Birthday party do’s and don’ts

When it comes to hosting your child’s birthday party, your to-do list can get long. There are, however, some do’s and don’ts that can make the planning more manageable and the party more enjoyable.

We asked some birthday party experts to share their party planning advice to help you create a birthday party that is enjoyable for not only the birthday child and guests, but for parents who also deserve a chance to celebrate another year of successful parenting in the books.

Do keep it simple

“The best gift we can give our kids is being in the moment with them and giving them our attention,” says Julianne Neely, MSW, LCSW and director of the Individual and Family Connection.

“The best way to keep focused on spending time with our children and staying in the moment is to keep birthday celebrations simple. Not only is it important to keep it manageable for ourselves, but it also is important to not overstimulate our children.”

Don’t plan too many activities for one little person’s party

Along the lines of less is more, Hiroki Ogawa, visitor services manager at DuPage Children’s Museum, says kids don’t need a string of entertainers to have fun. He says parents shouldn’t plan too many activities, especially if the party is at a fun venue.

“What’s nice about having it at the museum is that parents don’t have to plan a lot of other activities or worry about party games,” he says. “The museum is the entertainment.”

Dan Mindo, a Chicago birthday magician who has performed at about 1,000 birthday parties over 12 years, agrees. In addition to not having too many activities, there should be a structure to the party with kids doing just one activity at a time and saving the food for last, he says.

“This is not a time to multi-task,” Mindo says. “If there is a performance taking place, that isn’t a good time to feed children. They get distracted easily. Let them focus on one thing.”

Do communicate with your venue and your entertainers

“The more you know” is not just a public service announcement, it’s key to a good birthday party. If you are hiring an entertainer, give them some information about your child before the party. “Let performers know if the birthday child is really shy or has special needs, so they don’t put him/her on the spot. That can make everyone uncomfortable,” Mindo says. If you have a child who loves the spotlight, that’s good to know as well.

The same goes for discussing any allergies.

Ogawa also suggests knowing what the venue provides. Requests for exceptions to rules should not be a last-minute item.

Don’t expect everything to go perfectly

Chances are that the perfect party you’ve envisioning in your head and have seen on Pinterest will not come off without a hitch. “Don’t expect a perfect party. It’s OK! Remember that it’s a party, and it’s supposed to be fun, for you and your child,” he says.

Ogawa says: “The best birthday parties are when the parents go with the flow.”

Do leave time for kids to just play

When you get a group of kids together, they want time to just play together.

“Leave time for the birthday child to enjoy camaraderie with friends. They want to let loose and have fun,” Mindo says. “Remember that it’s a party.”

Don’t feel like you have to open presents in front of everyone, or all at once

Neely says parents shouldn’t feel like their kids must open all the gifts in front of everyone.

“My recommendation is that, following the birthday celebration, the child be given the opportunity to open one gift each day. If you have seen a child open gifts this is typically their natural pace anyway. They open a gift and then they want to enjoy it,” she says.

“Toddlers especially seem confused that you won’t let them play with the toy they just opened and instead want them to move on to the next one. This often leads to tantrums in front of everyone and the parent feeling embarrassed that the child seems to like one toy more than another,” Neely says.

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