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Organizing a Toddler Birthday Party

Birthdays are fun, from the very first one to the time you’ve reached your golden years! There are so many ways to celebrate and so many people with whom to party!
If you’re the parents of a toddler who’s heading towards his or her next birthday, you’ve probably been thinking about planning a party for your little one. Perhaps you’re inviting your close family members. But if you’re really brave, maybe you’ve decided to tackle a toddler party with guests that include a host of other children that are the same age as the birthday boy or girl. That can be a major undertaking and, if not planned correctly, could result in a disaster!

Little ones have short attention spans, tend to get grouchy when tired, and don’t always have the best table manners! So, it’s necessary to plan accordingly so that the party goes smoothly and all the guests – including the guest of honor – are happy.

o Time – No toddler needs a 3-hour birthday party! Keep the party to no more than 90 minutes. Even an hour is suitable. Try to select a time when everyone is wide awake and not longing for a nap or bedtime. Consider mornings at about 11 a.m. and end with lunch or perhaps start at about 3 p.m., after nap time.

o Limit the guest list – 2- and 3-year-old children don’t need to have 25 kids at their birthday celebration….and neither do you! Limit the guest list to about 5 or 6 children maximum. Some parents note that this is a problem when children are in a pre-school or day care class full of kids their age as they are hesitant to exclude anyone. To avoid hurt feelings, don’t send invitations but, instead, phone the parents of the invitees and explain the limited guest list, asking for their discretion in the matter.

o Dress – Don’t have the children dress up in their party best. Encourage parents to dress them comfortably so that they can enjoy playing and eating without worrying about stains and rips and…ultimately, lots of crying.
o Games – It’s really best not to plan for too many organized games for toddlers. One is sufficient and none at all is just fine, too. Instead, simply have plenty of toys available for each child to enjoy. Little ones tend not to play well together so it’s better if each has their own toys to keep them happy.

o Decorations – Be extra careful about using decorations that may be dangerous or toxic to little ones. Balloons – especially the latex kind – are a definite no-no. A broken balloon presents an immediate choking threat. Any decorations used should be kept well out of reach of the guests and the birthday child and should be very simple.

o Hire a helper – Find a teenager who enjoys working with children to help you with your party. That person can interact with the kids while you’re organizing food or tending to the children’s other immediate needs.

o Presents – Save the gift opening until after the party. No one is going to sit still while the birthday child opens presents, including the birthday child! And opening new toys will just result in lots of battles over those toys.

o Food – Again, keep this part of the party simple. Toddlers really don’t eat very much and most of them are very picky, so it’s likely that something you spend lots of time preparing won’t be enjoyed by at least half the kids. Limit the food to things like crackers, slices of cheese, small PB and J sandwiches, juice boxes (or juice in sippy cups), cookies, and maybe chicken fingers for older toddlers. Check with parents about food allergies. If you’re having cake, cut it in very small pieces and expect some mess.