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MAIN Arrow to Entertaining Party Ideas Arrow to Party LocationsParty Planning Checklist

birthday cakeParties can be a piece of cake if you prepare ahead at least 6 weeks in advance -- leaving plenty of time to choose a party theme, create a guest list, and send out invitations.

Plan your next kids' party with help from this complete step-by-step checklist:

6 weeks before

Choose a party theme with your child that reflects your child's interests. For teen parties, get your teen actively involved in all aspects of the party right from the start. This should include creating the guest list and sticking to the budget!
Create the guest list. The general rule of thumb is to invite the number of children that corresponds with your child's age, plus 1. (For example: 5 kids for a 4-year-old.)
Select the date and time for the party.
If opting for a party venue such as a restaurant or party hall, choose a location and make reservations. Talk to your party coordinator about the entire party package. Does it include the cake and entertainment? Party favors? Invitations? If presented with a contract, avoid any unpleasant surprises on party day by reading over the contract carefully before signing.

5 weeks before

If arranging the party at home, plan an orchestrated schedule of activities that include the entertainment and party games, the cake cutting, present opening, and favor distribution. Depending on the age of your child, kids' and toddler parties are generally 1 1/2 to 3 hours long.
Book party entertainment, if any ( musicians, DJ, clowns, "bouncy house").

3-4 weeks before

party invitation Make or purchase invitations. If appropriate, consider using an online e-vite service.
Mail invitations. Be sure to state the start and end times so parents can coordinate the appropriate drop-offs and pick-ups for their children . If guests live outside of town, include directions to your home or to the party hall.
Plan games and activities.

NOTE: If you've already booked at an outside venue,- relax. Most of the work is already done!

2 weeks before

Purchase or make party supplies (decorations, party favors).
Plan the menu and prepare a shopping list.

1 week before

Make an inventory of other supplies you'll need for the party such as tables and chairs, coolers, serving dishes, drinking cups, cutlery.
Follow-up with invited guests who have not responded to determine your final guest list.
Order cake.
Prepare any make-ahead foods that can be safely frozen.

2 days before

Test camera equipment (still, video) and make sure camera batteries are fully charged.
Shop for groceries and any last minute supplies.
Prepare favor or "goodie" bags.

party candles
Don't forget the candles!

Day before

Bake and frost the the cake or party cupcakes if making them at home.
Clean and child-proof your entire party space.

On party day

Pick up cake (don't forget the candles!)
Set-up and decorate the party area.
Set-up games or activity areas.
Hang balloons at the front door, or create a colorful sign pointing the way to your party!
Greet your guests.... and have fun!

2-3 days after

Have your child prepare thank you notes. Ideally, thank you notes should be store bought, hand-written, and mailed the old-fashioned way.

More about party planning around the Web:

How to Plan a Kid's Party on a Budget - Here's the guide with more suggestions and money-saving ideas for making kids' parties more affordable and fun.


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