here is no magic to planning a truly memorable birthday party for your child. It just takes some organization, imagination and these....

7 Golden Rules for Terrific Children's Parties- Guaranteed Success!!

What makes it a great party?? Here's my list:

  • The party is unique (just like your child!!)- different, really fun, and not just "ho-hum" to the kids
  • All the children participate all the time- no loose cannons wandering around causing problems
  • Excitement, lots of smiles and laughter, even some joyful shouting
  • Minimizing their ability to make a mess that you then have to deal with
  • Keeping it within a reasonable budget

If your party has an exciting theme that carries through to engaging and well planned party activities (games), the kids will stay involved and have a great time doing it.

Rule #1

The Importance of your Party Theme

I'm not talking about the picture on the invitation or on the plate that's under their cake- in my humble opinion these add nothing to your party except expense.

I'm talking about a theme that gets them interested and excited about your party from the time they receive your invitation. That way they're primed to have a good time and participate the minute they step in your door. We've all had the awful experience of a child or two that doesn't get into the party, and make it less fun for everyone else. The point is to avoid this if at all possible.

It's your exciting theme that you use to tie all your party activities and games together into a coherent package to deliver on the excitement that your invitation has generated and KEEP EVERYONE IN THE GAME! When choosing your theme, keep in mind that your games should loosely sequence around the theme - otherwise it's a rag-tag collection of unrelated games that can still be fun but probably not the “great” party you're looking to create. More on this later….

Your theme can be anything that they're interested in, such as a new kids movie, or something that they think is “cool”. My Survivor theme is a perfect example- many kids that age haven't seen the show, don't really know what it's about, but have heard about it and are intrigued because they think it's “adult”- ALWAYS guaranteed to get them interested .

Rule #2

Making the games/activities "exciting" and "fun"

Finding or thinking up the actual games is the easy part- the tougher problem is stringing them together around your theme. There's lots of free game ideas on the web, and there are books in your library full of party game suggestions.

Think about any fun games you might have played as a kid at parties. Perhaps the best suggestion is to dig back in time: the bobbing for apples game in my Survivor Party is a HUGE HIT with the kids because today's kids have never done this stuff.

Another good ploy is to make them cooperate on a small project of some kind – like a mini skit, an art/craft project, a problem solving session. Cooperating isn't so easy for kids this age, and that extra challenge actually makes it more fun for them.

Lastly- don't be afraid to make them think. A good problem to solve, something to build, or a puzzle, not only engages them but it gives them satisfaction when completed or solved.

You will certainly need some more active games interspersed with the more cerebral activites, but be sure to consider your space requirements when you choose these.

And a definite advantage to "thinking" games is they're neat - you're not giving them anything to make a mess with!

Rule #3

Turning the Games into a Party

When you've got some good game ideas, think about how to sequence them together around your theme. Think of yourself not as the host(ess), but as the MC: you will be introducing each new activity to the children, explaining what they are going to do. In the course of doing that, put your “spin” on the game that relates back to the theme.

Here's another example from my Survivor party: they're all starving after being shipwrecked on this desert island, and “Voila”, a crate of apples washes up onto the beach. BUT, before they can get them, a big wave comes along and washes them back out into the surf. Obviously, they have to retrieve the apples. And apple bobbing they go!

Be creative. And it can be silly – you don't really expect them to believe you, just to get “into it”. They will "play pretend" enough to keep the theme alive (so long as you don't hit them over the head with the fact that they're doing something "little kids" do). And here's where a little competition between the kids really helps.

Rule #3 and a half

A LITTLE Competition

A word about competition- a concept that seems to have become politically incorrect. If you keep everything light, and a birthday party is certainly that, some fun competition where there's no real prize or just something small and silly, can really add to the kids' enjoyment of the event.

Team competition is by far the best - it keeps all those little egos intact. And by putting the kids in a group with a common goal, you'll find they are much more likely to stay tuned in and participating.

And you'll find that the children very willingly "go along" with the theme and the "silly" spin you put on the games when they're doing it as a group.

Rule #4

Create your Master Plan

Make a schedule with your best estimate of how long each game should take, and the order in which you intend to play the games. Jot down your ideas about sequencing from one game to the next and your “spin” to keep the theme of your party going. Add in food time, a little extra for getting organized when they arrive (and latecomers), and present opening time if you intend to include that.

Turn all this into a printed schedule, an "MC" cheat sheet for your use during the party.

From this schedule, determine the length of your party for the invitations.

Rule #5

First things LAST!!

Everybody's immediate reaction to getting started on a birthday party is the invitation, when it fact it's the last thing you should do.

You've now got a theme that will turn all the kids on and great games strung together around that exciting theme. Use this excitement in your invitation to get them revved up and ready to participate the minute they walk in your door!

Create you invitation using clip art or scanned materials that project your theme. Put a “hook” in your invitation – a challenge, a dare, or a puzzle, anything that will set your party apart from the usual . These are kids- it just needs to look cute and inviting, not professional.

Rule #6

Making it "Special" but Inexpensive

If easily constructed props will make your games more fun (or cheaper than buying stuff), by all means create them. It makes everything look “special” to the kids- even if the props are just paper and look homemade. They will see the effort you put into it and they will appreciate it. And you'll appreciate the easy clean up when all they have to make a mess with is paper.

And since they're all excited about the party from your invitation, decorating is almost unnecessary – a simple poster put together from clip art continuing your theme that greets them upon arrival may well be sufficient.

The same goes for the food – they really aren't coming to eat. I've found that keeping it simple works best, and makes it much easier for you. Do you really think they even taste the difference between a fancy (expensive) bakery cake and a home-made box cake with something clever hand-decorated on the top?

And a word about expensive, fancy tableware for the food – I don't think they even look at it! With a well though out party comprised of fun, challenging games, you don't need to spend the money for these extras.

Rule #7

A Party to Remember

Why end your unique and special party with the same thing everyone else sends them home with? I'm personally much opposed to “loot bags” full of candy – that I always throw out and feel bad because someone spent a bunch of money on this stuff.

Instead, I suggest something that continues your party theme – a momento if you will. Make them a certificate, using your theme and personalized with their name. If an inexpensive item will enhance one of your games, make that your party favor. Or send them home with Polaroid or digital photos taken during the party- preferably one picture per child of them doing something really silly. The photo store should sell little card frames for your pictures, if you want to dress them up a bit.

See how these Party Principles Actually Work!

Take a look at ANY of my 5 birthday party games packages so you can see exactly how these 7 party principles are applied to result in unique parties that the kids absolutely love. Be sure to follow the link (on the pages referenced below) to view the invitations so you can see how to get them all excited before they even arrive.

Detective Birthday Party Games
(An indoor Mystery Party for 8 - 10 year olds)

Survivor Birthday Party Games
(An indoor or outdoor party for 6-8 year olds)
Medieval Madness Party Game
(An indoor or outdoor Murder-Mystery party for 11-13 yr olds
in Middle School )
Harry Potter Birthday Party Games
(An indoor or outdoor party for 8 to 11 year olds)
Magica Birthday Party Game
(An indoor or outdoor Theatre Party for GIRLS age 10 and 11)

Does it take substantial time and effort to put a great party together?


I've already done it- so I know. It's not hard- it just takes some time.

  • thinking time to come up with a theme that excites and can be translated into related activities;
  • research time to find the right games for your theme;
  • creative time to successfully sequence your chosen games around the theme and come up with an intriguing invitation.

That's why I recommend giving yourself a month to put it all together.

You have the blueprint right here to create your own unique and successful children's party. Use this link for a printer-friendly .pdf format of this page for your use (it paginates funny on the screen but it prints fine- got me!!).

If these party principles help you to create a successful children's party- I'm delighted I could be of help.

GO TO IT!! I can't WAIT to hear about the great party plans you're going to come up with!!

Photo of me and my kids