Cake Smash

The ABCs of Simple Birthday Party Planning

Inside: Many thanks to Basic Invite for sponsoring this post! We’re excited to share some tips, tricks, and products for great, and simple, birthday party planning. And there will be laughs, of course there will be laughs!  (Contains affiliate links.)

Birthday party planning for kids doesn’t have to be difficult. But we sure can find a lot of ways to make it difficult nowadays, amiright? Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by Pinterest.

As a parent of extremely popular toddlers, I have learned a thing or two about kid’s parties. Some from smart things that we did. Some from smart things that other people did. And some from real dumb things we did that seemed smart at the time that I most certainly will not do again. Ready for the ABCs of simple birthday party planning? Let’s do this.


A is for Anna. If you have a kid who loves an animated character, roll with it. There is an entire section of every party store in America dedicated to Frozen and that just made your life a lot easier. So little to DIY, so many squeals of delight because the cake plates have Anna on them.

And I know what you’re thinking, no one likes Anna the best. But that’s fundamentally wrong and I refuse to kowtow to the Elsa train!

Um, I mean “Happy Birthday!”


B is for balloons. For every birthday party we’ve hosted I’ve purchased balloons to put on our fence. This is particularly important because you want to make sure all of your friends that have already been to your home one million times know where the party is located.

And somehow for every party I forget how balloons work and try to stuff them into my car like I’m losing badly in Minute to Win It… So I think we’re going to make this easier and cheaper in the long run and just buy a helium tank.


C is for cupcakes. I’ve made cakes, and I’ve made cupcakes. I’ve regretted making cakes, but I’ve never once regretted cupcakes. I always have Pinteresty visions of birthday cakes and end up with a flat sheet cake and Happy Birthday scrolled on the top.

Cupcakes are the same thing as cake, you can put them on a fancy little tower to add visual interest to your party planning look and feel (I couldn’t even type that without laughing at loud at myself), and you don’t need to cut them. Just hand a kid a cupcake.


D is for decorations. Simple decorations. Like printable things made by creative people. (Little Blue Truck anyone?) Or my family’s personal favorite decoration – birthday flags!


E is for Easy there pilgrim. Don’t panic. It’s all going to be okay.


F is for food. Specifically pizza. Just get the pizza. Sandwiches are fine, especially if you want to be eating sandwiches for every meal for the next week because the kids just wanted the chips. No? Then just get the pizza. Everyone wins with pizza.


G is for goody bags. For Jack’s first birthday I thought that I was going to buck the trend and not do goody bags because the kids were all 1 year old and were not going to care. But I caved at the last minute and wrapped up cute little bags of mini Play-Dohs. Honestly, that was my best goody bag. Others since have been bags filled with random candy and trinkets that were likely lost in the seat of the car on the way home.

What I have really liked is the goody bag minus the bag trend I’ve seen on the birthday party scene. One party had a bubble wand with a lollypop taped to it. So simple, so smart! Another had superhero capes and masks that the kids wore at the party and took home. Brilliant.


H is for hose them down. I made both of my kids smash cakes for their first birthdays and these were two cakes I certainly did not regret. I’m going to give Pinterest a huge A+ for keeping this trend afloat. Totally worth hosing them down for later.

Cake Smash


I is for invitations! I’ve found templates on Pinterest, I’ve used Canva to design my own, I’ve sent an email to my friends saying “Hey, you guys want to come to Jack’s party?” But for birthday party #5 I have found a better way!

Basic Invite makes ADORABLE birthday party invites at a totally reasonable price. Check out Norah’s barnyard party invite. Totally stinkin cute.

Basic Invite Invitation

There are so many templates to choose from so it’s easy to find something to fit your party theme. It took about 5 minutes to customize the text and colors on their site and the invitations came out perfect. I’ve never seen a site like this where you could change just about any color on the card. You can even get pretty colored envelopes! Easy, cute, done and done!


J is for jumping. You can’t go wrong with a bouncy house. It’s simple kid science. Also the parents of the thoroughly exhausted children will thank you come bedtime.


K is for keep em busy. Crafts anyone? Like REAL simple crafts. A big hit with my kids – foam stickers.


L is for Little Gym. Birthday parties in your house are great because you are presumably already paying for your house so you can tuck that cost away in the overhead category.

BUT, sometimes you’ve got to outsource fun. And cleaning. And entertainment. For Jack’s 2nd birthday we held the party at our local Little Gym and 15 toddlers were entertained for an hour and half by professionals with parachutes, balance beams, and a great big jumpy air mat. 5 stars.


M is for music. Kids Bop, Pandora. Mic drop.


N is for “nah, bro.” If a party isn’t your kiddo’s jam, that’s okay. Celebrate another way! A special trip to a Children’s Museum, one on one time at the park, a movie theater date, grilled cheese at Panera. We tend to make parenting harder on ourselves sometimes. What makes your kid smile? Do that.


O is for outside! Get em out, out, out… get em out, out, out.

Norah’s first birthday was outside in our yard which meant the inside of the house really got just a cursory clean. That’s a win. Although Glen spent about 40 hours re-landscaping our yard in advance of this party… so maybe this isn’t helpful advice.

But, wait, I have another example! Jack’s third birthday party we got all the kids outside sledding. The best. Outside > Inside for kid’s fond birthday memories and the structural integrity of your home.



P is for pinata. This is one tradition that I think will stand the test of time. It had been ten years since my last pinata (which is fewer years then it probably should have been) and I was happy to welcome one back into my home. Never have I ever seen three year olds scramble so quickly into a quiet line then when I told them everyone was going to have a turn to hit Buzz Lightyear with a bat and candy was going to come out.


Q is for quick and convenient snacks. You can make any number of party themed kids snacks if you’re so inclined. And seriously, more power to you if you’ve got that magic in you.

But if the kids are little, your time is short, and you’d rather walk across a field of Legos than make grape tomato lady bugs, I feel you. Apple sauce pouches and Goldfish packs. Done.


R is for reality check. How many times have you gone to a kid’s birthday party at someone’s house and said to your spouse on the way home “Wow… did you see their baseboards? How about the top of the fridge? Just stunning!” No one cares if your baseboards are dusty. Or that the top of your fridge even exists. They will be too busy making sure their children are still somewhere in your house and haven’t broken everything.

Deep breaths.


S is for sponges. My all-time favorite birthday party game growing up was “throwing sponges at Daddy.” My parents would hang a shower curtain up on our clothesline and cut a head-size hole in the middle. Then they would get a bunch of sponges and a bucket of water and line it up an age-appropriate distance from the curtain. Pops stuck his head through the hole, and we got turns throwing sponges at Daddy. This activity entertained us as kids for a solid half-hour and cost about $10. My parents are geniuses.


T is for Thank You notes. Two suggestions for you on this. I’m a big proponent of my kids earning their keep, but they are 3 and 1 so the helping level is somewhat limited. But they certainly can color some construction paper for a DIY Thank You. (Or use the art they bring home from school.)

Suggestion Number 2: Outsourcing! Basic Invite offers super cute thank you notes to match the invites. ALL the coordination. You can even get help with the envelope addressing!

Basic Invite Birthday Invite and Thank you Note


U is for umbrella. Having the party at your house in the summer? Any babies coming over? A big umbrella staked into the ground with a blanket and some toys will provide good SPF and baby entertainment.


V is for Very, very, extraordinary. Because you are. You’re life is crazy busy and you’re putting together a super fun party for your kid. You’re a superstar. When you get a chance, pour yourself a nice drink and cheers yourself.

Speaking of Extraordinary, have you heard of Extra-Ordinary Birthdays. They are a nonprofit in DC that throws personalized birthday parties for homeless children to make them feel recognized and valued. Check them out if you are looking for a wonderful cause to support. Very, very extraordinary.


W is for weather. Just hope it’s nice out. I really can’t stress how much easier outside is than inside. But there is nothing any of us can do about this. So may I suggest singing “Rain Rain Go Away” in rounds as a family for several days leading up to your event? That will probably work.


X is for xylophone and for a real missed letter usage opportunity for whoever was responsible for coming up with the English language.


Y is for YOLO. As in You Only Live Once so if you can outsource a birthday party planning task for a reasonable cost and get a half hour back in your schedule to watch New Girl on Netflix, do it.

Get your invites done and done at Basic Invite and get your ‘flix on! Worried about how they will look? You can get a sample of the invite sent right to your mailbox to make sure. How cool is that?


Z is for Zoo. As in a petting zoo. That’s the plan for Norah’s second birthday and I think it will go over pretty well. A bunch of animals will be in my back yard, along with some chicks, bunnies, and goats. (Ba dum tss!) The same company has set up a petting zoo in my back yard before… for a Bachelorette party… We’ll probably revisit that story at another time.

Are you totally birthday party prepared now?

Before we go, a little gift from Basic Invite. Use the code 15FF51 to get 15% off your invite order. Not birthday party planning soon? They have great invitations for senior announcements, graduation thank you cards, weddings, and holidays too.

Happy partying!

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  1. This whole ABC party list has such great ideas, I love it! Especially since my sons birthday is next month! Definitely going to have to check out Basic Invites. That invitation is adorable!

  2. H is for Half Birthday. When your child’s birthday flls at a very inconvenient time whether around holidays like Thanksgiving or in the winter and your child craves a pool party, try celebrating for their half birthday. Another option is to just make a day up to celebrate their birthday – no one under the age of 10 will ever know the difference.

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