Toddler Birthday Parties


My little guy (our oldest) is turning 3 soon and I’ve been reminiscing. I just came across some pictures from his birthday last year and figured I’d put it together in a post.

Disclosure: I have included some affiliate links throughout this post. At no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

His birthday falls in July, which is when the weather is the most random because its horribly hot and randomly rainy. I had intended to throw him a casual playground party to keep to a minimum budget but with the unpredictable weather I ended up having to do something at home, indoors. I’ll be honest, we don’t usually like having many kids at our house and we really like interior design so we have all the toys in their rooms. Since all the kid stuff was in their bedrooms I had to create a space in our formal living room for the party, because there was no way we would squeeze a party into two separate rooms. I figured some kids might play in our son’s room so I took my daughter’s Skip Hop play mat from her room and reassembled it in the living room, moved some furniture around and brought a bunch of small toys and our play tent. These are the pictures of my setup before the party as well as a little bit of our family party with my crazy cake. We chose a Curious George Theme for our son’s 2nd birthday party and got him a few Curious George T-shirts for a great deal online.

At this age, our kids won’t know if we’ve spent $100 or $600+ on their birthday celebration because all they really care about is having a great time so why go all out? That’s not to say that your child won’t enjoy an expensive party or that it’s wrong, it just wasn’t what we wanted. We kept to a minimal budget without looking too much at the numbers and without compromising too much and everybody had a great time!

For our kids’ 1st birthdays we stuck to simple at home family meals. This year for our son’s 3rd we’re going to Magic Kingdom! I also hope to do a park playdate type of non-party “party” for him when we get back if the weather allows. Expect some blog posts or updates about these as well. Here’s their first birthdays:

Here are some tips and things to consider when planning a kid’s party:

Plan Your Guest List

Who are you inviting? Its your child’s birthday so invite their friends of course! Some birthday parties are a mix of family and friends while others are just family or just friends. We chose to do two separate parties since we have a pretty large group for both but kept both casual, where our family one was just a dinner. Our invitations and RSVP’s were verbal or sent via Facebook Events and text message. You could also order invitations online.
Curious George Invitations
Kids Birthday Invitations

Location, Location, Location

This was my struggle because of the weather and our concern for having lots of children in our home. This was where I saved the most money as well. The cheapest options are at home or at a park. For park parties you can either speak to your City and rent out a space with tables, usually under cover and may allow things like bounce houses or animal shows, or you can do something smaller and try to grab an empty table that doesn’t need to be rented out (again check the City for different park rental requirements)- but neither usually allow alcohol. You can also rent out other kinds of spaces, Cities also have indoor spaces that can be rented out for events or you can check out your local indoor kids gyms (places like Monkey Joes, Gymboree, ChuckeCheese, MyGym.. etc), which might provide you with food and entertainment packages in the $300-$500 range according to my research but might limit you on date and time and be crowded. I was opting towards free, as usual, because my cheap self always feels like that money could be put to better use at this age and I wanted to have something more intimate and that wasn’t crowded with strangers.

Set a Date and Time that Works For Your Child and Your Guests

If your child is still on a nap schedule, plan the party on hours when they are awake. My son naps after lunch and mornings are usually best for me but with some of his friends having slightly different nap schedules I chose to plan his party for after his nap, and that gave me more time to prepare. The only downside is he wasn’t feeling too well that day and delayed his nap so by party time he didn’t get much rest but he still managed to enjoy it.

Decorations

You really don’t need much to decorate, and you can go several routes when it comes to this. Dollar Stores sell things like tableware, birthday banners and balloons, Party City has a wide variety of thematic party decorations in all categories, but if you’re planning in advance I’d suggest checking the internet for better deals. For this party we really didn’t do much decorating though. We got a couple of helium balloons that morning and a pack of latex balloons which we inflated together and played with before the party, I hung a couple of banners and printed out some pictures for our theme Curious George that I stuck on the wall with painters tape, and online I got a Curious George party package with the banner, a tablecloth, plates, napkins, cups, and candles (sometimes I opt out of these because they end up in the trash anyway). Honestly, the kids don’t pay much attention to the decorations, but they do love balloons.

People like To Eat

Your guests may not be hungry but they will be eating. Personally, I’m not the type to be eating at the party but apparently I’m the crazy one around here. I lowballed when it came to appetizers and I think my guests were expecting more but I’ve learned my lesson! Have a variety of easy to eat foods for the parents and children, consider small and not too messy since you will end up with crumbs and smears of this food throughout your house. Also consider dietary habits and allergies. You can get catering from a restaurant or grocery store or you can reheat frozen versions, but consider your work load if you’re making things yourself or reheating because you’re already going to be running around from hosting and enjoying your child.

Cake

Who doesn’t want cake!? If its a birthday there better be some version of cake or desert, no matter where you’re from people will be expecting it! You can make it yourself, order it for a reasonable price, or even hire a professional baker to do an amazing decorative cake for a little extra money. Last year I decided to play my hand at making and decorating my own cake for our family party and cupcakes for the kids party. It was a great experience but it was a lot of stress and although it turned out pretty interesting I probably won’t be doing it again this year (maybe in a year or two).

Entertainment

Entertaining a crowd can be difficult but its actually pretty simple. Kids: give them something to do, provide toys and companionship and they will be busy for a while. Adults: provide food, music, and conversation and they’ll be happy. You don’t have to provide much formal entertainment but you could hire a company to do a little show. Some people hire face painters and balloon artists which some kids tend to enjoy. As for music, you can have your own library or you can find a kids playlist on Spotify or Youtube.

Setup

Along with the entertainment make sure you have a good setup for both the kids to play and the parents to watch and sit or be comfortably close enough to the food. I rearranged the furniture in my formal living room and created a safe play space with a bunch of toys in the middle and seating around, some of which I brought over from the dining room. I set up the food on the kitchen island in multiple serving dishes and spread them around the main areas as well. We set up our laundry room, which has a fridge and counter area, as the self serve drinks area with soda, tea, water, and beer.

Take Pictures!

Between checking up on food and drinks, the entertainment, and trying to enjoy your kid its easy to forget taking pictures. Have your guests take pictures to share with you afterwards, invite a few close family members or friends to take some photos, and take a few group photos and selfies with your kiddo. I was in such a rush I didn’t take ANY pictures or ask anyone to take any and had to beg my friends for their photos. For some reason I always forget this part but I’m trying to improve on this.

Party Favors

In my culture, birthday parties are extreme. People usually rent out a big space and have various desert tables with layers of decoration and food with a balloon wall behind and they give out these gift bags to all the guests with a bunch of goodies. I guess I’ve been in the US too long because I’m so far from this but I’ve been noticing the culture is spreading now, I’m probably one of few people that doesn’t love party favors but since I felt I was expected to give some out I tried to plan something small and enjoyable. With young toddlers, its kind of hard to find affordable party favors that are age appropriate, since most are choking hazards. I found a couple of things on Amazon that came in bulk and put them together in little bags. I got kids sunglasses, but the lenses popped off too easily and the glasses were too big for the toddlers, and temporary tattoos, which are intended for older children but most of the kids loved them and I still have extras of both.

Here’s a few cool and affordable favor options that come in sets:

Readers:

What are your budget tricks or cool things do you do for your kids birthdays?


avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Ari Salas

Very nice written. I will be celebrating my baby’s first in a couple of months. I am doing a little more than a get together but I will be back to check your suggestions.

mkefamilyof3

Great tips. Looks like a fun day. Have a good time at Disney!

lizchapmanonline
lizchapmanonline

Looks like a great party! I love planning my kids parties. I’m currently doing my son’s 11th party right now. Great list to keep organized!

Kat Califf

I totally agree that you don’t need to go all out on a toddler (or baby) birthday! They don’t really know what’s happening and for the first couple years at least it’s more a party for you! I like how you outlined this!

sarahcarleypaul

Well written and great tips! Planning a kid’s party doesn’t have to be complicated or overly fancy. Looks like your little guy had a great time!

Close Menu
%d bloggers like this: