The first birthday is a great celebration for the parents and grandparents, but by the second they’re able to interact with their guests and fully enjoy the festivities.
That’s not to say organizing a second birthday party is simple. Each month as many as 100,000 people search online for “kid’s birthday party,” unsure of the what’s involved in playing host.
Of course, there are no right or wrong ways to host your child’s big day, but to shed some light we asked eight parents to share their tips...
#1. The Guest List
With guest lists, make sure you’re never outnumbered. “More kids means more chaos,” laughs Calum B., dad to Maisie and Archie. “Six was always a manageable number and no more than 10, but it always relied on the parents staying for the duration of the party. It’s your child’s party, but their child is still their responsibility.” If you need to convince parents to stay, Calum suggests mild bribery. “Buy them a coffee, and offer them a snack and they’ll be there for the duration!”
#2. The Venue
Typically, the party will either be in your home, a venue you’ve booked or a soft-play center. “Home might seem the best option,” says Kat T., mom of Emma, Hana and Oliver, “but not when they’re two. We tried once and the house was turned upside-down! As we were picking out jelly from the carpet, we agreed the next time we’d go to a soft-play center. At least then, when it’s over, you can just leave!” If you do venture out of the house, though, make sure you visit the venue at least once to avoid any unforeseen complications.
#3. The Timing
“An hour is perfect for a two-year-old’s party,” says Melissa B., who’s been through it twice with Ruby and Harry. “Any less and it’s over before it’s begun; any more and the children start to get either bored or over stimulated.” If you have a choice between hosting a party morning or afternoon, Mel says it’s no choice at all. “At that age, a lot of children still have an afternoon nap, so morning is generally the safest option.”
#4. The Essentials
Every parent of every two-year-old knows to never leave the house without the essentials bag. And this is never more true, than at your two-year-old’s party. “Things will get spilled” says Carly M., mom of Emma and Nancy. “Pack Huggies baby wipes and diapers, Ibuprofen, water, several changes of clothing—just anything and everything you need when you go anywhere. If your child doesn’t need it, someone else’s will.”
#5. The Entertainment
You don’t have to throw hundreds of dollars at your child’s birthday party. “Two-year-olds have no expectations. As long as they’re stimulated and happy with their friends, it doesn’t have to cost the earth,” says Paul M., dad to Jacob and Molly. “We just hired a small hall and had music, dancing, games, party food and they loved it.” Party games can present problems, though. “I know from experience that if you play a game with prizes, make sure every child wins something. Otherwise, there will be tears. Guaranteed!”
#6. The Food and Drink
Dietary requirements and food allergies make party food another item for special consideration. “Ask parents on the invite if their children can’t eat certain things,” advises Robert J., dad to Isabella and Jessica. “You don’t want to find out the day of the party that little Jack won't eat anything you've made.” As for the menu, think ‘happy food’. “Animal-shaped sandwiches, mini pizzas, small cubes of cheese … they’re usually more popular than carrots and cucumber at a birthday,” says Rob.
As for the cake, play to the crowd. “Make it colorful and instantly familiar to the kids. A character they recognize from TV or a movie is usually pretty fail-proof.”
#7. The Toddler Proof Your Party
Two-year-olds will chew and swallow anything they can get their hands on. You, as the parent party host, are responsible for risk assessment. “We had balloons at our party, which all the kids loved… right up until one burst and scared the life out of them,” says Simon B., dad to Layla and Ross. “The next thing I know, one of them is chewing on a burst balloon–I couldn’t move quick enough to pull it out of their mouth! He was okay but it caused a momentary scare.”
Risk assessment also extends to the gift bag. “Small, fiddly, chewable toys are bad,” says Simon. “Books are better.”
#8. The End
‘Mood management’ is another key part of any host’s duties. It's best to strive to send the kids home in a mellow mood, particularly when they’ve consumed sweet, sugary food and are understandably excited. “The best kids’ parties we’ve been to usually ended with story time,” says Nick M., dad to Frankie, Alex and Pearl. “If you sit them all down on the floor and read them a story, it calms everybody down before they go home. Every parent appreciated that!”