Planning Your First Children’s Birthday Party
April 25, 2017
Halfpint Design - Darling baby girl with her first birthday smashcake

Planning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - with a 10 step checklist to keep you sane!

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Planning Your First Children's Birthday Party

Planning any party can be a daunting task, but when you are planning your first children's birthday party it's a whole new ballgame. Here are my TOP 10 EASY STEPS for planning your first children's birthday party to lower your stress, avoid a breakdown, and ensure your little one gets another birthday party in the future!

Planning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - Great custom labeled chapstick favors for a first birthday that includes adult family and friends

Great custom labeled chapstick favors from Mod Party on Etsy for a first birthday with a grown up guest list.

1. Plan ahead of time!

Do everything you possibly can before the day arrives.

  • Decide on your theme 2 months in advance {or more} to shop sales and start planning
    • The further out you start planning, the better bargains are found and the smoother a party comes together
  • Create your menu and favor ideas 1-2 months before
  • Organize your games/activities – make a list of everything you need for each station or activity 1 month before
  • Order your invitations 4 weeks before, mail them 2 weeks before, text reminders 2 days before {No one RSVP's these days}
  • Unwrap any Dollar store items or favors weeks before the party get your favors all set up
  • Prep as much food as possible the day before

2. Keep the Food Simple:

Create a simple menu keeping DAY OF prep work to a minimum. Simple does not have to equal plain. You can still dress it up to be fabulous!

  • Catering is of course the easiest food path but also the most expensive. If you've got the budget, I highly recommend ordering at least one segment of the food.
  • Pre-made food is a liaison between catering and cooking. Costco is a lifesaver!
  • Crock-pot is my favorite way to go. You can throw it together the day before and let it cook while you prep. You can really cook just about anything in the crock-pot with a slightly modified recipe.
  • Make ahead pasta salads, chicken salad, etc.
  • Slice, chop, wash, or peel anything that will stay fresh for another 24 hours – fruit & veggies are a great example
  • Make ahead and freeze foods
  • Accept offers to contribute food. A portion of your guest list are likely people who love you and want to help. Let them.
Planning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - Darling baby girl with her first birthday smashcake

Smashcakes are synonymous with first birthdays. Don't save it til the end. Photo by Camera Shy

3. Take Care of the Cake, Early:

Order the cake two weeks before. DONE. I am not a baker so the idea of baking my own cake is daunting. If you've a stronger stomach in the kitchen, I say go for it. But if this is your first children's birthday party cake give yourself time for a failure. You can start up to FOUR days before the party.

  • Day 1: Make the cake – let it cool completely and wrap in plastic wrap and foil.
    • While it's baking/cooling, make the frosting. Store covered in fridge or freeze for longer periods.
  • Day 2: Frost the cake – do a crumb coat, then a final coat, and mix your frosting colors for tomorrow.
  • Day 3: Decorate the cake – Finish up any special design details
  • Day 4: Display it beautifully, blow out some candles, cut it up, and enjoy!

4. Take a Look at Your Venue:

Your venue makes a difference in the time it will take to set up. If you're having trouble deciding where to host your party check out How to Choose the Perfect Party Venue.

  • How far away is it? Travel time will eat into your prep time.
  • How would you describe it?
    • Ugly Duckling: Venues that need lots of TLC are usually the freebies: community centers, churches, school gymnasium, etc.
    • Cinderella: It's got good bones but just needs the finishing touch of a Fairy Godmother. Event centers, your own home, etc.
    • Practically perfect: Hardly needs a thing! Parks, party rooms, specialty locations, etc.
Planning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - first train birthday treat table. Choose your focal point.

Darling Train first birthday featured on DIY Swank

5. Set up will also depend on the level of your décor

Depending on your personality type you may not care about decorating a bare bones venue or you may want to uber decorate an already beautiful space. If you've got a big vision, see how early you can get into the venue. The more decor you have, the longer it will take to set up. {plan 2-4 hours} If you don't have much in the way of decorations it's much easier but give yourself enough time {1-hour minimum} for the table set up. Having it at your home is a great way to go if you can fit everyone on the guest list comfortably. Having all of my decorations up a day or two before makes the party a lot easier to manage the day of.

Another way to manage the decor is to choose ONE or TWO focal points and make them really great. Don't feel like you need to decorate every corner of the space.

Planning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - First birthday decoration. Photo banner of the birthday child photoshoot, or a timeline from every month. Such a cute idea for party decor

Project Nursery Party Decor. Love the first birthday banners that showcase an image from every month and create a wonderful mantel focal point.

6. Order your décor online weeks before you need it

Use source guides like this one from our Alice in Wonderland Party for your specific first birthday theme. All the work has been done to sort through online vendors to find the best prices and you know everything already works wonderfully together. Getting your theme research done EARLY takes SO much pressure off and allows you to get some DIY projects done ahead of time. {if you like that sort of thing} Or it gives you peace of mind that it’s all ready to go. But make sure you OPEN the boxes and check everything out. You do not want to open a package the morning of the event and discover a mistake or flawed product. Another reason to order early!

Planning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - One letter banner in gold. Great accent for a mantle, focal wall or highchairPlanning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - Perfect mini-mylar balloons for a first birthday party. Great to stick in vases, cakes, or favor bags

Glitter Gold Banner ONE: Oriental Trading

Blue mini-Mylar ONE balloons: Oriental Trading Also available in PINK, RED, and YELLOW

Planning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - This floral one is a beautiful backdrop for the cake table, photo booth, or food buffet at any first birthday party. Comes in pink and blue. Warning: Does take about an hour to fluff.

Pink tissue floral ONE: Oriental Trading – Also in BLUE

7. You NEED to have help!

Whether you hire someone or you recruit friends and family you need more than just yourself and your unsuspecting partner.

  • Ask family to pitch in with a couple of things: Mom, Mother-in-law, sisters, brothers, cousins, Aunts, etc.
  • Best friends work together and rotate help for all your kiddos parties
  • Babysitters are great hired assistants
  • Get rid of the kids the morning of the party – it's amazing what you can accomplish with a few hours of uninterrupted focus!
  • Assign or hire a photographer. YOU CANNOT DO THE PHOTOS YOURSELF. {Just saying}
Planning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - Lip stain can stay on overnight and help you look fresh and new for the party. No one will know what a mess you are on the inside!

Lip stain is an great option – Photo by Lipstick Adventures

8. Hot Mess? Or Lovely Hostess?

When it's your own party you can be sure you won't be sleeping much the night before. I'm not proud of this but I'm serious when I say the best party prep days are when I don't have to think more than a minute about myself. So…I often don't remove my make up and wake up looking semi-ready to go after a few hours sleep. Then I just refresh my mascara and eyeliner and don't bother with getting ready. {There are lots of people that warn against the ill-effects of sleeping in your makeup but I figure if it's only a couple times a year, I'll be ok.}

  • I highly recommend an easy hairstyle: topknot, bun, ponytail, braids, etc.
  • Wear lip stain the day before
  • Tattooed eyeliner works wonders {I think this is awesome but I'm a wimp!}

9. Outfits chosen WELL in advance

Speaking of getting ready, your baby's clothes are pretty important, especially if you want a photo invitation. If you're counting on a birthday photo shoot, do that on a different day. The party will be enough excitement for one day, but you'll get plenty of photos the day of as long as you have someone else taking pictures. {Are you listening yet?}

  • Change into YOUR party clothes {or a portion of them} in the morning and wear an apron
  • Put someone else in charge of changing baby into his/her outfit at a certain time – make sure ALL pieces of said outfit are laid out together
  • Don't get too fancy…it is a children's party after all!
Planning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - Darling Dr. Seuss "Oh the Places You'll Go!" photo invitation from Etsy

Love this photo invite from Meghily's on Etsy

10. Write it down

If you have a written time line of the day it allows other wonderfully helpful people to pitch in without you having to manage everything. A quick schedule of events in the order you'd like them to occur is super handy to have even if you don't assign a timeframe to it.

Lay out your food buffet serving trays the day before and label them {masking tape, post-it note, whatever} with the food that belongs there. This gives those amazing party helpers a leg up to assist without even having to ask.

Finally, make sure you, or someone else, records the gifts received. Comes in handy for thank you cards.

Planning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - with a 10 step checklist to keep you sane!For those of you who love lists like I do, here's a handy dandy printable checklist of these “10 steps to Planning your First Children's Birthday Party” to help you out.
Download Planning Checklist Here

Super cute title image sources:

Planning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - Darling baby girl with her first birthday smashcakePlanning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - The perfect party outfit for a little girl's first birthday celebration

Photo by Camera Shy. Similar outfit from Adeline Rose Boutique on Etsy

Planning Your First Children's Birthday Party | Halfpint Design - The perfect party outfit for a little boy's first birthday celebration. "One whole year of awesome" t-shirt

I need this shirt from Bump and Beyond Designs on Etsy

If there's anything you think I need to add to our checklist let us know. If you followed the list {or didn't follow it} let us know how your first children's birthday party went! We'd love to share in your success.

Until next time,

Halfpint Design, personal

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Gingerbread houses in a row as table runner centerpiece for a Christmas Cookie Exchange Party I’m Bri of Parties With A Cause. I’m a mother to three crazy awesome kids, interior designer, & party planning junky. I love reading, globe trotting, and frozen yogurt. And I’m elevating the party experience one cause at a time! Read More

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