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Birthday Party Tips & Ideas

Birthday Party Tips & Ideas

Parent Tips > Party & Event Planning > Birthday Party Tips & Ideas

7 Celebration tips that ensure kids & parents are happy...

Submitted By: Kimmie Curtis, Business Owner


  • Let the party reflect who your child really is....  Of course your children are always going to ask for Spiderman and Princess parties. Encourage your child to be unique. Taking your party to the next level may require a little more thought time as far as creating a theme, but it is always worth it. Think about what your child likes to do or what the child is really good at. If your son adores soccer, set-up a mini tournament. Guests arrive and make their own ‘jerseys,' followed by a scrimmage and soccer ball pizza. If she loves to dance and her birthday is at the end of the summer, why not have everyone show up in their Fiesta skirts, bring in a Spanish dance instructor for 45 minutes and spend some time making paper flowers.
  • ONE favor vs. an entire bag of junk.....  An entire bag of junk? Yes. You know what I am referring to- the infamous goodie bag, filled with all kinds of plastic breakable toys and other little ‘treasures' that the car wash finds as they are vacuuming underneath the seats of your car.....Instead of sending home items that will end up in 70 pieces in under 2.2 seconds, consider 1 item that may last a little bit longer, or may actually get used. For example, at the soccer party, send each kid home with a real (not-too expensive) soccer ball that they can kick around at home. They might have cost a bit more as an individual item but once you added up the cost of everything that would have gone into the bags, it all equals out.
  • Activities- they double as favors AND keep the kids busy.... Continuing with the favor idea....why not have the favor be something that the children have worked on during the party? Like the Fiesta party, the children can take home the flowers that they worked on. Creating a fairy wand, a treasure chest, decorating a cookie...these items turn into favors that the children take home and they are less likely to toss them under the driver's seat when they have spent their time and energy creating them. It also creates an activity for the children to do during the party.
  • Hire people to help out and entertain....  Bring in a dance instructor. Bring in a soccer player from the local college. Bring in your babysitter and her friends to do planned activities and projects like creating those paper flowers mentioned above. Having someone else to entertain and/or do games with your children as well as their guests allows you to enjoy the moment and lets the kids enjoy something different and fun. (Think of those gymnasium parties where the parents are enjoying themselves and the kids come home happy and tired- a win-win for everyone involved).
  • Have someone else take the pictures...  The last thing you want to be doing during your son or daughter's party is running around taking pictures of everything. Many photographers in town can be hired by the hour fairly inexpensively to capture all of the moments and details of the party so that you can relax and celebrate with your child rather than going nuts trying to make sure you don't miss anything on film. Don't want to hire someone? Hand off the camera to a good friend for the day- it can be their gift to your child.
  • Often less is more but sometimes more is more.....  Trying to decorate a space in all its entirety to fit a theme can be extremely challenging, not to mention, extremely pricey. Choosing one focal table or area to concentrate your décor will get your point across much more effectively. On the other hand, if you have a 2-year-old who is obsessed with balloons- then by all means- fill your space with as many balloons a physically possible.
  • Cupcakes- minis are magnificent!  How often have you seen a kid finish an entire regular size cupcake? Really. It is usually just a lick of frosting or just a bite of the cake and then the rest ends up in the garbage. Mini-cupcakes get the point across and they are the perfect size for children of all ages and their parents. And they are really darn cute to boot!




Party Planning the Economical Way in 2009

Submitted By: Kim Curtis, TOAST

So, we are charging ahead into the New Year and along with our new President, we are making lots of changes. Sure, it may not be the most economical time to throw extravagant, over-the-top soirees, but that doesn't mean that the reasons we celebrate have ceased to exist. So embracing Mrs. First Lady Obama's stylish and budget-conscious J-Crew ensembles, here is TOAST's top 3 ways to throw a fabulous fete with an economically sensitive budget.....with a little help from our old friends, School House Rock and Mr. J. Johnson....


* 1. REDUCE the guest count. Yes, every time you have to multiply your bottom line by your guest count, your overall cost goes up. This year bigger is not necessarily better. Instead, intimate is excellent. This concept truly reaches across all kinds of party throwing from 4th to 40th birthdays. Sure the temptation maybe to invite the entire preschool class, but wouldn't your child have just as much fun with a perfectly designed party with two or three of her closest friends? What about hurt feelings you ask? Well, couldn't you explain to your child that this time it was a small party and not everyone was invited and then take the perfect opportunity to help her understand that not everyone is always invited to every party and that is OK? And, lets be brutally honest here, wouldn't you be just fine going to one less birthday party?!? It's your 40th you say? What a better way to spend it than with your closest friends and family surrounding you. But everyone expects a big bash you say....well, schedule a time to all meet up for dancing! I have a friend who planned her recent birthday festivities in this manner. I must say, I think she is brilliant. The fact that you and your friends will not need a bail-out plan for your child's college fund because of one birthday bash will leave everyone feeling festive and very happy indeed.

* 2. REUSE everyday items found around your house for décor. I did a table setting not so long ago with ‘found' items from around my house. The table looked fantastic (I thought) and I truly didn't bring in that many new items to set the table other than some fresh flowers. Making an event unique from a design standpoint doesn't have to involve bringing in the most expensive rental items possible. If keeping the above mentioned reduced guest count in mind, you actually can reuse items around the house. Bring out Grandma's china and combine it with some of those candlesticks that have a fine layer of dust on them that you received as wedding gifts back in the day.... You probably have more items that can be reclaimed as table treasures around the house than you think, No candlesticks you say, well, how about candy dishes, multi-colored pottery, mis-matched ice cream bowls. You don't always have to use things for their originally intended purpose. Put your child's ceramic dinosaur (you know the one that has about 32 different colors of glaze on it) and create a table design around it. Now that actually could be a really cool table set-up...where is that dinosaur???...

* 3. RECYCLE or re-purpose anything and everything. You don't always have to use flowers on a table. Use absolutely anything in your house as a design element. Have a water softener? Use the salt in glass cylinders as a clean compliment to column or votive candles. No glass cylinders you say? My guess is you probably have clear drinking glasses somewhere in your house. Have citrus trees? Bowls of oranges, lemons or limes make tables look bright and sunny. No fruit trees? How about just a tree? A single branch of anything placed in a simple glass container can make more of a statement than an entire arrangement of peonies if executed correctly. If your children can come home from school with projects comprised completely of recycled objects and call it art, there is no reason why you cannot do the same thing with found items around the house. Using things that are part of your environment also allows for you to express who you are. Are you an avid reader? Consider stacking books in the center of the table with some candles and bowls of munchies for a book club gathering. Knitter- baskets of balls of yarn (I think it is probably called a skein or something...but I don't really knit...). Collector of anything...use what you have. Clustering things together often makes more of a statement than have a few pieces scattered here and there. By recycling and repurposing items that you already own you are able to save the money you would have spent on flowers or rentals for other that college fund mentioned earlier....

Sure times may be getting interesting, but celebrating life together doesn't have to stop. What is truly important is not what type of event you plan or how you decorate it, but rather who you spend your special occasions with. Cheers!

Kim Curtis is an event planner - TOAST


A Baker's Pantry

A Baker's Pantry

Here's What you'll need to make all your goodies

  • Unbleached, all-purpose flour contains a combination of high- and low-gluten wheat. Store flour in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place for up to six months. Keeping flour in a large glass jar makes it easy to measure. To keep flour weevils away, insert a bay leaf or two into the jar.
  • Cake flour is milled from low-gluten soft wheat. It is used in tender cakes and pastries. Be sure to use cake flour that does not contain any self-rising agents. Store cake flour in a plastic bag inside an airtight container in a dark cool place.
  • Baking powder is a baking additive that releases carbon-dioxide gas which helps bread doughs and other items rise. Over time, baking powder loses its effectiveness. While you can find large containers in stores, it's best to buy small containers. Store them tightly covered in a cool, dry place.
  • Baking soda is also a baking additive, but it works by reacting with acidic foods, such as lemon juice or molasses, to help bread doughs and other items rise.
  • Granulated sugar is the most common form of sugar produced. It is created from either refined cane or beet sugar. Store sugar in a tightly covered airtight container. Sugar can stay in a pantry for a long time, which makes it useful for using in canning and preserving.
  • Superfine sugar is granulated sugar that has been finely ground. Because it dissolves quickly, it is most often used in baked goods and icings.
  • Confectioners' sugar is granulated sugar that has been ground into powder form. It is generally used in uncooked foods and is most often an ingredient in uncooked icings. Confectioners' sugar generally has a "10x" or "3x" descriptor, referring to the number of times the sugar has been sifted before packaging.
  • Light brown and dark brown sugar are two types of white sugar that contain molasses. The lighter the sugar, the more delicate it will be in flavor. Light brown sugar contains about 8 percent molasses and 92 percent granulated sugar. This ratio of molasses to sugar enables light-brown sugar to caramelize sooner than dark-brown sugar at low temperatures. Dark-brown sugar contains a higher molasses content and tends to burn faster during cooking. Brown sugars will harden if they are exposed to air, so store both types tightly in an airtight container.
  • Dutch-process cocoa has a richer flavor and darker color than regular cocoa, resulting from the addition of an alkali that neutralizes the cocoa's natural acidity. Store cocoa in an airtight container in a dark, cool place.
  • Chocolate varieties include semisweet, bittersweet, milk chocolate and white chocolate. Have all types available for different uses.
  • Walnuts can be purchased both shelled and unshelled. When buying shelled, look for walnuts with no holes or cracks in the shells. These should be stored in a cool, dry place for up to three months. Unshelled walnuts should be kept in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container for up to six months. Discard nuts older than these dates, as they most likely will have become rancid.
  • Almonds should be stored away from direct sunlight in a tightly covered, airtight container. Almonds can also be purchased both shelled and unshelled. Shelled almonds can be stored in an airtight container up to six months, but shelled almonds should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container also up to six months.
  • Pecans that are unshelled can be stored at room temperature for up to three months. Shelled pecans tend to absorb odors when placed around other foods, so store them separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to six months.
  • Hazelnuts are perishable nuts. Since shelled hazelnuts will dry out very quickly, they should be used immediately. Unshelled hazelnuts can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to three weeks. Shelled hazelnuts should be refrigerated for up to three months in an airtight container.
  • Vanilla beans are the seed pods of the orchid Vanilla planifolia, one of 20,000 varieties of orchids that bear edible seed pods. The most common types of vanilla beans originate from Madagascar, Mexico and Tahiti. Tahitian beans are the most flavorful.
  • Vanilla extract is a sweet liquid formed from the infusion of vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol. The resulting mixture is allowed to age for several months, intensifying in flavor. Keep vanilla extract covered in a cool, dry, dark place. Avoid using imitation vanilla extract, as it does not yield the same flavor as pure vanilla extract.
  • Cinnamon is the inner bark extracted from an evergreen tree native to the tropics. The bark is harvested from the tree and dried. Cinnamon is sold both as sticks or ground into powder.
  • Unsalted butter is the best butter to use for baking. This type of butter should be stored in the freezer for long-term storage. The American Dairy Association recommends keeping unsalted butter no longer than two weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Parchment paper is a non-stick, unwaxed paper that is excellent for lining baking sheets when baking cookies. Parchment paper not only ensures that cookies won't stick to the baking pan but also eliminates the need for greasing the pan.

Party Games

Find Your Match
Write down charades for half the guests. Duplicate the list for the other half of the guests. (Zebra/Zebra, Lion/Lion...) It can be random characters or they can have a theme (ie: animals, TV characters...).

Have each child draw a paper out of a jar with one of the names. Then tell the kids to start acting out their characters. The goal is for each child to find their match. Kids are not aloud to talk -they can just do actions. When kids think they have found their match - they sit down in a circle and everyone goes around and says what they were. (This game can be fun for adults too.)


Throw a Pizza Party
Invitation ideas: Pizza shaped invite or an invite that is structured like a menu.
Games: Pin the pepperoni on the pizza.
Pick up pizza dough (or Boboli crust), mozarella, tomato sauce and other fun toppings. Purchase take-out aluminum foil pans, and red-checked plastic/paper tablecloths. Fun party favors could be aprons, chefs hat, pot holders or pizza boxes. You can fill the pizza boxes with party favors as well.

The kids each make their own mini pizza. After the kids arrive, have them roll out their dough, spread on the sauce, sprinkle the cheese and then the toppings. You could hire someone from a pizza parlor to come teach the kids how to make a real pizza. If you have adults attending, consider doing 1 large salad and a large pizza. For younger kids, you could make this process easier by doing mini english muffin pizzas.


Take a trip to the local Fire Station

Most stations are happy to give children tours and show them how the equipment works. Best of all it is FREE!  


Plan a Scavenger Hunt 

For younger children the could just be in the backyard with small items (think Easter egg hunt). Older children could be sent around the neighborhood to collect items on a list or  to ask known neighbors trivia questions. 


Princess Party
Activities: Kids can come dressed up or you can have a trunk of dress-up clothes for them to change into at the party.

Have activity stations with an adult or teenager facilitiating: paint nails, make-up station, tattoos for any boys, hair station. Set up an art station where they can decorate their own crowns with fake jewels.

Have the birthday girl pose with each of her guests. You can use these photos for the thank you notes.

Instead of birthday cake, consider doing cupcakes that they can decorate themselves. This is always a huge hit with kids. Supply frosting, sprinkles and small candy to put on top.


Hire a storyteller or puppeteer.

Try calling a local bookstore, library or local hotel with a kids program for contacts.



There are some great ideas for themesand supplies for kids of all ages on:





Food & Cake Ideas

Cookie Decorating is a fun activity for kids.

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