What kids really want at their birthday party

Kids sometime are great at articulating exactly what they want. Other times, they aren’t quite able to put their vision into words or they change their minds. Repeatedly. That can make party planning tough on parents.

To help, we asked some birthday professionals with hundreds of birthday bashes under their belts what kids really want their birthday parties to be like.

Kids want time to just play with their friends

Most parents have a lot of activities in mind to keep kids busy, but kids are extremely happy with some unstructured play time to just be together.

“You don’t need to plan out the entire party. There’s going to be a natural flow and let them play,” advises Lesley Kolaya, manager of youth and family programs at the Morton Arboretum. Kids love having time to explore the Children’s Garden there, which lessens the planning burden on moms and dads.

They want to laugh

A room of giggling kids is the sign of a great party. Incorporate what makes your kid laugh into the party, or consider a venue where laughter is the name of the game.

“We firmly believe that comedy and laughter are universal. It’s the thing that brings all people together regardless of age,” says Renee Rock, director of operations of ComedySportz, which hosts many birthday parties. “Comedy is something 10-year-olds set differences aside and unify over.”

Kids love simple games and don’t need winners and losers

 “For younger kids, keep in mind they are going to have the most fun when they can just be silly and move around. Instead of a game like musical chairs, pick games with as few rules as possible like freeze dance. The only rule is stop dancing when the music stops,” says Lindsey Mensch, owner of Lili Marie Parties.

She adds that games where kids get “out” can be tough because little ones on the sidelines can be either restless or sad.

Little ones don’t sweat the small stuff

Remember the preschoolers don’t spend a ton of time on Pinterest, and kids are likely not stressing over having the décor be just so. “Kids don’t care as much about the details as parents do,” says Kolaya.

“We suggest that you don’t bring a lot of decorations and just take advantage of the beautiful setting,” she adds, noting that no matter where your party is, stressing over centerpieces doesn’t make sense given that kids are likely not spending much time sitting a table.

Do consult your kids about the big stuff

“When your birthday child helps in the planning process they are sure to have a fun time when they see their friends enjoying what they picked,” says Melissa Duncan, co-founder of Royal Princess Parties. One party element she says kids should definitely get to select is the cake.

Kids like to be involved in the planning, but to keep them from getting overwhelmed or just shrugging, try narrowing down options and giving your child a few to pick from rather than asking open ended questions.

Kids want to enjoy their special day with their family

A stressed-out parent does not delight a little celebrant. Kids want their parents to share in the fun of their party and have fun, too.

“Know yourself and know what causes you stress. If having kids running around in your home gives you anxiety, have the party at a park or a playroom. If the thought of entertaining kids freaks you out, hire a balloon artist, face painter or professional to come in and keep the lil ones entertained,” says Mensch, who notes that there is no set rule on what a kid’s party absolutely must be.

Kolaya agrees. “It doesn’t have to be big and crazy. Pick somewhere that you’re going to have fun and be relaxed. Then everyone has fun.”

“Your kid’s birthday is just as big of a milestone for you as it is for them. Enjoy it!” says Mensch.

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