birthday cake

4 planning tips for a stress-free kids party

by Lou Duggan

Birthday • party • planning.

Three words that can strike fear into the hearts of even the most experienced mums. Because for so many of us, we equate successful children’s parties with success as a parent.

But for our kids, a party is not about perfection – they aren’t interested in Instagram-worthy colour palettes, balloon arches or elaborate cakes. They’re all about the fun, the sugar, and the feeling of being that special child, the one who blows the candles out on the cake and gets showered with gifts and love.

We all want our kids to feel the magic on their birthdays, and now that we’re able to connect and celebrate in real life again (good riddance Zoom parties), hosting a birthday party for your little person at home is a great way to mark their birthday milestone.

And I truly believe, we can create birthday party success without the stress. Here are my four tried and tested tips on how:

  1. Hold it at home:

As kids get older, their birthday requests change. They might be more interested in a laser tag party with a few select mates, rather than tearing around at home with 20 children from their kindergarten class. So while your kids are little, birthday parties at home are a great option.

Hosting at home means you can get ready in advance, and have everything you might need to hand. It also means your birthday child will feel secure in their home environment, and excited to share their home with their favourite friends.

But remember to lay down the house rules with your party guests when they first arrive. I recommend sitting all the kids down together when the party starts, and explaining house rules – for example not feeding your pets, which parts of the house are off-limits, and the kind of behaviour you expect. Keep it light, but also make clear that there are still some expectations of how they should behave.

Take shortcuts where you can. Throwaway plates and napkins are perfectly acceptable, and so are simple decorations – a few balloons are all you really need. If you have an outside area, this is ideal for eating and limiting the amount of crumbs in the carpet at the end of the day.

  1. Focus on fun:

Party games are a must, and I recommend planning these for the start of the party. They’re a great way for the kids to connect with and meet each other – and an opportunity to burn off that excess excitement and energy.

They don’t have to rely on a lot of preparation or planning, but do get in a few treats as prizes to add an element of surprise and delight. My favourite stress-free party games are musical chairs, pin the tail on the donkey, musical statues, egg and spoon races, and pass the parcel. There’s a reason these games are all classics – kids love them, and you don’t need any special equipment or gear to make them happen.

Encourage other grown-ups to get involved and to help with the games – it will help you share out the load on the day, and give them something to do! 

  1. Prepare your party food:

Keep your party food menu simple, and prepare as much ahead of time as you can. You can chop up carrots and veggie sticks the night before, to go alongside (store-bought) hummus on platters, to balance out the ‘sometimes’ food you might be serving.

Most kids love a sausage sizzle, so this is a great option for a birthday party lunch, or stock up on frozen food which can be prepped with minimum fuss in the oven. Beige food might not be the best for day to day, but for a party it’s more than ok. No-one expects you to create gourmet, nutritions party food from scratch. Keep it fun, and include fresh fruit alongside treats like marshmallows to balance out the mix.

When it comes to the cake, try to limit your child’s options when they choose what they’d like. Rather than asking them the open-ended question of “what kind of cake do you want for your birthday?”, offer them some designs to choose from – designs you feel confident in creating.

Most cakes can be baked ahead of time and frozen, ready for decoration before the party. A frozen cake is much easier to assemble than a soft, freshly-made cake. Trust me, I’ve been there!

And remember to make the cake a special party moment. Get everyone to gather around and sing, cheer on your child as they blow out the candles, and assign recording duties to another adult so that you have photos and a video from the day. Your child will love revisiting their special cake.

  1. Short and sweet:

It’s your home and your party, so set the parameters that work for you.

Keeping it short and sweet – for example limiting it to two hours and letting everyone know the timeframe ahead of the day – will help you focus, and will give everyone involved clear expectations.

Two hours is also plenty of time for young kids – anything longer than this, and things can start to descend into chaos.

Remember to focus on why you’re having the party and try to forget the stress. And give yourself some time to enjoy the beautiful chaos and make memories!

About the author: Lou Duggan is the founder of Cake 2 The Rescue, an award-winning DIY cake kit company which has helped more than 40,000 Australian families pour their love into a homemade cake. Originally from Scotland, Lou is mum to three gorgeous teenage girls, and lives on the Gold Coast with her hubby Craig.