Party planning 101.
You can’t believe it’s gone so fast. A year ago you were counting the minutes to meet your little bundle of joy (and say buy-bye to those cankles). With her first birthday rapidly approaching it’s time to admit your little baby’s not so little any more. Also time to get planning cause baby, it’s party time.
It’s all about her.
When our first was almost one, we went into party-panic-mode. The neighbourhood parents described birthday extravaganzas that made our backyard bbq seem… sad. So we booked a trip to our closest kid-friendliest farm, invited everyone we knew who had a child of any age, and went to town. One small fortune and one exhausted baby later, we realized something: he didn’t care. He had a good time because we had a good time, but he would have had just as much fun if we’d stayed home. In fact, considering how confused and overwhelmed he seemed, home probably would have been a better choice.
So, now we make it easier on ourselves by sticking to a gameplan. First step: pick a theme. This is whatever she’s loving these days and if it’s popular, great! Easier to borrow ideas and find decorations. We’ve had Pirate parties where the loot “bag” is the treasure chest they decorated (filled with surprise treasure), Chef parties where the mini-cooks made our pizza dinner and took home their aprons (we even washed the sauce out while they par-tayed), SuperHero parties where they made their own costumes, and, of course, Star Wars parties where the games are Star Wars, the food is Star Wars, the craft is Star Wars, and the loot is Star Wars. If it’s hard choosing a theme because of the birthday gal’s age, pick a beloved book. Planning gets even easier if the book involves games or food. And, um, hello, loot bags?
Once we’ve got the theme, it’s all about venue. We’ve outsourced to farms, art schools, and tae-kwon-do studios, which were all super fun, but were also super not-cheap. As with any convenience, only you can decide if it’s worth the moolah to avoid cleaning and entertaining. It was definitely the right choice for us last summer with a six-year-old birthday boy and two week-old infant! This year we’re taking the money-saving-more-work route, but we’re lucky (and busy) because we have two June babies. Summer baby equals outdoor party, wahoo!
We make our own invitations using nothing more complicated than Word and Paint. Yup, Paint. This is when a popular theme comes in handy because it’s so easy to find uncopyrighted (read: free) images and fonts. Need a Very Hungry Caterpillar font? Google ‘very hungry caterpillar font free’ and here you go. Looking for Star Wars? Sub SW for VHC and you’ll find this. Or how about that Pirate party? Arrrrr matey. It doesn’t take a lot of time as long as we stop Pinning and start doing. The other night one of us was Googling/Paint-cropping/Word-inserting and came up with this invitation while the other one watched Game of Thrones. It’s a riveting show, but sometimes the gruesome-averse-party-planner in our house just has to look away. Sure, Etsy cards are cheap… but ours are free. And totally customizable. And rewarding. And did we mention free? Party costs add up FAST.
Next step. The invite list. We make it a family affair up until age four, but after that our kiddos can also invite the birthday-age-number of friends. We keep a spreadsheet and start a new worksheet for every party, so it’s easy to CTRL-C, CTRL-V the recurring invitees at the top of each page. You don’t need to be as
nerdy organized, but it’s a good idea to track your RSVP’s. For food, yup, but, more importantly, for loot bags. We don’t go overboard and don’t buy crap that’ll be tossed within an hour. Stocking up on inexpensive Scholastic books has come in handy, especially the year we noticed ‘Curious George and the Pizza Party’ for $1.99 a few months before our own za celebration. No, we never plan months in advance; spotting George in the flyer is what got that party-ball rolling.
We plan one craft and three games, all theme-related. If we’re stuck for ideas, it’s Google time, but we often just spin a beloved childhood memory. Hence the ‘What time is it Mr. SuperWhy?’ at our four year-old’s last costume party, and the upcoming ‘Pin the Caterpillar on the Leaf’. Non-competitive freeze dance and musical chairs are fun, as are balloons, chalk, ride-on toys, and anything involving bubbles. Have we mentioned we love summer parties?
Food is also party-themed but again, it’s all about rethinking crowd-pleasers. We’ve served Death Star meatballs, veggie-stick-butterflies, fruit-kabob-pirate-swords, and what would a farm party be without piggies in a blanket? We always do cupcakes and they’re never fancy. Icing, sprinkles, a few homemade cake-toppers/pinwheels/cocktail umbrellas and we’re set. Our go-to chocolate and vanilla cupcakes work every time – thanks Smitten Kitchen!
Birthdays are best enjoyed when you pay attention to the birthday girl. As she grows she’ll start to care a whole lot more, so overdoing it early on will only set the bar too high. Besides, when she’s old enough to DIY invitations and blow balloons with you, that’s when the planning and prep becomes so much fun it makes the party seem like… icing on the cake.
Email us if you want Paint/Word tips or instructions to make Yoda and Grievous finger puppets!