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Birthday Party Tips

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you keep your sanity while ensuring that everyone has a good time. Also included is a party plan for the big day for you to follow. Don't stress planning a Birthday Party, the early years age is an ideal time to have one. By the age of around 8 years old you wont be invited so make the most of the memories now.

For many children, their birthday is their favourite day of the year. And why not? It is a day dedicated entirely to them—complete with cake, dancing, singing, and presents.

Think About Themes

Whether your early years loves trucks, dinosaurs, Bluey or Hey Duggie, chances are you can find birthday party goodies that span the spectrum. But, it's not just about decorations. Popular characters lend themselves to other facets of the celebration, activities, food, and crafts.

Make Details Age-Appropriate

When planning an early years birthday party… from activities to goody bag treats… make your choices with early years in mind. If you have invited a wide range of ages, focus on the age of the birthday child.

As for how many children to invite, use your child's age as a guide: one child for every year, plus two. If your child is turning four, try to keep the guest list at six children.

Age also plays an important role in setting the theme and deciding where to have your party. Some younger children might be more comfortable at home, while others enjoy visiting a familiar, fun location, such as soft play or park.

Some children enjoy active parties, like those hosted at a soft play venue. Others will be more interested in a dress-up and dance party. The key is to make sure the venue and activities are age-appropriate and something your child would enjoy.

Organise Activities

Spontaneity is always fun, but for an early years birthday, scheduling—with some wiggle room—is the way to go. Try planning activities over a short time span, such as every 10 to 15 minutes.

Remember, simple is best when you are dealing with young children with short attention spans.

If you can, avoid activities where children have to wait for their turn, especially if there are lots of other children at the party. Think bubbles, colouring pages, freeze dance, or even a craft station, complete with soft clay, paper, stickers, appropriate age colouring tools.

Having at least one adult helper for each activity is usually a good idea, as well. You can talk to the parents of your guests about helping out or you can ask friends or family members to assist you.

Set a Start and End Time

When using a venue for a birthday party, you usually have a set start time and end time. But it's just as important to provide guests a beginning and ending time if you are having a party at home.

Leaving the party open-ended could confuse guests and keep them from planning for the rest of the day. It also could mean that you are left trying to entertain a group of early years for longer than you intended.

Generally, parties for children under age 5 should last about 90 minutes. The maximum time for an early years party is about two hours, tops. If you are having parents drop their children off at the party, make sure they know what time they need to return to get their child.

Create Invitations

An invitation should include all the basics—address, date, time, and the birthday child’s name and age—but there are other important nuggets of information that your guests' parents may be wondering about.

Indicate if a child should be dropped off or if you would prefer an adult to stay. Dropping off usually begins around age 5 or 6, but it's still a good idea to let your preference be known. If parents do leave their children, get a phone number where they can be reached in case there are any problems.

Also, note if you are serving food so people know if they need to feed their children. Communicate the menu in case some of your guests have food allergies or sensitivities. Include an RSVP date, and don't feel funny about following up with a phone call if you don't hear back.

Choose the Location

If you don't have the room or the inclination to host the party at home, there are plenty of places you can go instead. But if you are not hosting your party at home, plan to book this type of party several months in advance, if possible.

Good places fill up quickly, especially those that can only host one party at a time. If you choose to avoid the pre-planned party route such as soft play venues consider a privately owned hall or community room.

Book the Entertainment

When hiring an entertainer for your child's party—whether you have it in your home or another location—ask key questions like how long their performance is, how much space they need, what the cost includes. Very early years up to age 3 do tend to struggle with mascots and adult dress up and being restrained by an entertainer. Toys to play with and a short sing and dance session followed by food, birthday cake and some activity tables to end with will work well.

Set the Menu

Pizza is on the menu of many early years parties, but it certainly isn't the only option. Chicken nuggets, small sandwiches, vegetables and dip, and fruit are all favourites that are easy to prepare and likely to please adult guests, too. If your child and/or guests are 4 years old or under, be aware of choking hazards.

The reality is, this is probably one area you don't have to worry about spending a lot of money. Chances are your pint-sized guests won't eat that much, especially with all the excitement of the day. Using cardboard food containers and pre filling them works really well. All you need to do is hand them out and you won’t need tables and chairs as most under 3’s will prefer to sit on parents lap or picnic rug than at a table.

Birthday Cake

You can incorporate the theme—if you have one—by baking your own cake and decorating it with small toys. Supermarkets have lots of choice for cake and many choices that you can add your own decorations to.

Pick Out Fun Favors

Hand out goody bags at the end, as the children leave, to reduce the chance of lost items or misunderstandings. There are plenty of options for favors related to your theme, such as small toys, stickers, tattoos, notepads, bubbles, balloons, craft supplies, and more at all different price points.

If you aren't thrilled with the idea of buying a bunch of small toys, consider buying one item, like a bucket and spade, book, or a colouring book with and crayons, for each guest.

You could pre prepare a “Thank you for attending my party” note for each bag.

Prepare for Presents

Presents can be a highlight of the special day. If you decide to open them during the festivities. Decide on a table or area for the presents to be kept safe.

Most importantly

Whether you host a party at a popular venue or organise a small, intimate gathering with only family members, it is important to plan a party that fits your child's age, interests, and temperament. Create a celebration that they will enjoy, that fits your budget, and that does not cause you undue stress.

Knowing your child's expectations ahead of time can help you put together an event that suits their personality. With thoughtful planning and a little creativity, you can host a party that is meaningful and fun for your child without putting too much pressure on yourself or your wallet.

Top Tips

Things to look out for when you’re choosing a venue include:

Ease of reaching the venue for all guests

Ease of access to venue

Good parking

Adequate toilet & changing facilities

Space for buggies to be left

Whether there is a food preparation area if needed

How far in advance you can access the venue to set up the party

If you will have to share the venue / a section of the venue with others

Do they have high chairs if needed

Do they have a sound system you can use

You should also consider the size of the venue.

Too small and you’ll have trouble fitting everyone in.

But too large and you’ll have trouble creating a party atmosphere and could have trouble wrangling the kids and keeping them focused on the party.

You also need to factor in the amount of space you will realistically need for games, sitting down and eating, plus for parents to sit or wait.

Make sure you get a confirmation that the venue is yours.

Allow for parents in numbers

It is usual for most two, three and four-year-old children to have a parent stay with them for the duration of the party.

Often both parents attend with them.

Allow for babies

If party guests have close in age siblings these may well be coming to your party as well!

It’s nice to be able to offer nursing mums and dad’s looking after babies somewhere to sit.

Save the date

Once your child is at school there are likely to be several contenders for weekend party dates each month.

So send out a ‘save the date’ text or WhatsApp as soon as you know the date you want to hold your child’s party.

Follow up with an actual invitation once you have the details confirmed.

It’s your choice whether to make this a paper invite or whether to send a group text or WhatsApp.

Check for allergies

Make sure to add a line asking if there are any allergies or special dietary requirements.

Keep it simple!

This is the only way you will keep your sanity unless you have a paid party planner.

Offer party theme options you can actually deliver

Remember themed party decorations often aren’t reusable

Party themes may be incredibly popular but it means you’ll get almost no reuse out of any decorations you buy.

Go for coloured decorations with a themed cake and a few themed add ons, then you can mix and match decorations year after year!


Firstly, you need to decide if you’re going to have balloons

Early years can get very upset when they burst. Transporting them to a venue ready blown takes up car space. Blowing them up at the venue can be very time consuming.

Paper pompoms have become super popular and paper decorations definitely the way to go for an eco-friendly way to decorate your party.

Create coat space

There is nothing worse than everyone dumping their coats in the main party area and ruining your carefully curated party theme!

So make sure there’s a clear space for people to leave their coats.

Don’t forget extra space for pushchairs and car seats too.

Have spare clothes for your child

Make sure you have a spare set of clothes if your child is likely to have a toilet accident due to excitement or just because they’re still learning.

Remove breakables

This is valid whether you’re having the party at home or at a venue.

Either way, you don’t want the cost of replacing something that’s broken.

Store toys away

This one is for parties at home.

Only put out toys that you / your child is happy for other children to play with.

This will stop squabbles, diverted attention, unnecessary damage and unnecessary clearing up.

Drink cartons spill less than cups!

Ditch the crockery and cutlery

Use paper boxes or paper bags and pre fill each one with the food ready to hand out to a child

popcorn –or crisps or mini sweet bites.

Carrot sticks and hummus

Item of fruit

Have drinks for adults

You won’t be expected to provide food for adults, but it is a good idea to offer some sort of drink

If possible – and safe – set up a drinks station so that adults can help themselves.


Make sure that you have something suitable to play music on for party games.

You may think you’re iPhone can handle it, but it’s amazing how much sound a large bunch of kids can soak up.

Take along your sound system from home, an iPod dock (though double-check how loud this will actually go) or check if the venue has one that you can borrow.


You don’t need prizes for every game. Under 3’s avoid games.

Give out a sweet or sticker to the winner each time.

Get pass the parcel right!

Now this is especially relevant if you are planning to have lots of guests.

Back in the day you had one big present in the middle.

These days you need to have a little something in each layer.

It can just be a sticker or a sweet, but don’t forget them.

It’s also worth creating two or three parcels to be passed around if there’s a big group of children.

Masks and puppets are fun

Little children (five and under) love puppets.

Work them into games to add an extra fun element.

Craft activities can work really well at early years parties.

Create a game box

Gather all the props and prizes you need for games and put them into a large box or bag that you can keep out of the way of inquisitive children at the party.

Best Friends

If your child has a best friend, it is worth checking ahead with the parents to ensure they are available as this can have a negative impact on your child if a close friend is unable to attend.


Most gifts get opened after the party. Early years don’t usually behave well watching another child opening presents.

The gifts are also easier to transport when wrapped

Create a checklist

Make sure you write every detail down from what you need to buy to what you need to do.

Deciding on a day and time

It is important to ensure that the time of day you pick is appropriate for your child’s age. A late afternoon party for a 3 year old may be creating a situation where the children attending are too tired to take part or become difficult to handle as they are used to being at home, getting ready for tea and bath time. It can be useful to reflect back on your own experience as a parent and consider times of day that would be most appropriate for activities and food.

Over stimulating children with too many activities crammed into their party time will only end in tears or tantrums and likewise, too much sugary food is likely to increase the risk of party chaos.

The key point to remember is that as long as your child is made to feel special on the day, that is all that really matters. A small party with a handful of close friends can be just as successful as a more elaborate event.

Early Years Party Plan for 1 – 3-year-olds

1.On arrival of the guests have a colouring activity, books & puzzle ready as the children arrive. These can be the party theme if you have one. Tunnels and a basket of baby toys. They will arrive at different times over the first 15 minutes of the party. This will help them to settle in. If you have a large space more than one or two will want to explore the space and run or crawl around rather than settle to an activity and that’s okay too.

2. Starting with a group activity using a large piece of material will bring all the children together. Purchase a couple of metres of a stretchy lycra material. Get them to hold the edges (4 adults in each corner will help to get started) They can stand or sit. Be aware some may want to dive straight on top so be careful if it’s a hard floor to start high up until most early years have a hold of the material. Place plastic 20 ball pit balls in one go by emptying them in one go onto the top as you play “Jelly on a plate” is a good song for this type of activity. Early years will love moving the material to make the balls bounce and throwing balls back on that fall as well as reaching for balls that come close to them.

3. When the song has ended the children will enjoy collecting in the balls to a counting song or you can all count together and putting them back into the bag or box.

4. Now you have them all together and their attention play some popular action songs they will all be familiar with.

"Head shoulders knees and toes"

"This is the way we stamp our feet, clap our hands etc"

"Old Macdonald had a farm" (enjoy making all the animal sounds together)

"The Wheels on the Bus"

5. Place a box or basket of musical instruments for the children to help themselves to and play some more tunes while they enjoy 15 minutes of exploring the instruments and making music together. Justine Fletcher has a "lets make music" tune

You could also add a basket/box of household sensory materials.

You could make your own shakers with empty water bottles and lentils or rice inside. You could add some colour too sequins and beads. Use duck tape or rubber insulator tape used for wires to secure the lids on. These could be pre made with guests names on and given as favors. Wooden spoons and pans are great for drums too.

6. Its time to hand out the pre prepared food boxes you made earlier with the carton and straw drinks you chose because its less spills and cleaning up. Allow 20 minutes for this.

7. Its time for the birthday cake.

8. Get the lycra material out again and this time you can bounce small soft characters of your party theme and play appropriate music to match.

9. You could make your own ribbons on wooden rings very cheap and use them as the party favor for the children to take home. Enjoy ribbon dancing activity to “Shake your sillies out”

10. Its bubble time. Its best to use a bubble gun. They cost around £5 and adult control it and then the children can enjoy popping the bubbles and you avoid the tantrums, squabbles and spillages.

11. Its now time for sensory creative activity to match your theme. You can be as creative as you want to be. You will find ideas on our Facebook page photos from our weekly session themes. The most popular activity is scooping and pouring. This can be rice, lentils, cereals and you can use paper cups of your theme and plastic spoons. We also have an easy recipe for Kinetic sand. Soft Clay and cookie cutters are also very popular. Sand table with cars and trucks…..You will be able to add small world toys to the activities that match your theme too.

At Wriggles & Giggles we use several Tuff Tray Tables. Your alternative is a cheap blow-up pool, plastic trays found in DIY stores, empty shallow crates/toy boxes, Large thick cardboard (don’t use the soft clay on cardboard) or wooden boards and place them all onto water proof sheets cut to size with extra to allow for spills as well as early years to sit around the edge on the floor to access the activity.

12. Its now time to hand out any party bags and say goodbye.

You have made it and everyone has had the best time and it’s the end of your party !!

Well done you.


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