Take Back the Birthday Party!

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Children's parties don't needn't be large, elaborate or expensive to be great. You can create a wonderful at-home party your child will remember for years to come.


The truth is, children love at home parties. They get to play fun games at their friend’s place and win prizes while feeling at home in familiar surroundings. The parents get to plan a range of activities their child enjoys most and save money by hosting the party themselves. No schlepping cakes or partyware to a venue, no hidden costs, no worry about the quality of service and no tips!

There are several ways to approach parties at home. For parents who are too busy or maybe a little intimidated by the prospect of doing a complete party themselves there are ready to use party games kits. I design several but there are also read-made pirate or princess kits available at local bookshops and toystores. Planning your own party at home is also completely do-able and there are lots of resources out there to help you. I I have listed local ones at the end.

Party Timeline


For a two hour party, which is usually the norm, start the first thirty minutes with a craft activity, the next hour fill with four or five supervised games, the last half an hour is for food and cake. Voila, party done!


The Craft


Waiting for all the guests to arrive and the games to start can be difficult for some children, particularly the birthday child, so plunge them straight into a craft activity and a snack to get them engaged, positively energized and relaxed.

Golden' goblets

It’s best to pre-prepare a craft so you don’t have to manage gluey or “not yet dried” things. Some simple items to decorate that the children can then play with are always fun. Stick colorful feathers and wiggly eyes to wooden Look at Me Sticks, make bamboo banjos, masks on sticks or wooden peg butterflies. Just provide a basket of markers, stickers and self-adhesive stick-on jewels.

Wooden banjos



The games don’t have to be elaborate or complex. Games where the activity can be repeated are very popular for 3 and 4s, such as Knock Down Tin Cans and Hunting for gold coins. 5 to 8s like scavenger hunts and fishing for prizes but also classic games like pass the parcel and team games like egg and spoon.



Tailoring games to a theme can focus the mind on what activities to provide and draw out some creativity. For example at our Knights & Princesses Party, my husband took the role of a stone and the Knights were challenged to pull the sword out from under his armpit! We used a brown sheet to cover him and had a wooden sword. Everyone had a turn at being King Arthur and winning a homemade stone.

Drawing the sword from the 'stone'

At this party we also decorated flags, pinned the flame on the dragon, passed the shield to music to win a treasure chest, fished for crowns and tiaras and collected taxes (gold coin hunt) for the King.


My favorite websites to help organize activities and develop themes are BirthdayPartyIdeas.com and Kaboose.com




There are different ways of giving prizes; winning a prize for each game and putting it in a goodie bag with the child’s name on; getting stickers for each game and receiving one prize at the end of play; using the games equipment as prizes. Whatever you decide, having the party at home means you get to decide on the quality of the prizes you give. Go for durable items; small wooden things like treasure chests or shapes, beads, bugs and solid plastic animals are always popular; you don’t have to spend a lot.


Homemade prizes are fun to do if you have the time. Insect rocks made from sand for a nature challenge, felt tails for an animal scavenger hunt and homemade ghosts made from painting cloths for Halloween are just a few examples. They cost so little and add so much personality to a party.


Goodie Bags


A goodie bag doesn’t have to be a bag! For the above mentioned Knights party we paper mached paper coffee cups and painted them gold to look like goblets. We still use them today as pen holders!


A Park Slope Parent posted recently asking for alternatives to plastic gift bags. Replies included; reusable bags, homemade bags and bags used for a craft activity. All of these are great options.

Felt + glue gun = great goodie bag


Cotton produce bags are ideal for decorating with fabric markers. Paper lunch bags can be personalized with stickers and markers. Felt and cotton bags are great plastic alternatives.


So get planning and next time I’ll talk more about games, my favorite subject.


Park Slope Businesses for party items:

Stores for small and large prizes; Little Things, Scaredy Kat, Toy Box, Loom and Lulu’s.

For craft supplies: 7th Av Copy and Office store and 7th Av Framing and Art.

Can’t bake? Just click on this invaluable PSP link for lots of local cake experts.