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Plan the perfect toddler party

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.






Kids birthday party tips

Looking for tips on planning a toddler birthday party? How do you top the milestone event of the first year? Well, this time you have a child who might actually participate in some of the activities you have planned, and you can even consider inviting a few friends. Here are some tried and true tips for planning a successful toddler birthday party.

Second Birthday

Planning a toddler party can be as much fun -- or as stressful -- as you want it to be. It's definitely better if you can leave the stress behind and concentrate on the fun, and that's why we're here. Follow our guidelines, and you and your child can both enjoy a great day.

1. Start with a budget.

A toddler birthday party is not a reason to deplete your emergency fund or dip into your child's college savings account. Be reasonable. For about $100 you can plan an incredible party with great photo opportunities and create lasting memories. You'll remember much more about this event than your child will, so there's truly no reason to go overboard. If you've been saving all year and really want a blowout, then go for it -- but do not spend more than you can reasonably afford. Check out our expert ideas for sticking to the budget without cutting the fun.

2. Location, location, location.

A party at home is cheap, but you have to decorate and clean up. A party in a dedicated playspace is more expensive, but you will have less to do. If you're 8 months or more pregnant with your next child or you're moving next Tuesday or your house is undergoing major renovations, an outside-the-home party may be necessary. Otherwise, try to have the party at your house.

3. The guest list.

Aim for between two and five toddlers at your party. Even if you think you can handle 20 children, why would you want to? Is your child really, truly friends with 20 children? Just bear in mind that your chances of someone having (a) an allergic reaction to something or (b) a meltdown increase exponentially with every addition to the guest list. A small party is just as much fun -- and a lot more manageable.

4. Timing and activities.

For some awful reason, many well-meaning parents plan toddler birthday parties smack in the middle of the afternoon. This tends to coincide with naptime. The combination of sugar, excitement, and overtired children is never a good one. Aim for a morning party -- 10 to 11:30 is great. Ninety minutes is plenty of time, and you can split it into blocks of time for different activities.

The trick with toddlers is to avoid games with winners and losers, games with lines and waiting for turns, and games with rules. In other words, games are not the best choice. Think activities instead.

For example, welcome guests to a large craft table where they can color, glue, and play with stickers. Don't worry too much about the quality of the finished craft. Once clever idea is to have the kids decorate what will become their goody bags. Label each with a name ahead of time.

Kids who finish decorating their bags will usually be content to continue coloring on plain paper for at least a few more minutes.

Next, move the group to an activity table with sand, shaving cream, clay, blocks, water, or something else your child enjoys. (If you can do this outdoors, great! Otherwise, put a shower curtain on the floor for easy cleanup.) You can guide the activity a bit, but let the kids have fun and explore.

When you have thirty minutes left, it's time to bring out the cake. Sing, serve, and eat. For a final activity, consider one of the newer, child-friendly piñatas. Instead of sending blindfolded children out to whack things with a large stick (seriously, who came up with that game?), these piñatas have a bunch of hanging ribbons. Each child holds one, and they all pull together, opening the bottom of the piñata and spilling treats for the kids to gather in the bags they decorated earlier.

For more kids birthday party tips:

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