Party Planning Q & A

By Emily Churchill

Created on June 14, 2016

Party Planning Q&A Bookmark and Share We understand how important it is to make your child's birthday the best day of the year. However, planning the perfect party can be overwhelming without help. That's why we're here! If you have a party planning question, just ask our expert! Below are some of our favorite question and answers. If you have a party question for our experts, email us.

Questions & Answers

Outdoor Summer Party Games & Activities

Q: Can you give me some fun outdoor game ideas for 3- to 6-year-olds?

A: Of Course! Try summer favorites like a cooperative water balloon toss, a wet-and-wild summertime obstacle course, an ice cream cone relay race, an edible sand art activity, or a game of musical beach towels. For instructions and more great summer game and activity ideas, check out our Beach Party Ideas and Summer Party Ideas articles. In them, you'll also find crafts and activities like a seashell hunt, paper plate fish craft, a flip flop craft, hula hoop games, and more. Looking for a simple summer craft kit or coloring activity you can use to occupy your kids on a hot afternoon or to entertain young guests at a party? Check out these other fun activity ideas:

  • Make necklaces with a tropical craft kit.
  • Let your child color a summer coloring book personalized with his or her name.
  • Entertain kids with a fishing game.
  • Make dinner fun by setting out tropical activity mats.
  • Kids will love making candy sand art that they can eat afterwards!
  • For a low-key activity, give kids ice cream sticker books.
What to Do for Parents Attending Your Child's Party Q: My son is turning 4. This will be his first party with preschool friends attending. Should I do anything special for the guests' parents?

A: You should expect some, but not all, parents to stay for the party. I would greet the parents as they arrive and say something like, "You're welcome to stay, and we'd love to have you, but if it's easier for you to come back, we'll take good care of Jack!" If they say they'd like to return later, you could say, "The party should be starting to wind down around 3:45, so we'll see you then!" Some other considerations:

  1. If you have a preference that parents stay or leave, you may want to include it on the invitation. For instance, if you're hosting the party at a fun center, they may require that parents stay with younger children. Consider wording such as, "Parents are encouraged to stay", or wording that implies your preference, like, "Drop Off at 3:00. Pick Up at 5:00." See our Kid's Party Etiquette Guide for more tips on information to include on an invitation.
  2. If you think parents will be staying, make sure you have enough party supplies on hand to offer cake and refreshments to them as well. You might also prepare a few easy adult snacks such as cheese and crackers or fruit. If you want to save money, consider ordering some solid tableware that coordinates with your theme party supplies.
  3. Set up a seating area for parents to sit and chat with each other while keeping an eye on their kids.
  4. If you will have crafts and games that could benefit from having a few extra hands, feel free to ask a few parents to stay, either when they RSVP or as they arrive. Most parents are more than willing to help coordinate a game, hand out prizes, assist with a craft, serve cake, fill cups, or help a child who may not want to participate in a particular activity.
It's probably best to assume that a party for a four-year-old will likely mean that most parents will stay, and you'll enjoy getting to know them in a setting that isn't quite as rushed as pick-up and drop-off at preschool. Disney Princess Activity Ideas

Q: Can you share some Disney Princess activity ideas for my daughter's 4th birthday?

A: We've rounded up some ideas for princess party games, activities and pretend play with a Disney Princess twist that we hope your little girl will enjoy! Pretend Play Every little girl loves to dress up and pretend to be a princess, so outfit your guests with tiaras or homemade princess hats when they arrive! If you opt for tiaras, consider letting the girls decorate their own with stick-on jewels using our Foam Tiara Craft Kit. To make complete princess outfits, check out our Fairy Princess Outfit instructions. If any young knights attend your party, give them inflatable swords and knight capes to wear. Once your little princesses are dressed, give them time to play in their very own Disney Princess castle. You can turn a playhouse into a castle by decorating it with pink, lavender and white balloons and streamers and other Disney Princess decorations as desired. Alternatively, you can decorate a large box (refrigerator boxes are perfect!) with a door cut out of one side and a princess cone hat placed at each corner to make turrets. Princess Coloring Activities Little princesses love coloring almost as much as they love pretend play! Encourage their creativity by letting them color copies of our Princess Coloring Page. For added fun, set out glitter glue, stick-on gems and Princess stickers in addition to crayons, markers and/or colored pencils. For a coloring keepsake, consider giving the girls Princess Personalized Coloring Books printed with their names, or let them color Disney Princess Jumbo Coloring Puzzles. Our Princess Coloring & Activity Books are another fun activity that doubles as a great princess party favor. Princess Party Games Traditional party games can easily be adapted for a Disney Princess theme. For instance, tell the girls to sit in a circle for a few rounds of Frog, Frog, Princess (i.e. Duck, Duck, Goose) or let them run around the yard in a game of Wicked Queen Freeze Tag. Send the girls on a scavenger hunt with our Cinderella's Slipper Search activity, or let them play a Tangled Pin Game and Kiss the Frog! You'll find these games and more in our Disney Princess Party Ideas article, but you can easily turn any game your child loves into a Disney Princess party game just by changing the name! Other Princess Crafts & Activities Help your little princesses make Tangled Paper Lanterns with our simple instructions, go on a hunt for hidden jewels, or find prizes in a Disney Princess pinata. For more Disney Princess fun, be sure to check out other complete party planning guides: Disney Princess Party Ideas

Q: My son is having his 3rd birthday in May... Can you suggest a theme?

A: For something fresh and appropriate for spring, look at our preppy patterns: Turtle Party and Preppy Blue Ocean. For a more classic toddler party, try our Little Trucks Party, Fire Engine Party, Thomas Party, Sock Monkey or Monkey Around patterns. I'd select a party theme that appeals to your style and your son's interests, and that will work well for a spring party date and the location you're considering. We'll also have some adorable new themes coming in April, like an Elmo polka dot theme and a not-so-scary Shark party. I hope you have a blast planning the party! Tangled Party Ideas  

Q: We're hosting a Tangled party for our daughter's 6th birthday. Do you have ideas for Tangled decorations and activities?

A: Tangled is such fun theme, we've dedicated a party guide to Rapunzel party ideas! Get started by setting your table with Tangled partyware, then try one of these ideas to create Rapunzel's long hair to add to your door, table or walkway:

  • Braid thick strands of yellow yarn and tie with a pink or lavender ribbon. Add more color by tucking silk flowers into the braid.
  • A yellow table cover with a flower-laden braid draped along it makes an enchanting walkway! If you make the braid long enough, you can use it to lead guests to the party table.
Tangled Mylar balloons and pink and lavender latex balloons, tie them to Princess Crown Balloon Weights, and set them in various spots around the party area. Hang an Enchanted Tower Personalized Banner featuring a message like "Welcome to Rapunzel's Party!" or "Happy Birthday Princess [Child's Name]!" As a final touch to your Tangled party decorations, twist lavender and pink streamers and hang them in arcs around the perimeter of the room. Entertain guests with these Tangled party activities (see our Tangled Party Guide for full instructions):
  • Create kid-friendly lanterns using paper and flameless tea-lights.
  • Braid little girls' hair and tuck in tiny silk flowers with bobby pins or clips.
  • Play a couple rounds of Hair Rope Tug-O-Ware using your preferred faux-hair material or braided yellow rope.
  • Give the kids their own Princess Personalized Coloring Books to color at the party and take home as keepsakes.
For more Tangled Party ideas, check out our Tangled Party Guide. Thank You Note Activity

Q: Getting my kids to write thank you notes is like pulling teeth at my house. Any ideas?

A: Here's a mom-friendly thank you note plan that won't make it seem like a chore! A few clicks, a few pix, and you and your children can have your thank you notes in the mail in no time!

  1. Send your kids on a photograph safari. Hand them a checklist of the toys and gifts that were received. Ask them to photograph each other or family members enjoying the new toys and gadgets.
  2. Fold construction paper or order personalized thank you notes to use as backgrounds for the pictures.
  3. Gather old magazines, scissors, glue, pens and tape.
  4. Set up an assembly line and get ready to have some fun with thank-you notes!
  5. Affix the photos to thank you cards. Cut out words from old magazine pages to create messages and ask children to glue them in place (i.e., "Wow", "Thanks", "Awesome"). You can even add stickers or other decorations. When each card is complete, ask the appropriate person to sign it before placing it in an envelope. Add the recipient's name to the outside and move it back into the assembly process for addressing (a great job for dads!).
Make it a family affair, and you'll have begun a new thank you note tradition! Indoor Activities

Q: Winter weather has my kids stuck inside. Can you suggest any good in-home activities?

A: Don't let the bad weather get you down, because there are loads of fun things to do indoors! Try these ideas with just your kids or use them as party activities: Nurture little artists with a tissue paper flower craft, jewelry making or painting. Encourage imagination with dress-up and pretend play. Bolster your little baker with a cooking activity. Engage active kids with a few rounds of 10-pin bowling or a carnival game like a bean bag toss. Or, quiet down a rowdy crowd with a puzzle or coloring activity. For other ideas, check out our Indoor Games & Activities article and the links below. Craft & Activity Kits Games to Buy Free Crafts & Games Coloring Puzzles Personalized Coloring Books Free Printable Coloring Pages & Activities Cooking Kits & Activities

Q: I can't find many party themes for twins. Any ideas?

A: There are specific twin patterns like our Twins' 1st Birthday one, but almost any "regular" party idea can become a creative twin birthday theme that's double the fun! Consider famous duos like Mickey and Minnie or matching pairs like a cowboy and cowgirl. Using a classic idea, how about a circus party with two ringmasters or clowns, or a Monkey Around theme with a "barrel of monkeys"? You could also host an ice cream sundae party with invites that say, "Sugar and Spice Are Twice as Nice!" How about throwing a Ladybug Party and dressing your girls in matching ladybug wings and head boppers? Treat your boys to a swashbuckling pirate party adventure, and dress them up with matching pirate hats. You can also plan a party around an idea as simple as bubbles or a box of . The options are endless when you consider the activities your twins most enjoy or their favorite TV shows and movies. More famous character pairs that lend themselves well to twin parties include Elmo and Abby, Dora and Diego, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Peter Pan and Tink, and Dr. Seuss's Thing 1 and Thing 2. For more ideas on choosing a theme for your twins' birthday party, see our Developing a Party Theme article and our Twin Birthday Ideas. Best of luck planning your twins' birthday celebration! Thanksgiving Family Games

Q: I thought it would be fun to have the whole family play some games together before Thanksgiving dinner. Do you have any suggestions that adults and kids would enjoy?

A: Thanksgiving dinner isn't just about enjoying a great meal; it's a time for family to come together! That's why we love the idea of playing a few family games while the turkey's in the oven. Here are some party games that you can print and play for free:

  • Thanksgiving Word Search: Print a copy of this activity for every person attending your Thanksgiving dinner. See who can find all the words the fastest, or see who can find the most words within a certain amount of time.
  • Printable Disney Trivia: Find out which family member knows the most about popular Disney characters.
  • Murder Mystery Game: Add a little mystery to Thanksgiving dinner by playing this game. Our printable Murder Mystery Game includes a full script for 15 players to perform.
  • Farm Bingo: Have a few prizes on hand and play a couple rounds of Farm Bingo. This free printable game includes 16 bingo cards, 25 picture cards and directions.
  • LEGO Tower Challenge: Bring out a box of LEGO bricks and see which family member can build the highest tower. You'll be surprised to see how the adults stack up to the children!
If you need an activity to entertain younger children, consider printing copies of our Thanksgiving Coloring Page and/or Fall Coloring Page for little ones to decorate with crayons, colored pencils, markers, or even stickers and glitter glue! Balloon Decorations

Q: What are some creative ways I can use balloons to decorate my indoor party?

A: Here are some balloon decorating ideas that will make your party room pop!

  • You can decorate balloons with construction paper, markers and tissue paper to create animal faces. Just tape on ears and draw on the face with a permanent marker. Tie one balloon's string to each chair at the party table.
  • Create a balloon canopy by hanging a tarp or sheet from four poles above the party table. Then fill dozens of solid color balloons with helium and let them float under the canopy without strings.Create a balloon ball pit by blowing up dozens of balloons without helium and placing them in a boxed off area. The children can walk around in the balloon pit and toss them in the air.
  • Tape balloons to the wall in the formation of your child's age. This will create a dramatic and colorful wall display.
For more creative decorating ideas view our guide on Birthday Party Decorating. Pool Party Theme Ideas

Q: My family hosts a themed pool party every summer for all the kids in the neighborhood. Last year, we had a luau theme but we want to do something more creative this year. Do you have any theme ideas that will wow our guests?

A: Instead of decorating with a tropical theme, maybe this year you can ask your guests to walk the plank at a pirate party! Here are some ways to live the pirate's life at your pool party.

  • Decorate the party table and the rest of the area with our Pirate Party supplies. We have decorations, favors, games and more to steer your party ship towards an island of fun!
  • On your invitations, ask your guests to arrive in costume. Have extra pirate hats, eye patches and bandanas on hand just in case.
  • If you have a diving board, hang a sign nearby that says "walk the plank if you dare."
  • Sprinkle gold coins around the tables. You can require guests to use these coins to "purchase" food and snacks too.
  • Place cardboard treasure chests around the pool to hold towels or pool toys. Pass out water pistols or inflatable swords for the kids to use in the pool.
Polka Dot Party

Q: My daughter decided on a polka dot themed birthday party this year. Do you have any game ideas or suggestions for the type of food I could serve?

A:The key to throwing a successful polka dot party is to think in circles! A lot of yummy food is circular or can be sliced into circles with a round cookie cutter. Here are some other food suggestions:

  • Using a melon baller, make a fruit salad filled with cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew. Add to the salad with other round fruit such as blueberries and grapes.
  • Serve pizza bagels with or without pepperonis.
  • Make macaroni using wheel-shaped noodles.
  • Place different types of round candies such as, M&M's, Skittles and jelly beans, in bowls throughout the party area.
  • For dessert, you can make a round cake or serve cookies, cupcakes, donuts, Oreo cookies or Nilla wafers.
For game ideas, get inspired by round toys you may already have such as hula hoops, balls, and Frisbees. Here are some specific games and crafts for your polka dot party: For more Polka Dot themed party ideas, check out our Polka Dot party guide. 30 Kids!

Q: My 6-year old daughter wants to invite about 30 children to our house for her birthday party but I'm a single mom! How can I handle that many children without losing my mind?

A:Even ten children can be overwhelming at a birthday party so I understand your concern. However, here are some ways your daughter can have the party she wants without creating too much stress for you.

  • Ask for help. Find three parents, family members or teenagers who can help you with party games, activities and serving food. Make sure your helpers know the rules for any games or activities ahead of time too. Also make sure they can arrive a little early and stay a little late to help you set up and clean.
  • Divide the children into stations at the party. Have a different activity, game or craft prepared at three tables. Then sit 10 children at each table. After 30 minutes, ask the children to rotate to a new table. Rotate three times so every child has completed each activity once and then serve food during the last 30 minutes of the party. You can assign one of your helpers to each table too!
  • Order food. Don't try to add cooking to your list of things to do. Children are perfectly content with pizza and juice boxes. You can also pick up a cake from a local grocery store or ask a talented relative to bake one for you!
  • Purchase favor sets. Instead of running all over the place for favors, you can purchase favor sets at Birthday in a Box. Each set coordinates with a theme of your choosing and comes with favors, a bag, box or tote and crinkle paper.
Older Sibling Tagalongs

Q: What should I do when a guest asks if they can bring their older sibling to the party? All of my games are planned around 3-year olds and I'm worried the older child will get bored.

A: This happens more often than not; an older sibling is forced to tag along and then feels out of place or bored. This child may or may not choose to participate in the activities you have planned. If they don't participate they can still join in by judging a game or helping the children with a craft activity. Additionally, they can help you in the kitchen if they enjoy cooking or worst case scenario, watch a movie or play a video game in another room. Pinata Tips

Q: I'm thinking of having a pinata at my child's next birthday party but I have never used one before. Can you provide some useful tips?

A: Pinatas are almost always a "hit," but here are a few ideas for making them more successful:

    1. Most traditional pinatas are thick, sturdy and often difficult for little children to break. Two options:
      • Before the party, use a knife to make slices in the pinata so that it will break more easily; or
      • Substitute a pull-string pinata or use a pull-string kit to convert a traditional one. You can make a pull-string game more suspenseful by asking guests to take turns pulling the ribbons one at a time.
  1. Sometimes the pinata cavity is too small to hold enough candy and prizes for a large party. If so, ask a few adults to stand by with small paper bags of goodies. When the pinata breaks, adults throw the extras near the pinata, scattering the prizes so that children are not scrambling to get to one pile of treats.
  2. Before taking the first swing, hand each child a bag with his or her name on it. When the pinata breaks, the bag makes it easier to hold the candy. The bags can then be collected and handed out with other favors when children go home.
No matter what type you choose, pinatas are a fun activity and double as a great theme decoration! Sleepover Solutions

Q: My 8-year-old son is having his first sleepover party and has invited 6 of his friends. What are some cool ideas to keep the boys entertained?

A: For food, set up a pizza and dessert bar and ask the boys to make their own mini pizzas and sundaes. For an indoor activity, let the boys turn the sleepover area into a fort using boxes, chairs, sheets, and piles of books. How about a Matchbox car race? Give each guest a car to place at the starting line. The boys have to blow their cars across the floor and over the finish line. No hands! You might also consider a balloon stomp, flashlight tag, and capture the flag. At the end of the night, settle them down with popcorn and a great movie and then send them off to the fort. Have fun!  

Q: What are some creative ways to use the leftover party items such as paper products and favors?

A: Other than using leftover partyware for every day meals, here are a few suggestions for creative activities and ways to surprise your child:

  • Place a themed napkin in your child's lunchbox with an encouraging note.
  • Cut streamers into 8-inch strips and tie them together in the middle with a piece of string. Thread the ends of the string around an unsharpened pencil and you've got yourself a pompom!
  • Have a balloon and secret message waiting for your child on a day when she least expects it.
  • Ask your child to make a scrapbook using leftover partyware and photographs from the party. Fill scrapbook with images cut from paper goods, deflated balloons, and other decorations. You can also include photos and notes about favorite moments, presents, etc. Ask your child to keep this book safe and add to it next year!
  • If you have extra goodies and favors, save them as rewards for chores or hide them under items in a messy room as a surprise for picking up the room!
First Birthday Games

Q: My nephew will be celebrating his first birthday this month. What activities can small children participate in?

A: Although children aged one or two are usually content to play with toys or in a sandbox, you could plan one or two participation activities. Games in which children sit in their parents' laps work well for this age group. Here are a few ideas:

  • Sing along to music using motions for songs such as "Itsy, Bitsy Spider" and "The Wheels on the Bus." Recite Nursery Rhymes with motions such as "Hickory, Dickory, Dock."
  • Circle games such as this favorite in which each child/parent pair takes a turn hiding under a blanket while the rest of the group sings, "Where oh where can [Joey] be, Where oh where can he be?" The parent/child pair pulls back the blanket and says, "Boo!"
  • Un-messy finger painting Squirt a variety of colors of finger paint into zippered plastic storage bags. Remove air, zip and seal with clear shipping tape. Let toddlers "finger paint" through the sealed bag.
For more suggestions, make sure to check out our First Birthday Party Guide.

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