Simple but terrific birthday parties

The vision Jessie Roberts’ daughter had for her own third birthday party was quite reasonable. Cake, balloons and party hats were all the preschooler requested. Certainly, that was a request easy enough to grant. Roberts, a mom from Independence, had just had her second baby weeks before the party, so it was a relief to her that her daughter was choosing simplicity.

Roberts’ daughter is now 6, and her most recent birthday parties have continued to be low-stress and lots of fun. Last year the party was a picnic in a meadow—the adults chatted, the kids ran around, guests flew kites and everyone had a good time.

“All kids really want is to be surrounded by people they love and be the center of attention for the day,” Roberts says.

How does one make a child’s birthday party memorable without the stress? Keep these tips in mind:

Remember whom the party is celebrating. 

Typically, before they reach school age, children do not remember too much long-term. Given that, the details of a party for a preschooler do not have to be elaborate. For a Frozen party, simply incorporating white and blue in the decorating, having the birthday girl dress up as Anna or Elsa and playing “pin-the-carrot-nose-on-the-Olaf” is likely enough to enforce the theme.

For older children, consider their personality. Does your child truly enjoy big parties with lots of people? Or would your child rather invite a couple friends for a bigger activity, such as spending a night at Great Wolf Lodge?

“It’s their party—let them have the party they want,” says Traci Kinerk with Designer Events KC. “Let it actually be their party.”


It’s never too early to start planning. 

“Everything takes 10 times longer than you think it ought to,” Kinerk says.

Given this, she recommends giving yourself plenty of time to work out the details. If you have an elaborate vision for the party, she advises considering how much work will be required to actually execute the idea. People often enlist the help of family and friends to carry out their vision for a party, taking advantage of their willingness to help.  So if you want detailed decorations for the party, give yourself several months to slowly work on making and planning the decorations during your free time.


Don’t stress about the food.

Kids simply don’t care about the food other than the cake, according to Kinerk. Instead, they care more about decorations and activities. So, she says, going to Sam’s Club and getting an inexpensive pizza is fine.


Remember children have vivid imaginations.

Young children can pretend almost anything is something else related to an interesting theme.
“Kids parties don’t have to be visually that believable, because kids have all kinds of imagination,” Kinerk says.


For example, if you are having a pirate-themed party and serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut the sandwiches in triangle shapes, connect a couple pieces with toothpicks and pretend they are ships sailing the sea for treasure. With some creative thinking, simple food and decorations have endless possibilities.

Keep the activities engaging and hands-on.

Children most remember the games they play and the things their hands make. Have a few different types of crafts and activities so every child at the party finds a favorite.


There are ways to solve the “everyone-has-a-birthday-this-month” problem.

Lee’s Summit mom Bree Raymond is expecting her fourth child, and five out of six of her family members will have birthdays within 45 days of each other. To simplify the birthday overload, they invite their families to come out once to celebrate all the birthdays with a big backyard party. Bounce houses and water balloon fights have been the center of entertainment in the past. Each child picks out his own cake at Costco, and everyone sings “Happy Birthday” to each child individually.


Skip the traditional party favors.

Often these small toys and items aren’t truly appreciated once they get home. Consider using the money you would have spent on the favors to add another fun activity during the party.


Birthday party decorating ideas

Traci Kinerk with Designer Events KC recommends the following party decorating tips:

  • Pick a theme based on your child’s interests and center everything—including the food—on that theme.
  • Balloons are a great inexpensive way to add color.
  • Everything takes longer than it seems it should.
  • Tissue paper and plastic tablecloths are cheap and easy decorating materials.
  • Decorations can double as party favors. This saves you from having to buy traditional party favors and helps with cleanup, as guests take away the decorations.


Allison Gibeson is a Lee’s Summit mom who enjoys planning fun, low-key backyard birthday parties for her son.

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