ten steps to an easy DIY birthday party

who has a birthday party coming up? or, maybe has a very forward-thinking child in your house, who’s birthday isn’t for another eight months, but is already planning for it? (if you can’t tell, my hand is raised.)

so, i’ve been on this birthday party planning circuit for a couple of years now, and i do honest-to-goodness love to plan my boys’ birthday parties. some years have been easier than others, but all-in-all, it’s a great time where we can get a little creative together, support other handmade artists, and make some great memories (and great photo ops!)

in case you’re sitting around, thinking about how you want to plan your little one’s next birthday + make it a little DIY affair, here’s some of my top ten tips + tricks to pulling together an easy birthday party!

1. first up: decide on a theme. and, don’t feel pressure to decide on one that party city or amazon has party supplies for. this is always helpful, of course, but if your child decides on something that just isn’t mainstream enough yet (can anyone say “pj masks?”), it’s totally cool. it’s possible to make it all come together!

2. decide on your location. this has been my very outspoken rule for our parties: anything under the age of four, we could have at our house. four and above, we took the festivities elsewhere. i will caveat and say that if you’re having a sweet sleepover with a couple of girls, stay at home. but what i saw when we had little mr. re-nest #1’s fourth birthday party at home, was that around that age, there was a lot more rambunctiousness, so we took it elsewhere! look locally for outdoor parks, indoor play/sports facilities, the ymca, local pools, or children’s museums to see if they do parties. we’ve had the last two of little mr. re-nest #1’s at our local indoor gymnastics facility, which has been fabulous – the kids get to run and play, and then eat! and, we don’t have to clean up the mess!

3. figure out your logistics: the number of invitees and time of the party! when it comes to invitees, think about family, close friends, neighbors, kids from day care or school, kids from extracurriculars, or from church. as for the time for your party, this can vary greatly depending on the age of the children. if your little still naps, think about this (and their temperament, if they don’t get their nap! a grumpy birthday boy/girl is never a happy thing!)

4. now it’s time to explore the creative stuff! my first step is to always, always, always set up a pinterest board, dedicated to the party. then, i start searching for ideas – i find it’s best to just search for “pj masks party” and then let all of the ideas come up, versus searching for invitations, party supplies, etc. separately. and, here’s where i encourage you to save anything + everything that you remotely think you like…because you never know when you are ready to start making or stocking up on supplies where inspiration might come from! (need some examples? check out this and this!) 

5. let’s talk invitations. no matter what your party theme, the hands-down best place i have found for invites is on etsy. there are so many graphic designers with online shops, who make digital, personalized files of invitations. once you have the file, it’s as easy as sending it to walgreens or any other printer to be printed, and mail them out in envelopes. i’ve had printing done at wal-mart, walgreens, shutterfly, and with a local printer – all of which were great! or, if you really want to get your hands messy, you can always design your own invitation! (confession: i did this for the first five years of parties. now, i turn to etsy!) i always recommend getting the invitations out around 3-4 weeks ahead of the party date. (i don’t know about you, but families around here are b-u-s-y!)

6. the next piece i go to is the cake. i kind of view the birthday cake as the centerpiece of the party. and, here again i turn to pinterest for inspiration and ideas. (of course, there’s also dietary considerations to take into account too….so if you have a little who can’t do cake, start thinking about other special treats that you can incorporate. no cake, but they can do candy? why not do a candy bar where the kids can make their own goodie bags? check out my how-to on this over at invironments magazine!) once you have that cake, start looking into local places to see who can make what you’re looking for and getting quotes. (creative tip: think outside of the box for cake toppers. i generally never buy a cake topper anymore, or have the bakery worry about doing a topper for the cake. i have started really turning to our very own toy closet for ideas for the topper! having a “cars” themed party? pull lightning mcqueen and mater out of the toy stash and place them on the cake! it’s super fun, and it’s repurposing things you already have on hand.)

7. DIY decor is the next best place to go. if you’re feeling crafty, i totally encourage you to think about what banners, signs, centerpieces, balloon creations, you can make! or, if the whole idea of making something gives you the shudders, never fear….this is why etsy exists! there are so many wonderfully talented shops who can help you with everything for your party, including banners, printable cupcake toppers, signs, candles, you name it, and etsy has it. here is another great opportunity to use pinterest to your advantage (because let’s face it, etsy can be a little overwheming!). pin the items you love, and then go back and see what makes sense for your party needs and budget.

8. food is fun! i always like to try to make food work with the overall theme of the party. for example, this past april, we had an indiana university basketball birthday for little mr. re-nest #1. the food all centered around a concession stand theme with hot dogs, small bags of chips, bottled water, and then a box of candy as a take away treat. it was easy to make, relatively inexpensive to pull off, and easy clean up! 

9. think about where you’ll set up. this can be a major decision. if you have a lot of littles coming to the party, you might want to think about having the food, cake, and drinks in a higher place where little hands can’t reach. based on our home’s set up, our kitchen and breakfast area are always party central. we have most of the food set up between the kitchen table and our island, so adults can have plenty of room to wonder about + talk, and the kids can get food + drinks easily!

10. games + activities. honestly, this is always the last thing i think of. and, really i only think of this if we’re having the party at home. but, in the past, i have set up a coloring station with crayons + printed coloring sheets for the kids, a velcro bullseye game + an outdoor bubbles station. we usually keep our parties to two hours, so there’s not really enough time to work in a lot of structured games. we did just go to another little’s outdoor birthday party where there was a water table (great for littles!), diy facepainting (with help from the parents), and a sand bag toss. the whole point is there are so many easy ways to entertain the kiddos during a party, and they don’t have to be over-the-top!

one last tip: take lots o’ pictures! trust me, you’ll love looking back on these one day!

tell me: are you ready to tackle a diy party for your little? have you? what are your best tips? 


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