Kids’ Birthday Party Planning Checklist
No matter how good your intentions are for making your child’s birthday the greatest, most memorable party ever, often the party date sneaks up on you. A few days before the event, you may find yourself scrambling last minute at a party store trying to come up with a theme and find favors and decorations to match. The thing is, even if you don’t have tons of time, planning a kids’ birthday party doesn’t have to be a thrown-together, last-minute affair. The key, as with just about anything in life, is to plan ahead. A little bit of work each week or each day adds up to a well-planned event without a lot of muscle work or worry.
Many kids start planning their next birthday party before the balloons get a chance to deflate from the previous party. Why not take advantage of that enthusiasm and creativity, and have your child keep a list of party ideas throughout the year. They’ll come in handy before you know it. About two months before the party, narrow down the themes and ideas to just a couple, and look around to see how do-able each one is. You’ll probably be able to pin down one perfect theme that doesn’t cost too much, won’t take too much work to put together and would provide a great experience for everyone.
If your child has his or her little heart set on a party at a certain location, reserve it as far in advance as possible — all it takes is a phone call, and you’d hate to get second (or third or fourth) choice on your date and time. Then, at your leisure, shop around for things that fit your theme or that you know you’ll need. One day a great decoration may catch your eye at the dollar store; that night, a party favor idea comes up when you’re reading a magazine; you grab the paper goods on a trip to the bulk warehouse store; you pick up a few candles on a trip to the grocery… You’ll find that you’re slowly but surely building a party with very little effort.
If you’re like many frazzled party planners with too many things to do and not enough time to fit them all in, a checklist is always a great help. After you pin down the date, post this handy guide near your calendar for a no-hassle plan.
4-6 weeks in advance
- Pick a theme
- Set the date and time
- Reserve a place (if necessary) or book entertainment
- Create a guest list including all addresses
3-4 weeks in advance
- Buy or make invitations and thank you notes
- Get stamps and mail out the invites or send out an e-vite
- Create a party agenda, including a list of games and activities
2 weeks ahead
- Plan the menu and put together a shopping list
- Pick up bulk party supplies such as paper goods, trash bags, soda, camera film and non-perishable snacks
- Assemble decorations, favors, games, activities and craft supplies
- Order cake and food, if necessary
1 week out
- Put together chairs, tables, serving pieces, coolers, etc. that you’ll need if party is in-house
- Follow up with guests who haven’t RSVP’d
- Put together a list of all parents’ home and cell phone numbers in case of emergencies during the party
- Create a first-aid kit and have it available at the party
- Confirm party location if the party is outside your home
- If you’re doing a craft or art project, try it out and create a demo to show what it should look like when completed
2-3 days before
- Make sure video and digital cameras are charged and ready to go
- Get cash to pay for party location, entertainers and help, if necessary
- Assemble food trays and platters
- Create a plan to get supplies to and from party destination if the party is outside the house.
1 day before
- Prepare food or confirm delivery time
- Clean the party area if it’s at home or visit the party area to make sure you’ll have everything you’ll need
- Chill beverages
- Childproof the area if it’s in your home or yard
- Set out clothes and a backup outfit for guest of honor
- Finish last-minute food preparations*
- Pick up ice, cake and balloons
- Set up and decorate the party area and set up games and activities
- Keep a list of presents when child opens them
1-2 days after:
- Have child write and send thank you notes
And remember, even the best planned party often has unexpected surprises, so once the party starts, go with the flow. The kids won’t remember the mismatched napkins or the chicken nuggets you burned as much as they’ll remember the games, activities and fun! So don’t sweat it, sit back and ENJOY!
* Note that for safety and health reasons, food should not be left unrefrigerated for more than four hours total, including preparation time, so set heated or chilled food out right before it’s time to eat.