For a kid, their birthday party is the social event of the year. They spend 365 days dreaming of when it’s their day. But as the time comes closer, it may become a bit overwhelming to narrow down all the ideas. Before you pick any party themes, make sure you ask yourself these 5 questions.
1. Who is the party for?
When you think about it, the first birthday is really more about the parents. They are the ones who choose party themes, guests, decorations – pretty much everything. It’s a time to celebrate the family as a whole.
If you’re planning a first birthday, consider using your nursery theme to guide your party plans – you’ll have most of your decorations already lying around the house. Or maybe you have a special nickname that could work (bear, sport, monster…). These will be completely personal for your family, and can make for truly unique parties.
As kids get older, their interests and personalities will strengthen. This is when the birthday party becomes all about the kid. Suddenly they’ll tell you who they want to invite, what they want to eat. Let them in on the planning! They might surprise you with their ideas.
2. What are the favorite…?
Foods? Books? Movies?
A few years ago my friend threw her daughter a Pajamas and Pancakes 1st birthday. I mean, who doesn’t love breakfast? All of the guests (kids and adults alike) wore their coziest jammies and dined on pancakes, bacon, pastries, and mimosas. It was one of the sweetest parties I have ever been to (and definitely the comfiest).
Do you read Little Blue Truck every night? Hand out small toy trucks as party favors, decorate with little farm animals, and have a chocolate “mud” cake topped with Oreo tires (shoutout to Oreo for their amazing new gluten-free version! #NotSponsored).
You know that movie that’s on repeat in your house? Ya, that one. Embrace it for the day as your party theme. Sure, you might have to hear “Let It Go” over and over, but be honest with yourself – wouldn’t you have to anyway? Encourage your guests to dress in costume. Invest in earplugs. You’ll be fine.
3. Do you need to do any research?
Does your kid have their heart set on a Minecraft party? Then it’s time to finally learn what the heck Minecraft is. Asking for a friend: Is it Legos? Is it that old computer grid game where you have to avoid the bombs? I truly have no idea.
One of the benefits is that you can lean our your kid to teach you, and make it a fun bonding experience. Ask why they like it so much. What they think a party would be like.
4. How literal do you want to be?
When I pitched a Hamilton-themed 1st birthday for my friends, I knew I didn’t want it to be “Broadway-ey”. We set the theme as “History Has Its Eyes On You”, and leaned into quotes and the atmosphere of the show, rather than using cutouts of the characters or playbills.
There’s no right or wrong with how far you take your theme. If you want to go crazy in the party shop and buy all of the character items, from cups to pinatas, go for it!
5. Will you buy or DIY?
Do a quick search to see if there are decorations readily available for you. If not, then you may want to reconsider or get ready to embrace your inner DIY goddess. To simplify your work, I recommend focusing on one or two major pieces and allow them to be a big statement. A balloon arch is always a great backdrop that can support the rest of your theme with very little effort.
When you focus on just a few elements, you can easily coordinate the rest of your decorations. For a Paw Patrol party, highlight the theme with a Marshall pinata, then use reds, blacks, and whites with the rest of your decorations. You don’t have to buy the store to make your party theme shine through.
Planning a party doesn’t have to be stressful. If you slow down to think about these questions, you will find your perfect party themes!
What has been your favorite theme you’ve seen? What made it so special? Share in the comments below!
My friends’ son was about to turn 1, and like most parents, they wanted to have a one of a kind celebration for him. Knowing that they were just as obsessed with the musical Hamilton as I am, I pitched the theme History Has Its Eyes On You (bonus points as the mom is a history teacher). They immediately jumped on board with the Hamilton themed party, and I got to work.
I knew I didn’t things to be too Broadway-focused but instead wanted to lean into the history side of things. Golds and browns set the scene for an old fashioned party.
Invitations were created on coffee stained paper, set with gold foil, sealed with wax, then enclosed in a (faux) leather envelope.
We were lucky enough to have perfect weather, so the party was set up in the garage with the doors open. Because there were only a few families from our pod, there was enough space to spread out and enjoy the sunshine. With 2020 being what it is, naturally, there were themed masks.
To continue Hamilton’s legacy of writing like you’re running out of time, I made a journal for guests to write well wishes to Ari. His parents will then get to use it to document his life, as a special keepsake.
To say that this was my favorite party yet would be an understatement. Hamilton is rich with quotable lines, giving so much material to work with. While not every guest picked up on the references, those who did felt a special bond to the decorations. I loved getting to put together this Hamilton themed party, and it felt extra special knowing it was for such an amazing kid.
With our kids turning 2 and 5 just a month apart, we opted to do a joint party for them. But, 2020 being 2020, there were a lot more factors involved in planning. How can we keep social distance? How can we capture the magic of our previous parties? Turns out, an art party was the answer to all of our questions.
How do you throw an art party?
When choosing what type of art party you want, start by considering the ages of the kids attending.
For an older crowd, a step-by-step painting project will ensure everyone will walk out with their own masterpiece. Arrange art stations at least 6 feet apart, set up each space with their own cups of paint and paintbrushes so nobody will need to share. There are a lot of easy to instruct options for all ages, but I love the choices from Step By Step Painting.
If your group will be younger, like ours, a variety of art stations set up all around will allow kids to go at their own pace. We were lucky enough to have beautiful weather, so everyone could stay outside. If your party is during colder months or you have inclement weather, make sure your plan B can still support lots of space between art zones. Our stations were:
Easel with chalk and markers. I had purchased a marker spray gun for this area, but we never did get that to work. Guess that’s why it was in the clearance aisle.
Table with blank masks to decorate. I cut small squares of laser copy paper, then with the magic of Cricut and their Infusible Ink Markers, each kid could design their own mask.
Crayons and coloring books. Because who doesn’t love a good coloring book?
Table with canvasses and paints. Pro tip: Make sure the paint is washable (ask my cousin’s shoes how we know this is of the utmost importance).
Have your decorations stand out
One of my favorite parts about hosting our art party was getting to go all out with the colorful decorations. Let your own creativity shine with all of the DIYs.
We let our guests know what to expect with our Art Party Invitations, then set up smocks out front to keep clothes safe.
My favorite DIYs for this party were budget friendly and still made a huge impact.
Paint stripes onto cups to make labeling easier. I used 3 colors of Martha Stewart Multi-Surface Acrylic Paints. While these are non-toxic, I avoided painting close to the drinking surfaces.
Paint the undersides of the handles of clear cutlery. Using the same paints as the cups, these upgraded my Dollar Tree silverware to statement pieces.
Hang balloons in rainbow order across the ceiling. This was a highlight of the party for the kids. They felt like they were in a magical land, which made the effort of blowing up balloons for hours totally worth it.
Make pom-pom and tassel banners to accent the food table (I also strung them on our playhouse and playground). Although the result was wonderful, it did take significantly longer than anticipated. I recommend starting early for this one!
Sew multiple tablecloths to make one rainbow-colored runner. Dollar Tree came through by offering several colors of plastic tablecloths. I simply folded each color several times (if you don’t layer them the color is quite translucent) and did a simple stitch with rainbow yarn to hold them together.
Make your food part of the theme
Let your guests make their own individual pizzas. Not only does this work with the art theme, but it also promotes COVID protocols by avoiding shared foods.
I found baking sheets at the Dollar Tree, then using the same Martha Stewart paints I decorated one sheet per family (the sheets were used as trays and were never in direct contact with food). Every family had its own colorful containers of sauces, cheeses, onions, and pepperoni. I also made sure there was every color of the rainbow on each tray by adding sides of blueberries, peppers, and hummus.
We kept people outside and popped the finished products on the grill.
Our friends had a great time celebrating with us. I had been worried that COVID would have made it impossible, but luckily our art party worked perfectly.
Please remember to check with the CDC guidelines and local ordinances for the most recent updates and requirements before throwing a party. We had 3 families from our pod who have followed the same safety measures in the weeks leading up to the party.
Life during COVID feels like I’m constantly trying to make everything seem normal for my kids during a time when everything is different. Just last year we hosted more than 80 people inside our home for a triple birthday party for my kids and nephew. This year? We had 4 families from our pod over for a backyard celebration. It takes more thought, but it is possible to throw a unique Coronavirus party for your child’s birthday and still keep safety measures in place.
Keep it virtual
I know, I know, suggesting a Zoom party isn’t exactly a groundbreaking idea anymore, but with colder months upon us, the options for outdoor gatherings are less realistic. By meeting online not only can you ensure everyone will stay safe, but your guest list is no longer restricted to people nearby! Just be sure you don’t get too overzealous by the possibilities; aim to keep the number of invitations limited to 10. Too many more and the call becomes too unruly (any parent who has observed virtual school can attest to this).
Even though Zooms can be quick, easy, and informal, with a little creativity they can still feel like a “normal” birthday party. Upgrade your call by adding a theme, an activity, and a special surprise for guests. You’ll be sure to forget your party is online!
Spread the fun *
*but not germs
This will work best if you already have 1 or 2 families with whom you have already established a pod. As this is the highest risk Coronavirus party idea I am suggesting, make sure you limit the number of guests, remind those who are feeling sick to stay home, and be very clear with your protocols.
Arrange your home into different party zones. Set up different activities in each area to keep the party fresh, while being mindful of the need to keep social distance.
Video game showdown. Keep seating at least 6 feet apart and make a big competition, complete with a winner’s bracket. This option works wonderfully for older kids because it lets them play together without needing to be face-to-face.
Host a talent show. Let your guests know ahead of time to prepare a song, dance, magic trick – or whatever they want! Talent shows are perfect for kids of all ages since even the littlest ones like to perform. Be sure to record the show and share it with your guests afterward!
Or have the kids bring an item for show and tell. If your guests (or guest of honor) are a bit shyer, show and tell is less pressure and feels familiar since they’ve done it at school. Again, advanced notice to your guests is crucial!
Go old school with Pictionary. It’s a classic for a reason! Pictionary is a great way to let everyone engage without needing to be right next to each other. Tip: For smaller kids, have a parent go up with them to help read the clue
Get creative with art stations. If you don’t have the space to keep guests apart out while watching one big activity, then set up different art stations around the house. When each kid arrives, provide them with their own paintbrushes (and maybe a cute Take an amazing race
It’s hard to remember that there was a time not too long ago when I only logged in to Zoom for work. Because my job has always been remote, this was often our team’s way of communicating. Who could have predicted that this business platform would become one of our chosen ways to create celebrations (then again, who could have predicted much of anything in 2020)? Since this will be the norm for the foreseeable future, I say we embrace the technology. Here are five ways you can make your Zoom party feel like an immersive event, and just as special for your child as a traditional party.
1. Start with the invitations
I like to bring a tangible element into a virtual party by mailing invitations. In my opinion, paper invitations can generate more enthusiasm and anticipation for an event than a digital one because your guests have a physical reminder. Your invitation should clearly introduce the theme of your party so everyone knows what to expect. For a few themed invitation ideas, check these out. Remember to include a cheat sheet on how to log in and use Zoom if there are guests who haven’t signed on before.
2. Make it nice
One of my favorite ways to wow guests at a party is to make decorations that coordinate with the theme of the event. Luckily when you are hosting a Zoom party this doesn’t require a lot of work!
The simplest (and usually free) option is to send a photo to your guest list and encourage everyone to use it as their virtual background. This creates a cohesive look across the mosaic tiles and makes it seem like everyone is in the same place. Plus, and this is a HUGE bonus in my house, using a background image means no cleaning! Simply upload the picture and voila, you’re done!
For truly special events, consider mailing (or dropping off) decorations for people to set up themselves. You can provide them for all guests or just the guest of honor. When I hosted a Zoom baby shower for my cousin, we sent her balloons, banners, and cute baby blocks. These touches helped create a feeling of a “real” party.
3. Dress to impress
No, I don’t mean you need to put on heels (frankly, I don’t even know where mine are anymore). Dress up for the theme! Hosting a zoo theme? Encourage everyone to wear animal prints. Mickey Mouse theme? Dress like one of the Clubhouse crew. After all, a costume always makes you feel like you are a PART of the party!
4. Feed the masses
Admittedly this is one of the most difficult (and potentially costly) ways to upgrade your party. When I hosted my cousin’s Zoom shower, I had the brilliant idea to send everyone a sweet treat so we could all enjoy them during the call.
What I didn’t plan was the fact that because technology meant we could have guests from across the country, I would have to sort out the logistics of getting treats across the country. I made a spreadsheet of each delivery services I could think of, then guest by guest found options that would work. While I was able to get something for everyone, I did not account for the delivery and service charges. All of a sudden a $3 cake pop was $12. Now I will never pretend to be a mathematician or economist, but even I can see that this is not a great option.
If you’re hosting a local crowd, your best bet is to pick up some treats at the store (if anyone is around Kansas City, I’m partial to Emily Kate’s gluten-free cupcakes at Whole Foods) and drop them off on doorsteps the morning of with a sweet note.
Guests scattered all around? Send a gift card in a small increment to a nearby bakery. That way they can pick out their favorite dessert and you don’t have to pay for delivery.
5. Add some structure
If you have a lot of people you will definitely need a way to organize your event. In a normal, in-person party, people will naturally form into small groups to chat and catch up, but online everyone is just there. Together. This could mean one person might dominate the conversation (I may or may not be the talker in my group).
Create a balance between open convesations and an activity or two.
If you have older kids, create a fun trivia game on Survey Monkey. Create questions about the theme of the party or trivia about the birthday kid. You could also host a digital movie night and use Netflix’s Teleparty extension for Chrome (small downside: this is a chatbox rather than a video on Zoom so you might want to keep your Zoom video on during the film).
For a younger crowd, email few coloring pages ahead of time for the kids to decorate during the party. BINGO is another simple choice that translates well online and lets everyone play together.
Maybe you want to get the kids up and moving. Make a scavenger hunt that sends kids on a hunt around their house. Better yet; coordinate the search with your theme!
Remember that your Zoom party can be as elaborate or simple as you want it to be. By incorporating a few of these ideas you can make it even more special! Best part? No cleanup. Now that is a reason to party!