Birthday Party Checklist

Before we begin with our birthday party checklist here's a tip: Asking your child for input and suggestions will help you narrow down what kind of party your child would like AND give them a sense of involvement and pride.

Great kids birthday parties are not determined by how much you spend but by how well you plan. It’s your child’s birthday and you want to go all out… but times are tough and you need to stretch that dollar. Set a budget you can live with. Lots of stuff does not mean a better party. There are many things you can make to cut down cost. We're used to buying or ordering things and we don’t readily think about making things. For example, baking your own cake or making your own invitations. Get those creative juices flowing and you'll be surprised what you can do! And make sure you have your birthday party checklist handy.


Decide where the party will be. Below are some benefits of various venues.

Benefits of having a kids' birthday party at home:

  1. Cost-effective: Having a party at home can be less expensive than renting a venue, as you don't have to pay for a rental fee or additional costs associated with a venue.
  2. Flexibility: You have complete control over the schedule and activities, and you can tailor the party to fit the child's interests and preferences.
  3. Comfort: Children may feel more comfortable in their own environment, which can help them relax and have fun.
  4. Convenience: Hosting a party at home means you don't have to transport decorations, supplies, or food, and you can easily clean up after the party.

Benefits of having a kids' birthday party at a venue:

  1. Variety: A venue offers a variety of activities and entertainment options that may not be available at home, such as laser tag, bowling, or trampoline parks.
  2. Reduced stress: Renting a venue means you don't have to worry about cleaning up or preparing the space beforehand, and you can focus on enjoying the party with your child.
  3. Capacity: Depending on the size of the venue, you may be able to invite more guests than you would be able to accommodate in your home.
  4. Unique experience: A venue can provide a unique and memorable experience for the child and their guests, which they may not have had before.

In conclusion, the decision to host a kids' birthday party at home or at a venue depends on a variety of factors, including budget, convenience, and the interests of the child. Hosting at home offers more flexibility and comfort, while hosting at a venue offers variety and a unique experience. 

Here are some venue ideas for your next kids birthday party.

  1. Amusement parks
  2. Indoor trampoline parks
  3. Bowling alleys
  4. Ice skating rinks
  5. Laser tag arenas
  6. Miniature golf courses
  7. Water parks
  8. Paintball facilities
  9. Movie theaters
  10. Cooking or baking classes
  11. Science museums
  12. Petting zoos or animal parks
  13. Arcades or game centers
  14. Roller skating rinks
  15. Gymnastics or dance studios
  16. Go-kart race track
  17. Art studios or pottery studios
  18. Sports facilities (e.g. soccer fields, basketball courts, etc.)
  19. Swimming pools or aquatic centers
  20. Karaoke centers
  21. Arcade
  22. Toddler gym
  23. Ice Cream Parlor 
  24. Build-a-Bear
  25. Pizza Parlor
  26. Beach
  27. Park
  28. Community centers (e.g. YMCA)
  29. Petting zoo
  30. Animal farm
  31. Batting cages
  32. Rock climbing places


There are 2 important factors regarding time that are important when preparing you birthday party checklist.

1. At what time you have your party will affect several things including what party food you serve. Let's say you have a 12:00pm party, then most likely you will have to have a heavier lunch menu versus if you have a party at 3:00pm where you can have a lighter fare.

2. Time is also important for parties of younger children. Children tend to get tired and cranky after a couple of hours especially near their nap time. Consider doing a morning party 9:00-11:00 or an afternoon party between lunch and dinner for little ones.

Length of Time
This is particularly important for toddlers and younger age groups. For most young children 2 to 2 1/2 hours is more than enough time. As kids get older, parties can be up to 4 hours depending on activities and games planned. Make sure to keep in mind the length of time when making your birthday party checklist.

Knowing the number of guests you plan to invite will affect a lot of things in your birthday party checklist like amount of food, party favors, cake size, etc. You also have to think about whether it will be an all boys, all girls, boys and girls party or one where there is a wide range of ages. Different ages is especially true for 1st birthdays where we tend to invite family and friends whose children vary in ages. This might be something to consider in your birthday party checklist when you are planning activities, making or buying party favors, etc. For my daughters first birthday I had a wide range in ages so our party favors were all the same.

There are many options for invitations.
1. DIY - sun catcher, children-made, in a bottle, on a balloon. You may want to visit Pinterest or Instagram for ideas.
2. Buy in packs- Usually the character invitations come in packs, and therefore for economical.
3. Custom made
4. If your party is at a commercial location like the Seaquarium, they usually have their own invitations.
Make sure to have the final number of guests on your birthday party checklist to avoid buying/making more than you need.

Party theme
This is easiest when children are younger as they usually have a favorite character. Once you have a character it's easy to have a color scheme to decorate, make cake, favors, balloons, etc. As kids get older they might opt for a theme like an ice skating party or bowling party. They might have a favorite color or sport they enjoy. And as they reach the tween/ teen ages, they might enjoy sleepovers or a dance party or movie night or a hat party. For more tween/teen ideas visit tween/teen birthday party ideas.

Decorations can take a chunk out of your wallet so when making your birthday party checklist, remember everything doesn't have to have the character on it. For example if you're doing a TinkerBell party you can buy solid color lime green or lavender tablecloths, ballons and cups. You can also buy a pack of TinkerBell stickers and put them on a lime green plastic cup and fill with treats. Think about things you have around the house that can be used as a party decoration.

Party Supplies
This can cause a dent in your wallet if you don't plan ahead. If you go without a plan, chances are many different ideas will pop into your head and you'll start buying everything! Make your birthday party checklist before you go. And remember everything doesn't have to have a character on it. You can also buy generic items like zippy cups and make character labels for them. Also shop at your dollar stores, you'll be surprised what you can find. One year we had a luau and I purchased hula colored skirts and leis in bulk (from oriental trading). Then at the dollar store I found these really adorable paper Hawaiian print purses. Those were perfect! I filled them with goodies and every little girl left with their own filled purse. For the boys I bought different colored pail and shovels and filled them up with goodies. Get creative and have fun.

This is one of the most fun parts of party planning for me. This is where I feel like a kid in a candy store.... So many possibilities! There are so many ways you can go with this, for example you can make it or buy it, you can decorate with an edible picture, figurines or candies. You can choose a shape or a 2 tier cake. You can do buttercream, fondant, ice cream, cupcake cake. The sky's the limit! Let your imagination run wild and create something fun! Also remember to ask your child what they would like. Cakes should be fun and pretty to look at.

Party Food & Drinks
The birthday party checklist will help you tie in your party theme with what you want to serve. The first thing to think about is if you want to serve lunch or appetizers. For birthday parties, especially with the younger ages, it's easiest to have finger food. Things like chicken tenders, mini sandwiches, hot dogs. I like to tie in the party food with the party theme. For example if your having a little mermaid party or under the sea party I would serve octopus hotdogs and green spaghetti (to resemble seaweed). Visit party foods for ideas and recipes.

For drinks, juice boxes and water are usually best. As they get older lemonade, ice tea and soda are popular. And for summer birthdays, snow cones are an extra special treat.

Party Favors
Of all the planning this is my absolute favorite. I love making party favors! I want to make sure that I give out something they the guests will really enjoy and this doesn't have to be expensive or extravagant to be fun! I have made many many favors in my time as I have 2 daughters that are now 12 and 14 years old. And I've made favors every year for each one of them and quite a few for friends. One year for a pool party I had 50 guests and I just couldn't do the girl, boy, different age favors. So, I bought chips and candy in bulk at Costco and some goggles and sunglasses, and sand toys at the dollar store and made giant tootsie rolls by placing goodies and toys with double sided tape on yellow cellophane then rolled like a tootsie roll and tied with pretty polka dot orange ribbons. The kids got to pick which one they wanted (they had different candy combinations) and they absolutely loved them! For a healthier version you can use real fruit snacks, yogurt covered raisins, popcorn, dried fruit and veggie snacks, etc. See party favors for more ideas.

Entertainment for kids comes in many forms from hiring an balloon artist to renting a bounce house. Deciding what to do depends on various factors like age group, number of guests, party theme and location of party. If your looking for outside entertainment for your child's party one of the first things to consider is your party theme. If your having a pirate party you probably wouldn't hire Elmo. Chances are if you were looking to hire an impersonator you would hire your party theme character. Or if having a Luau you could hire Hawaiian dancers. Remember to add any additional items you may need for your entertainment on your birthday party checklist.

But there are many options. Here's a list of just a few ideas and for more go to your party theme and check out some of our favorites.

  • Bounce Houses
  • Magicians
  • Face Painting
  • Clowns
  • Storytellers
  • Balloon Artist
  • Costume Characters
  • Animals (Ponies, Petting Zoo, etc.)
  • Shows (Theater, Puppets, Hawaiian Dancers, etc.)
  • Games (Carnival, Sports, etc.)
  • Train Rides
  • Tea Parties
  • Professional Children's Entertainers
  • Dress-Up
  • Arts & Crafts (Jewelry, Ceramics, etc.)
  • DJBalloon Artist
  • Costume Characters
  • Animals (Ponies, Petting Zoo, etc.)
  • Shows (Theater, Puppets, Hawaiian Dancers, etc.)
  • Games (Carnival, Sports, etc.)
  • Train Rides
  • Tea Parties
  • DJ

There are also many ideas that are just as much fun and easier on the wallet. Make your own entertainment with some of these ideas.

  • Karaoke
  • Make Gak
  • Bake & Decorate Cookies
  • Treasure Hunts
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Name that Song

Activities and crafts
Combining activities and/or crafts that go with the party theme give the . Having a pirate party? Then have a scavenger hunt (if you are having prizes, make sure there are enough for all guests). Having a princess party then make and decorate tiaras and wands.

I like to tie these into the party theme. Having a pirate party, then play "walk the plank" by drawing a plank shape on concrete with chalk or putting tape on the grass or using a piece of wood (splinter free). Blind fold participants and have them walk across without stepping off the plank, winners get an eye patch! Remember to add items needed to you birthday party checklist. Don't have a particular theme, play games that are fun anytime like sock/shoe scavenger hunt. Hide each sock or shoe separately (make sure you have enough pairs for all guests). Who ever has the most pairs wins. Go to games for more ideas. For younger guests fall back on traditional games like musical chairs and pin the tail on the mermaid or pin the nose on the clown.

Make your own playlist on Spotify or Apple Music, or play music directly form Youtube. We always feel like a party without music is like a birthday without cake. It just makes the party that much more fun. For young children, consider music that are actually games like “Ring-a-ring-Rosie” or ‘London Bridge is Falling Down” “If Your Happy and You Know It”, Head-Shoulders-Knees- &-Toes". 

General Checklist

  1. Theme and Invitations
  2. Choose a theme for the party (e.g. superhero, princess, safari, etc.)
  3. Create or purchase invitations that match the theme and include all relevant party details (date, time, location, RSVP information, etc.)
  4. 4.Decorations
  • Choose decorations that match the theme (e.g. balloons, streamers, banners, tablecloths, centerpieces, etc.). Set up the decorations before the party starts

   5. Party Favors

  • Choose party favors that match the theme and are appropriate for the age of the child and guests (e.g. small toys, stickers, temporary tattoos, candy, etc.)
  • Assemble the party favors and place them in a designated area or in goody bags to hand out at the end of the party.

   6.Cake and Food

  • Choose a birthday cake that matches the theme.
  • Plan the menu and purchase or prepare food that is appropriate for the time of day and age of the child and guests (e.g. pizza, sandwiches, fruit, veggies, snacks, etc.)

   7.Music and Games

  • Choose music that matches the theme or create a playlist of kid-friendly songs
  • Plan age-appropriate games or activities that match the theme (e.g. pin the tail on the donkey, scavenger hunt, relay races, etc.)

    8. Prizes and Awards

  • Prepare small prizes or awards for game winners or participants (e.g. stickers, small toys, certificates, etc.)

    9. Photo Booth Props

  • Create or purchase props that match the theme (e.g. hats, glasses, mustaches, signs)
  • Set up a designated area for photos with a backdrop and props

   10. Birthday Outfit

  • Choose an outfit for the child that matches the theme or is comfortable and appropriate for the party

   11. Entertainment

  • Example: Bounce house or characters (e.g. Barbie, Super Mario, Paw Patrol, Mickey & Minnie).
  • Consider renting a bounce house or other entertainment that matches the theme or provides fun for the child and guests

   12. Tableware

  • Purchase or prepare plates, cups, utensils, napkins, and other necessary supplies
  • Plan for parking, seating, and other logistics related to the party location

With this checklist, you should be well-prepared to throw a fun and memorable themed birthday party for a child.

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