It’s Birthday Party Season and I Have Some Suggestions

birthday party birthday party

If Harry and Sally have anything to teach us, sometimes a break is all we need in order to gain the right perspective. And now that we’re finally back in the swing of birthday parties, wouldn’t it be a good opportunity to make some changes? Here are 10 ideas I have in mind…

Serve cake at the beginning – or, fine, maybe the middle – of the party.  Who decided we should all wait around until the end of the party for the cake? If we all band together and start serving the cake in the middle of the party, the kids can work off the impending sugar rush with their friends instead of at home. This is the change we need in the world, people.

Cater to the grownups. Serve the hardworking adults booze, fine cheese, and good music. Kids will have fun no matter what. We don’t all need to listen to Encanto!

Be very clear on the invitation. What time does this party go until and is this a drop-off situation? Honestly, I’m fine either way. I love getting to know other parents, but I just need to know what the expectations are so I can schedule accordingly.

Skip the goody bags. I’m not necessarily advocating against party favors altogether, but rather suggesting we abandon the baggies full of junk for a more streamlined approach. My eight-year-old left a party recently with a nifty book of paper airplanes. I thanked the parents profusely because I’m sick of goody bag trinkets and smashed Starbursts swimming around the house.

Don’t stress over the details. Picking a theme is fun because it allows the kids to be in their own little cosplay for an afternoon. But no need to be a slave to a theme or go overboard. For example, you can save some money because literally no one will notice your Paw Patrol napkins. (Those napkins always feel like cardboard, anyway.)

Invite adults to join in on the activity. Sometimes getting your cardio in at the trampoline park is way more fun than forcing small talk about the industrial shipping industry; this way you get to let your inner child play with your actual child. Plus everyone’s social skills are still a little rusty in this post-pandemic era so having something to do can be a nice relief.

Find your friends with skills and tap them. Unless you’re a Pinterest type who truly loves to make DIY balloon animals or whatever, support your local economy and buy a cake from one of the baker moms at school. Outsourcing projects as much as possible—within your friend group or neighborhood or local environment—makes the whole thing a community affair. And saves you some time.

Ask your kids to help with the planning. One year, I went all in on planning our son’s 4th birthday party — by myself — and later, when asked what the highlight of his party was, my son responded that it was seeing someone get pulled over by the police earlier that morning. Whether it’s strategizing the menu or activities, giving your kids some ownership over the party will make them more invested and give them a greater appreciation for all the work that goes into planning a shindig. At a certain age, they gotta find out these parties aren’t produced by a set of magical fairies. What I’m saying is, you are the magical fairy, honey, and you deserve some credit.

Think small. Some kids might prefer to invite a few friends to do a special activity, like going to a rock climbing gym or the movies for an afternoon, instead of a bustling party. Embrace this. Your wallet and sanity will thank you.

birthday party
the author’s kid living his best birthday party life

Have your kid write thank you notes to their guests. This is not new. In fact it is old. But it’s so old we need to make it new again. I just don’t think we should ever drop this vital piece of etiquette from our society. Or if this is too antiquated for today’s whippersnappers, have them text thank you videos to their guests. Those can be just as personal and add a flare of surprise.

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Toby Lowenfels is a writer and mom of three in Nashville. Follow her daily musings at @tobyfels.