Toddler Birthday Party Planning Made Easy

Toddler birthday parties can be a blast to plan and throw, and they don’t have to be complicated or fancy to be super fun. The party possibilities are endless and adorable, the kids are cute, and it’s a chance for the grown-ups to get together too. So let’s get started!

First things first, you’ll want to choose a theme. You don’t have to of course, but having a theme makes planning the food, decorations, and activities much easier and gives the event a coherent vision. Yes, that’s right: your toddler’s birthday party should align to a vision. The kid only turns 2, 3, or 4 once in his life!

If you’re overwhelmed by the options, consider what your little is into these days. Does your tot love trains? You can plan a fun party around that! What about zoo animals, fairy tales, or construction vehicles? Theme, theme, and theme. And plenty of toddler parties are based around TV characters and children’s movies, if you want to go that route.

Once you have the theme, lock down a venue (if you’re thinking outdoor, be sure to consider the weather!), and the date and time of your party—definitely take naptime, both your child’s and the guests’, into consideration here. Hint: Morning is probably best for most toddler temperaments.

Once those key logistics are locked down, it’s onto the fun stuff!

Invitations

Hit up an online invitation site to create a quick party announcement. There are a ton to choose from—Evite, Punchbowl, Paperless Post, and Pingg.com are just a few—so click around to find a design that works with your party theme. Or you could just create an event on Facebook and invite guests that way.

Food

Don’t be intimidated by the toddler party food ideas you see on Pinterest. The trick is really to keep it as simple as you want it to be, because the kids won’t really care how much time you spent carving watermelon slices to look like robots. They only care if it’s on the short list of foods they like that day!

Depending on the time of the party, you might not need to offer much more than finger foods like fruit and veggies, pretzels or goldfish, and cheese and crackers. Aim for foods on the healthy  end of the spectrum to keep the good energy up—plenty of sugar is coming with the cake, right? Add some sandwiches like PB&Js or order a pizza if you’re holding the party over lunchtime. Put out some water and juice boxes and you’re good! (Of course, you might also want to provide some food and drink options for the grown-ups).

Decorations

You can get as creative (or not) as you want here! If you’re going with a character-themed party, you can easily find decorations featuring them at any party store or online. Balloons are easy and always a hit with toddlers (they make an inexpensive party favor too). Easily tie your food into the party theme through the color or design of the paper plates and napkins. For DIY decorations around a specific theme, search “[Theme] Toddler Birthday Party” on interest and you’re sure to come up with some awesome, if a little ambitious, ideas!

Activity

This component is the key to a good toddler birthday party, I think. You need to give those little ones something to do or they’ll just set out destroying your venue! Again, go back to your theme and consider what works.

You could go wild here—like renting a bounce house—or keep it low-key, like decorating graham cracker houses. Whatever you do, don’t make it too complicated—these are toddlers after all—or do anything that might include a long wait (like face painting or balloon animals). Toddlers are notoriously impatient little things!

When my son turned four, we did a construction-themed party and set up a number of construction stations, from creating with Duplos to “building” a house (really decorating a cardboard box) to dressing up like a construction worker using plastic hardhats and workman aprons. The kids had a blast! A friend threw a fun “tea party” for her little girl. Activities included dressing up in fancy play clothes, making necklaces, and then having “tea” (just lemonade in this case) and cookies.

Cake

Again, less is more when it comes to toddler birthday cake. Go for simple flavors (something your child loves of course) and keep serving sizes small, toddlers really don’t eat that much! Mini cupcakes are usually about the right size for both toddlers and their adults. Do go crazy with the cake decorations–the average toddler loves sprinkles, party favors, and plenty of frosting! One fun activity invite the toddlers decorate unfrosted cupcakes with the help of their grown ups. Bowls of sprinkles, mini M&Ms, and gummy worms are great options for things to pile on those mounds of icing.


Goodie Bags

You can go as big or small (or not at all) as you want with the goodie bags you send home with your guests. Head online to Oriental Trading to find just about anything you could ever want around any theme out there. If bags of tiny plastic objects drive you crazy (raises hand), consider ordering a kids’ book in bulk and handing that out instead (one year I bought a six-pack of Curious George books and handed out one to each three-year-old guest there).

That’s about it for your basic toddler party planning tutorial. Don’t forget to take a lot of pictures! Aim for one with all the guests together if you can. Good luck and have fun!