Kids’ Party Planning: 15 Expert Tips to Throwing a Fun & Stress-Free Birthday Bash

My kid turns 9 this year so over the past decade I’ve thrown four parties at home, booked three party venues, made my mother-in-law do all the work once when I couldn’t face it, and attended countless birthday bashes for my daughter’s friends. With all that experience I learned one very important lesson: When it comes to planning kids’ parties, I’m still a novice.

Luckily in NYC there are plenty of actual kids’ party experts willing to share the tips, tricks and wisdom they’ve picked up from hosting hundreds of children’s bashes every year. So if there’s a party in your future (and assuming you’re a parent, that’s a given), don’t go it alone. Here are 15 ways to make your kids’ next party a stress-free success.

  1. Start with the invite list. It dictates everything: How large a venue you need, what kind of theme or activities you pick, etc. Brainstorming the party before the guest list is like putting the cake before the horse.
  2. So… whom do you invite? For young children, parents traditionally invite the entire class (in fact that’s a strict rule in some schools) or do gender-specific parties. But that can’t go on forever. “Once the child reaches age 7, they know which friends they want to invite,” says Creative Dream Entertainment. If you’re looking for a firm number, iPlay America suggests following the “age plus one” rule, so “if your child is turning 7, you invite eight kids.”
  3. What about siblings? Before age 7, inviting siblings, too, is a nice gesture if you have the space and funds. However, other parents understand your predicament firsthand. If it’s not feasible, don’t be afraid to say no. “Explain that there’s a strict number of guests allowed, they’ll get it,” says Creative Dream Entertainment. “But also let them know they’re welcome to drop off the birthday guest if there’s a childcare issue for the sibling.”
  4. Get creative. Regardless of your theme, there are lots of places to go for inspiration including TLB Music’s favorite, Pinterest. We also have lots of DIY ideas in our Mommy Poppins Party Guide. By the time your kids are 3 or so, they’ll have lots of input, too. And if you ever feel overwhelmed, you can always consult with the experts. “Feel free to ask a professional planner for advice,” says Children’s Parties NYC. “We’re always happy to offer our best suggestions, even if the family doesn’t end up booking with us.”
  5. Don’t overdo it. All of our planners agree that the most common party mistake is trying to pack too much in, which can lead to over-stimulated and cranky guests, especially the preschool set. “If there are too many activities at the same time the kiddos will be divided and not know what to focus on,” says Jam with Jamie. “Keep it simple with one activity or, if you must have more than one, schedule them at different times.”
  6. Looking for first birthday ideas? Our experts echo many of the thoughts we shared in our first birthday party post, especially the tips about keeping it short and understanding that the celebration is as much about the parents as the baby. However, they offered some great additions. “Ask one of your friends to take the pictures for you,” says apple seeds. “That way you enjoy the party in real time and you may actually make it into a photo.” Another photography-themed idea from TLB Music: “Display a picture series of the birthday child’s first year of life.” And while a DIY first birthday may be less expensive, it can also be stressful so don’t feel guilty if you decide to farm it out. Most party venues are happy to cater to your infant’s big day and some even have special first-birthday packages. Whether you DIY or book a facility, remember that timing is everything if you want your little one to shine. “Make sure you avoid naptime!” says Children’s Parties NYC.
  7. Communication is key. When booking a party venue or entertainer, it’s important to go over all of the details so there are no surprises—well, no unpleasant ones, anyway. Don’t be afraid to speak up and definitely ask all of your questions up front. “Parents let us know what they want and we make sure they know up front about how the party will run and all of our facility’s procedures and rules,” says LIC Kids. “It helps the party run smoothly.”
  8. Dealing with allergies and dietary restrictions: Many NYC party venues are 100% nut-free, including LIC Kids, The Art Farm in the City and Kids at Work, which is also gluten-free. And facilities are often able to accommodate the guests’ needs, as long as they’re informed in advance (remember, communication is key!). But Taste Buds Kitchenrecommends erring on the safe side with parents bringing substitute treats for their child with allergies, especially life-threatening ones. For more tips on this topic, our LA site did an entire post on allergies and parties. And speaking of eating…
  9. Don’t order too much food. Multiple experts mention that there are always tons of leftovers at kids’ parties. “Remember, kids don’t want anything but cake,” says Columbus Gym. “If you must get pizza, double-cut it for kids. They can always have a second piece, and there’s a lot less waste. Also, parents never eat, so don’t go overboard in that department, either.”
  10. Go with nontraditional party favors. Cheap plastic tchotchkes destined for the landfill are totally out. Instead, “go for one high-quality item,” says Kids at Work. “We love to order from Discount School Supply, which sells great toys that come in multiples of 12.” Useful or educational items like art kits, books, puzzles and notepads are good choices. Or have the kids make their own favors. “Many arts and crafts projects can serve as both an activity and a take-home gift item,” says Columbus Gym. “It’s also a nice remembrance of the event.” And, since many children already have so much, you can always go the charity route. “We love to make donations in the names of the kids attending the party,” says apple seeds. “Each child gets a certificate and sometimes we include an appropriate small gift to go along with the donation, like cookies from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.”
  11. Don’t get upset if your child gets upset. It’s easier said than done of course but a temper tantrum is never soothed by parents seething. “If your young child is having a meltdown, it’s most likely due to over-stimulation,” says Kids at Work. “Pressuring the child to have a good time can backfire. Instead, remove the child from the action and sit off to the side for a time and just observe what’s happening in the room.” You’d be surprised how quickly your kid joins back in.
  12. Don’t open the gifts at the party. There’s a reason most party places pack the presents away in a giant plastic bag for you to take home. There’s limited time to open gifts during the bash, plus you risk your child’s honest and potentially negative reaction to some items. Just do it at home, where you also can…
  13. Write thank-you notes.  While sending email invitations is standard these days, most guests still appreciate a good old-fashioned physical thank-you card—particularly one written by the birthday child. “It can be a scribble, a picture or a handwritten note, it’s great when kids say thank you in their own way,” says apple seeds. Can’t stand the thought of more wasted paper inevitably ending up in the trash? Send a personalized thank-you email. “We had a mom who included pictures of her kid playing with the specific gift from the thank-you recipient,” says Kids at Work. “We thought that was a really nice touch.”
  14. Be flexible. Even if you’ve slaved over every last detail, sometimes things don’t go as planned. And that’s totally OK. “Things are bound to go wrong every once in a while—just smile through it,” says apple seeds. “You’re with family and friends, there are games to play and cake to be eaten, so go with it as best you can.” Also, take your cues from the kids. “Let them dictate the flow of the party,” apple seeds continues. “If they’re having a blast doing something, let them stick with it a little longer even if that means losing another activity.”
  15. Relax—it’s a party. Although it should be obvious, when you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to remember that parents are supposed to be having fun, too. “Some parents feel like their child’s party needs to be the BEST,” says The Art Farm in the City. “If you celebrate your child in a fun environment, it will be!” Also keep in mind, if you go with a party venue, you’re in expert hands. “We all know the drill,” says Columbus Gym. “Let the staff do the work and stress out on your behalf.”

Check out for more great info.

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Ideas For Planning The Ultimate Birthday Party

The folks over at The Balance have some great ideas for getting your party planning started.  And if you need  little extra help, be sure to check out‘s party planning section for excellent party planners in the New Jersey area.

Chances are, if you are like most adults, you don’t remember the first party you attended as a child. And it is even more likely that first party was a birthday party. In fact, it may even have been your own birthday celebration! Around the world, birthdays are celebrated as we mark the end of a year and the start of a new one. Relatives and friends gather to share food and drink, bringing gifts and enjoying a special birthday cake.

Because these life events occur only once a year, there is a certain amount of pressure on the host to deliver a memorable event. But memorable does not have to be “perfect”.  Instead of stressing over every last detail as you strive for perfection, focus on planning a birthday party that is personal for the guest of honor. Those unique touches will make the birthday party one to remember for years to come.

Making a Birthday Party Special

Birthdays are personal and birthday parties should be as well. If you don’t know your guest of honor, gather some information about him or her. What are their hobbies and interests? How do they spend their free time? Learning whether they enjoy playing golf, cooking or traveling, will present numerous opportunities for you to personalize their party with creative details.

For example, use a favorite hobby as a theme for the birthday cake and decorations. For a children’s party, finding hobbies can be challenging depending on the age. So, if the child is too young to be playing soccer or performing in dance recitals, pick an area of general interest and make that your theme. For example, if the birthday child is fond of pirates and adventure, hold a scavenger hunt. For younger children, keep it simple and have them work in teams of three and keep the list of items short. Older children will enjoy the challenge of finding numerous items on their own, relishing the competition for a prize. Children remember what they did at a party and whether they had fun playing games. Less important is whether the balloons matched the napkins and the overall color scheme.

Piñatas or Cocktails?

All successful birthday parties – and all successful parties in general – require advanced planning. When planning a birthday party, there are a few different elements to consider so let’s break it down into two types of birthday parties: children and adult.

Children’s Birthday Parties

When children reach a certain age, they become well aware of when their birthday is, even though their concept of actual time may not be that accurate. It doesn’t take long before they associate a birthday with a party, cake, candles, decorations and….presents!!!

Fun and games for all can often leave the host frazzled and exhausted. To minimize the stress level when planning a children’s birthday party, follow these tips:

  • Limit the number of children: the rule of thumb is to match the number of guests with the age of the birthday child. For example, invite four children for a four-year-old’s birthday party. While that may not be reasonable in circumstances of a large family, in general, it is better to invite fewer children to a children’s birthday party. It doesn’t take long for a well-planned party to spiral out of control when too many children, excited for the party and fueled on sugary cake, take over. Games become hard to control and the birthday child is often overwhelmed. If you do need to invite a large number of children for whatever reason, then have additional help. Having extra bodies – whether that is paid staff or a few friends and relatives – in charge of keeping the children entertained can be a lifesaver.
  • Keep it short: While an hour and a half may seem like a short period of time to celebrate a three-year-old’s birthday, that 90 minutes can seem like 900 minutes when cranky children in need of the afternoon nap begin their meltdowns. So keep the official party time to an hour and a half; many parents, when picking up their children, stay and socialize at the end of the party so the party will go for two hours anyway.
  • Time it Right: Cocktail parties can start at 5:00 in the afternoon. Not children’s birthday parties. If the guests are still of napping age, time the party in between the morning and afternoon naps. Starting sometime before noon and ending by 1:30 PM works well – guests will arrive rested and ready for a kid-friendly lunch. School-aged children can certainly stay up late but that is not the best time for a party. Plan your celebration to end by 5:00. After a few hours of play, they are tired and hungry for dinner, the perfect time to send them home again.

Plan the Best NJ Children’s Parties

Are you looking to work with a party planner to throw one of the best NJ children’s parties ever? Although working with an NJ children’s party planner can take a huge load of stress off your shoulders, there are still many things you must keep in mind when looking for somebody to work with.  A good party planner will work with your thoughts and ideas to formulate the perfect party for your child. There are many things that you must discuss with your party planner to ensure the best possible outcome. However, it does not have to be stressful. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan one of the coolest NJ children’s parties ever thrown!

NJ Children’s Parties | How To Plan The Perfect Party

Have a General Plan – Before you even call the party planner, have a general plan for the big day! Write down everything that the party has to have and go over your list with the party planner. This will help the party planner put together the best event for your situation. Remember to be open to changes or adjustments. Your party planner is a professional and knows how to make everything fun and seamless. Your planning doesn’t have to be too complex. Just make sure that the major components such as number of guests, food, and decoration theme are understood by both you and the party planner. If you break the party down in this way, it will be easy for you and the planner to create a very special party!

Discuss the Venue – Make sure you discuss the venue that you will hold the party in. Depending on the venue, your party planner may need to familiarize themselves with the possibilities/limitations that are unique to that specific venue. Many people choose to throw parties in their home. Home parties are usually less expensive than hired venues and provide the freedom to have the party at whatever time suits you and your guests. On the other hand, renting a venue can be more exciting and can greatly reduce cleanup after the fact. Whatever you decide, make sure that you discuss all your plans with the party planner.

Entertainment and Party Games – After you discuss the basics with your party planner, it’s time to discuss the nitty gritty of the party – the games and entertainment. Games and other entertainment can be the most stressful parts of planning a party. Fortunately, your party planner should specialize in entertaining a large group of kids. Discuss which games you would like to have at the party and listen to the party planner’s opinion. Be open to to changes in direction and trust the professional. Remember that younger children require very little in the way of structured games and entertainment, especially preschoolers when they are in a group with other kids. They will be happy to run around and make their own fun. Your party planner should be able to work with you to plan the best event for you, your family and your party guests.

Find a NJ Children’s Parties Planner Near You

If you are looking for a party planner to throw one of the best NJ children’s parties every thrown, visit the ChildcareByMe website today. ChildcareByMe is a free service allowing you to find qualified party planners for free with no hidden catch! If you are looking to have a special event to remember for the rest of your life, ChildcareByMe is for you.

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Now, there’s a new website that makes things much easier for parents. helps you narrow your search by geographical area.  Find a location that’s best for you whether you’re looking for before-school care, after-school care, or all day care, is the place to start.


What to Look For in your Child’s Daycare

According to a article, there are a few criteria that will help you narrow down your search for a daycare and will help you choose with confidence  once you’ve found a likely candidate.  According to the article, one of the most important things to seek out is a daycare with a positive reputation.  Also be sure to check that any facility you’re interested in has an up-to-date state license.  If not, move on!

Trained staff is another great benefit to look for in a daycare.  The teacher-student ratio should also be another key factor in your decision.

Other factors to consider are, of course, hours of operation.  This includes whether they are flexible or not with allowed pick-up and drop-off times.  Also be aware of the sick-child policies, curriculum, meals and snacks provided as well as type of food served.

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Summer Activity Ideas

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10 Reasons to Love Daycare

Here’s an article from with an interesting take on having your kiddos in daycare. Though many of us put our kids in daycare out of necessity rather than choice, there are so many unexpected positives.