Yes, I’m that mom. I’m that mom who loves to throw elaborate (in the sense of matching decor and food, not live pony rides — but I wouldn’t count that out) birthday parties for her children. So, here’s the thing. It’s pretty obvious that I just like to party generally. And I always view my children’s birthday parties as a celebration for them AND us — I mean, we kept it together for another year! Yay us! Plus, it is always incredibly touching and special to see friends and family come together from all over the country (literally) to celebrate our children. And we love hosting them at our house!
Now that I’ve thrown almost 10 of these parties for my own children (plus several others for friends kiddos), I’ve got it down to a science. I know how to make simple things look great, style simple recipes beautifully, and use simple crafts to keep kids entertained so their parents can have a cocktail or two. Always simple, never plain — right!? And I’m sharing my best tips with you today, along with photos from our latest shindig.
1. Get your kids involved — it’s their party! The involvement of your love bugs can vary widely depending on age and personality, but it makes for so much more fun. I always try involve my kids in a few ways:
- picking whatever theme they want (Pink Princess Piggy Party, anyone?)
- helping to make some kind of decorations (such as the shields my son painted for his Knights Party)
- designing, making and putting together goody bags (my kids both helped put together Superhero goody bags)
2. Find an age-appropriate, easy craft or activity — I love to do complicated projects with my own children, but trying to do them with a large group of sugared-up three-year-olds just isn’t going to happen. I usually purchase easy, inexpensive crafts (frequently from Oriental Trading Co.) and then repackage or style them to look nicer — check out the cute seahorses we made at my daughter’s 3rd birthday or the tattoo parlor my son helped me make for his 5th birthday party.
3. Keep the food simple — to keep your sanity, make easy things and outsource anything complicated (or ditch the complicated all together). For example, I’m not a baker. I’m just not. I’ve learned through many a cake pop disaster, to ask for help from my very talented baking friends for the cake — this edible gold gilded ombre number really, well, took the cake, at my daughter’s last party. Whatever I’m cooking myself, I do as much prep as I can before the actual day. And I try to take super simple things, like the microwavable pancakes above, and style them to look more festive.
4. Go for minimal effort decor that has maximum effect — to be fair, this sounds easier than it is. And it’s taken me some trial and error to find out which things work best in my home. I like to do a mix of DIY and doctored store-bought decor and I’ve learned (despite the ruffled streamer debacle of 2013), that crepe paper is my new best friend. It’s versatile, inexpensive, and easy to hang. Get some and get creative. Suz and I put up this enormous tasseled wall in about an hour — hands down the easiest statement focal wall I’ve ever done.
5. Make a darn good cocktail for the parents and make sure it’s clearly labeled! — what can we say? We enjoy a good cocktail and my husband and I love coming up with a cleverly-named, theme appropriate drink for the adults. I liked our recent batch of “Potent Piggy Punch,” but the “Blue Lagoon Punch” for her mermaid 3rd birthday party was also a big hit. Just make sure it’s clear that it is for adults only!
*bonus tip — be realistic about your home and your expectations of party damage. if you have white furniture and don’t let your kids drink juice outside the kitchen, a large in-home birthday party for toddlers might not be a great idea. if you can deal with some party wear and tear, think about which things might better weather the festivities out of sight and reach of tiny hands (art, special toys of your children, furniture, pets, etc.). everyone will be happier, trust me.