Do’s and don’ts of birthday party decorating

Birthday party decorations can transform a space into a child’s dream come true, but it can also take on a life of its own.

Here are some tips for your little one’s celebration.

Do make or invest in reusable decor

“Just like other major holidays for which we anticipate reuse, we can approach birthday celebrations the same way. Go big with a giant candle, photo booth frame or birthday cake hat,” suggests Candice Blansett-Cummins, founder of Wishcraft Workshop in Chicago. “Having something with which the child can interact gives us the extra joy of watching them grow relative to the size of the item.”

Don’t get too caught up in Pinterest

Many parents head to Pinterest for birthday party inspiration and while it can be a wonderful source of ideas, Lindsey Mensch of Lili Marie Parties advises parents to not get too carried away. “People get amazing ideas from Pinterest, but when they compare it to how much they want to spend on decorations, there’s usually a disconnect,” she says. “Parties seen on Pinterest can be very expensive and take a lot of work to execute.”

Do level up

“Height is an important factor in wow decorating, allowing the eyes to be delighted at multiple levels,” Blansett-Cummins says. Mensch recommends putting tactile, non-breakable items down low and elevating items such as food that you don’t want touched until a certain time. Cupcake towers, cake stands and even paint cans hidden underneath a table cloth can add height to a table, and then height can be added from floor to ceiling with other décor.

Don’t get too specific with a theme

Keeping a theme broad means that it will appeal to a wide variety of guests. Picking a very specific party theme can make it difficult for some little guests to relate to it, especially if you’re hosting children of varying ages. A less specific theme also avoids the problem of an indecisive child changing her mind at the last minute.

The birthday child’s favorite color can be a good, broad theme, Mensch says. It’s also avoids the problem of a theme that appeals more to one gender than the other. She says dollar stores can be a good source of party supplies in the favorite color at a lower cost than party stories.

Do communicate with your venue well in advance

“One of the biggest issues we encounter is last-minute planning,” says Logan Schrage, general manager at Kid’s Island in Chicago. He says customers sometimes come up with extravagant ideas just a few days before the party and it’s just not possible to make those ideas reality. On the other hand, he says parents are pleasantly surprised to learn that they can drop off decorations and his staff handles all the set up.

Talk with the venue well in advance to determine what is feasible and permitted, what assistance is provided and what restrictions are in place in terms of time, vendors and décor. If you need food storage, Schrage says to be sure to check the size available at your venue, noting that one time a parent brought a two-foot-wide ice cream cake that did not fit in their freezer.

Do use balloons

Balloons are colorful and fun–and can make a huge visual impact. “Balloons are the perfect choice for party décor because they fill a lot of space for your dollar,” says Tommy DeLorenzo of Balloons by Tommy. His favorite spots to use balloons at birthday parties are cake tables, entryways and centerpieces for tables.

Don’t think of crafts as separate from décor

Craft items can do double duty, keeping kids both entertained and making the party space colorful and festive. Cummins-Blansett suggests having a quiet activity like coloring to start the party and keep kids from becoming overwhelmed off the bat. “The giant paper and crayons or (washable!) markers make for another pop of color while also helping to set the tone and welcome everyone,” she says.

Part of Celebrations, a special advertising birthday party guide.

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