Birthday party disasters averted

Oct 8, 2009 at 7:17 p.m. ET

A few simple considerations before the big day will ensure that the party runs smoothly, everyone has a sensational time and, most importantly, the birthday child feels special.

Mom serving birthday cake at party

A child's birthday party can be a marvelous experience for both you and your child or an utter disaster. Watch out for these common birthday mistakes.


It's not uncommon that during the course of even the most thought-out birthday party extravaganzas, something runs out. In the event that you have more guests than you expected, or that the children concoct more uses for the cups than just holding liquids, ensure you have an ample supply of plates, cups, napkins and silverware.

Party planners suggest planning for two plates and three cups for each invited guest, but factor in the possibility that your guests may bring siblings or other relatives. Keep that in mind when making your take-home goody bags as well. No child would want to feel left out if the there wasn't a goody bag with their name on it.

Crafts and other activities

Making plenty of creative, hands-on activities available during the party will not only free up your time, but will keep the shorter-in-stature guests entertained. Aim for at least one age-appropriate group activity, like a limbo contest, musical chairs or any other favorite party game per hour of the party. Consider strategically placing some simple activities for the children that can be done at any time during the party, like a craft or activity that will require little supervision and involves as little clean up as possible.


Another time to keep the ages of the children you are inviting in mind is if you will be adding formal entertainment to your tike's shindig. Remember that a child's attention span is relatively short, and they won't hesitate to show you when they're bored, so you may want to save longer performances for the older crowd.
Clowns and costume characters have long since been thought of as a staple for birthday party entertainment, but beware! Not all children react positively to clowns and mascots. Avert a party disaster by having a casual conversation with the parents about your plans to bring in entertainment so they can prepare their children ahead of time.


What party would be complete without a lavish display of tantalizing treats and vibrant decorations? Make eating fun by choosing a menu that complements the theme of the party. For example, if princesses are the character of choice, try using star-shaped cookie cutters with pink food dye. Avert a disaster by knowing if any of your guests that day have any food allergies and ensure substitutes are readily available, or change your menu accordingly if the allergy is severe. Try these allergy friendly recipes.


Vibrant colors enlist a mood of happiness and excitement. Numerous helium filled balloons are a birthday party classic, but exercise caution with very young children as deflated or popped balloons can present a serious choking hazard. Think about making a personalized banner (DIY style) by hanging a large piece of craft paper on the wall at the height of the birthday child and guests. Have the kids draw or write messages for a great birthday party keepsake. If your guests are still very young, consider having them write sentiments with sidewalk chalk instead.

The goal is for any party to be fun and memorable, not chaotic and disorganized. Planning is the key to avert most party disasters, but remember, they're children, so expect the unexpected!

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