Kids’ Party Planning: 6 Expert Tips for Throwing a Fun, Stress-Free Birthday Bash


Much like telephones and VW Beetles, birthday parties look a whole lot different than they used to. Here in LA, I've seen kids' parties that looked like they had wedding planners, guest lists that go higher than the child can count, and party favors with bigger price tags than the gifts. I've also seen parents say, "Oh, stuff it," and run away to Disneyland. Whether you're on the birthday party fast lane or have no qualms about keeping it sweet and simple, a few tips from party experts can only make things better, so we asked some party professionals to share their insider tips.

  1. The Guest List
    Often preschools have an all-or-nothing policy on parties, requiring parents to invite the whole class or no one at all. By elementary school, however, these kinds of restrictions are generally gone, leaving us to decide how large of a party we're prepared to throw. If you're looking for a rule that helps keep guest lists manageable, many party pros suggest inviting the same number of kids as candles - also known as the "age plus one" rule. By this calculation, a child turning seven gets eight party guests, and so on. Hey, it always helps to have a rule to quote.
  2. The Guest List's Family
    Our friends at Creative Parties for Kids  and Love Swirls both point out that kids' parties have really become family affairs, with parents, and perhaps siblings, often coming along to socialize, too. If you're happy to have an all-ages shindig, plan on putting out some coffee or other adult drink to include the parents. If you prefer to have kids dropped off and don't have room for siblings, make sure to say so on the invitation.
  3. Get help
    Whether you hire an entertainer, send out for food, book a venue with helpful minions, or just call in favors with friends and family, the folks at Funky Divas & Dudes encourage parents to minimize their work load at the party. "The host should be available to mingle with guests," they remind us. Guests definitely have more fun at a party when the host is relaxed; and after all, this is your party, too!
  4. Entertainment
    Entertainers can add a lot - creating the special moment and giving Mom and Dad a breather - but don't go overboard. Jam with Jamie reminds us that if there's too much going on at the same time, "then the kiddos will be divided and not know what to focus on."
  5. Party Favors
    This one is often tough for those of us who feel there is enough plastic junk in the world - or even just in the bottom of our car. Creative Parties for Kids suggests decorating picture frames as an activity, then having a photographer or parent with a camera ready to print out photos on the spot to go in the frames. Funky Divas & Dudes suggests personalized CDs of your child's favorite songs, with his or her photo on the cover. Love Swirls suggests reusable water bottles, which I think sounds great; we must lose half a dozen of those at school each year.
  6. Thank-you notes
    They are definitely not out of fashion, but they are tough to elicit. Some of our experts suggest photo solutions - which can work either by snail mail or email. Funky Divas & Dudes votes for a group photo that can be sent to everyone with a personal note, while Love Swirls suggests taking a photo of each guest with the birthday child, for an even more personal touch. Either way, a photo can give impact to even a single line thank-you note.

Thanks to our Party Guide sponsors for their expert advice.
For more great birthday parties, check out our Birthday Party Planner and Ideas Guide for LA and OC!

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