How To Plan a Toddler Birthday Party

 Two kids celebrating a birthday party

Birthday parties can be so much fun but they can also be disasters.  Imagine tired, unhappy or bored children, crazy chaotic behavior, stressed, grouchy parents -- well, you get the picture!  Here is a how-to list of party basics for the child of toddler age.

  1. Keep it simple!  A good guest list means one age-mate guest for each year old that your child is.  If your child is 3, then there should be no more than three 3-year-olds including your child.  You can have more older children as long as they can behave.
  2. Begin your party when everyone is rested.  Keep it short.  10-11:30 am or 3-4 pm works well.
  3. Have children dress comfortably.  Don't make them wear good clothes that they will get dirty.
  4. Skip the pricey decorations and themed stuff!  Spend your party budget on stuff that they will enjoy and that will last.
  5. Toddlers generally engage in parallel play rather than interactive play.  They play alongside each other rather than with each other.  They don't play organized games very well, yet and that is perfectly normal.  They like to explore.
  6. With this in mind, the best places for toddler parties are playgrounds or places with free play.  If you don't have access to a romper room type area, consider renting a 'moon walk' or 'ball pit.'
  7. If this is too expensive, set out lots of soft balls like Nerf or inflatable balls.
  8. A slip and slide toy or shallow pool  can be fun also. This requires constant monitoring, though.
  9. If it's to be an indoor party, get out the craft supplies and cover the floor and table.  Crayola Color Wonder makes safe non-messy finger paint and markers.
  10. Turn your play area into a ball area with wadded-up paper; this makes a great 'snowball fight' area.
  11. For little girls' parties, we've had older kids paint fingernails, face paint and apply temporary tattoos.
  12. Remember that toddlers often have many fears.  Never push a child to do anything she isn't comfortable with.
  13. Skip balloons; they are unsafe and often scare children.
  14. Save pinatas for older children;  they can be dangerous and often end with kids crying.
  15. Toddlers do not share.  They do not understand object permanence yet; that is, if something is out of their hands or sight, they think it is gone for good.  If they open their presents with other kids present, they will not and should not be expected to share their new toys.  Have party bags with some inexpensive toys for the guests to enjoy (Oriental Trading has cute stuff in sets of 12; and it's cheap!).
  16. I do not have kids gather round to open presents.  Toddler guests don't know or care what they got for the birthday child and the birthday child doesn't care who it's from.  Also, they usually all want the new toys anyway.  Let the guests play.
  17. If you have cake and ice cream,  serve finger foods and healthy snacks foods first.  Crustless PBJ or cheese  finger sandwiches, soft fruit and veggie pieces,  meat and cheese cubes,  Cheez-its, juice or milk cartons, and other easy snacks work well.
  18. Serve very small pieces of cake.  They will probably eat very little.
  19. Invite several teen or adult helpers.

Most of all have fun with your child!  Don't worry about decorations or things that won't matter at all to the children.  They just enjoy playing! 

 

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