Kids Birthday Party & Event planning tips & ideas
The Amazing Spaghetti’s Kids Birthday Planning Tips
( 7 Simple Steps to a GREAT Birthday Party! ) by Dan Freed
Table of Contents
Step 1 - Choose a Theme
A Good Theme is Essential
Commercial vs. Non-commercial Themes
Themes on Budget
Step 2 - Choose a Date and a Place
Home vs. Outside Venue
Ideas for Outside Sources
The Time is Important
How Long Should the Party Be?
Step 3 - Plan the Party
Tips About Balloons
Step 4 - Decide Who’s Coming
How Many to Invite
Step 5 – The Amazing Spaghetti’s Birthday Party Checklist
Step 6 - Party Setup
Step 7 - Enjoy the Big Day!
Step 1 – Choose a Theme
Coming up with a Good Theme
Themed parties are fun, unique, can be educational, interactive and even flexible/adaptable to small and/or large groups of children. A theme may help make your event that much better and more memorable. Themes are cool, but I’m not a big fan on being too strict with sticking to the theme. The kids just want to have fun, so for example, if you have a Spiderman theme, you can have other things going on that have nothing to do with the theme – I’m telling you this because the kids rarely care how close you stick to the theme and sometimes it’s really hard to do anyway. Also, if you are having trouble finding the right decorations and plates, don’t worry too much about making your decorations related to the theme. Again, you probably care more than the kids do about that kind of stuff, and the party is for the birthday child, not you. Picking a theme and using that theme doesn’t make the party fun by itself; the theme is just a framework. You still need to figure out some activities and entertainment – that’s where the fun is. Yes, I’m a magician/balloon twister, so I recommend considering hiring a good entertainer, magician, clown or costumed character if you don’t have enough really fun stuff for them (high energy, lots of laughs kind of stuff – making a paper hat or whatever is OK, but you can do better).
Do you want to relieve a lot of stress? Start planning early! If possible, get the ball rolling at least three months prior to the party. Make it fun. Brainstorm ideas with your child and come up with something everyone will enjoy. You can go with a commercial theme or a non-commercial theme.
Most of my shows book 2-3 months in advance, weekend afternoons get booked up quickly.
Commercial vs. Non-Commercial Themes
A big plus of a commercial theme is that you can take advantage of an established kid’s favorite character and it’s easy to find accessories, but it can get costly. The non-commercial requires a little more creativity, but it will help if you are on a tight budget.
Themes on a Budget
Here are some great non-commercial themes that cost very little to put together and will hopefully get your creative side in gear:
Welcome to Treasure Island!
ARRR! Pirate themed parties are always a big hit. There are so many possibilities with this theme and it’s very easy to find supplies. Make fun message in a bottle invitations by saving plastic bottles and inserting a treasure map invitation inside with directions to your house and a big “X” marking the spot of the party. On the day of the party put a sign out front that says “Welcome to Treasure Island” and a big “X” on your front door letting visitors know that they have found the secret spot.
Activities can include a treasure hunt with loot bags, parrot piñata, eye patches, temporary tattoos, gold coin & ring around the sword tosses. And if you want to really go all out, have cannonball wars using black water balloons (just let parents know before the party).
For snacks, serve “Fish & Chips” (goldfish & potato chips mixed together) in giant seashells and/or pirate hats, pizzas can be decorated with sliced green peppers placed in the form of an “X.” Turn hot dogs in buns into pirate ships by inserting wooden skewers into them with square pieces of paper attached to look like sails. Olives can be named “Cannon Balls.” Wraps can be called “Sea Weed Wraps.” Fruit bowls can be named “Pirate Jewels.” For drinks serve root beer and bottled water in a big tub of ice calling them “Pirate Beer & Sea Water.” As you can see, there are unlimited possibilities with a Pirate Theme. YO HO! LET’S GO!
Have a wildly good time by gathering all of the lions, tigers, and bears in the vicinity to throw your child a grrrrr-eat birthday party! For invitations, attach a card to a box of animal crackers and hand deliver to your guests. Or, you can create one that looks like a passport with “Africa” stamped inside the cover. For more themed settings you can use plastic safari hats, plastic binoculars, magnifying glasses and butterfly nets. Famished explorers can enjoy trail mix, gummy worms and bug juice. You can make cupcakes that resemble tigers my using orange mix with black swirls. Once again, the possibilities are limitless. WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE!
Below is a list of possible themes for your child's birthday party:
Lady Bug Party Rainbow Party Zoo Animal Party
Candy Theme Party Farm Animal Party Fairy Party
Dinosaur Party Magic Party Bubble Party
Under the Sea Party Monster Party Carnival Party
Train Party Candy Themed Party Dance Party
Firefighter Party Bubble Party Pirate Party
Construction Party Sleepover Party Splash Party
Sports Party Magic Party Music Themed Party
Tie-Dyed Party Cheerleading Party Dance Party
Kid’s Cooking Party Scrap Booking Party Glow Party
Fairy Tale Party Space Party Bowling Party
Craft Party Backyard Campout Superhero Party
Here are some more childrens birthday party theme ideas:
1. Barbie Birthday Party
Barbie, girl’s best friend, inspired young girls for decades. She and her friends are still the life of the party even today!
2. Batman Birthday Party
Batman lives! As long as he continues in the hearts of those little caped crusaders and the parties go on and on, he never dies. Batman is eternal—and so are his parties - a Batman and Robin party is a real “smash” for little caped crusaders who like excitement and fun.
3. Care Bear Party
Whether it is Cheer Bear or Bedtime bear, the Care Bears are always a wonderful addition to any child’s birthday party, especially girls. They are bright, lovable, fun, and cheerful, and always leave children and adults happy.
4. Birthday Construction Party
The obvious decorative eye-catcher is having your home strung in “caution” tape, along with flashing safety lights. This will add a dramatic effect and will be a fun setting for children to play. The boys can wear their hard hats as they play in the construction site you have created.
5. Disney Princess Party
No decoration is more elegant for a Disney Princess birthday party than a grand castle. Swirls of light-colored streamers adorn the grand ballroom. You can have the basement made up to look like the inside of a medieval castle with painted wooden or cardboard sets.
6. Dora the Explorer Party
Dora the Explorer is a girl who loves to search, discover, and learn about and share with others. A Dora the Explorer party, then, should be fun as well as cultural and educational.
7. Hello Kitty Party
Hello Kitty likes her tea parties, her scrumptious sweets, and her crafts. At a Hello Kitty party, you can have plenty of all three!
8. Incredibles Party
isn’t what they thought it would be. A whole new kind of adventure begins! An Incredibles party can be just as on-the-edge as the story. Let the excitement fly!
9. Spider Man Party
Spiderman spins a web and has captured the imagination of people for decades. He still keeps kids cheering even today. A Spiderman party will keep the kids entranced right from the get-go!
10. Spongebob Party
The decorations for a SpongeBob party should follow SpongeBob’s locale, namely the town of Bikini Bottom. Underwater motifs and imagery will place the kids in SpongeBob’s world, if even only for a couple of hours.
Even More ideas for a Kids Theme Party:
•Airplane birthday party
•Camping Birthday party
•Beach Birthday party
•Cooking birthday party
•Cowboy Birthday party
•Cowgirl birthday party
•Hollywood premier party
•Winnie the pooh birthday party
•Sports Birthday party
•Zoo birthday party
•Carnival (clowns and plenty of games)
•Toys (Bratz, Barbie, Hot Wheels, etc)
•Dress-up Party - Pick up some nail polish, hair accessories, makeup, and dress-up clothes. Then, provide each girl with her own individual makeover followed by a photo shoot.
•Tea Party - Have everyone dress up and pretend to be grownups while pouring and sipping tea. Set up tables in the backyard with flowered tablecloths and matching tea set, and let each guest decorate their own teacup.
•Limo Scavenger Hunt – Get a big vehicle or 2, or rent a passenger van or limo, and drive the kids around to different locations to llok for items o the scavenfer hunt. Also, provide snacks for the drive, and take them for short stops at fun places such as a park.
•Magician, Wizard, or Harry Potter. Provide cheap magic tricks. Have them perform a simple magic show in costumes, for Potter they can make wizard concoctions with colored liquids.
Step 2 - Choose a Date & Place
The sooner you start, the better for selecting when and where to have the party. If you wait too long you could find yourself competing with other birthday parties and if you want to have the event at an outside source, you might not be able to secure the location.
Home vs. Outside Venue
If you’re on a tight budget then the home is the best place to have the party. Below are some advantages and disadvantages for having an in-home party.
Saves Money Space Limitation for Smaller Homes
Convenient More Cleaning on the Front End
Can Set Up Early More Cleaning After the Party
Most Needed Items in Home
Using an Outside Venue has Advantages and Disadvantages as well.
No Cleaning Before the Party Can be Expensive
Clean Up after the Party is a Snap Inconvenient (if you forget something)
Fun Atmosphere Large Crowds Possible
Work with Professionals Parking Can Be Hard to Find
Simple Sometimes Difficult to Secure Date & Time
Time is Important
It’s best to start your party on the quarter hour (See Bonus #2- How to Get Your Guest to Arrive on Time). If you’re planning to feed everyone then have it around lunch or dinner time. If you don’t want to feed the attendees a main course, then have the party mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
Serving food becomes an activity & takes away the time that you would have to spend entertaining guests!
How Long Should the Party Be?
I recommend a shorter party for younger guests & a bit longer party for the older guests. If you plan a longer party, you will make it more difficult on yourself. Leave the guests wanting more!
Toddlers 1.5 hours
Preschoolers 2 – 2.5 hours
School Aged 2 – 3 hours
Step 3 - Plan the Party
Here are some ideas on ways you can add a festive atmosphere to your party:
Streamers – This is one of the least expensive ways to decorate.
Balloons – These can be attached to a mailbox or a sign outside to let guests know where to find the party. They make great decorations and kids love to take them home. And while we are on the subject…
Important Balloon Handling Tips
Here are some things to consider when you are shopping for balloons:
For best results always have a professional inflate the balloons with helium. It’s best to have a retail or party store handle it.
Always pick up your balloons the day of the party! The fresher they are the better. DON’T PICK THEM UP THE DAY BEFORE OR THEY WILL DEFLATE!
Some stores offer treated balloons that will hold the helium longer.
Keep your balloons indoors until it’s time to decorate. Balloons can lose their shine or even pop if they’re put outside too soon.
Ask the store to use a separate string to tie off the strings holding the balloons as close to the balloons as possible. This will save you from having to untangle them. This simple request can save you lots of time and aggravation. Which is the last thing you need on the day of the party!
Serve cupcakes if you want to save yourself the hassle of sloppy cake cutting and a messy cleanup. They are easy to make and are instantly ready to serve and eat. They can even be affordably purchased from your local grocery store saving you time.
To simplify things, it’s best to have bottled water or juice boxes in a cooler. If you want to make clean up a snap, use paper plates, napkins, plastic cups & utensils.
Finger foods like pizzas, carrots, grapes and healthy chips are perfect for children. They are easy to serve, eat and are easily disposed. Hot dogs can be fun as well. Just cut the wieners along the sides and shape them into a person and boil it. The dog will grow arms and legs! Decorate with mustard or ketchup for eyes and mouth.
Tacos in a bag are so much fun! Purchase individual small bags of your favorite taco chips. Cook hamburger or turkey meat & add taco seasoning. Put out all of the fixings like lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, salsa & sour cream. Let the kids mix everything in their taco chip bags & eat with a plastic fork. They’re fun to munch on & require no plates!
Here are some ideas to get your creative mind going:
Water Balloon Toss – Make sure parents know that their kids will be getting wet.
Balloon Relay Race. Before the party, inflate about three balloons per child. Divide the guests into two teams. Each child runs to a pre-determined point, sits on their balloon, pops it and runs back to tag the next runner. The first team to pop one balloon per child wins the race. Be sure to have prizes for both the winners and the second place team. Do a re-run if the kids really enjoy it!
Pin the Tail to the Dinosaur - Why not update classic game, and pin a tail on a dinosaur. Just draw the parts yourself. How about Pin the Hat on the Magician?
Pillow Art - Have your guests decorate white pillow cases with color markers and sponge stamps. Everyone can draw on each other’s case like signing a yearbook. You can make just about any shape by cutting out sponges. Dollar stores are a great place to purchase sponges.
Don’t forget about the classics- Duck Duck Goose, Musical Chairs, Limbo, Simon Says, Hot Potato Pass, Hide & Seek and Freeze Dance.
One of the biggest mistakes made by parents is over planning activities. Too many games and a stringent schedule can stifle children and prevent them from using their own creativity to have fun. Kids will always find a way to entertain themselves…so don’t over plan!
Rule of Thumb - If the kids are having fun, stick with that activity. When they seem to get bored, change it up!
Step 4 - Decide Who’s Coming
How Many to Invite
On average, birthday parties range anywhere from 10 to 20 kids. You want to have a good turnout for your child’s party, but you probably don’t want a huge number of rambunctious kids tearing up your home or rented facility either.
A good gauge is to expect 65-75% of the kids invited to attend the party. In other words, if you invite 20 children, on average, around 15 will show up. Make sure everyone RSVP’s. The sooner you get the invitations out the more likely you are to have a good showing (See my Birthday Party Checklist).
You can purchase all sorts of invitations locally, online or you can make your own customized invitations.
Evite.com is a great online service that will allow you to design your own invitations. It’s quick, easy and very efficient.
To encourage promptness use the suggestions in the guide “How to Get Your Guests to Arrive on Time!” found at the end of this e-book.
Step 5 – The Amazing Spaghetti’s Birthday Party Checklist
The best way to climb a mountain is one step at a time. This is true with any large task that you take on…and planning a birthday party is no exception. When you requested additional information from (performer’s web address) one of my free gifts was the (Performer’s Name) Birthday Party Checklist. That thing is time tested by hundreds of party planners, so use it! Try to start planning at least three months before. It’s no big deal if you have less time, just step up your game a bit. Take care of the major things early like choosing a location, planning entertainment, choosing a theme, etc. to avoid any last minute disappointments. Remember, your child only turns their particular age once. Proper planning will eliminate stress and allow you to enjoy the party. CLICK HERE to go to checklist.
Step 6 - Party Setup
If you followed the Birthday Party Checklist then setup should be a whiz! Charge all video and digital cameras the night before. In addition, make sure all memory cards have ample storage space. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have an extra memory card available as well. Ask friends to bring their cameras to the party. You don’t want to miss any picture perfect moments.
Setup as much as possible the night before. This is a lot easier if you’re having the party at your home. If you have decided to use an outside venue then you will need to check with the establishment to see how early you can arrive. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time!
Step 7- Party Time!
This is when all of your hard work pays off. If you’ve followed the checklist then all you have to do is tie up some loose ends and have a ball! Put any signs and/or balloons in the yard to let attendees know the location of the party. Make it stand out!
Get the drinks ready first. Remember to put them in a cooler before filling it with ice. It takes about thirty minutes for them to cool if they’re packed properly. Any food you’re going to serve can be set out fifteen minutes before the fun begins. Make sure you can locate the lighter.
In regards to clean up… GET HELP! Who better to ask then the kids at the party? Make a game out of it. Give prizes for the child who picks up the most trash. Be sure to have plenty of 30 gallon yard garbage bags available.
On last bit of advice, make sure to return anything rented or borrowed and get out thank you cards within 24 hours. Get this stuff out of the way ASAP so you can move on with your busy life and enjoy the wonderful memories you’ve created!
CHILDRENS BIRTHDAY PARTY CHECKLIST (sponsored by The Amazing Spaghetti - Magician & Entertainer !)
3 Months Before The Party
Book Entertainment (if needed)
Book Facility (if needed)
6 Weeks Before The Party
Make Invitation List
Plan Activities & Food
2-3 Weeks Before The Party
Make Supply List
1 Week Before The Party
Ask Friends to Help
Buy Everything on Supply List
Assemble Goodie Bags
1 Day Before The Party
Pick up Cake/Candles
Decorate (if in your home)
Day of The Party
Pick up Balloons
Get ice and Fill Cooler
Decorate (if at a facility)
Prepare Table for Gifts
Put Out Food
Put Balloons Outside by mailbox or door
24 Hours After the Party
Send Thank You Notes
Return Anything Borrowed/Rented
How to Get Your Guests to Arrive on Time!
Follow these simple steps to encourage guests to be prompt so everyone can enjoy the party!
Brought to you by The Amazing Spaghetti
1. Start on the quarter hour. For example, begin at 2:15 or 2:45 p.m. I learned this technique from a professional meeting planner years ago… It works!
2. Add the word(s) “Sharp or On the Dot” after the start time. This will help plant the time in your guest minds. Example- 2:15 p.m. On the Dot.
3. Request that your guests be on time. This should go without saying, but you need to say it. Use the words, “Please be on time” in your invitation. Most people will respond when asked.
4. Reminders should go out one week before the party. You can mail a postcard or you can send out an email. Evite.com is great online source for managing invitations. Just state something like, “Don’t forget, Billy’s birthday party is Saturday at 2:15 p.m. Sharp. We look forward to seeing you there!”
5. Add a “Fudge Factor”. Unfortunately, no matter what you do, chances are there will be some stragglers. As a parent, you understand that things happen! Therefore, it’s best to begin any activities or entertainment 30 minutes after your start time. Plus, it gives kids a chance to let off some steam.
Outdoor Party & Event Planning Tips: Good things to keep in mind:
This article is to give you tips and things to remember when planning an outdoor party or event. This is not an all purpose "How To" article, it's about some things I haven't seen mentioned in other articles, but may lead to a much better event and prevent major headaches.
1. WEATHER is hard to predict anywhere, and here in Pensylvania the weather reports seem like a waste of time because they seem to be wrong half the time. Don't hope for the best. You must plan for rain, super hot weather, heavy wind, cold, etc. Don't pick a location unless you have plenty of shelter available if you need it. Super hot weather and blazing sun can be a real party spoiler, so have lots of cold water and lots of shade for EVERYONE ready to go. Make sure all your hired entertainers are in full shade because it's not nice to stick them out in the full sun and because they won't be at their best if they are uncomfortable. For heavy wind, have plenty of tape ready so you can tape down tablecloths, signs, etc. Have rope, tent stakes and weights ready to make sure games and tents, etc don't fly away. Flying EZUp tents are dangerous and get broken - ALWAYS stake them down.
2. ENTERTAINERS and Suppliers have requirements to do their job. Make sure you know what they are and have it ready before the event starts. Don't wait till the entertainers show up - you'll be busy, you may be hard to find, you'll waste your time and theirs, and it may cause the entertainers to start late. They will need shade, they may need tables and chairs, they may need a level mud free area, and they may need lots of electrical outlets nearby. The same advice applies to all of your vendors, including caterers and the people who set up inflatable moonbounces, dunk tanks and games. Have plenty of heavy duty extension cords – you may need more than you think.
Electricity for a band should be close by, reliable, have plenty of it, don't make guests trip over extension cords if you can help it. Know where the outlets are in advance - don't wait till your caterers, entertainers, equipment suppliers, etc show up and then look around for outlets, wasting time and discovering you don't have what is needed. If you have multiple suppliers that need electric, or have a moonbounce company with multiple inflatables, you will need a lot of power and many separate outlets on separate fuses. Not all outlets have enough amps to power bounces and other big stuff, especially if more than one thing is plugged in to the same circuit. If you don't have enough power, fuses will blow and be a major problem. Have generators if needed, but keep in mind their placement because they tend to be very loud.
3. FOOD: Don't forget about vegetarians. LABEL all food items, so people know what’s in it - it's hard to tell by looking. Don't make people guess if ham, bacon bits, and chicken stock is in the food. Also label for those with peanut alergies.
How to to find talented local entertainers and magicians for your next party or event:
If you are planning a birthday, a company picnic, a wedding, or really any kind of local event or party for adults or children, here
are some tips from an expert (that’s me) on how to find the right magician. This article also applies to finding any kind of local entertainers such as clowns, bands, jugglers, face painters - you name it.
Obviously, first you have to find some magicians in your area to choose from. You could get a recommendation from a friend, and that can be a good start. Keep in mind that almost every magician out there (even the lousy boring undependable ones) have some people that will recommend them. Why would they suggest someone bad? Well, it may be because they don’t know any better – they may not have seen a good local magician to compare with. Also, just because someone is good doesn’t mean they are the right magician for your party. In any case, don’t stop with just a recommendation, check the guy out carefully and make sure he specializes in the type of magic that is right for your event (more on that later).
OK, then after recommendations, you have 2 options. You can find and hire a magician directly, or you can go through some type of entertainment agency. There are usually local agencies in your area (unless you are in a small town) that book magicians as well as a big variety of entertainers for any occasion (I used to own a business like that back in Ohio). There are also national online agencies that list thousands of entertainers available for parties anywhere in the country, even for childrens birthday parties.
If you find a good local agency, they tend to be very familiar with most of the local entertainers and can give you more personalized help and suggestions than you could get from a national online agency. Not all local agents are good, though. Some are just out to make a quick buck and are not very picky about who they send out. Sometimes local agents book great people, but sometimes they have a hard time finding good people who are available when they need them. Sometimes the better local entertainers don’t want to work for agents because the agents may not be able to pay them enough and still make a decent commission. Sometimes the local people get plenty of work on their own so why bother with an agent. Therefore, agents can work out well, but check out the agency carefully.
Now, for online agencies: some are just a listing service and don’t get involved in the booking process at all. All of them let you sort out entertainers by city so you can find someone close, though none of them have a complete list, and many lists are very incomplete and miss some really good people. Some sites simply provide some names and contact info, but some show pictures, demo videos, links to the performer website, and have room for several paragraphs of info provided by the entertainer. Some even show ratings and comments from clients who got the entertainer through their service. With most of these national sites, the performers are not screened for quality – anyone can be listed. A few do screen for quality magicians as best they can considering they have not seen most of the performers in person. Generally there is no personalized help from the agency; they serve more like an online phone book.
And of course the sources that a ton of people go to first are Google, Bing, & Yahoo. To use these and find the biggest selection of local entertainers, do several searches, each search with a different set of words or phrases. Be very specific with some of the search phrases for better results. For example, don’t just type in magicians, try “birthday magicians West Chester PA” or “close-up magicians for corporate events Media PA” etc. You’ll get different results based on how you search. You’ll find individual sites for magicians as well as some of those online and local agencies I talked about. Not all good magicians have websites, hard to believe I know. And some websites don’t show up unless you dig through several pages of search results. There are also those paid ads put up by the magicians – they have ads for very good people sometimes (on Google they appear on the right side and sometimes the top).
Anyway, once you find some people, then you can first narrow it down based on their specialty. For example, some magicians (such as myself) specialize in local childrens parties and events, so make sure you read their websites carefully so you don’t waste your time contacting magicians that are not right for your event or won't travel to your city. Some specialize in expensive illusion shows for big events, some only do close-up walk-around style magic, some don’t do kids birthdays. Some do a mix of everything, but may not admit that they are not good at everything (though some are good at everything). Some are expensive and worth it, some are expensive and not worth it. Some will charge a very reasonable rate and give you a better show than you expected. Most importantly, get the magician that seems to specialize in what you want if possible. Some magicians, such as myself, also do balloon twisting, face painting, caricatures, game leading, juggling, etc. Multi-talented people can be a great choice because they can keep the party going by doing multiple things (if you want).
Make sure you know exactly what they will do for you, make them be specific so you can make the right decision. See their demo videos if they have them. Make sure the entertainer knows the details of your party, make sure they have good lighting, enough space, shaded area, a contact number for the day of the event, etc. Oh, and book as far in advance as possible – let me say this again – book as far in advance as possible (several months or even a year in advance if you can). Don’t procrastinate or your favorite person is likely not going to be available.
All articles on this page written by Dan Freed Copyright 2016.
For a talented local magician and children's entertainer in the Chester County PA. Montgomery County PA & Delaware County PA & Northern Wilmington DE area, please contact The Amazing Spaghetti - Magician & Entertainer (magician Dan Freed). Call Dan at 610-717-2986 or email or use the CONTACT FORM