If you told me nine years ago that I would be one of "those mothers" when it comes to children's birthday parties, I would have laughed loudly. Never say never!
As soon as I could, I started planning our boy-girl twins' first birthday party. To my utter surprise, I found that I had to have matching girl-boy cakes, color coordinated everything, made-from-scratch food, games, music, unique goodie bags, thematic decorations throughout the house and of course, matching outfits for my twins, J and M.
That party marked the beginning of my birthday event planning career. I have not looked back. My goal every year is the same: fun, memorable gatherings — but I always want new themes and original ideas for both children. It's important that J and M experience individual birthdays and that they each view the day as their own. Though they are uniquely connected as twins, I try to encourage their independence by giving them each their own birthday parties.
The twins are now nine years old and my passion for parties is still going strong! In fact, now that J and M want separate parties with their own friends, I find the challenge of planning two back-to-back parties exhilarating. Bring it on! (Full disclosure: I'm certain my public relations background feeds my need for having "the" party that everyone talks about and that the kiddos love.)
Several factors forced me to hone my pint-size planning skills right from the start and I hope they help you, too:
1. Plan in Advance: My twins have a January birthday. This means, in order to get a venue booked and invitations out four weeks in advance, I start planning before Christmas. Adding birthday party planning to my holiday agenda makes it even more hectic, but I make lists and I multitask as much as possible. I keep a strict budget and am very resourceful when it comes to ideas and activities. I also start brainstorming in the fall — it's never too early!
2. Double Up: Until age 5, the twins wanted a joint party. We merged guest lists and were able to plan some terrific events. A joint party can work for twins but it also can help busy families plan a single party for sibling birthdays. However once they hit first grade, the gender stereotypes kicked in and J wanted a girl party while M wanted a boy-themed party. It was great hosting one party while it lasted!
3. Plan for the Unexpected: Since our son has special needs (including sensory processing disorder and social skills challenges), in addition to planning a party, I also have to prepare him for a crowd (using social stories and other therapies). The need to anticipate M's needs has made me consider all the "what if's" that can happen at a children's birthday party. This has been a real gift because I'm prepared for it all: I always have a change of clothes, snacks, headphones, and more at the ready!
4. Involve Your Kids: The twins are always involved in the party planning. They help with the gift bags and the lists and menus. In addition, now that they want their own parties I enlist their help with picking the dates, setting the invitation lists and dividing up mutual friends among other tasks.
Finally, a birthday three weeks after Christmas — and in the middle of cold January — needs to engage the children and not conflict with weekend activities. I love having a focus like this in the middle of the winter.
My Best Birthday Parties
All entertaining gurus have their Top Ten List. In that spirit, here is my Best Birthdays list. I hope my double-duty party planning gives you some ideas to helps to make your children's birthday party a hit.
- Rock it Out — Music Together Class (or Kindermusik) — When the twins were 4 years old, we hired our Music Together teacher to lead a special class for family and friends. We sang, danced, and had cupcakes at the music studio. I burned a CD of music and included it in our party favor bag. Music has and always be a passion in our family.
- Get Moving — Gymboree (or Little Gym) Bash — A winter gymnastics party is a great way to get the energy out and the movement in.
- Show and Tell — Aquarium To Go Party — We live within driving distance of a terrific aquarium. The aquarium offers a traveling educational exhibit complete with touch tanks and party favors. Well within my budget, this party was SO loved that we did it two years in a row (ages 5 and then 6). I used an "Under The Sea" theme and played music, decorated with shells and other treasures and had a lot of hand sanitizer ready!
- The Real World — John Deere Tractor Party at a Farm — A relative owns an organic farm and I crafted an entire party around tractor rides using a John Deere theme. I warned the boys attending (well their parents actually) to dress warmly and had hot chocolate and blankets on hand to keep us all toasty.
- Sleeping Beauty — Girls First Sleepover — Hosting J's first sleepover party at our house was a milestone for her and maybe more so for Mom. An intimate group of sweet, innocent girls celebrating their friendship and embarking on the journey to being big girls was a night I'll never forget. Hearing J with her gal pals giggling, dancing, playing and doing girl stuff was a rite of passage.
- Surprise! — Disney The Magic Kingdom — Imagine receiving the news on the eve of your 7th birthday that you are going to The Magic Kingdom the very next day to celebrate your birthday in Disney. One of our most precious memories as a family is the first time we went to Disney. We were surprised by the joy and the memories and delighted to have a year off from party planning. Note: In our opinion, age 7 was the perfect age to experience all the magic.
As I write this post, I'm poised for this weekend and another round of back to back birthday parties.
Of course, we have grand plans: J is hosting another "Girls Night" complete with a pizza party, makeovers, and Disney Channel Shows featuring Selena Gomez and Debby Ryan. The girl gang planned a Midnight Snack and of course, a sleepover. And M planned Angry Birds Bowling with a small circle of friends. Best of all... he invited his twin sister to attend.
Happy Birthday Party Planning, Circle of Moms!
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.