by Christina Katz
Planning a memorable birthday event can be the highlight of your child's year, if you maximize the fun and minimize the stress. The best way to increase the magic and decrease the madness is to use a handy checklist so you can start early and get ready gradually. Or if you want to plan your party in one fell swoop a few weeks ahead, this checklist will help you do that, too.
I have been planning and hosting birthday parties for over a decade, and these steps will get you from vision to fruition. Follow these timing tips, and you'll be able to keep a smile on your face from the day you start planning until the moment the final guest is picked up or dropped off.
10. Choose A Theme. Always have a theme. Having a focus will help you plan and execute your party without a hitch. Several months before your party date, brainstorm themes with your guest of honor.
9. Make Reservations. If there is one thing I have learned about popular party venues, it’s that they fill up early. Once you have your theme and know you will need a location away from home, get your reservations nailed down two to three months in advance.
8. Find Supplies Online. Shop local when you can to support your local economy, but for those hard-to-locate items, don’t burn up time searching for what you can easily find online. Generally speaking, one-stop party stores are not as prevalent as they used to be and you’ll likely be delighted by the variety you can find online. Just make sure to place your orders at least a month early to allow for shipping time and returns if anything is not what you’d expected.
7. Send Out Invitations. Evite wins hands-down for quick and easy party invites. Just visit evite.com, select a theme, add in your guests’ e-mail addresses and send your invitations. Two weeks notice is usually just the right amount of time. But if it’s a busy time of year, add another week or two.
6. Order The Cake. Cakes and cupcakes can get expensive when you make them from scratch. Besides, the kids will probably like the local big-box or grocery store sheet cakes just as much as homemade. Order one week ahead for pickup up on party day for the freshest results.
5. Tackle Your Local Shopping List. Despite ordering ahead online, you probably still have a few items you need to pick up locally. Be sure to pick them up at least a week ahead in case you can’t find something and need to order it online after all.
4. Recruit helpers. Why try to do everything yourself when you can have so much more fun at your party with plenty of helping hands standing by? See page 36 for suggestions on finding helpers.
3. Curry Favors. Favors don’t have to be expensive or intricate. For a home party, go simple, fun and inexpensive. Be as eco-friendly as possible by offering favors in a reusable container. If hosting a party elsewhere, consider letting the party be favor enough or simply offering a small treat to guests on the way out like a lollipop or a candy necklace.
2. Set Up A Day Ahead. If you are ordering any large food deliveries like pizza, place your order a day ahead. Don’t forget to check online for any discounts or coupons. Then go ahead and tackle as much prep work as you can. Decorations? Food preparation? Party favors? Activity prep? Everything will go smoother on party day if you take care of as much as you can the day before.
1. Party Down! Get a good night’s sleep. Allow at least two hours prior for set up and one hour afterwards for clean up. Then enjoy every memorable moment. Designate a party photographer, if your hands will be full, to document the day.
Christina Katz has planned some fun birthday parties over the years including a pony party, a bowling party and a roller skating party. But her all-time favorite was the sleepover spa party.
Reusable Party Favor Holder
Water Bottles // Chinese Food Buckets // Flower Pots // Bandanas // Beach Buckets // Fabric or Felt Sacks // Hats // A Frisbee or Outdoor Toy // Books, Comics or Workbook // Tins // Brown Paper Bags // Small Canvas Totes // Baskets // Push Pops // Bottles or Jars // Socks or Gloves
Who Can Help?
Both parents need to contribute. Don’t forget to factor in Dad’s strengths before, during and after the festivities.
Babysitters or neighbor teens make great party helpers. I pay our sitter to attend because I always need extra help, and I also want her to share in making memories.
Exchange party help with a friend. You help with her child’s party and then ask for the favor back for your child’s party.
Just ask! You never know when a guest’s parent might enjoy helping and you might make a new mom friend this way. Once you have the final attendance list, use evite.com to inquire if anyone is available to pitch in.
Some people make better "special guests" than helpers. Siblings of yours or the guest of honor may fall into this category, as may elderly grandparents or visiting relatives. For peace of mind during the party, only invite those you know in advance will be gracious helpers.
50 Local Places for a Blowout Birthday Party
If the kids are looking for a new birthday party spot, here are 50 fresh ideas for away-from-home parties in the Denver area. Bonus: You don’t have to clean the house before or after the party!
Earth Treks Climbing Center
Evolve Action Sports
iFly Indoor Skydiving
My Gym Children’s Fitness Center
SafeSplash Swim Schools
Sky Zone Trampoline Park
Xtreme Challenge Arena
Art Students League of Denver
Color Me Mine
Denver Art Museum
Little Red Hen Studio
Michaels Craft Stores
Tinker Art Studio
Berry Patch Farms
Thorne Nature Experience
Bits, Bytes and Bots Computer Adventures
Bricks 4 Kidz
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Mad Science of Colorado
Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum
Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
Colorado Railroad Museum
Denver Firefighters Museum
Four Mile Historic Park
Morrison Natural History Museum
California Pizza Kitchen Cherry Creek
Sticky Fingers Cooking
Adventure Golf and Raceway
Regal and Cinebarre Theatres
WOW! Children’s Museum