Both of my boys have November birthdays, so until they catch on, they're sharing a party. Up until now, an hour with cake and the grandparents was a spectacular way to celebrate. Then my oldest started kindergarten and made, like, friends. Now the sham is up, and I have to throw actual birthday parties OH NOOOOO.
You guys, I'm not the birthday-party-throwing mom. Spending hours cutting cheese into dinosaur shapes and turning my yard into a circus carnival is not how I want to spend my time. Does that make me a bad mom? Guilty Mom Brain would say so, but she’s annoying and just wants attention so I tend to ignore her.
To those of you who like throwing your kids’ birthday parties, I love you, and please keep inviting my children. I, however, am not that mom, unless wine and ice cream are waiting for me at the finish line. Since I’m pregnant slash my baby hates dairy, planning this party was cloaked in a black cloud, kind of like that year People magazine chose Adam Levine as the Sexiest Man Alive instead of Ryan Gosling who was OBVIOUSLY the better choice. I needed to be honest with myself and figure out how to throw my boys a party without sacrificing part of my soul.
Here’s how I did it and how you can, too.
Five Ways to Survive Your Little Kid Party (Alcohol Optional)
1. Skip the theme.
If you want everything to be in the likeness of Olaf, do your thing. But sometimes party themes complicate rather than simplify. If you’re feeling wonky about party details, let yourself off the hook and don't even worry about a theme. Five year-olds don't care.
P.S. I told my friend that the boys’ party theme was “Kendra Is Tired and Pregnant,” and her son thought that meant the cake would be in the shape of my belly. Let’s all pause and laugh at how awesome that is, please.
2. Put up decorations that you won’t mind staring at for a few days.
My go-to party decorations match my house so that if I’m too tired to take them down, it’s no big thing. I hung streamers from corner to corner, anchored them with non-obnoxiously colored balloons, and hung the washi tape garland I’ve been using for every party for the last two years. My boys loved that we kept everything up long after the party was over, and I got to live in a cute fairyland instead of in a Paw Patrol episode.
3. Order pizza.
Most party planning advice tells you to avoid mealtimes to save money, but when it comes to filling a two-hour party with kid-friendly entertainment, eating is essential. My solution? Have the party during lunch (we did 11am-1pm), and order pizza. I added grapes to the menu, and not only were the kids super happy, I didn’t have to cook a thing.
4. Serve cupcakes instead of cake.
There’s one simple reason: forks. Cake requires forks; cupcakes do not. Make your own from scratch or a box, order from a bakery… it doesn’t matter. But cupcakes are magic because you simply put one in front of a hungry child with the soul-saving knowledge that they are completely self-contained. Plus you can make Lazy Genius cupcake toppers by attaching stickers to toothpicks and poking them in the cupcake. Took four seconds and looked adorable.
5. Offer one or two “activities.”
Ours were so stupidly simple I’m almost embarrassed to share them.
First, we had some balloons scattered throughout the house and played “Don’t Let the Balloon Touch the Floor” which my mom actually came up with on the fly. Brilliant. Second, I laid out two big sheets of craft paper and crayons so the kids could make birthday banners. Third, they got to stir their own chocolate milk at lunch. You would think this does not in any way constitute a party activity, but doggoneit if there wasn’t a line of kids anxiously waiting to stir some Hershey’s. And fourth, we turned the table into a road with a $0.97 black tablecloth and some masking tape. A few kids sat around running cars up and down the table like it was the greatest invention known to man. That’s it.
- The kids had fun.
- My boys thought it was the greatest day ever.
- My mom cleaned up, aka threw away all the trash, which I realize is a personal bonus but amazing all the same.
- I still had the entire afternoon ahead of me without feeling like the weekend was taken over by the party.
You don’t have to throw little kid parties the way I do, but know that you can throw one without going crazy or needing a bottle of wine at 3pm. Just let yourself off the Pinterest hook, and you’ll be amazed at how your soul is still in one piece when it’s over.