"Thanks, Mom and Dad.   That was the best home birthday party...ever"

"Thanks, Mom and Dad. That was the best home birthday party...ever"

birthday party, home birthday party, Party Ideas -


By: Brittany

Chief Birthday Blogger


Guide to a memorable Home Birthday Party

The front door opened slowly.  A spectacular flash of light. The Birthday Fairy stood there in a magnificent dress that nearly blinded me with its sparkles and glitters.  With a wave of her wand the next thing I knew my son and all his friends were at Disney.  Just as we were about to shake hands with Mickey at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, my three year-old cried out in her sleep and woke me up.

Yes, taking the family and friends to Disney for a birthday party is a dream.  A quite impossible one.  Newsflash: The party will be at home and, with proper planning, it will still be magical.

Unless you live in Buckingham Palace, having a birthday party at home allows you to effectively manage the costs and a host of other variables.   The result will still have a major Wow factor and create warm memories for years to come.

Every party calls for a certain amount of carbs and junk but I don't let it run away with the menu.  When I'm in charge of the food I make sure there are also healthy snacks (carrot and celery sticks), fresh fruit, and real juices.  The chips, pizza, hot dogs and sugary cake don't completely dominate the buffet.  I'm also careful to find out if any of my little guests have food allergies that I need to heed.  A trip to the ER is not on the agenda! 

We have a semi-finished basement which can be a bit dark and dreary. A couple of weeks before the party I start planning the transformation.  The first step is to come up with a theme.

Between new movies and old favourites, kids' television shows, and classic children's stories, there is no shortage of options.  One of the most flexible is an emoji theme.  It works equally well for boys and girls and covers a broad age group. 

I used to run around to dollar stores, discount stores, and party stores buying supplies and decorations for the party.  Then I realized for all of the time and gas I wasted I probably saved $10.  Now here's what I do:  

  • I go to the http://www.happybirthdaykit.ca/ site and choose a theme and a birthday kit. There are several themes available and more added every month. 
  • Then I order a birthday kit containing all of the tableware (plates, napkins, cups, tablecloths), the filled loot bags, and decorations like a Happy Birthday sign and streamers. The kits are sized for 16 people including 10 filled loot bags for children.
  • If I need more loot bags, I order them from HappyBirthdayKit.
  • If I need more decorations, I go online (Pinterest is very useful) and decide what I need to supplement the decorations. Then I either make them or go to one store and buy them.

I consult with the birthday child about what activities he/she would like the guests to enjoy during the party.  They fall into two categories: organized games and surprise guest "drop ins".

I prefer outdoor games because our backyard can handle it.   Outdoors seems to maximize the amount of energy kids can burn while minimize the wear and tear on the house (and my nerves).   Sometimes the weather doesn't co operate.   I know that many of you don't have backyards either.  In those instances, I turn to a wonderful resource: http://whatmomslove.com/kids/active-indoor-games-activities-for-kids-to-burn-energy/ for a fabulous list of choices.  The key is to develop the list before the party so you have all of the materials you need and can work through a schedule to fit these activities in.  Try to prevent gaps between activities.  This is when you may lose the gang's attention and bedlam takes over.

One thing I have learned about games is that it can be devastating to a child to never win.  I prefer games where either everyone works together or where we play multiple rounds until everyone has won something.

When budget permits, I will book surprise entertainment like a magician, movie character, or puppeteer to drop in to the party.  There are even companies that will bring a trailer full of video games and park it in your driveway!  Now that's the ultimate home birthday party.

Party Themes

I talked earlier about easy themes.  The choice of themes is limited only by your imagination.  You can simplify your life by choosing one of the many "licensed" character or show themes, e.g. Curious George, PAW Patrol, etc.  You will spend a bit more because there are small royalties built into every product.  However, everything will fit together in a coordinated way that will be visually impactful. 

For the more adventurous DIYer, you can develop your own generic theme.  Younger kids like bugs and butterflies.  Kids in the 6 to 8 year-old range will go for pirates or princesses.  You will save money through not paying the built-in royalty cost but you will have to spend more of your own time to coordinate the various pieces (decorations, banners, plates, cups, hats, streamers, etc.).

The Toddler Home Birthday Party

This is the easiest one.  After all, the party is for the parents and family as much as it is for the child.  Be prepared for great photo ops.  There are few things cuter than a little face covered in cake icing or ice cream!  Perfect to haul out years later for communion, bar mitzvah, engagement, or wedding parties.

Decorations and partyware are of minimal importance.  Opening the presents, playing with the gift boxes, and reacting to all of the attention are what this is all about.

The Pre-School or early Grade School Home Birthday Party

There are at least three different ways to hold a  birthday party:

  • At home
  • At a party venue like a bowling alley
  • A class party at school.

In planning one of the first two, you should consider whether this will be a small group of friends (eight to twelve is about the right number to organize games) or the whole class.  When the party is at school, it is a given that the whole class will participate in the fun.

When you, with input from your child, elect to invite a smaller group you may run the risk of offending someone who is not invited.   The word spreads quickly.  There is no right answer but you and your child need to be prepared to have an answer ready when challenged.  Adults will understand that there is an upper limit that you are working with; a child is less likely to and hurt feelings may result.  Sometimes when the child wants to leave someone out ("but I hate Lulu") it becomes a teachable moment about getting along with others. 

I welcome parents who want to stay for the party.  They provide an extra set of hands and eyes.  It's difficult to be hospitable to them in the midst of a maelstrom of excited children.  At the very least I make sure that there is "adult" food available for them.  If no parents are available, I bring in a paid high school student who loves working with children.

Our family pets are invited to be somewhere else for the party.  They find the whole scene traumatic, especially the cats.  They are better off with a neighbour or the walker.

Invitations & RSVP's

I like to send out invitations three weeks in advance.  This gives people enough time to plan and gives me the preparation time I need to organize the food, games, loot bags, etc.

The kind of invitation I send depends entirely on who is going to be invited.  If it's the class or selected friends of the birthday child, I prefer to print off invitations on my printer and have my child distribute them.   If everyone is in one place, it's an efficient way of getting it done.
If the invitees are all over the place, nothing is simpler than firing out a bunch of electronic invites.  Rather than developing my own mailer, I use one of the many invitation services.  One of the best ones I've seen is Punchbowl (https://www.punchbowl.com/).  It comes in a free version with limited advertising and a paid one.  There is a huge choice of themes including emoji and many licensed characters.  There are options for importing contact lists and managing them.

Sending out the invitations is just the beginning.  I maintain a follow up list and check off who's coming.  And I do a follow up after a few days if people haven't met my RSVP deadline.  I have also learned the hard way that sometimes children/parents are forgetful and for repeat offenders I do a little reminder a couple of days before the party.

For younger children, I go one step further.  In my RSVP I provide the party's start and ending time.  Then I ask who will be picking them up and when and get a contact phone number.  In these days of split families, I don't want to be in the middle of the confusion.  I am also not running a daycare so if a child isn't picked up within a reasonable time, I want to be able to phone the parent.

Home Birthday Party Food

A meal or a snack or both?  The answer depends on whether it's a short after school party (snacks only) or a full afternoon.  For a party of two and a half hours (my ideal length), I offer a snack during a quiet period, e.g. when the gang is watching a new video.  If they're running around playing a game, eating snacks at the same time just spreads debris all over the house. 

As a general rule, the "meal" will be served during the last hour of the party in the time leading up to the birthday cake and the opening of presents.  I try to watch the time closely because I don't want a child to have to leave in the middle of the climax to the affair.

There is plenty of information on nutrition out there so I'm not about to repeat it.  I do have a few principles that I follow:

  • No more than 25% junk. The other 75% is a combination of healthy carbs, protein, fruits and vegetables.
  • I never serve nuts of any kind.
  • I severely limit sugar to the cake itself, ice cream and a small amount of candy made available at dessert time...and I'm sensitive to gluten allergies. An easy way to satisfy the gluten sensitive child is to make up a separate batch of gluten-free cookies.

And I always always always want to know if any children have allergies or other dietary requirements, e.g. vegan.  I want to accommodate them without making them self conscious.

Just Add Cake

You may love Black Forest Cake with real whipped cream, kirsch and sour cherries. Your little party-goers will be quite happy with Betty Crocker's finest at a fraction of the cost.  It almost doesn't matter what the cake is so long as it caresses the sweet tooth.  What's important are the decorations and the candles.

Bulk Barn, with stores across Canada, has a wide selection of character cake pans and cookie cutters:


And most areas have expert cake bakers who can create the perfect ending for the party.  Get your camera ready!

Balloon management

No question: the best looking (and most expensive) balloons are the helium-filled mylar ones.  You can rent a tank and fill your own or buy filled balloons at a balloon store.  Helium tanks should be handled carefully to avoid leakage or damage to the release valve.  It's fun to inhale helium and listen to your voice change.  It's also risky as the displacement of oxygen by helium in the lungs can lead to asphyxiation.

I prefer the simpler, air-filled ones.  We have an inexpensive air pump to inflate them.  By using more economical balloons, we can have plenty around and allow kids to take them home if they wish.  I am cautious around little ones as balloons can become a choking hazard especially if they burst (I mean the balloons, not the little ones!).

Opening the presents

Your guests probably were quite involved in choosing and wrapping the gifts so it's natural that they want to see the reaction on your child's face when he/she opens the presents.

Make sure you track which present came from whom so that you can reflect that later in thank you notes.

Loot Bags

Every guest should go home with a memento of the party (other than a stomach ache).  They are early in the process of learning how to get satisfaction from giving a gift so it's beneficial for them to receive something in return, even if it is a smaller gift in the form of a loot bag.

Yes, you can cobble something together from the dollar store.  But beware that many of these low-priced party favours may not even last until the party's over.  Better to have a quality product with a wow factor ("Look at what I got at Erin's party!"). 

I usually have on or two extra just in case an extra little person shows up at the last minute.

Happy Birthday Kit curates high quality, unique loot bags.  All are available on its website (www.HappyBirthdayKit.ca) and many on Amazon, for example, https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01LZ6OSKU

Making sure everyone gets home safely

The RSVP list that you made provided you with the names, phone numbers, and pick up instructions for each guest.  It's time to pull out that list again and manage the departures in accordance with the parents' instructions. 

Thank you for coming

Sending thank you notes provides a critical learning opportunity for your child to express appreciation.  Regardless of whether they are paper or electronic, regardless of who actually writes them, your child should play an integral role in their preparation and distributions.

Gifts received are not to be taken for granted. 

If I'm feeling really industrious, I'll include photos of each child at the party on his/her thank you note or refer them to a posting on Facebook or Pinterest.

This Guide to a Home Birthday Party was prepared by HappyBirthdayKit.ca for its friends and customers.  We welcome your ideas!   Please send your suggestions and comments to Brittany@HappyBirthdayKit.ca

Ó Copyright Happy Birthday Kit Inc., 2018.  You may reproduce (i.e., print, make photocopies and download) materials from this document without prior permission for non-commercial purposes, on the condition that you provide proper attribution of the sources in all copies.

Home Birthday Party Checklist 




Invitations - Paper or Electronic









Loot Bags*



Tableware (plates, cups, cutlery)*









Food: Salty Snacks












           Main Course: Sandwiches, Pita, Pizza






           Cake Topper/Decoration






           Special Dietary Needs






Thank You notes - paper or electronic 






* These items are included in all Happy Birthday Kits for a memorable Home Birthday Party




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