Planning A Toddler Birthday Party

Tips and ideas for games, food, themes and decorations when planning a fun birthday party for a toddler or child.

So you're trying to plan a birthday party for your toddler? It may seem like a daunting task-- especially if you have never done it before. If you're not sure where to start, here are some tips to help you plan a fun birthday party that everyone will enjoy.

-- Where to have it? Many people choose to have their toddler's birthday party at home, but if you don't have enough room to house a bunch of guests, then consider renting out space at a kid-themed restaurant or amusement center. There are also kiddie "gyms" that offer birthday party packages. Check around your area for popular birthday spots.

-- Making the guest list. While it may be tempting to invite every person that has ever come into contact with your child, it is best to limit the guest list for toddler parties. The general guideline is to limit the number of guests based on the birthday child's age (for example, a three year old would have three guests). This guideline can be difficult to follow, however, especially if you have a large family or a neighborhood full of toddler friends. Use your judgment when planning your guest list-- you may want to compromise by having a family party followed by a smaller party with your child's neighborhood friends. Don't overextend yourself by inviting too many people at once-- it will be overwhelming for both you and the birthday child.

-- The theme. While your theme could just be "Junior's 2nd Birthday Party", you may want to expand upon that a bit more by planning a birthday party based on the child's interests. There are many commercial party themes featuring your child's favorite cartoon characters and television personalities. You can also come up with your own ideas-- if your child loves sports or has a favorite story book, incorporate those interests into the party theme.

-- The invitations. Try to mail the invitations out at least two weeks before the date of the party. Include an RSVP telephone number or e-mail address, so you can keep track of who is coming. Make sure to telephone any one who doesn't respond by a specified date-- it's possible they just forgot to call you or they may not have received the invitation.

-- The food. Your menu for a toddler birthday party should be kept simple. Most of the guests will be too excited to eat, so choose finger foods and easy to prepare side dishes. Some menu suggestions include: cheese pizza, chicken nuggets, sandwiches, sliced fruit and French fries. You can also put out small bowls of goldfish crackers or other snacks for the kids to munch on. Try to touch base with the parents of your young guests before you plan your menu--many small children have allergies to dairy products or peanut butter, so make sure you have a variety of foods available so that there will be something for everyone to eat. Avoid serving foods that can pose a choking hazard to young toddlers, such as hotdogs, whole grapes, popcorn and pretzels.

-- The decorations. You don't have to go crazy or spend a fortune decorating for your toddler's birthday party. Balloons and colorful streamers are inexpensive ways to dress up your house for the event. You can also check your local party store or discount shop for table top decorations and birthday banners.

-- The games. Don't go overboard trying to plan too many party games-- young toddlers will get distracted and frustrated easily. Try doing a round of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey". A pull-string piñata is another fun party "game" to do with toddlers. Games that involve music are always fun, as well. Toddlers love to dance!

-- The goody bags. Check your dollar store for deals on inexpensive items to put in the goody bags for your guests. Some ideas include: bubbles, small books, stickers and packages of crackers. You can also check online party suppliers for deals on pre-made goody bags based on your party theme.

-- The cake. The cake is the crowning glory of the party. If you have selected a commercial party theme, shop around or look online for a matching cake pan-- they usually come with step by step instructions on how to make the perfect theme cake. If you don't enjoy baking, order a cake from a local bakery or grocery store. And don't forget the candles!

-- A tip regarding presents. Young children don't always sit well through a long, drawn out present-opening session. You may also find jealousy amongst the children who don't understand why only one child is getting all of those gifts. That said, you may want to postpone the gift-opening until after your guests have left.

-- One final note. Even if you and your child thank all of your guests at the end of the party, make sure to send written thank you notes to everyone within a few weeks. It is a courteous way to let your guests know that you enjoyed seeing them and that your child appreciates their thoughtful gifts.

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