Kids’ birthday parties: Love them or hate them, if you’re a parent, you likely want to throw the perfect one for your child. We all know Pinterest is brimming with seemingly effortless (but likely painstakingly coordinated) bashes that can be inspiring or stress-inducing, depending on your level of patience and aptitude for craftiness. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so we’ve got some tips and tricks to keep your party-planning anxiety to a minimum. For starters, organize your efforts into three focus points: a cohesive theme, a single visual wow-factor and an amazing cake. Soon you’ll be on your way to throwing a swoon-worthy soiree without breaking a sweat.
First and foremost, decide on a theme before you hit Pinterest. Pirates, mermaids, dinosaurs and unicorns are all proven fan-favorites. In fact, the easiest place to start is to find some inspiring party supplies and build from there. The good news is there are so many great, modern paper-goods collections—say good-bye to the ubiquitous animated character lineup!
Meri Meri's mermaid line includes the sweetest little print, hints of iridescence and seashell favor bags that'll have you wanting to throw an Under the Sea spa night for the grown-ups. Have a superhero fan? Try the brand's modern take on the theme—dare we call it Superhero Chic? Shop Sweet Lulu allows you to shop by theme. Even Target is getting in on the action with some very cute coordinated party essentials, and Etsy can be a lifesaver—just search for "party in a box"! The beauty of this plan is you can find places for one-stop shopping—plates, cups, straws, napkins, cake toppers, favor bags and even some decorations. Before you know it, with just a few clicks, you have a solid theme and the majority of your party basics. On to step two!
Let your party plates lead the way: Choose three hues from the palette of what you've purchased, add in a metallic as a neutral (it's a celebration, after all!) and stick to it. Even if you buy supplies from different brands, the color scheme will bring it all together. Hit the internet for some very targeted searches so you don't get overwhelmed. Oh Happy Day Party Shop is an incredible place to find decorations, favors and even gift wrap—search by item or by color. Amazon, Oriental Trading and Shindigz are great resources, as well. When it comes to the visual wow factor, bigger is better. A single showstopper will guarantee "oohs" and "aahs." Eliminate any idea that's time-consuming or makes you cringe when you think about executing it.
Helium balloons are not just multi-colored eye-sores from kiddie parties of yore. They're your friends—they can provide high impact with virtually no effort. Order them in your color palette, have them delivered, and then let them float to the ceiling (with or without strings). If you want to get creative, order varied sizes, shapes and finishes (matte, pearlescent, etc.) for some playful texture.
Similar to the balloon ceiling, if you've got an enclosed space, an eye-popping display overhead will instantly make your guests smile as they walk in the door. While it requires a little time and some elbow grease, a fun display can be pretty simple (as long as you don't get bogged down trying to make it perfect). Stick to traditional streamers in your color palette, and string them uniformly across the ceiling. Don't forget to add in a few strands of twinkle lights! Or go for a beautiful mess by mixing paper streamers with bunting, textured garlands and Mylar fringe. Tape each end to the ceiling at different heights and angles. More is more—make sure you order plenty so you can be less strategic about placement.
The area behind the food table is a great place for a big showpiece. To keep it simple, try a balloon wall. Fill them using an air pump. We love this idea because you can actually finish it a day or two ahead, so you aren’t scrambling the morning of the party. It's also budget-friendly. Another idea is to hang a backdrop—try a cute shower curtain in a bold graphic print, or go with your theme–mermaids or wilderness animals. (Adhesive hooks work like a charm when you're trying to hang, and they're easily removable!). Mylar fringe curtains are another one of the best and easiest ways to make a party look extra magical. Add in a pennant banner or Mylar letter balloons to spell out the birthday boy or girl's name or age.
The culmination of every birthday party is the cake, so focus on making it spectacular. This is the time to hit Pinterest for inspiration. Bring images to a local baker—they're usually more than happy to try something new, or they can show you similar things they've done that relate to your theme. The cake doesn't have to be elaborate to be fabulous. Bake it yourself, cover it with sprinkles and you've got a crowd-pleaser. Add in some fun adornments—sparkler candles or a great cake topper—and wishes are sure to come true.
This is a kids' party—food is secondary. You aren't feeding distinguished palates, so give yourself a break from themed hors d'oeuvres or organic gourmet salads. Pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers are all acceptable and even expected. Stock some juice boxes, water bottles, and perhaps beer or wine (or coffee) for the parents and you're good to go.
Kids have incredible imaginations, so you don't have to do much here—they'll have a blast running around after one another, playing pretend pirate ship and holding royal princess balls. If you feel the need to organize an activity, don't go overboard. Order some fun props from Oriental Trading or Shindigz to encourage imaginative play. If you want to take it a step further, here are a few ideas:
For tots, offer a coloring station. Omy makes amazing, huge coloring posters—an ocean scene for mermaids and pirates, a Paris city map for your Ooh La La inspired party, etc. You can fit at least six kids around one XXL-size sheet. Add in some cups of crayons and you'll have instant entertainment and a cute, colorful wall hanging at the end of the day.
For the older set, order a sea of beach balls from Oriental Trading in different colors and sizes. Have buckets of stickers, markers and glitter glue at a decorating station. Or set up a craft station incorporating your theme. Decorate a pirate hat, a flower crown, a unicorn horn, a magic wand—you name it.
For tweens, consider hiring a DJ and having a good old-fashioned dance party.
Hopefully the paper goods you chose had great matching gift bags. For toddlers, a board book is always a great token, and easily found on Amazon— This Little Explorer for your explorers party and a beautifully illustrated The Little Mermaid book for your mermaids. For tweens, try some fun straw cups that can be used at the party and look great in photos. A quick internet search turns up many options—rainbows, pineapples, carnival big tops! For teens, look for fun sunglasses and pool floats for the warmer months.
Take some time before the party to get good shots of the birthday girl or boy with your amazing backdrop, as well as some pics with the cake. And remember to assign someone you trust to capture that cake moment—one for video and one for still photos. Then relax and let the day unfold!