Hosting a Kid’s Birthday Party
At first thought, hosting a child’s birthday party might seem like no big deal—all you need is a cake and balloons, right? But when you start to consider the details—themes, decorations, activities, etc.—it turns out that they can have a surprising amount of work associated with them. As with any event, a child’s birthday party can be simplified a great deal by simply making a checklist. All great events have timelines, checklists and budgets planned in advance—we’ve broken down the basics for you.
Planning: Two months before
Set a budget
Is this a special birthday that requires a special celebration, or can it be a simple affair at home? It’s important to set a realistic number—consider what you’re really willing to spend on invitations, entertainment, venue, food, cake, party favors, decorations and presents and remember that it all adds up more quickly than you might expect. Setting a budget will also help you determine what materials you will need: catering, cake, decorations, place settings, etc., or if you can (and want to) hire a full service party planner like dblossoms.
Determine the size of the party and the invite list.
Do you want to invite the entire class or just five to six kids? Etiquette wise, it’s better to have everyone included or just a small, tight knit group. For a smaller party, the general rule is to have the child’s age plus one attendee, so a five-year-old would have six party invitees. Don’t forget to check with essential guests (child’s best friend, family, etc.) that they are available on the day of the party. The scope of the party should also factor in. If you’re going to do a series of team games having even numbers is better, or if you’re planning a sleepover, a smaller group might be a better idea.
Decide on a theme.
Set expectations with your child on what you can realistically do for their party—if it’s going to be a blow out or a mild affair. Discuss with them the theme they’d like for the party—Frozen, dinosaurs, pirates, etc.
Choose a venue suitable for the size and activity level of the group—perhaps your backyard or living room will work. If you need a larger space, think about kid-friendly restaurants, play places or a park. If the party is outdoors, create a plan for inclement weather (sandstorms or rain) and have an indoor space.
For older kids, renting a bowling alley or going on a desert safari might be something unique and different. Check out Not Just Another Teen Party for more teen-appropriate party ideas.
Planning: One month before
Send out invitations.
Make sure to include the date, location, drop off and pick up times, what to bring, if food will be served and anything kids should bring (swimsuits, clothes that can get dirty, etc.). It’s also a good time to ask if there are any food allergies that need to be taken into consideration.
E-vites, like Paperless Post and Evite, work wonderfully for events (and especially rounding up those pesky RSVPs), but if you’d like your child to be able to hand out invitations, paper is the way to go. There’s no rule that says you can’t do both—send the e-invitation to the parents and let your child have the fun of handing out a paper invite.
Party supply and craft stores like Crazy Party and Rawnaq carry a multitude of themed plates, cups, streamers, etc., but, if you want to go simple, never underestimate the power of a bunch of balloons to liven up a room. Of course, with many things in Doha, it’s better to shop early if you have something specific in mind so you have enough time to order online if anything is missing or out of stock.
Implementation: Three weeks before
Book the cake and catering.
Keep it simple or hire it out. Unless you’re a regular Martha Stewart, don’t overdo it making so much food and spending so much time on the cake that you resent the event before it starts. Either decide that snacks and a simple cake are enough or go all out with food catering from Movenpick Hotel Doha and a cake from Magnolia Bakery or Cold Stone Creamery. If you’d like to do something in between, making the snacks and food yourself (or ask a friend to help) and then spurging on a themed cupcake set or cake pops from Caramel or another local specialty bakery can really be fun.
Make a schedule.
It may seem overly fastidious, but it’s easy to get carried away in the excitement of a party. Drawing up a schedule for the activities—games, crafts, snack time, cake time, opening presents, etc.—will help move things along so that no one ends up having to leave before cake is served or that nap times (for the littlest ones) don’t get missed.
Entertainment options vary depending on the age of your child, but there’s no shortage of fun party options in Qatar. From face painting and bouncy castles to photo booths and DJs, there’s plenty to keep the kids entertained.
A favorite for all ages is the Dream Machine Photography photo booth. They bring props and can do photo strips or individually framed photos. It’s not a bad idea to purchase a few extra props as well—there are several Etsy shops that sell silly sets.
It’s always helpful to have an extra set of hands on the day of the party. Enlist friends to help cook, decorate or stuff goodie bags. If you have a little one, hire a babysitter (if you don’t have a nanny) for the days leading up to the party so you can run errands, cook and prepare without interruption. Also, if you don’t have a housemaid, consider scheduling a maid service to clean before and, especially, after the party.
If you are hosting the party at home and need extra tables, chairs, place settings or more, book them. You could also borrow from friends and neighbors, but now is the time to ask and make sure you keep a master list of all the supplies you will be renting or borrowing—this will come in handy when it is time to return things.
Buy party favors.
You may have already picked up the party favors when you purchased the decorations, but if not, Daiso and Rawnaq are great options for inexpensive bulk gifts—but please, for the sake of all parents, and the general public, don’t give them whistles.
One week before
- Follow up on any outstanding RSVPs.
- Shop for groceries.
- Put together goodie bags for attendees.*
- If the party is at home, clean the house.
- Order balloons.
- Charge camera batteries.
The day before
- Finish any cooking or food set-up that can be done.
- Set up any craft or activity stations.
The day of the party
- Set out food.
- Keep a list of who gave your child gifts and what they gave.
- Have the birthday child say goodbye and thank you to each of their guests at the door.*
- Remember to give out the goodie bags!*
After the party
- Have your child send thank you notes to all attendees and for any gifts they received.
- Relax and congratulate yourself for a great event!
*Denotes activities that your birthday child should be involved in.
As manager for community relations at Northwestern University in Qatar, Emily Wilson directs pre-college programming and large events at NU-Q, producing: graduation, convocation, conferences, the THIMUN Qatar Northwestern Film Festival, and the high school summer media program. In her spare time, she runs a food blog called Shiny Happy Bright.