Guest Post: How to plan parties for kids

Dino Cake

I’d like to introduce you all to my lovely and talented sister-in-law, Ms. Emily Knight! She’s incredibly creative and wonderful at baking, upcycling, photography, and all things crafty (the project kind, not the deceitful kind). -Elisebet 

In the past few years, it has become more and more popular to throw a themed birthday party, but it often presents itself as a very daunting task. There aren’t any prerequisites to taking on a themed party, but you will need to have a little patience and some organization.

My boys have birthdays within 3 weeks of each other, so we decided to just have one party this year. I’m not sure how it’s going to work out when they get older, but I’m not going to even think that far. At this point, I can’t even believe that they are 4 and 2. Our theme this year: Dinosaurs. When my oldest son decided that’s the kind of birthday he wanted, I was a little confused. He never really showed interest in dinosaurs, except for Rex in “Toy Story” – which were at the time his favorite movies. So for months I would ask him if he’d like to change it, but he was adamant.

For those who have asked me the question, “How do you do it?”, here it goes. Keep in mind, the more parties you do, the easier it gets! So don’t be faint of heart. If your first themed party doesn’t pan out the way you want, don’t worry! Give yourself credit for trying.  Trust me, when I look back at my first born’s first birthday party, I just about weep. Not really. But I say to myself, “What was I thinking?”

Pick and stick to a theme:

Easier said than done.  Before I chose the dinosaur theme this year, I had several other ideas in mind. One was Space – more centered around Buzz Light Year than the entire Toy Story theme.  One was Pirates – the blog that I followed had only a handful of pirate examples, but that’s what I like to see. I don’t usually like to go with what everyone else is doing at the time. And the last and most difficult to choose amongst was Mad Hatter –  I just love the Tim Burton’s Mad Hatter. Well, I think I may just use that theme for my husband’s 30th party. As you can see, the Dinosaur Theme was nowhere in sight in my horizon of birthday themes.

So, as I mentioned before, I made absolutely sure that my boys – most importantly my oldest son – really wanted to have a dinosaur birthday party.  (Especially since I found and bought two GAP shirts that had what looked like a hand-drawn T-Rex devouring a cake with the inscription “Happy Birthday to ME”) I’d say, to give yourself ample planning time, pick your theme at least 2-3 months before. Usually, I like to pick it a year in advance, because when one party is done, I look forward to the next!


I no longer follow just one blog. I Google search my birthday theme and look at the images. This will open a wider option for you to choose from (even more than Pinterest). Believe me, this is one of the funnest parts and there are so many moms with fabulous inspiring ideas. To keep some “originality” to your parties, try to mix it up with other party ideas. If you don’t care about originality, then go ahead, find a party you love and do everything exactly as they did. I can never say that my parties are original since I never invent any of my decor and other projects. But if you do mix it up, your party doesn’t look exactly like anyone else’s.


Once you’ve chosen all of what you want for your party, it’s time to start working! You don’t want to do what I did this year: move to a new house 3 weeks before the party and research and prepare everything after that! Well, I must confess… I did a little research before the move, but none of which I used at the party.

Work on your projects in this manner – most time consuming to least time consuming… This, of course, excludes food making. This will ensure that it will be ready for the party – plus the project that takes the longest usually means that it’s the biggest “wow factor.”

Now that your projects are completed, start planning your menu preparation schedule. If you have multiple things that need to be done in the oven, this schedule is mandatory. This will reveal if you’ll need to cut out some items and alter your menu containing stove top or night-before recipes.

Don’t forget to purchase gifts! My husband is in charge of this, which I guess is his way of getting involved. It is one less trip for me, plus I usually have the boys with me when I do go shopping.


Get your banners, bunting, and other decor out, because the big day is almost here. I like to get the stuff done when the kids are in bed the night before to keep them from getting too excited and can’t fall asleep.  Decorating now is ideal so that you see the big picture and change things around that way you want them if doesn’t look “just so.” Besides, you will have other things to worry about on the day of the party. Just take it from me: decorate now. Don’t forget to make/bake anything that needs time to cool, get iced, or is able to sit overnight without getting gross. Also, don’t forget to wrap or bag those presents!


It never really seemed to matter what time of day I scheduled my parties to begin, I still woke up early the day of the party. First things first. Take a shower, get your party fit and make up on. You may not have time do it later. If it is possible, appoint someone else – aka husband – to get the party child(ren) ready and – as equally important – entertained.

Even though you got all your decor and other projects done, you will still be running around. This is why it’s important to have a schedule or at least a checklist. Unless you’re ultra organized – and I consider myself to be one of those people –  there is always something that will require you  – or someone else – to make a quick shopping trip. If this happens, try to judge whether or not you really need it. If you do, quickly map where you need to go to save on time driving around.

So, you have everything you need? Get cookin’, sister! ( or brother, but I highly doubt that a man would be planning their kids’ themed party, much less doing the cooking. Am I right, or am I right? If you’re a man planning their kids’ themed party AND doing the cooking… You’re a sweet thing, very rare, and an angel.)  Put your cooking schedule where you can see it. I used to tape it eye level on one of my cabinet doors, but now we use our electronics with checklist apps that are pretty convenient… I mean, who uses pen and paper anymore? That was a joke.

 Party Time:

Get this ingrained in your pretty little head: ENJOY THE PARTY! If at all possible, hire –  or simply mandate – someone to take photos of this very memorable event. You’re the host, who will need to guide the party along and start the games and such. You need to be with your kid(s) at all times! This party is just half of a blink in your kid’s life, and you definitely don’t want to miss it.

To see how my dino birthday party turned out look here.

About the Author:

EmilyGrowing up, I was hardly without a camera. There was just something about taking the time to get that good shot, waiting for the film to be developed, and finally receiving an envelope full of memories that may have otherwise been forgotten. In this digital age, I do miss seeing the same developers each time I picked up my photos. However, I am still in awe of what the DSLR (and even my iPhone) brings to my world of photography.

People have asked me, “Why do you take so many pictures?” I say, “Why not?” Something memorable could happen at any moment! Memories are life stories, and photography is a means to story telling. In my opinion, everyone has a story to be told.

-Emily Knight

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  1. Oh dang! I would love to have someone else take care of kiddos while I get the party ready. My hubs has always been on “duty” at work or deployed when we had birthday parties. It sucked. I always did everything on my own. Rather stressful. Hopefully this year now that we are out of the army can be different.

    1. Boo that does suck! And I feel your pain. My husband has duty my son’s first birthday this year, so I decided to not throw a party. My folks are coming the week after, so I think we’ll have a cake and a few presents then. Next year Hubby will probably be deployed on Baby J’s Bday…maybe the third year, we can do it??

  2. My little guys birthdays are 3 weeks apart too so we always do combined parties! Your dino party turned out great 🙂
    Last year we did a spongebob party and my kids loved it I taped streamers to the balloons and made them jelly fish

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