Is it that time of the year… Time to plan your childs party but don’t know where to start or what needs to be done?
It is such an exciting time as your little one turns another year older but can often be daunting for some parents not knowing what to do. Parties are one of my best things to photograph, and having done quite a few I have some helpful guidelines which I hope will make planning your childs party a lot easier.
This is the first step to planning your childs party and it is very important as your decor and often your venue will revolve around this. If your kid is anything like my boys then they only really want to choose a theme from about 3 years old, so go for it and free reign while you can, haha!
Here are some popular themes I have seen lately…
For boys or girls
- Ice cream
With of course the few current movie themes such as frozen, trolls, ben10, Star Wars and even spiderman being popular choices.
You can do an electronic invitation which you email or WhatsApp the parents of the children you wish to invite. There are a lot of good party stationary companies out there that can help you with this. Otherwise the good old paper invitation is always a great choice as parents can keep these on the fridge and their kids get excited about the build up to their friends party.
If you are working on a tight budget then don’t worry there are lots of free printables online but this may limit you to style choice as well as theme.
I normally send mine out about a month before the party and ask everyone to RSVP two weeks before as you will need time to sort out thank you gifts and also for catering purposes.
This is a tough one as you always have to bare in mind that it could rain on your childs party day. I love to do my kids parties at our home, giving us an indoor and outdoor option, and I do find it a lot easier as we don’t have to cart all the decor, food and tables to another venue. Although a party at home is not always possible due to space.
If you decide to hire out a venue, this could be one of your biggest expenses of the day. Try find a venue which allows kids to play without too may rules and potential hazards as the last thing you need is someone hurting themselves. Yes I have seen that happen too and can really put a damper on the party.
With outdoor functions try make sure there is some shade available and places for people to sit, especially for the grandparents and moms with little babies.
I prefer kids parties at venues which are private as I find that with venues also open to the public you do loose a bit of that party feel. Also the kids (and parents, if the child is still young) seem to run off in different directions not really being involved in the party group. I have been to a party before where it actually took some time to find everyone and get them back to the party venue so that they could sing happy birthday and cut the cake.
Get the headcount
I don’t know what it is but this is always a hard one to finalise as you will always get those parents who don’t RSVP or who cancel on the day… yes that really does happen. Thats why I suggest to set a RSVP date two weeks before the party and then I will message those who haven’t responded so that I hopefully have the headcount of who is coming a week prior to the party.
The birthday cake
What is a birthday without a birthday cake…. From children to adults everyone looks out for the birthday cake at a party.
The birthday cake is always a highlight at any party and generally a centre piece on the birthday table. Make sure its something your child will love to eat. I know that sounds obvious but Ive been to parties where kids don’t like the cake flavor and so it is barely touched. The standard chocolate or vanilla sponge is always best and I find butter icing is enjoyed more by the kids, even though fondent can sometimes look prettier.
I unfortunately cannot bake a decent birthday cake to save my life and I luckily have a very talented sister who can do this for me. That said there are so many talented bakers out there, but be prepared to pay a few hundreds for a creative, tasty birthday cake. If you getting someone to make the cake for you please ensure you book them as soon as you have decided on the theme as you don’t want to be disappointed if they are fully booked.
When to cut the cake? This honestly never crossed my mind when I was planning my sons first birthday party. The one thing I was surprised with, when I first started going to birthday parties with my son, is how cutting the cake it also a silent invitation allowing parents and kids to leave soon after. So my advice is only sing happy birthday about half an hour before the party ends. Cutting the cake too soon could mean that your party will end early.
Food and beverage
Themed biscuits or cupcakes are also great and can be used on the table as part of the decor helping build the party theme or even as part of the thank you gifts which the kids can take home. Just make sure you order your themed biscuits well in advance as often the good bakers get booked up fast. I would try book these about 2 months before the party.
With the rest of the food and beverages this can be done a week before the party. If ordering platters I order them a week before the party so I know its done. Its always hard to work out how much to order and there are some food calculators on the internet to help you with this.
Kid like pretty simple food such as chips (I find Nik naks, flings, popcorn and ghost pops are most popular), pizza, miniature sandwiches, sausages, cut up veggies, smarties, chomp chocolate, cupcakes, kids biscuits (Oreos, zoo biscuits and jolly jammers are always a win). A lot of people still do suckers and fizzers as snacks for kids but I find these to be very sticky and messy as kids tend to not finish them and leave them lying around.
With regards to drinks for the kids I find box drinks with straws to be best and you can buy these at any local grocery store. This seems to be easier and less messy as kids tend to spill and knock over drinks out of plastic cups. You can also cover the sides of the box drinks in paper and decorate it to the theme of your party. This also creates a great decor piece on the table.
Now don’t forget about the parents… Its good to get some savory options, healthy options or even a quiche is a good choice. My best is to buy platters as this offers parents with a few choices on what they would like to eat.
Activities for the kids
This is very important as kids won’t just stand and chat to one another like us adults. So please ensure you have some fun things planned for them to do at the party.
If you hosting a party for a 1-2 year old party I suggest having a sandpit, ball pit, tent, blankets, soft kicking balls for them to play with. Then for the older kids over 3 years old I suggest entertainment such as jumping castles, cupcake or Marie biscuit decorating, pony rides, a puppet show, a magic show, a reptile show, face painting, coloring in table, balloon making or even a clown.
Again if you are needing someone to come in and entertain such as a clown or puppet show please book this as soon as the party date is finalized.
Thank you gifts
This doesn’t always seem to be at every party so don’t be pressurized into giving thank you gifts. Although it is something I do for my kids parties.
The good news is that you dont have to break the bank to put a smile on a childs face. Its just a little something for kids to have fun with when they get home, reminding them of the fun party they were just at and thanking them for making the effort to be there. If you have more than 10 kids coming to the party I would suggest you buy in bulk to help keep costs low.
Ideas for thank you gifts
- A themed biscuit with a thank you note
- A goodie bag with a treat such as a packet of chips, sucker, fizzers, small box of smarties or a chomp as well as an item like bubbles, small figurines, crayons, car or kids jewellery.
Of course I think this is an important part of the party but it is not a necessity. If you dont have money in the budget for a photographer I would highly recommend you ask a family member to snap away and get a few memories of your childs special day.
I just love to photograph parties… Not only for memories of all the detail and hard work you went into making the party a success, but to capture the natural moments of your child playing and laughing with his/her friends, the smile on their face when a friend arrives and hands over the present, the facial expression when everyone is singing happy birthday or when they really huff and puff to blow out the birthday cake. All these moments are so important and as a parent you are too busy on the day to capture these memories yourself. As a photographer I want you to enjoy the party with your child and leave it up to me to capture great pics that you can look and reminice on when its all over.
My son loves to look at photobooks of his parties as in his eyes that is his day and those are his friends, and wow mom look how little “mikey” was here. Moments you will never get back if not photographed.
- Choose the theme
- Confirm a venue (have a back up plan if its an outdoor venue)
- Confirm guest list and send out invites
- Book your photographer, birthday cake and other baked items as well as the entertainment
- Follow up on RSVP
- Buy food and beverages
- Make thank you gifts
- Enjoy the party and give yourself a tap on the back for an excellent job done!
Well I hope you found this information useful and all the best planning your childs party xoxo
Here are some photos which I have taken at a few parties.. hope they help inspire you!