If you're like me, the thought of hosting a cabal of screaming kids at your house is enough to make your blood turn to ice; but fear not!
There are quick-and-easy shortcuts that you can take to preserve your own sanity while still throwing an memorable birthday party for your child.
Let's get right to it!
Pick the date & time. You're usually going to want to pick a Saturday or a Sunday when your child and his/her friends are off of school. Holidays work too; but try to avoid planning anything around any major holiday because your child's friends might have prearranged family plans. You'll want to keep the party duration to around 2 hours.
Pick the venue. Are you going to use your home? Is there perhaps a park or a community pool near by that might suffice? If so, does the park have bathrooms? Are they clean? Are there picnic tables? Running water? Trash cans? If there enough parking? All of these things need to be considered. You can also make things easy on yourself and book a venue like a trampoline park, laser tag arena, or an ice skating rink instead. These places can usually provide a private room and food as well.
Decide on a theme. It's important to pick something that your child loves. Sometimes it pays to just ask them directly what theme they'd like to have. CoolGlow.com makes this part easy by organizing items according to theme so you can get everything you need (napkins, plates, decorations, balloons, party favors, etc...) all at once. Some popular 'evergreen' themes include Luau/Beach party, Pirates, Princesses, Sharks, Outer Space, Baseball, Hockey, Soccer, and Football. Birthday in a Box is another great option. They offer complete sets of themed party accessories, everything you need, activities and all; in a box, delivered to your doorstep.
Create a guest list and send out invitations. Invitations should include the date, start and end times, the location; and any special instructions, such as "Don't forget your bathing suit!" These days its usually easier just to send out invitations via text or email; but make sure your guests know how to RSVP. Ideally, you'll want to send out your invitations a few weeks in advance.
The food. Keep it simple. Kids aren't picky and usually happy with pizza, cake, & ice cream. Frozen finger foods like pizza bites or pigs in a blanket are easy too. Just buy a frozen bag or two from your local supermarket, throw them on an oven pan, and bake them! Sam's Club has the best selection when it comes to party foods. They also offer party supplies, swing-sets, and basically everything else at ridiculous prices; and offers home delivery. Seriously, if you're not already a member; what are you waiting for?!? This could also be a great excuse to invest in a grill and fire up some hot dogs and hamburgers. Barbecues Galore has amazing deals year-round.
Plan some activities. This is where it can really help to have the venue supply the entertainment, but if you're planning on hosting the party yourself, you're going to need a way to keep the kids occupied. Sometimes you can kill two birds with one stone and have the kids decorate their own cupcakes. It's fun for them; and one less thing for you! Arts & crafts projects are always popular with girls. You can find all of the supplies you need (at a discount) at Discount School Supply. There are also companies like Games2U that will show up on the day of the party with a truckload of games.
Adult supervision. Keeping an eye on a hoard of wild kids can be challenging. Sometimes it pays to ask a few of the parents to stick around, or to make sure that a few extra family members are on hand to help with activities, food, and the occasional medical issue.
Plan for unexpected events. If your intended venue is outside, make sure you have a backup location in the event of inclement weather.
Don't open any gifts at the party. You're just asking for hurt feelings and arguments. Plus, smaller pieces to larger toys tend to go missing. If you need help picking out your own gift to your child, just use our handy Gift Idea Wizard!
Clean up. This another major benefit of having the party somewhere else. Party's are messy. There's no way around it; and the worst part is that your particularly tired at the end of it. If you're fortunate enough to have a house cleaner, you should probably ask them to come after all of the guest have left. If you don't have a house cleaner, you can find one one Home Advisor or a number of other similar cites. Or you can always just put on a pair of rubber gloves yourself!