All You Need to Know to Throw a Perfect Party
Shorten your to-do list and lessen your stress with our simple birthday-bash ideas.
Your child's birthday is nearly here! Find out what you should know before the big day. We've compiled great ideas for games, food, and decorating to make the party a success.
- Theme & Character Parties
If there's one character that covers all your child's clothes and dominates the toy chest, a character party is an easy choice — plus you can use those toys, stickers, and posters to help decorate. A theme party is a great way to unify all the aspects of the birthday party from food to games. Don't limit yourself only to TV characters or perennial favorites like dinosaurs and space — if your child is crazy for Hans Christian Andersen, hold a "Fairy Tales" party, or have an "Under the Sea" party for fish fiends and give out goldfish (real ones or just the crackers) for favors.
Best for: Ages 2–10
- Slumber Parties
Slumber, or sleepover, parties have little to do with sleep and everything to do with late-night giggling and games. Since the kids will be spending the night, it's best to start this party just before dinner time, between 5 and 7 p.m. Kids should bring their own sleeping bags and pillows, but have a few extras on hand in case someone forgets or doesn't have one. Before guests arrive, talk with your child about when you expect everyone to be in bed and other ground rules, such as what TV shows and videos they are allowed to watch and if any areas of the house are off-limits. But make sure you also tell the guests yourself about bedtime rules so the birthday girl doesn't have to seem like a party pooper.
Best for: Ages 8 and up
- Pool / Outdoor Parties
If you've got a big backyard or a pool, and your child's birthday falls in a warm season, having an outdoor party is always great fun. You can have more guests since there's more space, and kids won't get easily bored in the great outdoors.
One caveat: have an alternative plan in case of bad weather. Whether you move the party inside or choose to take everyone to the movies, be prepared.
Best for: Ages 4 and up
- Destination Parties
The great thing about having a bowling, mini-golf, movie, arcade, or zoo party (just to name a few) is that almost everything is taken care of — you just have to send out invitations and decide what you want to do about food. Going somewhere can be a costly option, especially if it's a large group. If you start the party at your house, you'll also have to figure out how you're going to get all those kids to the next location.
Best for: Ages 6 and up
- Off-Beat Ideas
If none of the traditional parties appeal to your child, or what he really wants is to have a "different" party, throw out tradition and try to really create a party that speaks to his interests. If he likes nothing better than breakfast at a fast-food restaurant, have a "Good Morning Party" at the hot spot. If she's a bookworm, host a book exchange party. A mystery lover? Enlist the whole family to play parts in a mystery dinner party. Or consider going on a tour of a fire station or other field trip with a few friends.
Two especially well-loved themes: Arts & Crafts and Tea Party. Tea parties are especially good for younger girls who may not want a lot of people but still want to have a fancy day.
Best for: Off-beat kids of any age