Party Planning Tips

As a children’s party planner you can use this series of articles as a party planning guide to help with all of your birthday preparations. Click on a subject to find the birthday party planning tips you need.

Party Planning Tips – Advance Planning Weeks Before the Party

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Another Adobe Acrobat .pdf resource that might be useful to you is the check list in my Party Planning Timeline to help keep your party and event planning on time and under budget.

Date and Time

The first thing you need to decide on is a date and time. Most people want to have their birthday party on a weekend afternoon. This is a good time for a party, but many times it interferes with other activities such as soccer games, family outings, other birthday parties, etc. Also, the best entertainers usually fill their weekend schedules first. If you want to have a party on a Saturday or Sunday, plan it as far in advance as you can. Saturday mornings are becoming more popular because that time interferes with fewer activities and when the party is over, the rest of the day is free. Weekdays, however, are becoming popular party days too. Weekday parties are not only a great day to break up the weekend, but they also leave your weekends free for other activities. Plan a few dates that you would like to have the party. Check your child’s activity schedules to make sure that it doesn’t interfere with the party. Also, make sure most of your child’s friends can make it to the party.

Deciding on a Theme

You don’t need a theme, but it helps make planning easier. If your daughter’s favorite things at the moment are Dalmatians, theme the party around them. If your son’s passion is Star Wars, you have your theme. Others use baseball, soccer, football, ballet, dinosaurs, Cinderella, etc. Many people theme the party around the entertainment they have planned.


You can usually find invitations that match your theme if you’ve chosen to use a theme. Make sure you get the invitations out a minimum of two weeks before the party to give parents time to plan.

Party Length

The typical birthday party lasts two hours. If you plan on fifteen minutes at the beginning of the party for late arrivals, and 40-45 minutes for the birthday cake and opening presents, that leaves a full hour you must fill with other activities and entertainment. If your party is three hours long, you will need to fill two hours.

Limit the party time to two hours or less for children under six years of age. Up to three hours is fine for older children.

What do kids of different ages typically want in a birthday party?

It’s tricky to generalize, but here are some typical characteristics of children at different ages.

Ages 1 – 2 The party is for the family and possibly a few close friends of the family.

Ages 3 – 4 Toddlers enjoy candy or toy hunting, sing-a-longs. Include simple costumes and crafts – such as putting sprinkles on cupcakes.

Ages 5 – 7 These are super ages for birthday parties. Kids this age love learning and have a great sense of wonder. They love playing roles in whatever fantasy characters are in their pop culture. Kids this age can follow instructions and enjoy a challenge, but arrange the challenge so there are not losers.

Ages 8 – 10 Kids at this age are sophisticated and fear most being treated like ‘little kids’. Party favors might be viewed as being for little kids. They want to understand everything, or at least appear to know everything. Novelty is important. A pool party might be a good option.

Hiring Party Entertainment

When shopping for an entertainer, review his or her web site. They don’t have one? Hummm…that’s not necessarily an indication of his or her skill, but you may want to ask to see pictures or video of their performance. Ask for references and then call them. Ask the person about their routine. The performer should have a general outline of their show. Is their show guaranteed? It should be. Will he or she need electricity or a table? Get all of those details. Be skeptical of someone who doesn’t ask for a deposit. If you’ve not provided partial payment then they have less of an obligation to show up for your event. Whether you put down partial payment or not it is good to sign a contract or performance agreement with the company so that you have a written understanding of what was discussed. Keep it in a secure place and make an effort to call the performer a few days before the party to make sure that everything is working according to plan.

Party Activities

Prepare more activities than you plan to use in advance. Activities often take less time than planned and you may want to keep the children busy.

Dress Up Make this a costume party by inviting your guests to come dressed as their favorite character! If you have extra clothes or accessories, offer them to those who come without costumes. Be sure to take photos for intriguing party favors!

Magic Box This game takes advance preparation, but it’s lots of fun to play. Before the party, find a small gift for each child, as well as several boxes of varying sizes that will fit inside each other. Put the best gift inside the smallest box, and wrap it with special gift wrap. Put this gift in a slightly larger box with a new prize, and wrap again. Continue this process until you have wrapped enough boxes and gifts for each guest to unwrap one. At the party, seat your guests in a circle. Play some magical music and tell the children to pass the magic box around the circle as quickly as possible. When you stop the music, the lucky player holding the box must say “Abra Ca Dabra” before they are allowed to unwrap it. (Don’t tell the kids there are other boxes inside). Once a child has unwrapped a box, they must leave the circle with their gift. Start the music again and continue playing until each child has unwrapped a gift in the magic box. The child to open the last box is the winner of the magic prize!

Related Article: What Happens When I Book Michael’s Show

Penny Magic

Pick 5 pennies with different dates and place them in a top hat. Ask one of your guests to pick a penny and look at the date, without telling what it is. Pass the penny around so everyone knows the chosen date. Quickly put the penny back into the hat and shake up the pennies. Let your “Penny Magician” (birthday child) reach into the hat and pull out the chosen penny. The Penny Magician will know which penny was chosen because copper absorbs heat, making the penny that everyone has handled warmer than the rest. Once everyone learns the secret penny magic, let each child take a turn being the Penny Magician.

Hat Trick

Set a top hat in the middle of a large room and tell the children to form a circle around it. Pass out an equal number of playing cards to each guest and take turns tossing the cards into the hat. (Adjust distance to match the skill and patience level of your guests.) Any player who gets a card in the hat gets to continue tossing until they miss. The player who tosses the most cards into the hat gets to start the next round.

Magic Jelly Beans

Before the party, fill a large jar with red, black and white jelly beans. (Remember to count the jelly beans before putting them in the jar.) During the party, write down each child’s guess of how many beans they think are in the jar. At the end of the party, gather everyone together and announce the actual number of jelly beans in the jar. The child with the most accurate guess wins the jar of magic jelly beans!

Card Memory

Take a deck of cards and shuffle them well. Lay them face down on the floor or a large table. Each player takes a turn flipping two cards over. If they don’t match, the player turns them back over and another player takes a turn. If they do match, the player keeps them and continues flipping until they are unable to make a match. The object of this game is to find as many matches as you can. We called this game “Concentration” when I was a kid.

Sneaky Magician

Only a sneaky magician can outwit a gang of thieves! Choose a child to be the Sneaky Magician, seat them in a chair, and blindfold them. Place a special magical item beneath the chair, (top hat, deck of cards, magic eight ball, etc.) which the Magician must protect from the thieves. Only one thief may try to steal from the Magician at any given time. Since the Magician is blindfolded he/she must listen closely for the thief and touch them with their hands or feet before they steal the magical item. A thief who is caught becomes the next Magician. If the Magician does not catch the thief, the magical item is replaced under the chair so another thief can try.

Magic Card House

Have the children sit on the floor and give each guest a deck of cards. Have them build a card house. (demonstrate if necessary) Set a time limit of 2 minutes and whoever builds the tallest card house wins!


Plan a safe, comfortable place for the party where the children can have fun, but will not hurt themselves or your home. If planning an outdoor party be sure to have a backup plan in case of bad weather. The vendors on my Resources Page offer a wide selection of unique decorations for your party. Party City and Wal-Mart also offer a variety of selections. A few strategically placed decorations is often better than having every square foot decorated.

Spread your table cover on your party table. If your child has any theme-related toys, you can add them to the table for a more festive display.

Cut several one-to-two-foot-long pieces of curling ribbon. Curl the ribbon by pulling it between your thumb and the blade of your scissors. Lay the resulting curls on your table for added color. Hang balloons in bunches for the best effect. If you choose to fill balloons with helium, wait until the party day to ensure they float well!

Use balloons to mark the party spot; hang them on the mailbox, near the front door, or tie them to the birthday child’s chair to mark the seat of honor.

Place balloons anywhere that strikes your fancy. The more the better!

Gather six or eight streamers and attach them to the ceiling in the center of the party room (or over the table).

Use a light fixture over the table, if you have one, as the center point for the streamers.

To create colorful two-tone streamers, put two differently colored streamers back-to-back, twist as you walk them to the wall, and attach at shoulder height.

Related Article: Party Planning Resources


If the party is scheduled close to the lunch or dinner hour, serving food is essential. During the party, the children are usually having so much fun with each other that serving a normal meal is not only unnecessary, but unneeded. The children want to get back to the party activities as soon as possible so pizza, hot dogs or sandwiches and chips are great options.

Delectable Party Treats

Queen of Tarts Purchase frozen pastry dough at your grocery store. Roll onto a lightly floured surface, cut into 3″ circles, and press into tart pans. Chill while preparing filling. To make the filling, beat 3 eggs and blend in 1 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup chopped scallions, 1/2 teaspoon onion salt, a dash of nutmeg, and 1 1/4 cups grated Swiss cheese.

Spoon the filling into tart shells. Cut tiny heart shapes out of whole pimentos and place one on each tart. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until puffy and golden. Serve warm.

Magic Rainbow Punch

Create a drink that’s as much fun to make as it is to drink. Freeze several of your child’s favorite Kool-Aid® flavors (berry, orange, lemon, lime, blue raspberry, grape, etc.) in ice cube trays. Fill trays half-full so more colored cubes will fit in each glass. When it’s time to serve, place ice cubes in a large bowl and let each child fill their glass (tall clear cups work the best). Pour clear soda or juice over the colored cubes. Your guests will love watching as it turns into Magic Rainbow Punch.

Magic Rabbit Ice Cream Balls

Make a large ice cream ball for each of your guests. Roll each ball in coconut flakes and set it on a flattened cupcake wrapper. Use black jelly beans for the rabbit’s eyes, and a red jelly bean for its nose. Cut out “ears” from pink construction paper, or use halved sugar cookies instead. Store them in the freezer until ready to serve.

The kids will make these treats disappear in a not so magical manner.

Birthday Cake


Here is an area where you have lots of options. You can have a cake decorated and/or shaped to go with your theme or a traditional cake just using the theme colors. You can have cake and ice cream or an ice cream cake. This is an area where your creativity can really come out. Keep reading for a great cake idea that some have used.

Fantastic No-Bake Cake

Your guests are sure to be intrigued when you tell them this cake was “baked” in the freezer! You will need: 24 chocolate chip cookies, 3/4 cup quick oats, 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine, 1/2 gallon ice cream or frozen yogurt (one or two flavors), and your child’s favorite candies for decoration.

First, place the ice cream in the refrigerator to soften. Meanwhile, put 16 cookies in a plastic bag and crush well with a rolling pin. Put crushed cookies in a bowl, add 1/2 cup quick oats, and stir in 1/4 melted butter. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of a 9 1/2-inch springform pan. Scoop out half the softened ice cream and spread evenly over the crust. Crush the remaining cookies, and combine with the remaining quick oats and melted butter. Spread mixture over the first layer of ice cream. Then, add the second layer of ice cream and decorate as desired. Freeze until party time.

Adapt this cake to your party theme by making a magician’s top hat out of black construction paper, leaving the top piece off. Make sure the hat’s diameter is larger than the cake, so it fits around it without touching. Before serving, place the hat over the cake, with the brim up, as if you will be pulling the cake out of the hat. (This also allows you to light the birthday candles.) Tap the hat with a magic wand, and say “Abra Ca Dabra!” before lifting the hat off the cake. For extra fun, place a magic rabbit ice cream ball (recipe above) on top!

Goodie Bags

Eight FREE goodie bags are furnished with your Standard Party Package. More are available. Just ask. Call Michael Douglas at 919-391-8113 or use the Contact Page to get more information.

Essential Helpers

As much as you can, try to include the birthday child in preparations as often as possible. Let him or her stuff the party favor bags, make suggestions for games, help with the decorations, set the table, and prepare and mail the invitations. As far as that goes, birthday party planning should be a family event. Brothers and sisters sometimes feel left out when it’s not their birthday, so why not get them in the loop. Put an older child in charge photos. Maybe one of the siblings can introduce the entertainer when it’s time for the show. Another might hang up coats or collect all the presents as children arrive. Another could help prepare refreshments, invitations etc. Be creative with getting the entire family involved.

Pre-game Pep Talk

This may seem weird, but try practicing how you would like your child to answer the door and greet the guests. Know where to put presents, hang up coats and put shoes. Remind them to have good manners and be on good behavior for the party. It’s also important to give your other children a little extra love on the day of the party, remembering the limelight is on the birthday child.

The Day of the Party

Don’t do it all yourself. Ask a relative, a close friend, or the parent of one of your child’s friends to assist you the day of the party. Many times that person will be happy to lend a hand playing games with the children, getting the children from one area to another throughout the party (from the play area to the performance area, to the eating area), and to help serve the meal and cake, or even take pictures.

Finding our way. Tie a balloon, or a bouquet of balloons on your mail box, front porch or apartment door. This makes it easier for parents trying to find your house to see it and makes it easier for the entertainer (yeah, that’s me) too! You may want to put balloons at the turns into and through your neighborhood. Tie them the direction your guests should turn and leads the way beautifully. In this way, there is no need to tape up signs and it’s easy to cut balloons down after the party. Let the birthday child select the colors for the balloons. Kids really want to help out.

Nice and comfy. If the party is in the summer or if there will be a lot of guests, then lower the home temperature by a few degrees. The frequent opening of doors and the heat of the crowd will tend to warm the house.

Fur, Fins, and Feathers. Keep dogs and cats separate from the party area. An exciting party can be too much for your pets. Plus, you don’t want to set off allergies, risk a nip or stress out a child that might be afraid of dogs.

Location. To make sure your home is still in one piece at the end of your party, limit access to the non-party areas of your home. Turn off lights and close the doors of places where the kids should not go. Turn lights on and decorate the areas where the party will be held. Be certain to make sure the bathroom has enough supplies.

Timing is everything. Plan on most people showing up 10-15 minutes late!!! If you are hiring an entertainer for your party, it is most effective to schedule their performance to begin a 20-30 minutes after the time printed on your party invitations. This will allow for late-arrivals to get there, and will allow for children who came on time to get acclimated to your home and the party. This way, all your guests should be there by the time the show begins! Most important, this schedule should serve to avoid people arriving in the middle of the show. This will insure a much more focused audience, and will allow every guest to have the most fun possible during the show.

Opening Act. During the first 30 minutes of your party, a simple game or fun activity will keep children busy while you await the arrival of all your guests. During this early part of your party, very young children are happy watching a fun children’s video, or you can run a game like one of the ones mentioned later in this article. This is also the time that the Magician (that would be me) or other Party Entertainer will be setting up their props for the show.

Party Entertainment. Create a place on the floor for the children to sit and enjoy the show. Most living or family rooms due quite well. Michael only needs about 8×8 foot space to perform. Having the children sit together on the floor makes it easier for them to focus as an audience and be part of the show. The entertainer will signal you when they are ready to begin. At this point you can turn off the background music and prompt the birthday child or a sibling to introduce the performer.

Grub Time. After the show is a recommended time for the children to eat. Remember that children eat quickly, AND that children don’t eat much (especially when they want to get back to the party activities). As such, you don’t need to schedule much time for the food portion of the party.

Cake and Ice Cream. While the kids are still at the table is a good time to sing Happy Birthday and serve the cake and ice cream. Be sure to have your candles, matches, and camera handy.

Bows, Boxes, and Gift Bags. Before you let them up from the table, break out the gifts for the guest of honor. Most all kids enjoy the unveiling of the surprises hiding behind the colorful bags and gift wrap. Make note of who gave what for the thank you cards you’ll send out later. Later, you could even take a picture with the birthday child and the friend. Make prints and then include the picture of the birthday child and each guest with the thank you note.

Let The Games Begin. Games are optional. If you allow time for this, it could be something as simple as letting them take short turns playing Xbox or Playstation. You could also get some more game ideas from the Games section later in this article

So Long, Farewell. Save the Goodie Bags for the end of the PARTY!!! Goodie bags should be given to each child as they leave. This is a great time for the Birthday Child to get in and help as well as THANKING THEIR FRIENDS for celebrating with them. Saving these for the end, will also prevent the children from loosing items or arguing over what is in the bags.

Post-Game Debrief This is your kids day, and in all the rush, don’t forget to give them a huge hug and thank them for being such a great helper with the party and tell them how much you love them. This is also a great time to remind you child about the important common courtesy of sending thank you cards to all of the guests. This would be a great chance to have the birthday child help make, write, seal, stamp or any of the above for the thank you notes. Your child will learn from an early age the importance of thank you notes and the parents of all your guests will love them.

A Few Quick Reminders

    • Always confirm the time and details with the entertainer you hired one or two days before your party! This way they don’t confuse your party’s time with another party they may have the same day.
    • Don’t forget to buy fresh batteries or charge your digital camera battery, and of course charge your camcorder battery to insure you’ll be able to capture all the special moments!
    • Don’t forget to buy birthday candles and get some matches for the birthday cake. Yes…people forget this one all the time.
    • Maybe buy a few extra party favors or goodie bags, just in case someone unexpected arrives, or the sibling of a guest stays with their parent and you want to treat them to the party favor.
    • Headache-free planning also means carefully selecting a fun and experienced entertainment professional that you can trust….(uhhh..yup…that would be me again).
    • When it comes to taking pictures, it’s not necessary to have everyone in each picture. Focus on small groups and avoid posing all the photos. Candid shots capture the laughter best!
    • Don’t Miss The Fun. Don’t be one of those parents who is busy in the kitchen, etc. and entirely miss out of watching the kids thoroughly enjoy themselves as the laugh their heads off and gawk with amazement at the spectacular magic show or whatever other entertainment you plan for them. Kids like it sometimes when their parents are there to enjoy the moment with them and maybe even join in the fun with them. Make sure that you are in some of the pictures with your child. Someone else will be glad to take charge of the camera for a few shots.

Related Article: Tips On Selecting Entertainer


      • Fist 20-30 minutes, have the kids play a game or watch a video while the entertainer sets-up for the show, and the late comers arrive.
      • Next 45-60 minutes your professional entertainer (that would be me) amazes your guests as your child is the star of the show.
        Following 15 minutes the kids enjoy the food.
        For 10 minutes trailing the food is the cake and ice cream.
      • Allow another 10 minutes to wrap up with the opening of the gifts by the birthday boy or girl.
      • Optional 30 minutes of games can follow next.
      • 5 more minutes to hand out the goodie bags.
      • 30 minutes to clean up.
      • 60 minutes to take a nap. ZZZzzzzzz….

Please contact me with any questions you may have. I may not be the right entertainer for your party but will be glad to help in any way that I can. Call me at 919-391-8113 or use my Contact Page link.