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7 Tips for Birthday Party Success

I know what you’re thinking – another train party?  I admit, C’s 2nd birthday was centered on a very unoriginal theme, complete with one very large Thomas balloon. What can I say? A train party he wanted so a train party he got.  It’s as simple as that.  And even had I wanted to give C one of those gorgeous, picture perfect parties floating around the web – frankly, I just don’t have the required skills.


But stick with me and have a look at some of the details that went into C’s party.  What you’ll find is a representation of everything I think a kids’ party should be (creative but not overly-styled and playful but not overly-structured) plus some handy tips for your next birthday bash.


Tip #1: A beautiful cake is not an easy thing to master but fondant letters and cookie toppers can be! 

That’s because you can make them well in advance (mini-tutorials on these to come?).  I’m thinking simple frosted cupcakes with creative toppers are the way to go for parties from here on out.


Tip #2: If you do decide to go the cake route assemble as much of it as possible on site.

This is key in preventing damage.  I brought our cake with the two layers side-by-side in a cardboard box on waffle style shelf liners for stability.  The fondant letters, toppers, and red candy balls were added at the party.

Tip #3: Make a custom birthday sign.


It turns out custom signs are cheap and easy.  The train crossing sign was my favorite part of the decor – and it was free! The private printer I used said he couldn’t really write an invoice for just one poster.  I can’t guarantee a free poster for your next party but stick to these guidelines and your sign should only be a few dollars.

I found that 13″ x 19″ is the maximum size for color printing before cost goes way up.  Use Google Images to search for clip art relevant to your theme that’s large or extra large in size and it will work well for this size poster.  Next, create a Word document with your image(s) and text and add a border. Customize the sign to the size you want in the page settings and bring it in for color printing on the paper of your choice. I simply asked the nice man to print it on something that wouldn’t be too flimsy when hung.


Click through for more party planning helpfulness including my favorite new spot for hosting a kids’ party.

Tip #4: When partying away from home simplify as much as possible.


Your allotted set-up time will go faster than you think so the simpler the better.  Our color scheme was pretty basic; sky blue table cloths and apple red everything else (including plates, cups, cutlery, serving dishes, balloons, and streamers).  This made coordinating set up go very quickly.  Train whistles and conductor hats doubled as party favors and centerpieces.  Finally, the only fancy food element were train shaped sandwiches made with cookie cutters.

Tip #5: When partying away from home streamline as much as possible.

Food setup included cheese and fruit plates, chips & dips, goldfish crackers, Costco’s Greek chicken salad, and jam & cream cheese sandwiches.


This too is key when set-up time is limited. I made lots of lists and loaded everything possible into the car the night before. All of the food was stored in two bags in the fridge (so I could grab and go the next morning) and the serving dishes were labeled with sticky notes explaining what food went where.

Tip #6: Many co-op toddler groups and preschools rent out their spaces on the weekends for amazingly low rates.


Kids and parents alike made themselves comfy.


Frustrated that I wasn’t finding many places where the two-year-olds would have lots to do and adults could sit and chat, I turned to my moms group and got the great suggestion to check out co-op preschools and toddler groups. Sadly, I found options in nearby Seattle but none in my neighborhood.

So I went for the next best thing, a new drop-off child care center called The Nest. The place had a large main play room as well as additional rooms with play kitchens, climbers, etc. and floor-to-ceiling windows so parents could keep an eye on their kids while chowing down.

Tip #7: Maximize playtime at the party and open presents at home.


Once the party was over the train theme continued at home. C went down for his afternoon nap and dad and the grandpas went to work setting up his birthday train table. Start to finish it took them about 1 hour 45 minutes to assemble.  We bought the Imaginarium Classic Train Table with Roundhouse Wooden Train Set. It is very sturdy, comes with 100 pieces (including track, trains, cars, people and a crane), and was much more affordable than the brand name train tables on the market.


When C woke up the fun continued. We opened presents with family, going at his pace, and he was thrilled to find the train table waiting for him in the play room. We purchased several Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway Trains to go along with the table and they worked perfectly with the included track. C played with his new toy until it was time for bed and the day-long train festivities drew to an end.


P.S. Looking for more ways to simplify and save time? Follow these 3 steps:

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