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For the third time this week, I sit down to plan my son’s third birthday. The task seems much larger than a simple party for a handful of toddlers, particularly if I spend any time at all on Pinterest or inspiration blogs. But this giant, looming job of preparing to feed and entertain children has to be done, and quickly, because his birthday is in a few short weeks.
There’s a science to choosing a start time that I haven’t yet mastered. Too early means you’re disrupting naptime for the infants and younger crowd. Too late, and you start cutting into the naps of older toddlers. So, I’ll probably start the party in the early afternoon. I’ll also try to keep it short. Maybe two hours, tops, for lunch and games and gifts.
I keep the guest list small. I once heard that to avoid overwhelming small ones, it’s best to only invite as many children as the birthday boy’s age. People-pleasing attempts to avoid excluding anyone mean that we’ll probably fudge that number a bit, but not by much. Parents are welcome, too, of course and all of our family, but we limit the number of small ones for their sanity as much as mine.
Parties can still be overwhelming for kiddos, so despite my Pinterest habits, I try to keep the whole thing simple. Decorations aren’t fussy; we repurpose the same felt banner and spotted tablecloth every year, with maybe the addition of some crepe paper and a few balloons. We play just two games, some sort of bean bag toss, and a theme-appropriate variation of pin-the-tail. These games are short enough for small attention spans, have an easy and comfortable pace, and don’t offer stiff competition for children who aren’t skilled in losing graciously.
Rather than try to guess and appease every allergy and dietary restriction, I choose a meal that friends can construct for their children themselves, like homemade pizza or tacos. It saves me that guesswork, but also some prep time if I can just lay out plates of healthy ingredients from which to pick and choose.
Once the food and games are over, the birthday boy himself hands out little favor bags filled with treats for his friends to take home. Favors ease goodbyes for little ones who are reluctant to leave all the fun, and help the man of the hour share the spotlight and learn to express appreciation to his guests.
What advice do you have for throwing a successful birthday party for toddlers?
About Liz Moorhead
Liz Moorhead is a high school teacher turned work-from-home mom. An illustrator and writer, she blogs for a top wedding site and shares her own personal experiences on her blog Happy Sighs in between walks to the park with her toddler son – all just outside of Philadelphia.