40 Tips for a Hassle-Free Birthday Party

From games to goody bags, your guide to the best party ever.

Manners & Responsibility: Kids at Parties

Timing, Invitations, Cakes

Kids love their birthday even before they quite know what it is. And what's not to love about cake, presents, friends, and family? Some parents thrive on the planning, decorating, and hosting; others want to make the event as fuss-free as possible. No matter what your party profile, here are plenty of ideas to help you get started on a celebration your child will love.

Making the Most of Baby's First

Your baby's first year -- and yours as his parent -- is a milestone worthy of a party. But this may not be the year for a big blowout. Your newly minted 1-year-old may be overwhelmed by a large crowd.

1. One way to keep your event simple yet celebratory is to host an open house, particularly ideal if some of your guests are driving an hour or two to get there, or have their own kids with their own schedules and needs. Have your party from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., and allow people to come and go as they please. That way, there's no pressure for your child to be "on" at a certain time, and you're not attempting to plan your event around naps, meals, or moods.

For bigger parties, which are especially ideal for toddlers and preschoolers, here are real-life tips that will make your day fun and festive.

Timing and Invitations

2. Any mom will tell you to be clear on the invitation what time the party ends. An hour-and-a-half party is the gold standard for 2- and 3-year-olds.

3. Indicate on the invitation whether you'll be serving lunch, so people know whether or not to feed their kids.

4. Remember to put an "RSVP by" date on the invitation, but don't panic if it appears no one is coming to the party! For some reason, many of us can never get around to letting people know we're coming (we are much more likely to call if we're not). The RSVP date allows you to start your follow-up calls without feeling like a nudge.

Let Them Eat Cake...

A big birthday cake will allow for a more dramatic blow-out-the-candles moment.

5. Try a theme cake if your kid's mad about Barney or Clifford. Costco is known for making great-tasting, inexpensive sheet cakes with lots of characters and designs to choose from.

6. Ask your local bakery about a cake featuring your baby's photo.

7. Ambitious? Make your own cake (from a mix or scratch). Get ideas and tools from Wilton.com.

...or Cupcakes

Cupcakes are less hassle. There's no cutting, and they're easier to serve.

8. For a photo-worthy effect, buy a cupcake "tree" to serve them from (again, Wilton.com has them).

9. Ice cupcakes in different colors and arrange them in a fun pattern, or one that spells out your child's name or "Happy Birthday."

10. Put out sprinkles and other decorations so each guest can create her own masterpiece.

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