Children's Birthday Parties
The first thing that I want to say is that I think that there seems to be a lot of misconceptions about how to throw a child's party & especially what is appropriate for a baby's first birthday party. I have read online articles & blogs that stated that a party should be very short (1 1/2 hours) and that you should start planning 2-3 weeks in advance. And that you should skip doing any live entertainment. That sounds more like a playdate than a party!
As an experienced NJ kids' musician & entertainer
I have performed at over 1,000 kids' parties (baby's first birthday, toddler parties through 5th birthday parties as well as holiday parties, special needs parties & summer camp) in & around Northern & Central New Jersey & it has been so wonderful to see creative party ideas!
Most 1 year old & 2 year old parties tend to have children of different ages (cousins, friends & neighbors' kids). But sometimes there's only one & two year olds & that can be very sweet. As the children get to be 3 years old & older they tend to have a lot of their friends & classmates at their parties.
It is very important to find activities & entertainment that are age appropriate. Hiring a children's performer who has experience teaching babies & young children is highly recommended especially for 1st & 2nd birthday parties, since many performers target their entertainment towards children 3 years old and older as they don't understand how to interact with babies, one & two year olds. A talented, caring & experienced children's entertainer should be able to successfully engage children of different ages.
Planning Your Baby's First Birthday Party
I believe that a child's first birthday is truly a reason to celebrate! And if you take pictures or video you & your baby can experience the joy of their party over & over again.
1. What theme should you choose for your child's party? Little one year olds can't tell mom or dad what they would like. So some people chose a theme that they personally like. And first birthdays are a theme in themselves. I have found that many parents will decorate their party around a first birthday theme.
Other popular themes for little girls first birthday & toddlers parties are princess themes, cupcake themes, ladybug themes or butterfly themes. For both little girl & little boys popular party themes include barnyard/animal, safari & music/rock star themes. Popular themes for little boys first birthdays & toddler parties include firetruck, sports and race car themes. Check out even more creative kids' party themes.
2. Where should you host your baby's first birthday party? It is nice to have your first birthday party at home or close to home to make it easier for you to care for your baby. Some halls & restaurants have a quiet room where you can go to feed or change your baby & take care of their needs. But there are a lot of other creative ideas for kids' party locations.
3. When should your party start? Try to time your party around your baby's nap schedule (of course!) & consider that most guests tend to arrive 30-40 minutes late. You may want to invite your guests for time time when your baby just wakes up from their nap so that your baby should be awake & alert by the time that the guests finally arrive.
4. How long should your child's party be? If you want to keep it short, then I would recommend having a 2 1/2 hour party length (which turns into 2 hours when you consider that your guests will arrive late). Many first birthday celebrations wind up being like a family reunion (or a "mini wedding") & last 4 or 5 hours. That's alright as long as you have a place for your baby to take a nap or just have some quiet time.
5. What is recommended entertainment for a first birthday party? I believe that a kids music show is the best entertainment for a baby's first birthday, since one year olds, toddlers & elementary school aged children can all enjoy music together.
Some people choose to have a clown or character at their son or daughter's 1st birthday party & I consider this to be a bit risky. Many moms & dads have told me that their one or two year olds are afraid of clowns & people in character costumes. I have found that babies, one & two year olds really like to study a person's face, so having make-up or a costume covering a children's performer's face can be overwhelming.
I also want to mention that balloon animals & face painting may not be a good idea for 1st or 2nd birthday parties. Balloon animals can be very risky as babies & young children may put them in their mouth & those balloons shrivel up when popped & can become a dangerous choking hazard. And I have never seen a baby with their face painted, probably because their skin is very sensitive & because it may upset them.
6. How far in advance should you plan your child's party? First of all it is a good idea that you line up your location & entertainment before you send our your invitations to give yourself flexibility when booking the entertainment & location for your child's party.
I recommend that you book your entertainment 2-3 months in advance (although you may get lucky & be able to hire a good entertainer on short notice if it fits into their schedule). Halls & restaurants & even some kids' gyms sometimes get reserved up to 6 months in advance. Planning ahead is essential.
Children's Party Themes
Popular character themes for young children parties include Sesame Street -- especially Elmo!, Dora the Explorer, Hannah Montana, Bob the Builder & Thomas the Train.
Music themed parties or Guitar parties can be very popular for young children! You not only can have musical entertainment at first birthdays & preschool parties, but you can also have musical party favors, birthday gifts & decorations that are sure to please any young child!
More generalized party themes include Barnyard Animals parties, Fire truck parties, Construction parties, Jungle Safari parties, Under the Sea parties, Prince parties & Princess parties or Fairy parties.
Kids' Birthday Party Decorating Ideas
Photos are a wonderful way to decorate at children's birthday parties (especially for a baby's first birthday) because the babies grow up so quickly & parents usually take tons of photos of their little ones. Aunts, uncles, cousins, & grandparents really enjoy seeing all those photos.
I have seen people put together photos boards of their baby. Sometimes they even put together a group of 12 photos - one to mark each month's milestone for their baby.
I have seen some parents put together a video slideshow of their child's first year & that can be so sweet! There is a lot going on at a first birthday, so my recommendation would be to put the video on a loop and play it repeatedly for anyone to watch as they have the time. Or if you keep it short & you have a big enough TV screen for everyone to watch you could even feature it at one point in the party.
One of my all time favorite party decorating ideas I saw at a party was that the mom & dad took various photos of their child & taped them to ribbons & hung them from their ceiling along with other party decorations interspersed. It was delightful to be surrounded by all these happy photos of their little one!!!
NOTE: If you don't like putting lots of pieces of tape on your ceiling you can also hang photos or decorations from clear fishing cord hung across the ceiling & you can use small, removable Command hooks made by 3M to attach them to the top of the walls.
I entertained at a little boy's party who had a Spiderman themed birthday party. His mom did an AMAZING job decorating using Giant Removable Wall Decals. We were greeted by a large Spiderman decal at the front door. As I descended the staircase to their finished basement there were decals along the staircase. Right behind where I performed was a large decal of Spiderman. The kids just loved it! You could choose other themes such as butterflies. There are such a good variety of these Removable Wall Decals available. And since these decals are removable & repositionable I believe that they could be used to decorate your child's room after the party is over.
Children Party Invitations & Thank You Notes
You can find plenty of Children Party Invitations & Thank You Notes at your local card store & sometimes even at Dollar stores.
But you have some other options - Amazon.com has an extensive list of children's party invitations & children party thank you notes for different kids' party themes.
There is an absolutely AWESOME party invitation store on the web called Tiny Prints! They are a favorite for many celebrity moms for modern, elegant birth announcements, party invitations, thank you notes, chic photo cards & holiday cards. They do much more than children's party invitations & thank you notes. They offer personal stationary, wedding invitations, business notes & stationary & accessories such as customized address labels, gift tags & even party favors. They are a great place to check out first birthday party ideas!
Kids' Party Favors & Birthday Gifts Ideas
Many parents who have me entertain at their child's party ask me about kids' music party favors. I think that whether or not you are having a music themed party that music party favors can be great for the kids! Kids love little egg shakers or castanets or kazoos. But just like everything else quality should be the first consideration.
I have seen very cheap party favors that break & can become choking hazards. I personally would never opt for that. Better to think of the children's safety first & go for quality. And that way the children will also have a lasting momento of your child's birthday party.
If you want a good source for affordable, high quality children's birthday party favors & gifts (such as rubber duckies, shakers, drums, CDs, personalized birthday party music (MP3s & CDs), guitars, parachutes & more) then check out our kids' party favors & birthday gifts page. I think these items would make terrific party favors for first birthday parties & for toddlers & children's birthday & holiday parties!
Children's Party Entertainment
As a children's musician I see how well music connects with babies & little one year olds as well as toddlers & elementary school aged kids. And with music you can still incorporate other party themes easily such as barnyard animals, fire trucks, jungle themes, princess parties, etc.
Successfully engaging young children is not just about "amusing" the kids. Of course having lots of fun activities help, but the most important thing to consider when hiring a performer for your child's next party is that they are genuinely patient & caring. And that they notice what each child is trying to communicate. This is no small feat as when entertaining a crowd of children they each want to be seen & heard. I have noticed that children love entertainment with lots of audience participation! Yet it is important for the performer not to force participation, but to allow each child to feel that it is their own idea.
I used to teach early childhood music classes and it is amazing how much babies & toddlers & children love & appreciate music. And if you get an experienced kids' entertainer
who understands how to work with children of that age group (and older), well, you would be surprised at how much fun everyone can have! It is really fun if the kids get to play with musical instruments with lots of audience participation!.
If you want to get an idea of what I am talking about you can read customer reviews for our children's music show. We are based outside of Princeton New Jersey & travel throughout parts of Central & Northern NJ, so if you have a party coming up please check out our
NJ kids party entertainment website for more information.
Toddler & older kids can enjoy having face painting or balloon animals. Just understand that they will wait in line until they get their turn & then once they have their faces painted or their balloon animals that they will be looking for the next fun thing to do. If you haven't provided additional group activities or entertainment they may just look to entertain themselves in unexpected ways.
* Please make sure that if you do hire a face painter for your child's party that they use FDA-compliant, water-based face paint, not everyday craft paint as young children's skin is sensitive. The same thing goes for glitter - craft store glitter usually contains metal particles that can irritate the eyes. And be extra careful with balloon animals as they can be a choking hazard to young children.
Bouncy houses can be fun entertainment for summer backyard parties! You can purchase one or rent one, but if you rent make sure that the rental company carries insurance.
Other entertainment to consider would be magicians (better for older kids), science parties, gym parties (toddler & older kids - but the gym parties tend to strictly limit the party length & it is more for the children & not for the whole family), pool parties, crafting or cooking parties, karaoke, or petting zoos (they may travel to you or you can visit a zoo such as the Turtleback Zoo in West Orange, NJ where they have more exotic animals).
Kids' Party Location Ideas
I have performed my NJ children's music show at home parties (or at a relative's home), at condo or townhouse clubhouses (again -- your own or a relative's neighborhood), a restaurants (toddler parties & older are frequently held at pizzarias - but consider any restaurant you frequent - see if they have a party room), fancy country clubs, church halls, temple halls, firehouses, ambulance squad halls, nursery schools or elementary schools (for weekday preschool or kindergarten parties), museums, zoos, golf courses, gyms and parks* (weather permitting).
*NOTE: Outdoor parties held at parks can come with some weather risk & it is best to have a backup plan. Some parks have indoor or covered pavillions & in my experience that seems to work best. Some people even put up a tent & that may be fine in the rain, but is probably not safe during a lightening storm. Some people choose to make their homes the backup location if it is close to the park. Other folks think that they will just have a rain date, but that presents difficulties as most entertainers cannot reserve time on more than one day for your party as they risk losing business from other clients. Also, friends & family may not be available on two days. I think that it is best to try to hold your party on the same date.
Many toddler, 4th & 5th birthday parties are often held at the birthday child's nursery school or elementary school (including special needs schools) which I think is a GREAT IDEA! The kids have a blast with their friends & it is so much easier to throw a party in your child's preschool or kindergarten classroom. Hire a really great children's performer & bring cake or some cupcakes & you are DONE! You can save time & money since you don't have to rent a hall or go to a restaurant (or you can splurge on a few things since you are not paying for the hall & lunch or dinner). Things can be kept simple and yet it will still be a fun & memorable experience for the birthday child and their friends.