How to Throw a Birthday Party

Four Methods:Throwing a Toddler Birthday PartyThrowing a Kid Birthday PartyThrowing a Teen Birthday PartyThrowing an Adult Birthday Party

If you've ever been to a bad birthday party, you know how disappointing it can be. But a good party can be a memory for a lifetime, even if the birthday boy or girl is just a few years old.

Method 1
Throwing a Toddler Birthday Party

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    Schedule the party around naptime. The best time for a baby’s or toddler’s birthday is on a weekend afternoon. The parents are generally available for a couple of hours and the invited kids (birthday honoree included) can nap before or after. Choose a day that’s a 2-3 weeks out to give the parents advanced notice.
    • Have a start and end time, say 1-3 pm. This way no one shows up too late and they don’t feel pressure to stage an awkward exit at some point in the day; there will be an actual group exodus 2 hours later.
    • This makes it easy on the child ‘’and’’ easy on the parents. It’s no pressure and convenient, so they’ll be more likely to come. This is also a good amount of time to fit into everyone's schedules.
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    Choose your guests wisely. This is one of the only times in your child’s life where the guests are going to very different people of mixed ages. They’ll be friends, neighbors, family members, and children close to your child’s age, though not necessarily the same. Think about how many people you can handle being the host. Generally speaking, a good number is around 10.
    • The more ages and types you bring, the more you’ll have to be accommodating. If other young children are present, they’ll need entertaining. You’ll need "adult food" and "child food," too. Think about what each person would need when you’re compiling your list.
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    Pick your invite platform. You’ll need to send out invites for the guests either via snail mail, email, or phone call. Having something tangible is best – a text or a phone call is easily forgettable. There are a few websites like Evite that can set up “personalized” invitations for you, too.[1]
    • The main benefit of snail mail is that you can make it truly your own. If you go this route, consider adding a personal touch with your baby’s handprint on the invite. That’s one for the scrapbook!
    • However, you’ll likely want to send out a phone call or a text 3-5 days before the party to make sure everyone has remembered the event and to gather RSVPs.
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    Give guests a clue on what you’d like for gifts. Many parents don’t want more toys for their children. If you want something specific for gifts, be direct on the invitation. Indicate whether you want practical items, money or gift cards, or nothing at all. It’s not impolite – it’s saving them the hassle of buying something you don’t actually want.
    • However, stay away from demanding gifts that are too expensive, or demanding them in the first place. If they're watching their wallets, they'll be less likely to come if gifts are mandatory.
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    Plan the food. Item number one on the checklist? Cake. That’s a given. But apart from that, what else will you need? Well, it depends on your guests. Cater to their ages – have some “adult” food and some “kid-friendly” food. You don’t need to plan a meal; just have snacks available throughout the party.
    • You can make a boxed cake seem like bakery-made heaven with the addition of mayonnaise or an extra egg. No need to spend a ton of money on a professional cake for a birthday your child will not likely remember. And this way you can get all the credit for the delicious dessert.
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    If you’d like, make goody bags for the guests. Everyone loves a nice goody bag, especially if they went out of their way to get you a gift and make room in their schedule for your party. Show them you appreciate them coming with a goody bag, even if it’s just for the kids.
    • If it’s not for the adults, they’ll still be glad they came as their kids have something to keep them occupied. It’s more to show them your appreciation and to make it a day for everyone.
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    Prep your toddler. If your child is old enough to understand, let them know what’s going to happen. A bunch of people are coming over to celebrate them. Presents! But it also means that other kids might see their stuff, that their routine will be interrupted, etc. If they understand what’s happening, they may stay calmer.
    • Let them know that this is a day of fun – it shouldn't be stressful or scary. Most of the time will be spent playing games, opening presents, and eating food.
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    If the kids are old enough, plan a few games. Having a bunch of 3-year-olds running around for 2 hours will not be the best birthday party for the books (especially according to the other parents). To be sure they stay at least semi-occupied, plan a few games for them (this also lets the parents enjoy themselves).
    • Need some ideas? Start out with a craft, keeping the kids entertained with coloring, paper, glitter, and whatever else you have around the house. Then move onto musical hot potato, freeze dancing, or a non-competitive round of musical chairs.[2]

Method 2
Throwing a Kid Birthday Party

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    Plan a theme. Going to a restaurant or to a bowling alley is great, but your kid might go ga-ga over a themed birthday party – and you could even have that theme at the bowling alley anyway. It makes it easier to pick out decorations, design the cake, and choose activities. Talk to your child about what they’d like – it should come down to their preferences.
    • If your child has pretty outlandish taste (“I want a hashtag theme, mom!”), take him or her to the party supply store with you. Show them the options and let them pick from there.
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    Pick a guest list with your child. Now that your child is growing up, the guest list should be a collaborative effort. Cap it at around 7 or so other children, depending on how many other parents will be available (you don’t want to be left supervising 20 children on your own). Sit down with your birthday-er and pick out who they really, really want at their party.
    • Make sure invitations get handed out covertly. If only certain friends are getting invited, it should be handled with care so the other kids don’t get upset. You can either deliver them yourself, ask a teacher to hand them out with other items, or have your child do it covertly (if you think they can handle it).
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    Organize a few activities. If kids are left to their own version of fun, you're going to enter the room finding spaghetti on the walls, chairs broken, and someone crying in the corner. Organize a few activities to keep everyone happy and the chaos to a minimum. Games with music, face painting, or craft making are trusty standards.
    • A warm up activity is good, too.[3] That way as the kids trickle in, the early-birds are content having something to do.
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    Keep the food simple. Kids are easily impressed. If you can whip up a bunch of mini corn dogs, their tummies will be smiling. Have a few healthier snacks (pretzels, a veggie plate), in addition to some candy and finger foods, like chips and salsa.
    • The time of the party will determine the food. If it's just in the afternoon, you'll only need snacks. During a meal? Try ordering pizza or getting take-out. What's the most important part? The cake, of course.

Method 3
Throwing a Teen Birthday Party

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    Talk your teen about what they’d like, where, and when. Now that your child is old enough, they should have a big say in their party. Do they want it at home or out? What do they want to do? Do they want it during the day or at night?
    • If they have a bunch of ideas, narrow it down for them to 3 or so that you've preapproved – they can then pick which one they want from there.
    • Talk about a budget and scheduling constraints. You'll have to be the voice of reason in this conversation. Be honest and let them know what's doable and what's not.
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    Plan out the guest list. Ask your teen to come up with "the short list" – 8 or so people they want at their party. Ultimately the party should be determined by where it is (if it's somewhere else, that's less work for you) and how long it's going to last. 8 people out for pizza is manageable, but you'll only want to take 3 or 4 to the amusement park.
    • You're finally at an age where it matters who gets invited – some people may not get along or not want to do certain things. Talk to your teen about what the people they're inviting are like, if they know each other, and any problems they foresee.
    • Consider doing it elsewhere, like at a restaurant, trampoline park, bowling alley or arcade. Your teen likely wants freedom, and it's easier on you, too.
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    Make sure the invites get sent out appropriately. Teens are at an age where feelings can get hurt. If your teen is inviting some kids at school and not others, find a way to make it so the invites are sent out discreetly. If they're not, it might start unnecessary drama that could dampen the event.
    • If possible, send them via email. Ask for RSVPs so you know who is coming and can have a head count. Have your teen send reminder texts or phone calls, too, before the big day.
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    Consider having a theme. Theme parties are fun for 4-year-olds, 40-year-olds, and everyone in between (though the themes change over time). Talk to your teen about having a theme – the kids can then dress up, you'll have fun planning out themed food, and it'll make it easier to decorate and find matching additions.
    • This should be your teen's decision. As long as it's appropriate and doable, it should be a go. If you don't like it, give your teen a good reason why and offer alternatives.
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    Provide all the fixin’s for your party. This is especially important if you're having the party at home: plan and arrange all the food and decorate till the cows come home. With a theme it'll be easier to pick out; if you don't have one, it's up to you. Here's a few things to keep in mind:
    • Keep the snacks coming; worry less about the main food. You can always whip up spaghetti or order pizza, depending on what the party-goers feel like. But don't forget the cake!
    • To keep the mess better for you, buy plastic plates, forks, knives, and cups to keep the after-party clean-up to a minimum.
    • Don't be nervous to ask other parents to bring along a few dishes if the party is at your house. A few bags of chips or some liters of soda is an easy way they can chip in.
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    Keep a watchful eye, but allow them their fun. You need to be there to problem-solve and diffuse any tension, but when things are going well, allow them their space and their fun. They're at an age where they can take care of themselves. Be as far away as you feel is appropriate.
    • Odds are your teen will need you to order the pizza or take care of any mess they create. While it may not be in the way you want, you'll likely be needed to stay relatively near.

Method 4
Throwing an Adult Birthday Party

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    Plan the who, what, when, and where. An adult birthday party can be anything from a few people gathering for drinks to a room full of people rocking out to live music. It all comes down to the preferences of the birthday honoree. Simple and classy or totally outrageous?
    • Having it at home is easiest, but that means cleaning, cooking, entertaining, and cleaning some more. However, having it at home is cheaper and you have free reign of your territory.
    • If you do have it at home, consider having everyone bring a dish or a drink. This keeps the burden off you and makes it a more interactive affair.
    • If you're going out, make a reservation as soon as possible. Some places are hard to get into on a moment's notice.
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    Send out the invites well beforehand. Unlike kids, adults have a million and one things going on that they have to attend to. To get all your guests to come, send out invites well in advance, about 2 - 3 weeks. This way they can write down the party in their calendar before the slot fills up.
    • Send something concrete, like an email. A phone call or text is easy to forget and often doesn't seem official. But don't hesitate to send a reminder text a few days before the party.
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    Choose a theme or over-arching activity. There are a couple of things that can make any party monumental:
    • Pick a theme, where your guests can dress up, eat special foods, and take part in themed activities. This could be anything – from an 80s theme with neon colors and bad movies, to golf with parfaits and mini-golf set up in the basement, to a cartoon character theme, where you get to relive your childhood.
    • Plan an event. It could be a photo scavenger hunt throughout the city, a pub crawl, or a macaroni and cheese tasting at your house (where everyone brings a different variation). This adds extra excitement about your party and keeps people from being bored, too.
    • Consider entertainment like live music or a sports game. With this route, all the planning is done for you.
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    Cover all the food and drink necessities. If you're having the party at your house, make sure everyone's well taken care of. You'll need hors d'oeuvres for people to munch on all night long, and food to accommodate everyone's allergies and diets. Some gluten-free and vegetarian plates may be a good idea.
    • What's more, you'll likely want alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks available. For those that don't drink, keep it fun by making a punch or some other concoction that makes them feel like they're a part of it, too.
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    Decorate the area according to your theme. Did you choose "Old Hollywood" as your theme? Get some old film reels, some black and white decorations, and roll out the red carpet on your sidewalk. "90s"? Bust out the scrunchies, the high-waisted jeans, the bright colors, and blast some Spice Girls. The limit is only your imagination – and your budget.
    • Don't have a theme? No problem. For that macaroni and cheese party, set up a large board for everyone to vote on or make them personalized voting cards. Make name tags and decorate the table to make the mac n' cheese look better than it already does.
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    Keep everyone mingling. Since you're likely the glue that holds this party together, try your best to work in and out of circles, introducing them to one another, and starting games if the atmosphere calls for it.
    • Keep them safe, too. If drinking is involved, take their keys and put them in a safe place. When they go to leave, make sure they're sober before they drive away. If not, arrange a designated driver to take them home.


  • Have someone else help you take care of setting everything up. It can become stressful if you have to do everything yourself.

Article Info

Categories: Teen Parties