Avoiding the Birthday Party Blues

Over the past decade of throwing birthday parties for my kids, I’ve learned managing party expectations is key to keeping my family happy. Especially when it comes to the expectations of my boys, who think I can work miracles when it comes to parties (but know nothing about budgets!) I’ve had to corral their expectations before they end up disappointed.

Avoid the birthday party blues. You can throw a birthday party that leaves you and your child feeling overjoyed instead of overcome.

Determine your level of capability.

Our abilities as parents shift and change. I could throw more detailed parties when my babies lay happily in their pack n’ plays or napped in the afternoons. As they became preschoolers and mischievous grade schoolers, I had less time to prep and plan. So my parties necessarily became simpler.

Talk to your children about their expectations.

If they’re expecting a petting zoo, trampoline park visit, and surprise appearance of a favorite costumed character, and these don’t materialize, then there’s probably going to be tears. Ask kids what is the most important thing to them for their party. Discuss whether or not this will be possible.

Be honest with your kids about what you can afford time and money-wise.

Kids appreciate when we ask for them to help with the decision-making. “I can set up either the karaoke machine or the photo booth, but I won’t have time or space to set up both for the party. Which is going to be the most fun for you and your friends?”

Simple is often better.

Kids just want to have fun, and a large part of the fun is simply gathering with all their friends and family! I love to “plan big,” but as the day approaches and I feel my stress levels rising, I do a bit of “triage” and offload a few plans in favor of enjoying the process!

Do what you love.

Love crafting? Focus on something hand-made and off-load the baking by ordering a store-bought cake. Love cooking? Buy a pre-made garland and make the cake of your dreams! It’s all about balancing and playing to your strengths! Ditch the full-on DIY, and focus on what you CAN DO!

Spread party activities out to avoid stress.

Don’t do them all on the birthday party day!

  • Do a party themed craft with your birthday kid a couple days before the party. These can be set out as decor, or build anticipation!

  • Let the kids help make decor the week before the party. One year my boys drew lizard pictures I put in IKEA stand-up frames as decor!

  • Take your kids on a “birthday field trip” to a local spot. You may have a children’s museum, sports arena, or other local spot nearby.

  • Keep the party rolling! Games, crafts, and activities that don’t get much play during the party can be brought out again in the days following. Decorations can be hung in the kids’ bedrooms to be enjoyed a little longer.