5 Steps to Planning a Kid’s Birthday Party

Wondering how to plan a kid’s birthday party? Feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start? We’ve all been there! But as a Mom of 5 kids, I’ve had plenty of practice. I have absolutely nailed it, and I have absolutely butchered it (like the year I planned a whole party and forgot to invite anyone). Through it all, I figured out the essential 5 steps to planning the perfect party. You’re welcome. 

Sunday is my son’s 5th birthday party, and as I sit here completely and totally ready taking a short break from the final scramble, I can’t help but reflect on the journey it took to get to this point.

I’m literally an event planner by trade, so I had it in my head that I was cut out for this whole party planning thing. I mean, if I can organize 5K fundraising walks for thousands of people and galas that need to raise a million dollars, then surely I can successfully execute one kid’s party right?


All the moody volunteer committees couldn’t prepare me for dealing with one opinionated 4 year old. The requests – nay demands – like real live unicorns – are out of this world.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here are the 5 steps you must follow to have a successful birthday party!

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Step 1: Pick a Theme

Congratulations, you’re planning a party! Before you can do basically anything else, you need to pick a theme.

Well, YOU don’t actually get to pick it (unless you are planning a first or second birthday, in which case – go for it! But don’t get too used to it).

You get to sit with a tiny person that has very strong opinions on the matter. Sometimes they’ll request something easy (Trolls, Evie’s 3rd birthday) and sometimes they’ll pick something a little more abstract (“Bug Parade, with a Real Dragon,” Cole’s 4th birthday).

Either way, know that a) they will feel VERY strongly about the theme and the way it is executed and b) that they will probably try to change their mind at least once.

If you’re lucky, they will either make this attempt early in the planning phase or will let you talk them back into their original theme. Or if you’re lucky like me, they’ll decide 36 hours before their party that their favorite color isn’t blue anymore and you’ll cry into a giant bag of blue decorations.

So try to pick a theme with some serious staying power.

Step 2: Pinterest Like Crazy

This is my favorite phase of party planning. Mostly because it takes no effort and I get to feel like a really fun and cool Mom.

During this stage, I have sooooo many good ideas. And somehow I am very optimistic about the kind of free time I’m going to have closer to the party.

Do yourself a favor and make sure your Pinterest board for this party is set to “Secret.” This serves two functions by keeping all of the awesome things you have planned a surprise and lets you off the hook if you decide not to make a thousand white chocolate dipped pretzel wands for your daughter’s fairy unicorn party.

On Pinterest you can find basically every single thing you would need to have the best party in town. You will find a menu laced with puns and alliteration no matter what your party theme!

Harry Potter party? Enjoy some HufflePUFFS (Cheetos Puffs) or some Slytherin Spaghetti! Mermaid party? How about some Peanut Butter and JELLYFISH Sandwiches! Batman party? Are those hot dogs in a puff pastry? Well yeah, but let’s call them “Robin’s Roll-Ups!”

Oh, and the cakes. The cakes alone can take over your life. Which may be how we ended up making this snake cake into the wee hours of the night before my son’s 4th birthday.

And it doesn’t end at food. Ideas for games, activities, goodie bags, decorations – OH DEAR GOD THE DECORATIONS! You can, and should, fall wayyyyy down the Pinterest rabbit hole. I mean, you have a lot of time until the party to get this stuff done.

Oh, and while you’re on Pinterest, follow us! 

Step 3: Invite Some Guests

First you have to decide if you’re doing a party the size of your wedding, or a party that is just for your kid’s actual friends.

You’d think this would be an easy decision, but it may be the most complicated thing you do. Because you think you have the list and then you think of one more person you should invite.

Oh, but if you invite that person you should probably invite those two other people that were sort of on the bubble…..and suddenly you’re casually mentioning to your husband that there might be 73 people at your five year old’s birthday party.

(Honey, I hope you’re reading this. Because this is how I’m letting you know that 73 people are coming on Sunday).

If you choose to go the small intimate gathering route: DO NOT EVER FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT. This is a party for your kid, not everyone your kid has ever come into contact with. SOMEONE will be mad at you they weren’t invited. Someone else will be relieved they don’t have another thing to do Saturday. (The second person is a keeper – I like her!)

I generally go with the small party, but my husband actually suggested we “go big” this year….and now I learned the hard way where that gets us.

(Honey, if you’re still reading, I guess this is my way of saying it’s your fault 73 people will be at our house on Sunday. I love you!)

Step 4: Congratulate Yourself on All the Hard Work You’ve Done So Far

Y’all – picking a theme, planning an ENTIRE party and inviting people is A LOT! Give yourself a round of applause!

Sit down, relax, watch something trashy and have a glass of something bubbly! You deserve it. Seriously. Plus, you’ve been Momming hard THIS WHOLE TIME!

Step 5: Get Up Off Your Lazy Butt!

The critical fifth step, where you realize you got a little too comfortable in Step 4. Because now you have RSVP’s and a deadline looming!

You can pray for a rain cancellation, or a swarm of bees (which literally cancelled “Camp Cole” – his epic 3rd birthday party that never happened) but outside of a natural disaster, this party is happening people!

I hate to say this, but I think it’s time to throw in the towel on all that Pinterest stuff and call in the big dogs. Yes, our good friends over at Amazon Prime.

Okay, now that you’ve got some serious decorations on the way, run to the Dollar Tree and grab a bunch of plastic tablecloths in the theme colors. Bonus points if you grab some giant bowls and platters. Color coordination can go a LONG way in appearing to be organized.

Check the menu you meticulously planned two months ago, pick one creative item to make and throw the rest away! Order pizzas.

Do the same for the list of all the things you were going to craft. Because let me let you in on a secret: None of the kids will care how many things you Cricuted or crafted.

And if anything, the Mom’s will be relieved that you didn’t go above and beyond so that they can relax a little bit at their next kids party. And if they react any differently? You might be rolling with the wrong Momsquad

Wait two days for packages to arrive and set up the party! Tip the pizza delivery guy, hand out the goodie bags (or don’t!!!!) and wish your little one a happy birthday.

And thank the Baby Jesus you don’t have to do this for another year. Unless you have more than one kid, in which place I feel you, and you have my sincerest sympathy.


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5 thoughts on “5 Steps to Planning a Kid’s Birthday Party”

  1. Protip: Have kids. Teach them to craft. Wait about 15 years. Have another kid. The first kids will be ALL OVER those Pinterest crafts for the last kid. And if you time it as well as I did, Pinterest won’t even EXIST for the first kid’s birthdays so that ‘Barney’ cake you made which was really just a regular cake with purple food coloring in the frosting will be totally fine because no one can compare it to anything else.

  2. I definitely roll with the “order pizza” crowd. My daughter’s parties have been in our garage, with pizza, hot dogs, or (my favorite) a giant tray of Chick Fil A nuggets. I promised her a “big party” next year and omg, what am I getting myself into… haha

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