10 min read

Kids party planning made easy

Your child’s birthday party should be a fun celebration – but the looming date can cause even the coolest of parental cucumbers to break into a sweat. There always seems to be so much to do!

Children wearing party hats, with party food laid out on a table in front of them.

“The biggest source of party stress for parents is about meeting and exceeding their child’s expectations,” says Lee Knowlton, CEO of Fun Brands [1] and party planner.

And with 48% of parents spending up to £500 on their child’s birthday party each year [2], many also dread the expense. “The pressure isn’t coming from the kids, but the parents.” says Siobhan Freegard, founder of Netmums.com [3].

Having a good time really doesn’t have to be expensive. There are loads of ways to keep costs down to a minimum. (Younger kids don’t even have a concept of how much money you’ve splashed out – use this to your advantage.)

DIY or book a venue?

It can cut out a lot of stress and hassle to arrange a party at a venue like a softplay centre, theme park, or bowling alley. Lots of places will do party packages that include food and entertainment. But it might not be what you’re after, and it can be pricey. And with lots of birthdays throughout the year, there are only so many places locally so it can be hard to make it unique.

Planning your own party might not be as stressful as you imagine.

Here are some ways to make planning and running your child’s birthday party as stress-free as possible.

Involve them in the planning

Ask your child for their suggestions, they might have some great ideas. Some will most likely be comically unattainable but set clear expectations and try to find creative ways to make their vision come alive.

Don’t be stressed about ‘out-doing’ other kids’ parties. Your primary aim should be to create a day that your child will enjoy.

Arrange for an extra pair of hands – or two

Bribe grandparents, older sibling, friends or neighbours into helping you out for a couple of hours. It can be really helpful to have another adult on hand to answer the door in the middle of a game of musical statues, or help clear up the aftermath.


Lots of parents get overwhelmed at the prospect of having to entertain a gang of over-excited kids. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Musical chairs and pass the parcel never go out of fashion and can usually be tweaked to fit with your party theme.

Something that lets them get creative can keep them quiet – tape a few sheets of A3 paper together and let them paint a huge mural, make and decorate pirate hats, or ice cupcakes.

When you’re desperate for 2 minutes of peace and quiet, a game of ‘Sleeping Lions’ never goes amiss!

Groups of children are brilliant at entertaining themselves and making their own fun, especially given a few props like bubbles, or dressing up items.

Party planning checklist:

Here’s a non-exhaustive, but hopefully helpful list of things to do and not forget.

1. Decide a budget.

2. Set date and time.

3. Book a space – if you’re not having it at home – remember that weekends and evenings are likely to be more expensive.

4. Pick a theme – once you’ve done this, everything else will fall into place. A good theme will give plenty of inspiration for games, cake decoration and food ideas.

5. Guest list – invite lists can be a social etiquette minefield. Don’t feel pressured to invite everyone, but try to be inclusive if you have the space and budget to be. Or opt for a small group.

3 weeks before

1. Send out invites – aim to do this at least 3 weeks before. Include:

  • Child’s name as well as your name
  • Address and phone number
  • Fancy dress if applicable
  • Start and end time
  • It’s a good idea to ask parents to warn of any food requirements / allergies
  • To cut down on cost, you don’t have to have paper invites. A Facebook event page, email invites or texts to the parents can be more practical for pre-school ages.

2. Make a note of RSVPs – you’ll more than likely get a mix of calls, texts and relayed messages in the school playground. Make sure you’ve got a central list of who can and cannot make it to avoid confusion.

3. Goody bags – it can be cheaper to order little gifts online, make sure you leave enough time for this. It’s wise to have a couple of spares, in case of unexpected attendances or mix-ups.

2-3 days before

1. Prepare a music playlist (if parents are likely to be sticking around, have mercy and add a few tunes that don’t feature in Frozen).

2. Leave food shopping until a couple of days before and don’t buy more perishable items than you can fit in the fridge! If you have any guests with special dietary requirements or allergies, don’t forget to take them into account.

3. Don’t forget candles! (And something to light them with)

The day before

1. Charge cameras / phones / video recorders ready for the big day. Make sure you’ve got enough memory space to snap away to your heart’s content. You might want to nominate someone as the dedicated photographer for the day.

2. Make sure everyone gets a good night’s sleep before the big day. The last thing you need is an over tired, over boiled tot on your hands.

On the day

1. If you’ve got a lot to set-up, allocate tasks and get everyone to muck in. Or if it’s easier, get someone to take the kids to the playground for an hour to burn off some excitement and leave you to get cracking in peace.

2. Most of all, remember to have fun! Your child won’t notice that you forgot to get the cucumber sticks out of the fridge. They will remember having a load of fun with their friends and family around them.

Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Hub content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions.

1 https://www.care.com/a/7-tips-for-birthday-party-planning-stress-1412714007290

2 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/shopping-and-consumer-news/11627237/Parents-spend-19k-on-childrens-birthday-parties-over-lifetime.html

3 https://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/may/05/child-birthday-party-on-cheap

Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Talking Finance content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions.