I just got off the phone with my BFF who was frantically trying to pull together her son's birthday party so I told her I wanted to help her out by putting together a simple list of the things she needed to do to prepare for the "Big Party."
I think no matter how big or small the party having a checklist will help you to feel organized and less stressed. So whether you’re celebrating at home or at a local park, with a bounce house or a magic show, this timeline will make for a very happy birthday with all the bases covered.
One to Three Months Before
First things first, decide on a theme; does he want a Pirate Party or does she want a tea party? Since this is your child's party I think it's important to let them pick the theme. Once the theme has been chosen this will help to figure out decorations and other games and activities.
Make your list. Will you be inviting the entire class? or does your child just want a group of their BFF's? Depending on how big or small the list this may also play into the activities you decide to do at the party...so keet that in mind (in other words if you are throwing a Rock Star Party and decide you want to have a Guitar Hero competition it may work best with fewer contestants).
As soon as you decide on the theme, start booking the entertainment you may want. The earlier the better—it’s no fun telling your child that the clown she has her heart set on is already booked. If you know of parents who have used certain entertainers...give them a call if not then be sure to ask for references of people who have used the entertainers recently, and check up. Be sure to ask if there are any setup requirements.
One Month Before
Before setting a date and sending out the invitations, check with important guests to make sure they’re available that day. Your child won’t be happy if her best friend went to stay with Grandma that weekend.
I still believe in sending paper invitations (call me old fashioned). Make written invitations creative and coordinated with the party theme. Indicate whether parents are invited to stay (parents of little ones should always remain), and include an RSVP date and start and end times.
Make a schedule of activities for the party. Plan to fill an hour and half to three hours (amount of time depends on the age of the children) with a mix of energetic games and calmer activities (like face painting or a three legged race). You also need to factor in time for entertainment, snacks, and general hullabaloo.
I think it's better not to open the presents at the party just because it takes time away from the fun and tends to make the other kids feel uncomfortable. If the presents will be opened, save that for the end; if you start running out of time than just skip it.
Always plan for weather, you never know when the rain will turn your outdoor party into indoor party so always have a back-up plan, just in case.
Make a list of supplies you will need for that day. Make sure you have the following list of supplies covered. Check online party stores like SocialCouture.com o save time (come on you didn't think I was going to write this whole article without mentioning it, did you?)
Possible Party Supplies:
-themed party decorations and party favors (www.SocialCouture.com)
-activities and any project or craft essentials
-iTunes or DJ (try to co-ordinate this with your theme)
-tables for food and presents
-ice coolers, drink dispensers and serving dishes
-tablecloths, plates, cups, napkins and utensils
Purchase themed party favors (and tchochkes to put inside)
Plan the menu. With kid I recommend that you keep it simple with finger foods like pizza, chicken nuggets or quesadillas - things kids actually like are super easy and sure to please.
Make your grocery list.
Line up any help you may need. Enlist friends, older children, other relatives, or parents of party guests to help supervise activities. Consider hiring a maid, your baby-sitter, or a professional to help with the cleaning( before, during and after the party) or to help supervise games and replenish food.
The Week Before
Clean the house thoroughly. This way, you’ll need a surface cleaning before the party.
If you are having an outdoor party make sure you do any gardening or clearing during this week.
Call those friends or family that haven't responded with their RSVP so you can get a final count.
Put together a cooking schedule. Some foods can be cooked days in advance and frozen until the day of the party.
Order the cake. If you are making it from scratch, bake the layers and freeze them (you’ll ice it the day before the party).
If you are decorating with balloons now would be the time to order them or purchase a helium tank and fill them yourself.
Check your list of needed supplies and procure any missing pieces.
Three Days Before
Choose a place to hang coats. Make space in a hall closet or designate a bed for coats.
It's time to hit the Grocery Store.
Do a walk through of your house and yard to make sure that everything is safe for the kids. You definitely don't want someone to get injured while at the party...that would just ruin all the fun. Make sure danger areas like stairs and upper-floor windows (and pools) are safeguarded, double check that any chemicals are locked away, and check for sharp-edged corners on furniture that might be dangerous.
Charge up your cameras and video recorder. Lights, camera, action!
Put together the favor bags.
The Day Before
For an outdoor party, mow the lawn and tidy the yard.
Do a dry run of the party and figure out what you will need or are missing (blindfold and bat for the pinata). Organize or re-organize the furniture. Set up dining and gift tables and activity stations.
Decorate the house!
Finish as much of the cooking as you can. This includes defrosting and icing the cake if you froze one. Also, for any foods that require cooking on party day, do as much prep (dicing, marinating, rinsing lettuce) as possible.
Do a touch-up cleaning sweep through the house.
If opening presents is on the agenda, practice polite “thank you’s” with your child.
Woo Hoo! It's here...the Day of the Party
Finish any last-minute cooking.
Pick up cake and balloons, if ordered.
Set out the food one to two hours before guests arrive. Don't put condiments or dips out that can spoil.
If you have parents who are staying and want something to do give them a task to oversee. They can help with games or supervise a craft, so you’re free to run the show and keep kids from going bonkers.
Serve the cake or cupcakes. Always serve the birthday child first!
Make a list of gifts and who gave them.
Send everyone home with party favors. Your child can hand them out and say thank you at the same time.
The Week After
Help your child send thank-you notes and don't forget to send your own to anyone who helped you get through the day.