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.
Most importantly, rewrite the script on what a birthday party represents for your family. Birthdays are a time to make family traditions! Now I talk with my boys about what I’ll have time for. And we also talk about how excited we’ll be to celebrate, who might be coming, and share memories of past parties. I’m helping them focus on the most important part of a birthday party - the celebration of the blessing of life with the people who matter the most.
Don’t let the party overcome you! At the end of the day, your relationship with your child matters the most. So do what you can, and let go of the rest. Manage the expectations for yourself and your child, and you’ll throw a party everyone ends up happy with, and avoid any party regrets.
Plan your next party without the overwhelm! Check out DO-able DIY Birthday Parties for 100+ tips and ideas from a decade of party planning. Plus, get 7 pages of printable planners and templates to help you pull together a party as super as your little guy or gal!
Julie Kieras | Julie lives in suburban Connecticut with her husband and two boys, as well as their pet hedgehog and fish. She loves to encourage moms and connect them to valuable resources and tips they can use right away to create a happy and strong home. She can be found wearing out the keys of her computer while writing her family lifestyle blog Happy Strong Home, or curled up with her boys and a good book (and coffee!). Julie has had her party ideas featured on the Better Connecticut TV show, and has contributed to the Million Praying Moms Pray the Word Journals, the Melissa & Doug blog, and ForEveryMom.com.