Sunday, April 5, 2009

Planning the Perfect Birthday Party

Planning the Perfect Birthday Party

Robin Williams once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying “Let’s Party.”

During the WUSA 9 News Now Segment with FAMILY Magazine and we are discussing throwing a great birthday party for your children.

FYI- April is the 18th Birthday for FAMILY Magazine!

I can’t believe that it has been 18 years since we started our magazine! I guess time flies when you are having fun.

I do love throwing a great birthday party for my kids. And, over the years we have had some great ones. However not everyone shares my enthusiasm.

Here with some ideas that will help you plan that special day without feeling overly stressed.

The first decision needs to be if you are going to have the party at home or go somewhere else. There are some great locations where you can take kids in the Washington area as well as some wonderful entertainers who will come to you. Keep in mind you will definitely spend more money. Here is an idea of costs.

Locations to go to --

Bounce U in Clarksburg, Maryland
$325 to $475
This is a new facility that opens on May 1. They have several specials going on for their grand opening in May.

Jumping Jack Sports in Ashburn, Virginia
$280 to $350
They have some great activities – and not just for birthdays! you can just drop in.

Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake
$18-20 per person plus additional features
Now what boy does not love a good pirate adventure?

Clay Café in Falls Church and Chantilly
$6-$9 per child plus food
I love this idea. You get to create your own take home gift.

Entertainers that come to you –

There are SOOOO MANY magicians, princess parties, big bouncy things, ponies, dance parties, animals experiences… all kinds of party entertainers that specialize in kids parties. The cost will range about what it costs to go to a location, some less, some more.

The best way to take a look at the variety of places or entertainers is to visit the FAMILY Magazine web site and go to the ANNUAL Party Extravaganza. We have links to all their web sites and email. You will be able to gather a great deal of information there.


If you decide to plan the party and put it on yourself, you will need to decide on a theme. This can be easy or it can be hard. Let your child help you plan. For younger children, pick a theme and plan simple games around the theme. If you choose a Blues Clues theme, make everything blue. Pin the tail on a blue dog. Play games with blue balloons. For an around the world party, have the children come dressed as though they were from another country. Make cardboard passports and provide stickers for different countries. Party goodies could be souvenirs from each country -- plastic sunglasses for the USA, fans for Asia and so on. Make the cake to look like a globe. Older children might want a theme based on a reality show or a mystery to solve.

Our web site has some ideas for themes in the web extras for April. There are also several articles about throwing a great party in our archives.


Some moms use the age of the child as their guide for how many guests to invite. For a nine year old you might invite nine children. However there are always exceptions. If you are doing something really expensive or exceptional, you may have a buget and need to limit your 12 year old daughter to 9 friends. Or, there might be 10 children in your 6 year olds play group so you would want to invite all 10 children.

You need to think about what you will be doing as well. Nine boys who are all nine years old might make for a difficult sleepover.


Start planning early. The last think you need on party day is to have to run out to the store for decorations. Make yourself a list and try to get all the materials well in advance of the party.

Plan your games and activities in advance and add in some options. If you are plannning an outdoor party, plan for rain. Be prepared.

Send out the invitations well in advance with all the important details. Followup with phone calls when you feel you need to.

If you don't know all the children personally, check ahead for food allergies. Nothing is worse than having a four-year-old come to a party and not be able to eat the cake or drink the kool aid.

And, finally – Don't worry about having a spotless house. Children don't care if the bathroom is sparkling or the carpet freshly steam cleaned. They're there for the fun and treats. Just tidy up and save your energy for the party.

Take lots of pictures or have someone else do that for you. Your memories will last a lifetime.

Happy Parenting,

Here are some ideas for themes from Katrina Cassel, a writer for FAMILY Magzine. You can read her entire article, Planning the Perfect Birthday Bash for Tots to Preteens on our web site.

Art/Craft Parties - You can purchase simple crafts supplies and kits for home, or pay for a certain number of children to make a project at a craft store.

Cooking Parties - This can be as simple as decorating cupcakes or as elaborate as preparing specialty food together.

Live Animal Parties - Meet at the zoo or hire someone to bring the animals to you. Check references and safety issues ahead.

Science Parties - Get a book of simple science experiments and set them up around the kitchen or bathroom. Turn the geniuses loose.

Storybook/dress up parties - Either have little ones come dressed in a certain theme -- favorite character, prince or princess, zoo animal -- or have dress up clothes available. Take pictures on a digital camera or Polaroid that you can send home with them.

Gymnastics, Bowling, Swimming, or Skating Parties - Unless you're set up for this at home, you'll have to pay to have the party at a facility.

Tea Parties - Tea parties and teddy bear tea parties are popular for the youngest party goers. School age girls sometimes enjoy a more formal tea party fashioned after an adult affair.

Detective Parties - School age children will enjoy finding clues and solving a mystery -- especially if it results in treats at the end.

Party ideas for preteens
Crafts parties - More elaborate crafts such as ceramics or pottery can be done at home or at a craft shop.

Sports facility parties- Gymnastics, swimming, roller skating, ice skating, and bowling parties can be hosted at the appropriate facility.

Makeover parties - Hire a beautician to come to your house and give make up and hair styling tips. Get parental permission before making permanent changes to hair.

Sleep over parties - Limit it to one gender. Provide lots of snacks and appropriate videos and let them make their own fun.

Hired entertainment - This age group is harder to please than the younger group so make sure bands, magicians or other entertainers are familiar with what preteens like and want.

Scavenger Hunt - Divide into teams and give each team a list of items to find. Have prizes for winners and losers alike.


  1. Congratulations on your 18th year! Many more to come! :)
    I love the detective party idea! Set up clues and small prizes throughout the party and then a really nifty prize for whoever will solve the case! Give out magnifying glasses and notepads and pencils and a clue list. I'm sure the kids'll love it!