I don’t know about you, but I think birthday party planning is a big job and it can be a bit stressful, too. Deciding on the theme, when and where to have it, times, what food to provide and who to invite are just a few of the things you have to consider. Many parents choose to do “destination” parties so they don’t have to worry about having enough space for all the friends or cleaning up their house afterwards. Other parents host the parties at their home and may have some type of entertainment. So here are some things to think about as you plan your next birthday party:

Location
When my kids were younger I tended to host the parties at our home. It helped that my two oldest daughters’ birthdays are in late summer (just one week apart) so we could have parties in our garage or outside and there was plenty of space. Many times I even combined their parties into one, which made it easier for family to come to one party versus two since they all live at least 3 hours away. However, my third daughter is a February birthday so we only had 2 birthday parties at our home for her before I decided I would prefer to have her parties elsewhere so I wouldn’t have to worry about having enough space and cleaning-up afterwards. I’ve done destination parties for my older daughters on a couple of occasions when they had smaller parties and only invited a few friends. Another bonus to most destination parties is that you don’t have to come up with games or other ideas to fill the time since the kids are occupied with the activities offered at the destination. Even though it may cost a little more for a destination party, I’m not sure it ends up being that much more when you consider the cost of hosting it at your home.

When it comes to destinations, there are many options in the Green Bay area. (In fact, let’s go mommy has now added it’s latest guide called “let’s go party,” providing birthday party options in one place to make your party planning easier. So far the list includes 6 locations with more coming soon, so be sure to check back often for more ideas and options!) There are many places to host parties from bowling alleys, gymnastics/cheer studios to salons, pools/parks and more. You can even check with your local church to see if they rent rooms. You may not need to be a member or attendee of the church, but it may be cheaper or even free if you are. Another option is your local village or town hall/community center which most likely rents rooms as well.

Themes & Decor
I enjoy having fun themes for our birthday parties. And with Pinterest these days it’s easier than ever to get ideas for themes and decor! (The only problem is having things turn out and look as nice as they do on Pinterest, right?) For my daughters whose birthdays are a week apart, sometimes we do 2 different themes at their combined party–it’s fun and still special for each of them. I think my favorite party themes so far have been “Cat in the Hat” (the possibilities are endless with this one), “Mermaids & Magic” and “Willy Wonka”. The themes we have had over the years are:
-Winnie the Pooh
-Brown Bear, Brown Bear
-Minnie Mouse
-My Little Pony
-Cat in the Hat
-Princess & Packers (for the boys who would be attending)
-Doc McStuffins
-Soccer & Tangled
-Mermaids & Magic
-Frozen
-Willy Wonka
-Trolls
-American Girl: Julie (70’s/Rollerskating), Saige (Hot Air Balloons)

For decor I tend to stick with these basics: a banner of some sort, tablecloths, plates, cups & napkins that go with the theme and balloons for centerpieces on the tables. I used to always order helium balloons from Party City but recently I have started using balloons on sticks and putting them in vases or containers filled with rice to use as centerpieces. We also give the balloons away to the kids when they leave as a party favor. You can find balloon stick holders at Hobby Lobby or online.

At the end of this blog you will find some pictures from our parties in case you’re looking for any ideas or inspiration. I took a Wilton cake decorating class from JoAnn’s a few years ago so I could make cute cakes for their birthdays. I definitely recommend it if you like that sort of thing! There is also a book a friend of mine recommended a few years back with pretty easy cake ideas that do not require cake decorating skills. It’s called: Disney Family Fun Magazine Birthday Cakes. It includes 50 cute and easy party cake ideas.

Checklist & Things to Consider
Location. Do you want to have it at your home, a park, rent a room from a church or community center or at a special destination? To decide, consider space, time of year, number of guests, cost and theme.
Set the Date. If possible, I try to check with family and/or certain friends in advance to see what dates might work best for them before deciding on the date. (The party won’t be as fun if some of your favorite guests aren’t able to attend!) Also, if you are having the party at a special destination there may only be certain dates and times that are available.
Confirm the Time. The time should be what works best for your family and the birthday child, but it’s also good to consider if it will interfere with naptime for the birthday child or guests and if it falls before, during or after a mealtime. For instance, if you don’t want to serve a meal and just want to have cake & ice cream, make sure it is during a timeframe like 9-11, 1-3 or 2-4 and state clearly in your invitation what will be served so people aren’t confused and can eat before they arrive if needed.
Menu. You can serve a full meal, a light meal, snacks or just cake and ice cream–it’s up to you. Either way, in this day and age you need to consider food allergies among guests, so either ask about this when they RSVP or state in your invitation what you will be serving so they can notify you if there is a concern.
Invitations. There are many options for invitations: online/electronic, store-bought themed, photo postcards, custom/print-at-home via Etsy or the like and homemade. We’ve done some of each (other than electronic) depending on the the theme, etc. Try to send invitations out at least 2 weeks before the party if possible. Have guests RSVP if needed and as previously mentioned, make note of what food/snacks you will be serving in the invitation.
Plan Table Set-up and Decor. Buy enough tablecloths, plates, etc.
Make the schedule for the party. When will they eat, open presents and play games?
Games/Entertainment. Games are probably the hardest thing for me. I usually look online for ideas, and again, try to come up with some games to fit the theme. Games we’ve done that the kids seemed to enjoy are: musical chairs, hot potato (using a Golden Egg for the Willy Wonka party and a stuffed animal rabbit for the magic party), ring toss (we used a blow-up dolphin for the mermaid party), obstacle courses, minute-to-win-it games, balloon dart toss (this one looked cute but didn’t work so well…either the balloons were blown up too big or the darts weren’t sharp enough), bean bag toss (they tossed a stuffed bunny into a black top-hat for the magic party) and pin-the-tail on the donkey (we did pin-the-parts on the snowman for Doc McStuffins). And you can’t go wrong with a water balloon toss or fight for summer birthday parties–everyone loves water balloons! (Just make sure you have filled up plenty of balloons in advance. They go quickly and it can be over before you know it if you don’t have enough balloons.) Kids also seem to love watching the birthday child open their gifts, so this can definitely take up some of the time and serve as some of the entertainment. Other options for entertainment include having a bounce house, doing a craft or having an entertainer of some kind come to the party. We had Elsa come and sing to the kids at my daughter’s Frozen party, which the kids LOVED. Otherwise I have had my older daughters provide some of the entertainment at their little sister’s parties. My oldest daughter likes to do magic, so she did a magic show for the kids and my middle daughter read a book to them. Enlist the help of your older kids if they are willing!
Party favors/Goody bags. Personally, I am not a big fan of the goody bags concept. Generally the bags are filled with candy and junky/cheap toys that the kids really won’t use. I also don’t feel like my kids need to get a gift when they go to a friends’ party, but it seems to be the standard. So when we host a party I try to give away things that might be more practical, get more use and/or fit with the theme. A few things we’ve given away in lieu of goody bags are the balloons that we use as decorations (either helium or on sticks), a bag of cotton candy, their choice of 1 large/oversize candy (for the Willy Wonka theme) or a book. I’ve also thought about giving away letters from a craft store that are the first initial of the child, which they could then decorate and use at home or T-shirts they could decorate at the party or at home. When you have a destination party sometimes they make a craft or paint pottery and that can serve as the party favor/gift, which is great.
Thank you notes. Whether you send traditional, hand-written thank you notes or you do a cute postcard with a photo & thank you message, it doesn’t really matter–just be sure to follow-up with a thank you of some sort! (During the party, try to remember to have someone write down the gifts and who they are from to make the thank you notes easier.)

Pictures from our parties: