The do’s and don’ts of kids’ birthday parties

Bella Brennan
Bella Brennan
Bella is a writer and editor with over a decade of experience in women’s publishing and digital media. In her spare time, she loves making up dances to the Wiggles with her two little girls, swimming in the ocean and trying to sneak away from her family for a cheeky nap.
Created on Oct 23, 2023 · 6 mins read

As parents, making memories with our little ones that will last a lifetime is something we are constantly striving to do. And there’s no better opportunity to clock up special moments than during their birthday party. Seeing your child be celebrated and sharing a toast with your partner for making it through another year of parenting is a really important and well-deserved ritual.

But planning a birthday party, especially if you’re not a natural host, can be stressful. And why do they roll around so damn quickly every year? Didn’t we just host her second birthday party?

If you’re about to throw your child a shindig, you might be wondering: what are the do’s and don’ts of kids’ birthday parties? Well, crack open the sneaky lolly bag you most definitely didn’t pinch from your kid and tuck into a slice of cake 🎂 because we’ve broken it all down for you…

Don’t be afraid to outsource what you’re not good at!

Hands up if you’ve ever tried to bake a birthday cake with your partner the night before your child’s birthday party? Keep your hand up if it ended with you spilling bright blue food dye all over their slippers and one of you storming off in a huff. Just me? Ok then, as you were…

The point is, if you’re no MasterChef in the kitchen, then don’t stitch yourself up with the impossible task of creating a stunning birthday cake when you can’t even bake brownies without burning them. While Hamish Blake might make it look like a cake walk (sorry, couldn’t help it), birthday cakes can be a real struggle for us mere mortals. The good news is there are so many amazing cake designers out there who can bring your vision to life. Or if you still want to make the cake but don’t have the creative know-how to make it pretty, there are loads of great custom cake kits that walk you through the whole process from start to finish.

Outsourcing can extend far beyond the cake. Choosing a play centre that takes care of absolutely everything is another great way to free up your valuable time. Because let’s face it; sometimes we just don’t have the mental energy to worry about making lolly bags and thinking of fun activities to entertain the masses.

Say YES to offers of help

When we’re deep in party planning mode, it’s easy to think we can manage everything ourselves. But more often than not, you end up running around the shops like a headless chicken the day before the big event.

When your friends or family members offer to bring a plate to help share the load, grab the offer with both hands! They don’t have to make anything fancy or labour-intensive. When in doubt, you can’t go past the old faithful crowd-pleaser of fairy bread 🧚.

Remember it’s about THEM and not Instagram

Kids’ birthday parties can often feel like a competitive sport. And hey, no judgment if you want to make your little one’s day an affair to remember. Life is short and milestones should be celebrated. But for so many of us, we can’t go all out year after year.

It’s easy to fall into a comparison trap on Instagram but just remember: it’s about your child, not you — and certainly not social media. You don’t need all the bells and whistles to give them a memorable day. It can still be a basic but love-filled affair.


Do pick a theme

If you’re struggling for inspiration, be guided by what your child is into. If they’re old enough, you can even workshop a theme together. Maybe they’re into Frozen, maybe they’re mad for fire trucks, or perhaps they’re obsessed with all things Bluey. Having a theme will help you land on decorations, even if it’s as simple as a blue balloon arrangement and Bluey-themed lolly bags.

Don’t overcomplicate it, simple can be just as special

This year for my daughter’s third birthday, our mantra was simplicity! Between work, travel, and a sick baby, my partner and I just didn’t have the time to go above and beyond. That didn’t mean I still didn’t panic at the 11th hour and worry we didn’t have enough activities planned to entertain the kids. But the truth is, even if it’s simple, kids will not give two hoots.

We purchased a $59 jumping castle from Kmart, which the guests loved. Then we set up a painting station with plaster figurines we got from the discounted shelf at Big W, complete with old t-shirts as smocks. And instead of making lolly bags, we scattered treats around the garden so the kids could find them on a “treasure hunt”.

The result? I think it’s the best party we’ve ever hosted and it’s the one we spent the least amount of time planning! One mum remarked to me during the treasure hunt that her son had never been more engaged in an activity. I think I’ll make the treasure hunt a rolling birthday party tradition. Only next year, I’m snapping up all the Easter eggs when they go on the discount shelf.


Don’t open presents at the party

While your child might be excited to be bombarded with gifts, remind them to wait until after the party is over to unwrap them. Your guests won’t want to sit around watching your child unwrap their gifts and it will take up a large chunk of time at the party. Set up a gift table and direct all presents to be left there. You can also tell your child ahead of the event that they’ll get to open all their presents when the party is over, so the celebrations can keep going!

Tip: Keep a list of who gave your child what so you can shoot them a personalised thank you text later.

Don’t forget to invite siblings, too

To make your guests’ life easier, let them know that their other children are more than welcome to attend the party. They’ll be grateful that they don’t have to find another activity for their other kids and can instead bring them to the celebrations.

DO have fun

Don’t forget to actually enjoy the day! Playing host can be stressful so make sure you stop to spend some quality time with your birthday girl or boy and make some precious memories together. Ask a friend to play photographer and take family photos while you sing happy birthday.

While it can be easy to compare yours to other families’ birthday parties, don’t forget that your little one won’t notice the colour scheme and they won’t care about a wonky birthday cake — they’ll just be so happy to be surrounded by love.

So good luck! Remember less really is more, there’s no shame in outsourcing, and it’s all about making special memories.

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