The Dos and Don’ts of Throwing a Toddler Birthday Party


Every mom takes a certain amount of pleasure in planning and creating the perfect birthday party for her little one. The joy of seeing that sweet face light up, almost as bright as those candles on the cake, is priceless. The pride in hearing the whispers of your guests about how good the cake is or how creative the decorations are, is indescribable. Yet all too often, the STRESS of planning is joy-stealing and pride-shattering … but it doesn’t have to be! Over the years, I have planned many events for friends and family. I thrive on the excitement, the planning, creativity, and organizing. I love to make things special and personalized to those I am honoring, especially my baby girl! I have compiled a list of “dos and don’ts” that will help to ensure that your toddler’s next party is special and as a stress-free as possible!

Do Begin Planning Early. 

When she turned two, after my daughter’s birthday party came and went, I asked her what she would like her next birthday party theme to be. She said “Katerina Kittycat” (from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood). At that moment, I began scheming in my head. Every so often, I would ask her, “Do you still want a Katerina party next year?” I suppose that may have been a partial power of suggestion, but her answer was always an enthusiastic “YES!” Throughout the year, I thought of things to do, researched the theme online, browsed Pinterest and Etsy and made lots of notes. Then, about 3 months before the party date, I began executing my plans. 


  • Get an idea a couple of months after the most recent birthday. (You can draw from your child’s likes, favorite characters, etc..)
  • Browse online for invitation and decoration ideas.
  • Stick with your plans. 

Do Focus on Quality over Quantity

For some reason, a lot of moms feel pressured to “keep up with the Joneses” when it comes to birthday parties. It is completely okay to glean ideas from other parties, but don’t allow yourself to get wrapped up in what everyone else is doing. It is important to remember that your toddler does. not. care. about whether or not you hire characters or professional photographers, whether or not your food is catered, or if every single little thing is Pinterest-perfect. Your child is just excited that there is a day set aside just to celebrate them! Get them involved in the planning and let them help.

Last year, we had to cancel Hayley Grace’s party because she was sick. All of my planning and all of my excitement was a little dampened because I thought there was no way she would have a good birthday without a big party. We ended up cooking her favorite meal as a family, my bakery was fabulous and down-sized her cake at the very last minute, and she still got to wear her birthday shirt. She told us that was “the best birthday ever!” There I was, thinking it was going to stink like a day-old diaper, but she thought it was amazing! Quality over quantity. 

Toddler Birthday Party - Best Birthday Ever
Photo from “the best birthday ever!”

Don’t Go Overboard

Make a budget and stick with it. As I stated above, it is very easy to get swept into trying to keep up with other people. You might think, “So-and-so rented a bouncy house, I GOTTA RENT A BOUNCY HOUSE!” Or, “Wow, that party we attended last month was something else; they gave glam bags as thank you’s, I GOTTA GIVE GLAM BAGS AS THANK YOU’S!” For some reason, it has become a popular trend to give “thank you bags” at toddler parties for your guests to take home with them. Unfortunately, the reality is . . . they get thrown away most of the time anyway, so the money invested is literally in the trash. Kids load up on cake and ice cream and who knows what other kind of goodies while at the party and then they are sent home with a hearty supply of candy, to boot? It’s a pleasant gesture, but a nice and sincere thank you note goes a long way, too. If you do decide to make bags, keep it simple and not just filled with candy. (This would be a good way to use the treasures you find at Dollar Tree and the dollar aisles!)

Look for things while you’re out shopping at Dollar Tree and in Target’s dollar bins. You never know what you might find! Stock up on things you know you’ll need, like plastic utensils, napkins, and plates; that way, you’re not spending a lot of money on those items at the last minute. Invest in a “Birthday Box” (plastic storage box) to store your items in. Plan simple menu items, so you don’t end up with a lot of uneaten food. Having a late morning/early afternoon party, you feel a little obligated to provide more than just cake. Use cookie cutters to make cute sandwiches and find a good recipe for a frothy punch. For a late afternoon party, stick with birthday basics like cake, ice cream, and chips & dip. (This is what we’re doing this year!) 

Don’t Lose Your Joy

Do not allow people to belittle your efforts. Do not spend so much time planning that you lose sight of what the birthday party is really all about: celebrating your child — and the day you became a mom! Do not do everything by yourself. Enlist the help of your husband, your mom, and other friends and family members for things like running to the bakery, running to get balloons inflated, decorating, and preparing food. Above all, do not sell yourself short! Your child loves you and will appreciate the effort you make to ensure his or her birthday is full of fun times and perfect memories. Take lots of pictures and enjoy every moment, Mom; you deserve it!

Toddler Birthday Party - birthday cake 

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Shay currently resides in her hometown of Gardendale, Alabama. She shares her life with her loving husband, Byron, their spunky four-year-old daughter, Hayley Grace, and an American Bobtail cat named Leo. Shay attended Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama, where she majored in English and minored in History and Political Science. She earned her Paralagal Degree in 2006. In addition to her family, Shay enjoys reading, writing, cooking, arts and crafts, event planning, and spending time with friends. She is an active member at her church, teaching children's Bible classes and co-sponsoring a young girls' program that teaches Christian service and etiquette. Being Hayley Grace's Mommy is, by far, Shay's greatest joy! She hopes her contributions to Birmingham Moms Blog will be uplifting and encouraging to her readers.


  1. I think what it really boils down to is doing what you enjoy and what you can afford. If you enjoy and can afford to spend months making custom decorations, rent a bounce house, hire a professional photographer, get a custom cake made as tall as your child, and give out awesome goodie bags then that’s what you should do. Not to “keep up” with anyone but because you enjoy it and have the time/money to do so. On the other hand if you find smaller/simpler parties are more up your alley/budget go for a simply party at home, at a local park, or Chuck E Cheese.

    As you said, the child will be happy regardless, so do what you enjoy and have time/money for. Just make sure not to judge others for doing something different.

    *a professional photographer at my daughter’s last birthday was some of the best money I’ve ever spent. You mention taking lots of pictures, but who has time to do that? I know at her prior parties I might have half a dozen pics total because everyone is too busy and having fun to be thinking about taking pics (I guess that’s a sign of a good party, lol). But for a little less than $200 I have over 600 pictures that captured every wonderful moment perfectly. Birthdays only come once a year so why not go all out?? ? ? ? ?

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