8 Tips for Planning a Stress-Free Birthday Party

Birthday Party Planning

When our oldest, Asher, was turning one year old, I felt an overwhelming pressure to plan the perfect first birthday party.

Hours. and I do mean HOURS, were spent, leading up to the day scouring Pinterest for ideas, creating invitations and decorations by hand, baking his cake and preparing food, and planning every detail of the day.

I created multiple “activities” for our guests including a photo booth, picture frames to decorate, masks and coloring pages for kids, and even elaborate favors (that I forgot to hand out until most people were gone).

planning a stress free birthday party
I can hardly convey how much stress I was under setting up this party!

Adding to the mess, three weeks before Asher’s party I started a new job. So needless to say I was a hot, overwhelmed, stressed-out mess! I had, what I thought, was a well-planned out, day-of-action plan but things inevitably didn’t go as planned.

So on the day, I was a mom of a one-year-old, working myself into a complete frenzy trying to pull off a party for a baby that wanted nothing more than to nurse and snuggle with his mama.

The day of Asher’s birthday party was good, but for me, it also had a cloud that hung over it that kept me from fully enjoying the day. That stress and overwhelm was all caused by the pressure to create the “perfect” party.

And at the end of the day, that stress did nothing more than prevent me from fully enjoying the day that should have been about nothing more than celebrating our little man and celebrating our survival of the first year of parenthood.

Learning and Growing

Sadly for many moms, birthday party festivities fall solely on our shoulders. From invites to menus to gift buying and favors, birthday parties add a new element of busyness to our already hectic lives.⁣

After that first birthday party, I vowed to never make something so complicated and stressful again. I didn’t want the memories of my children’s birthday parties to be of a mom who is snapping at everyone and is too stressed to even see them on the day.

I wanted to focus on one thing: Celebrating that child, in all their individual wonder, for the day!

Planning a stress free birthday party

Here are 5 ways I have decreased the stress of planning a birthday party for my little ones and a FREE printable (birthday party planner from my printables vault) that will help you organize and plan a party for any little one in your life.

8 Tips for Reducing Birthday Party Planning Stress

1. Plan the party for at home

I know one day my little ones might want to have a birthday party at a fun place outside of our home but for now, I have all the birthday parties at our house.

This means no more transporting food, decor, kids, and presents to another location. By having the party at our house, I can take the week prior to slowly set up decorations and prepare food.

An added bonus is our children are comfortable at their home so they are usually happy to play in their playroom while I prepare for the day.

2. Limit the guest list

This might sound cruel but don’t feel pressured to invite everyone you’ve ever spoken with. A children’s birthday party should be about enjoying the day with the child not trying to “work” a huge crowd of people.

I like to limit our birthday guest list to grandparents, aunts/uncles, and close friends. The smaller guest list means the hubs and I can have a meaningful conversation with our people and the kids can play without feeling overwhelmed by faces they don’t know.

3. Simple, but yummy menu

With Asher’s first birthday party, I felt the need to have “themed” treats and a hearty meal for our guests. This meant hours of cooking by myself and my mom.

Don’t feel pressured to create elaborate meals for a child’s birthday party.

My current go-tos include deli trays for sandwiches or grilled burgers/hotdogs, chips, and bbq style sides. These meals work great because our kids are spring/early summer babies so the lighter fare is welcomed.

If your child is a winter baby consider an easy one-pot meal like chili or soup!

4. Keep the cake simple

There is no shame in a grocery store cake! These days bakeries can create some pretty awesome cakes at an incredible value. Save yourself time and energy by buying a cake or cupcakes at your local big box store.

If you’re looking to add cost savings to your birthday party plan, consider buying cupcakes with icing that matches your child’s party theme. I like to do this and add simple cupcake toppers to make it look more custom.

Dinosaur birthday party

5. Focus the decorations on the food table

It is easy to feel like the whole house has to be decorated to create a “theme” but that simply isn’t the case. Most party fun centers around the food and the cake. So focus your energy on decorating the food table and eating areas

Simple colored table cloths and plates can translate the theme to the rest of the party.

Super Hero Birthday Party Ideas

Add dimension to your food table by using boxes (under the table cloths) to add varying height. Create a simple backdrop against the wall and BAM decorations are done

If you base the birthday party around a theme your child loves, you can use their toys as part of the decorations as well. This will save you time and money.

Easy birthday party decorations
Easy birthday party decorations

Also don’t feel pressured to make all of your decorations just because other moms do. Stores like the Dollar Tree and any big box store carry themed decorations at reasonable prices. Pick a color theme and add a few decorations and watch the party come together.

6. Food or a simple activity for favors

If we are all being completely honest birthday party favors are exhausting. Themed favors are EXPENSIVE and last 30 seconds before they break. This ends up causing tears in the car and howls for “where’s my _____??” for the next two days before being thrown in the trash.

Personally, I like to create food or activity-based favors. Food favors can include a juice box and a bag of cookies or a little bag of candy.

My favorite activity favors have included “adopt a dino” and “plant your own flower”. Another mom had “adopt a puppy” and had a station to make a puppy collar. These activity-based favors create fun for the kids and save mom from bits of tiny plastic in the car!

7. Plan 1-2 simple activities but let the child guide the fun

Most kids just want to play with other kids! This is another bonus of parties at home. Your kids and their friends can play inside or out and just enjoy being kids.

As a general rule, I like to plan 1-2 simple activities I can use to keep the kids entertained if it seems like they are getting restless.

Forgo the clowns, entertainers, or petting zoos and consider filling a pool with water and handing out water blasters, or creating a sand pit in a plastic pool and having a few new digging toys as I did for Asher’s construction themed birthday party.

Another favorite of mine was the paint your own picture activity we did for my daughter’s farmer’s market themed party. The kids loved it and the parents got a nice piece of artwork to take home.

8. Focus on what matters

At the end of the day remember what is truly important… celebrating the day your incredible kid was born! These little humans are what makes us mom and at the end of the day they are only going to remember playing with their friends and laughing with mom and dad.

stress free birthday party

So don’t let expectations overwhelm you and ruin the day for you! Do your best and then sit back and take in the wonder of the beautiful child of yours!

Simplified Birthday Party Ideas

To help keep birthday party planning as stress-free as possible, sign up below to receive my FREE birthday party planner. I love to use this single sheet to keep all the birthday party planning organized and in one place!

Birthday party planning printable

Sign up for my Free Printables Vault to Get Access to Free Birthday Printables

What has been the biggest stress for you when it comes to birthday party planning? Comment below!

If you are looking for some easy, DIY, birthday party inspiration check out the simple parties I’ve put together for our little ones.

Nella the Princess Knight

Super Heros

Farmer’s Market

Outer Space

Wild Kratts




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