Planning The Right Kid’s Party for Any Age

When planning a kid’s party, the most important thing to do is to determine what is age-appropriate. After all, little ones won’t spend hours in the basement with a karaoke machine, and most teens will have no interest in Duck Duck Goose. Here are some quick tips to help plan a successful party for the different stages of childhood:


Kids younger than five are generally high on maintenance and short on attention span…

  • Make parent attendance mandatory. This will take picky eating, potty breaks and meltdowns out of your busy hands.
  • Keep the decorations simple. Balloons, streamers, and colorful plates are plenty festive for tots. (The last thing you want to do is spend an entire Wild West party picking decorative straw out of the little cowpokes’ mouths and hair. Trust me!)
  • Forget the sit-down meal. Instead, set out a few divided snack trays with diced fruits, raisins, crackers, cookies, and cereals.
  • In lieu of a sheet cake, why not bake cupcakes in mini-muffin pans? This will cut down on waste, and make serving and clean up a breeze.
  • Fill a few laundry baskets with toy cars, building blocks and floor puzzles. Kids this age love to explore new stuff!
  • On that note… be sure to hide electrical cords, stash breakables, and place safety gates where appropriate.
  • For a two-hour party, use the “3-2-1 Method”: THREE things to do (game, activity or craft), TWO times to eat (snacks and cake), and ONE finale (opening presents or pulverizing a piñata!)
  • Easy games like Copy Cat, Animal Charades, I Spy, and Beanbag Toss are simple and fun party games. Have some lively music playing in the background. There are plenty of age-appropriate songs that can become impromptu activities. Try “I’m a Little Teapot”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Five Little Monkeys”.
  • Relax! Parties for kids under five are the easiest to plan. This is still a new experience for them, and just about anything you do will be fun and exciting!

AGE 6-10

Once kids are in school, they are used to being managed by someone other than a parent. They also have the capacity to follow directions and participate in group activities. Best of all, they are still easily amused!

  • Order + Activity = Well-behaved kids
  • Put on your “teacher hat” for the day. Take charge and speak up when you have something to say. “Okay monkeys (campers, princesses, etc.) we’re going to move on to the next fun activity. Let’s all get in a circle…”
  • Most 6-10 year olds are not very adventurous when it comes to trying new foods, so you can prepare easy party foods like hot dogs, pizza and chips… or why not make a snack buffet using inexpensive one-gallon fish bowls? Fill them with theme-related snacks and let the little party animals serve themselves!
  • For drinks, use sports bottles or cups with lids to prevent spills. If you really want to avoid accidental stains, consider serving apple or white grape juice instead of dark colored soda or flavored drinks. To add some fun, freeze grapes and maraschino cherries in ice cube trays, or use red licorice for straws!
  • Traditional games like Hot Potato, Duck Duck Goose, and Musical Chairs are always a hit. Try changing the name of the game to fit the party — Guppy Guppy Shark for a beach party or Musical Hippo Hop for a jungle theme.
  • Simple craft projects, magic tricks and kitchen science experiments are another great way to entertain kids this age.  Better yet, teach the kids how to make “Armpit Fudge”! For each child, add 1/2 c powdered sugar, 2 tsp cocoa powder, 1 T butter, 2 tsp cream cheese to a small plastic zipper bag. Remove the air and close the zipper. Show the kids how to smash and warm the bags under their armpits until all of the ingredients are mixed. Then just open the bags and eat with spoons!
  • Sleepovers can be unpredictable for first and second graders. Most parents will know if their child can handle a night away. Even so, be prepared to make a middle of the night phone call, and try to plan activities so that any child who isn’t staying overnight won’t miss out on the fun.


Teen parties can be a challenge, but you might be surprised to find that an impromptu game of Red Rover can easily turn a group of stoic kids into giggling loons! At this age, the menu can be more elaborate and the games can be more competitive. Bottom line, it will take a bit more to impress these kids, but this when you can let your imagination run wild!

  • Unless the Birthday Kid makes a request, don’t go overboard with theme decorations. Space to socialize and something to eat are just about all you’ll need!
  • Be creative when you do serve food. Have a taco buffet, make your own single-serving pizzas, or create a sundae or smoothie bar. Serve ice cream floats!
  • Have music, movies, video games and/or the Internet available (with usage guidelines, of course).
  • Set up a volleyball net, ping pong table, karaoke machine, or plan a neighborhood scavenger hunt.
  • If it’s a mixed-gender party, be sure to start with a clear announcement of the rules, and supervise at a responsible distance.
  • Remember: You don’t have to spend a ton of money or be a “craft diva” with a glue stick tucked behind your ear to plan a successful party for your child. You only need patience, information…and lots of laughter!

Other helpful tips and several complete guides to theme parties can be found in Marnie Ann Pacino’s book “Cool Party, Mom! The Other Three Words Every Mother Loves to Hear” available on While you’re there, be sure to also check out her new book, “Cool Party, Mom! The Classroom Edition” written for room parents and teachers.

Marnie Pacino is a Midwestern soccer mom with a passion for creativity and organizing. With over 20 years of experience planning parties for her own three children, she’s inspired to write and share her ideas and advice with other busy moms.



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