Kids' Birthday Party Timeline to Make Planning a Piece of Cake

girl birthday cake party

Planning your kid's birthday party can feel even more involved and stressful than planning your wedding. I mean, my son's birthday isn't for months -- and he's already talking about his party and where he wants to have it. And the date usually creeps up on us before we know it. That's why it's so important to make sure you know when to start the party planning -- and what things you need to add to your to-do list.


Here's a great basic timeline to follow to make sure your child's birthday is one he/she will never forget -- and that the party isn't something that will put you over the edge.

birthday checklist

2 months prior to your child's birthday:

Pick a party theme -- This is a great place to start because it will then help you determine whether it's best to have the party at your home or at some other location (where they clean up everything for you -- total plus).

Select the venue -- Jumping off picking the theme -- if the party will not occur in your home or backyard, it's time to start scouting locations to make sure there are dates available on or around your child's big day. (From my experience, most places tend to book parties months in advance. Make sure to call at least eight weeks prior if you plan on having the party at a bowling alley, skating rink, bounce house place, etc.)

Set a date -- This one is self-explanatory and kind of important.

Make a guest list -- Decide how many kids you want to have at the party, and then sit down with your child and make a list of who he/she wants to invite. And if you're not inviting the whole class, make sure to instruct your child to keep the party under wraps at school. (Trust me.)

1 month prior to the party:

Send invitations -- If you mail them out any earlier, there's a good chance they'll get lost amid people's piles of mail and papers. Sending them a month out makes it less likely that parents will toss them aside and vow to "RSVP later."

Make a supply list -- If you're having a party somewhere other than your home, chances are all you'll need is a cake and party favor bags. But if the bash is going down at your place, you'll want to make sure to have a plan in place as far as food, drinks, decorations, balloons, and other essential party supplies.

2 weeks before the party:

Shop 'til you drop -- Gifts, party favors, supplies, decorations -- now is the time to pick up everything except for the food.

Order the cake -- If you're planning on going the store-bought route, of course.

1 week before the party:

Confirm attendees -- Yes, there will be quite a few guests who do not RSVP. Make sure to call or email them so you can get an accurate head count of how many kids will be attending.

Assemble favor bags -- It's so much easier to get this done ahead of time rather than sitting on your living room floor trying to stuff the favor bags the night before the party. You'll thank yourself on the day of for being so organized.

3 to 4 days prior:

Go grocery shopping -- This only applies if the party is being held at your home. Going shopping a few days in advance will save you a lot of stress versus trying to pick up all of the party food the day before or the day of. This way you have more time to get things organized and plan what time things are going in and out of the oven, on the grill, etc.

The day before the big day:

Pick up the cake -- After several years of picking it up the morning of the party and having it either a) not finished, or b) messed up, I've learned to ALWAYS have a buffer day in case something goes wrong with the cake. This is one area you can't afford to screw up!

Clean the house -- The last thing you want is guests showing up to a huge mess. (Even though they'll come in and trash your place and you'll have to clean it up again after the party is over.)

Decorate -- Unless the party is a surprise, go ahead and get everything you need to make your home fit the party theme up a day ahead of time. This way you can focus on the actual party the next morning.

Take a deep breath -- Yes, birthday parties are stressful. But your kid is going to have a blast and won't notice if some tiny last minute detail isn't exactly perfect. You did a great job -- so put your feet up and give yourself a pat on the back!

Does birthday party planning stress you out?


Image via Jessica Peterson/Rubberball/Corbis

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