I made numerous trips to the dollar store to get most everything we needed for details and decor – ribbon, the makings of my tablescape, candy, glass containers, paper plates…. I’ll be posting specifics on all of this later, but it seriously saved us A TON of money.
  4. They are SO MUCH FUN to plan. I am not the most creative person on the planet, so I really just scanned the internet for ideas and copied most of them, adding some personal touches along the way.  It was such a fun party to prepare for! I’m already contemplating next year’s theme. I shouldn’t admit that.
  5. Present opening, even if you don’t want it to be, will be the focus of the party for at least a good portion of it. Short of not opening gifts at the party, I am not really sure if there is any way you can prevent this. And you guys know how I feel about gifts and excess. I honestly didn’t even want to open the presents at the party simply because he is so young and can’t even open them and honestly wasn’t all that interested at that present moment (although he loves them now).  My husband said though, and it’s true, that if people did bring gifts, they’d want to see him open them, and I didn’t want to be rude.  Luckily many of our guests abided by my rude request and either did not bring a gift or brought a simple book or two.  We did get a handful of toys but nothing crazy large that I don’t have room or need for.  I enlisted some kids at the party to “help” Jude open gifts which might or might not have been smart because they got REALLY in to it, but at least they had something to do instead of staring at a baby and watching me open the presents.
  6. Be sure you take lots of photos, but most importantly, be sure other guests do as well. We got a ton of photos on our cameras, but we also missed whole portions of the party (like Jude eating cake for instance) because we were in the moment or right there with him.  Luckily, my brother-in-law was snapping photos the whole time, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s got.  It might be a good idea to even designate a guest as the “picture person” so that he/she keeps snapping and can give you all the images after the party.


I feel like future parties will be easier now that I know more about what to expect, so for what it’s worth, that’s what I learned on this first go-around.  Tomorrow I’ll post on food and tablescape!

4 thoughts on “Lessons Learned: Throwing Kids’ Birthday Parties

    1. Thanks! And at Caleb’s age, they can start to really do it themselves and *appreciate* all of the gifts. That, to me, totally changes the whole present thing. 🙂

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