Kid’s Birthday Party Planning Checklist

There are those among us who like to plan and organize everything well ahead of any deadlines. Whether it’s doing taxes, preparing meals or planning parties, you’re the folks who have all your proverbial ducks in a row weeks or months in advance. Then there are those who are not so “ahead of the game” and find ourselves saying things like “I work better under pressure”. Either way, both groups end up needing and using to-do lists or checklists. It is far better to make the most detailed lists (early or late) if you wish to have a good outcome. This is particularly true of birthday parties, and so we offer this guide to the best birthday party checklist for any child’s big day.

A Universal Birthday Party Checklist

Party Planning ChecklistNow, you might have read the title of this guide and thought that there is really no way that a birthday party planning checklist for your toddler might be the same for a teen, but if we look at the parties clearly, we see that there are not many differences in terms of planning them. For example, the most essential things you’d need in any birthday party planning checklist include such basics as the birthday boy or girl’s theme, the guests, the location/activities, invitations, food, and so on.

To ensure your birthday party planning goes as smooth as possible, we offer this comprehensive birthday party list of essential to-do actions and steps. Whether you only get around to the serious business of planning one or two weeks ahead or whether you’re months in advance, the items on this kids’ birthday party checklist will see you through to a successful event! It will also help you from stumbling over last-minute or easily forgotten issues that can throw a real wrench in your plans.

Key Items on the Birthday Checklist

In order to start off on the best foot possible, you need to begin with broader issues instead of focusing on minute details. Ask yourself these first questions:

  • How big is your event? As an example, many 1-year-old parties are really just a party for adults and can be quite large, while a 3-year-old may only have two or three friends and their parents. Any party might be more than just a child’s gathering, so the number of kids and adults has to be a primary and overarching part of the birthday party checklist.
  • What is the age group of attendees? This matters because parties with young children, such as three and under, shouldn’t last longer than two hours because of short attention spans and difficult parental supervision. Additionally, ages dictate food, goody/gift bags, and more must appear in your birthday party supplies list.
  • Will you need help with setting up the party and tending to guests? Any birthday party list of value has to consider whether you’ll need adult attendees to oversee activity tables, assist with food, help if kids are dealing with meltdowns or upset, etc. As an example, one expert said you may need adult guests to sign up to help scoop out ice cream, work as a game’s director or art director, record gifts and help with any cranky kids. Please note that if you need people to do this, arrange for it prior to the party. Don’t expect parents to be willing to help; many of them just want to relax and have a good time!
  • What’s your party’s main theme? Will you hold the party at a location that features your overall theme (i.e. bowling, beach, mall, movies, etc.)? If it’s an at-home party, the theme means there is likely to be more work in setting up, decorating and creating any games or activity areas as well as places to eat, open gifts and so on.
  • What amount of food is going to be served? This will also depend on the number of guests, how long you’re planning the party for, age groups, whether adults will come hungry, etc. (For instance, just cake? Food and cake?)
  • Will you open gifts at the event? If so, you’ll need to designate an area for the gifts and for documenting who has given what (if there is a willing adult, have them take notes on who got the child which gift). Ages three and under shouldn’t open gifts at the event; this is because of short attention spans and lack of understanding the concept of sharing.
  • Do you have a general timeline? This may become a focal point of any kids’ birthday party checklist because it also helps you keep tabs on everything you might possibly need for the party. For instance, a toddler’s party of two hours would have a timeline that includes arrival, game time, activity time, eating and going home. That simple list illustrates the many things that must also appear on the birthday party supplies list for older children. There can be more activities, longer leisure time, gift opening for older kids.

Take some time to just jot down the general concepts you have in mind for your party. What sort of party, how big, any theme and if you’ll need much help. Do a basic timeline to start to figure out your general birthday party supplies list, and then move on to the more specific issues, which we will tackle in the next section.

The Detailed Birthday Party List

When you have some basic ideas in place, it becomes far easier to make the sort of detailed birthday party checklist essential to your success. The items you should consider at this point don’t just help you with a shopping list or to-do list, but to actually get an idea of the costs or budget required. If you are working well in advance, it can help you to see just whether or not the party is within your set budget. If you’ve held off on developing the birthday party planning checklist until days or weeks ahead of time, it can ensure you get what you need while keeping your budget under control. For example, if you have waited and are doing things in a bit of a hurry, you can at risk for overspending on non-essentials. Taking just an hour to jot it all down shows what is essential and what is not, thereby helping with cost control. Use this checklist to help you allocate your budget.

Here are the key items that need to be planned days/weeks before your event:

  1. Your boy’s or girl’s party theme. What is a character or concept your child loves? You may want to involve children over the age of 3 or 4 in this part of the process.
  2. The guests. Create a list of everyone you plan to invite, including parents, siblings, etc.
  3. The venue. Do you plan to hold the party at home, in public (such as a clubhouse or park) or a specialized party venue? If you plan on a venue, park, etc. you will want to call and make reservations as early as you can. Make sure to ask about costs, deposits, hours of operation, etc.
  4. The invitations. If you would like traditional snail-mail invitations, this is something great to pick up one to two months ahead of time and send out once you have all the details solidified. However, if you are doing E-invites or creating a Facebook event, this is an instant method of communication that requires no waiting and quick RSVP’s, so the timeline is more lax. You still want to give your guests a few weeks’ notice. Remember to include all pertinent information.

  1. Games and/or activities. Games and activities make parties so much more fun and interactive! It’s fun and easy to tailor activities to most party themes; a quick Google search will give you many, many ideas for almost any theme.
  2. Food & cake. Tailoring cake and food to your party theme can be fun too, though slightly more difficult. Google will give you great ideas on how to do this. If you plan to do a custom cake, put the order in ASAP. Create a shopping list for snacks, main course meals, drinks and other goodies. Remember to add any specialty supplies you may need for what you’re serving, such as a platter tray or a crock pot if you don’t have them.
  3. A party timeline. Once you’ve established all the smaller details of your event, you should take the time to create an actual timeline for when you want each activity to happen at your party. This is something we’ll provide a template for below. This part is key to making sure your party goes smoothly and is an essential part of any effective kids’ birthday party checklist.

With the above basics written out, you can consider yourself well ahead of the game, and that leaves you with the next step: shopping!

Birthday Party Supplies List

Party Supplies

Here’s the thing about party supplies – the sooner you get them out of the way the better off you are. Rushing around a few days before a party in order to get anything from plates and cups to a piñata and décor really puts a damper on your enthusiasm. Instead, it is a good idea to get the supplies a few weeks ahead of time, and even consider ordering them online to save yourself the oft-confusing experience of most party supply stores. Even if you are organized, the temptation to overspend on all of the fun extras in those stores can sabotage the budget, and online shopping may be ideal.

NOTE: One expert does make a great suggestion about the supplies, which is simply to always purchase more than you think you need – it is simply a fact of life that kids go through lots of paper napkins, plates and cups.

As the day of the event grows closer, the to-dos on the birthday party list should decrease and become a bit more focused. For example, the final phase of the kids birthday party checklist should include:

A Week Before the Party

  1. Help. Do you have the help (setting up, during party, clean up) you may need before, during and after the party? If not, start working on that.
  2. RSVPs. If you haven’t heard back from everyone invited, check in with those potential guests a week before the party.

3 Days Before the Party

  1. Fresh food. If you are making food at home, give yourself three days before the event to purchase and make most dishes. You obviously don’t want it sitting around for a week! Leave anything that will spoil or that must be kept warm until the morning of or the night before.
  2. Favors. If you’re doing favors or goody bags, tackle them at least three days in advance.
  3. Confirmations. Three days before your party, call to confirm your venue, food, equipment and entertainment.

Two Days Before the Party

  1. Setup. Two days before any at-home party is the time to set everything up (or as much as you can). That means hanging the decorations, readying tables and chairs, setting up the items for any games or activities, and putting tents, umbrellas and all the rest in place.

The Day of the Party

  1. Finishing up. If you’ve completed the timeline and tackled the other items on the checklist above, the day of the event should usually include little more than finishing any basic setup, getting the food you don’t make delivered and just doing last-minute touches.
  2. Inventory checks. Is everything stocked and ready? Toilet paper, paper towels, drinks, goodies, food? Make sure everything’s in place!

Birthday parties are about making fun memories, so try to ensure you do the distracting stuff ahead of the big day and then focus on ensuring your child has a great party. Don’t forget to charge cameras so you can really capture the happy and successful birthday celebration!

Use Discount Party Supplies for Your Party Needs!

Discount Party Supplies carries many exclusive themes, complete with tableware, party favors, party decorations, party invitations, cake decorations and much more. We’re here to help when you need it. Get more ideas from other Discount Party Supplies blog posts!


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