The day after his son’s second birthday, a father described the party: “We had everything. Lots of children, balloons, piles of presents, party games and favors, a big cake and ice cream. Everyone had fun except Jason. He spent the whole time crying.”
Probably “everything” was a bit too much for little Jason. He would probably have been more comfortable with a party on a smaller scale. Often a toddler’s parents plan a birthday party like the ones they remember from their own childhood, without realizing the parties they recall probably took place when they were seven or eight years old, not a mere two! When there is too much fuss, toddlers can feel overwhelmed and confused.
The best parties for young toddlers are small and simple. So keep these tips in mind when planning your toddler’s birthday “bash”:
Stick with a kid-friendly guest-list and activities
To maximize fun and minimize distress, invite only a few children (three or four at most), schedule the party so it doesn’t coincide with nap time and avoid competitive party games.
No presents please
Realize that two-year-olds have no understanding of the concept “birthday” and will expect presents of their own if any are given to the birthday child. To avoid fuss and hurt feelings, you might ask the mothers of guests not to bring gifts. Or, have a small—identical—present for everyone to open at the same time.
Keep toys out of sight
Before guests arrive, put away any toys that you won't be using for party games. Since toddlers find it difficult to share, extra toys in view can lead to unnecessary upsets. Try to confine the party to one room and clear it of any objects that could be damaged, so you won’t have to worry.
It might be your first time entertaining a group of two-year-olds. If you’re looking for a toddler-friendly party agenda–consider this one:
- Welcome each guest and let the children play informally.
- Don’t expect your two-year-old to be much of a host or hostess.
- After a while, read a story to those who want to listen.
- Serve refreshments. Toddlers rarely eat much cake, so try cupcakes or decorated cookies.
- Sit in a circle on the floor for some group songs and games.
- Roll a large beach ball from one side to another. Play simple finger-games or a naming game such as “Can you blink your eyes? Who can clap hands?”
- Play music and have a parade through the house.
- Keep the party short. It should last no longer than an hour or two.
- Make leaving easier and happier by handing out favors to toddler guests as they go.