54 answers

How to Throw a 3 Year Old a Birthday Party?

I don't know how to throw my daughter her 3 year party (October 25th). The last two years have been close family only, and I was fine with that. But since my B-day in mid-August, Arden is running around singing happy birthday to herself almost every day...the time has come. Thing is, all of the 1,2,and 3 year old parties I've attended have been for both parents and kids (and I mean BOTH parents). These are typically held in the late afternoon/eve, and invlove lots of alcohol, the guys gathering to themselves, and the moms taking care of the kids while they drink. This I don't want, nor the burden of trying to plan a party for everybody. What happened to the kids party? I have many friends and extended family with kids, and don't know how to go small or large. This is keeping me awake at night!!!I don't want something over the top (inflatable castle, zoo, etc), at the end of October it should be inside, has anyone done a brunch? But what about the guys then? Dad's are (however reluctantly)coming to everything from baby showers to all B-days? My mom thinks this is crazy and recommended doing a party mid-day, mid-week to which I responded: every mom I know save me and one other works full time! Any suggestions?

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WOW...what a wonderful and abundant gift of advice!! I think we have decided on a Saturday brunch (10-12:00a.m.) with a pumpkin patch in our backyard. Parents will be welcome, and the pumpkins will take care of the party favors, and activities (kids can hunt for them and then draw on them w/markers, or parents can help carve), plus some pin-the tail on the donkey (or scarecrow;). Time of day will help with drinking issues, and even if it is raining, a little time in the backyard will do noone any harm...although it will require cleanup. I'm feeling very relieved and so grateful to everyone for the the overwhelming response. I read every one, and garnered something from each. I'll let you know how it goes :) Thanks, K.

Featured Answers

My mom's old rule of thumb is that the number of kids should equal the kid's age, so for a three-year party, there should be three kids invited. This may actually simplify things a lot right away.

We had my sons party last year (his second) and we are planning on for this year (also late October) at a farm - super easy, relatively inexpensive...a few crafts, which they provide, pick a pumpkin and some apples, and cake...easy and fun. Both parents and kids are invited, light snacks will be provided. Goodie bag can be as simple as the fruits that they pick, usually farms have petting zoo areas...

First, you can have any type of party you want. I would have a mid morning party with no more than six kids at that age if you have an inside party. That will give you an excuse to not serve alcohol. You could hire a clown, but some kids are afraid of clowns at that age, or a story teller as somethings special and then have a book to take home. Kid's parties at that age should be simple and not overwhelming. Not to much sugar or noise. A treat to take home. Good luck.

More Answers

Start with her favorite story character. Then expand on that. Like if her favorite is Tinkerbell, then decorate with Tinkerbell and fairy stuff and spin the games into that theme. Send out invitations with Tinkerbell on them to give the idea that it is a children's party and the theme is Tinkerbell. Some parents even take that as a clue to bring a Tinkerbell or fairy themed gift.

Make sandwiches and cut them into strips about 1/2 in wide for easy 3 year old handling. Make a few different kinds, like peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese, turkey. Get some chips and a veggie tray, fruit tray, etc...

Play pin the magic wand on the fairy and try to get it in her hand, or something like that. Or variate other games. Get some bubbles and let the kids blow bubbles and take pictures of them chasing them. This might be better outside if possible. Or have the grownups blow bubbles onto the kids and they can catch them.

Play ring around the rosey. And before they get up sing:
Cows are in the meadow
Eating buttercups
Flowers, flowers
We all stand up!

Play keep the balloon up with parent/child teams but the child has to hit it before the parent can hit it a third time in a row.

Have fun!

1 mom found this helpful

I think a brunch sounds fantastic!

You can make planet pancakes (with several bowls of batter, all with different food coloring to swirl the colors), or mouse pancakes, or heart pancakes super easily.

You could have Belgian waffles with different fruits to poke in the holes. (kids to do themselves) [If you don't have one, you can get a professional grade belgian waffle maker...the kind that flips over that they have in hotels...for about $50-$75 @ Amazon & cooking stores. I only mention this because our waring-pro has turned into a weekend tradition and has lasted for years.]

If no one's jewish or muslim you could do bacon and egg smiles.

You can have "whoosh cream"...ahem...canned whipped cream. I have yet to meet a toddler (or teenager for that matter!)yet who wasn't absolutely enchanted by the magic of them...and hey, it's a birthday party!! A little non-healthy food is expected. Plus, if you have pancakes or waffles you can write the child's initial on them, or a crown with that same "whoosh cream".

You could do french toast.

You could have hot chocolates.

You could make it a "wear your pajama's" brunch.

You could have lots of coffee for the grownups. :)

You could have sugar pumpkins to paint as an activity.

You could have facepainting (word to the wise, just one cheek)

You could...oh my....what an excellent idea!!! There are just so many things you could do! (Can you tell I have incredibly fond memories of brunches from my childhood?) I'd never thought of it for a birthday party, or know anyone who's done it and it sounds WONDERFUL! In fact I may just co-opt the idea of a birthday brunch for my son's next party.

One thing to note...Soccer season is on. It may not affect/effect the people you'll be inviting, but if anyone has older kids you may want to check before you decide on saturday or sunday...Soccer season means SUPER BUSY saturday mornings for those with (4year olds and up) kids involved.



We have a very large extended family/friend network, & I know exactly what you mean about kids' parties with alcohol present. Theoretically it goes like this with the many many I've been to: Kid's Party, Bedtime (aka movies and sleeping bags & giggling), Adult's party.

Even though the kids usually have a great time, because they get the added bonus of a mini-sleepover afterwards...I personally can't pull it off; it's waaaaaaaay too much work & stress for me to have two parties in one day. I PERSONALLY want my son's birthday to be all about him. HOWEVER, the screams of anguish and hurt feelings could be heard around the world if I excluded everyone. So, while I'm not recommending it's what you do, what we did was to split the days. We have my son's party one day, and then a BBQ (summer b-day) the NEXT night. It's potluck, and casual. All the adults who weren't there the day before get a chance to bring presents, congregate, & generally hangout...but we don't do cake, and presents are opened when people arrive, not at a set time all together.

Good Luck to you! And remember it's your house, your daughter, and your mommy's day/her birthday. Have fun, and have it the way you want it. If there are 3 candles to blow out, your daughter will love it. And if you're not all stressed out by having a kind of party you don't want...well, we all know how much better we are at parenting when we're not pulling out our hair.



1 mom found this helpful

Wow, this sounds out of control. With two children ages 2 and 3 1/2, we have been to A LOT of kid bday parties but not once has there been alcohol served, or anything else like what you have described.

First of all, however, you need to know that at this age there is really no way to avoid having parents attend. However, you can align their expectations so that they understand this this is children's party and not an adult "par-TAY." Do not have a brunch or a dinner or anything like that!

This means 1)mid-morning or mid-afternoon; 2)invite only her friends, but assume that parents will come; 3) send out invitations that are very kid-like; 4) specify on the invitation what the activities will be (see below), so that the parents get the message that this is designed for children; 5) serve only kid snacks, cupcakes and juice -- no alcohol!

If you must include family, then hopefully you can talk to the family members and explain that now that your daughter is 3 you think it is time to make her party be more appropriate for children. Or else do not invite family members, and ask if one of them would like to host a separate "family-only" celebration for your daughter.

As far as activities, you can do things that are fun for the kids but not necessarily over the top. For instance, if you want to do it at your house (inside or outside), you can set up a big table with lots of pre-packaged crafts that you get at Michael's and parents can help their children with them. Or for a fairly reasonable cost, you can schedule a puppet show (such as Penny's Puppets -- google her website). Kids love this. OR... since her birthday is so close to Halloween, have a Halloween bday party and ask ALL guests to come in costume, and play some fun halloween games (there are tons of websites that give age-appropriate ideas for halloween parties). If you insist that parents come in costume, I guarantee that this will cut down dramatically on the number of dads that will come!

But if you really want to send the message that this is for kids, it might be worth it to have the party away from your house, at a kid-oriented venue. For still a fairly low cost you can have parties at the Portland Parks community centers (SW Community Center is a good one) or "Out of this World" with pizza and cupcakes and activities. You could still do a Halloween theme, too.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi K.,
Well, there are some wonderful ideas here (and I will be adopting some of these for future parties - Thanks everyone!). I just have a comment on the adults who attend. On your invitation, you could put in tiny print on the bottom that it is a "children's party". Most parents should know that that means no adult beverages. On my son's 3rd and my daughter's 1st this year, we noted to everyone that it was a children's party so there was to be no alcohol. Everyone understood. If they dont and show up thinking they will have libations, well, wont they be surprised!! :-)
Enjoy! L.

My son just turned 3 this past June and I have a 7 year old daughter also. For both of their 3rd birthdays, I held it from 10am-12noon on a Saturday and the invitations were addressed to the kids only. Of course, at 3 the moms stayed too, but the snacks and juice were kid snacks and juices. We never had more that 5 kids come (6 kids if you count the birthday child). And it was low keyed, we just let the kids play, with structure.

We actually had to bring my son's birthday party inside because of rain. SO I went to the local applicance store, picked up 3 big boxes and we made a Mickey Mouse Club House that my 2 kids colored on. My husband cut out a door and some windows and I attached a few streamers to it. The kids loved it!!!!!

Simple and low key and they got cake and ice cream for lunch (they loved that!!!).


PS - I'm not opposed to alcohol, I have a drink or too at parties also, but NEVER at a kids party. That is just wrong, in my mind.

I hear you K.. Birthday parties for our little ones have become outrageously expensive, especially when both parents come and you have to feed everyone. Here's an idea I have if you want to keep it small and without alcohol: a mother/daughter tea party. If you specify moms/daughters only, I can't imagine that dads will want to come. It's your daughter's party, not theirs and you have a right to keep the guests to a minimum. Make it REALLY girly and ask the little girls wear their favorite dress, set up flowers all over with little teapots and cupcakes. As for timing, I suggest either 10 - 11:30 am or 3:00 -4:30. Specificy an end time so you don't have to feed everyone lunch or dinner. There's nothing wrong with this and honestly, as a parent of a three year old, I would not be offended, knowing how expensive parties cost.

We just hosted my son's 3rd birthday at our home. We had the party at noon on a Sunday and served a simple, fall meal. (several different types of chili, cornbread, homemade mac&cheese, salad) We had a play area set up in our livingroom with music (the kids danced on their own), toys, etc. We also spilled out into the yard and had sidewalk chalk, bubbles and balls for the kids to play with. We had a pinata, which was fun. The cooler was full of juice, water, and some beer. I also made wine available in the kitchen. Since it was mid-day on a Sunday, most people just had one beer or glass of wine and everything was very sweet, innocent, and fun! The adults chatted and the kids played. It was also quite affordable. Hints: Marie Calendar's corn bread mix, white chicken chili mix (by the taco seasoning), and Costco!

I agree with you on time. I work full time and know that I could never make it to an afternoon weekday party. First, in your invitation make it a timed party. Usually 2 hours. Second tell them what it will entail. Punch and cake with sweet treats. At that age I had a cupcake decorating party and then had a couple of games. When the children first arrived I had pens and a huge Happy Birthday banner they could make a picture on for the Birthday child while everyone is arriving. Big piece of butcher paper,$1 store paper board or something she can hang on her wall for about a year. The ideas are endless. Once parents know what to expect at the party then there are no excuses that they should think it will be more than that. You are allowed to provide coffee and water or punch for the parents, but that is all. They can have cake too. Most parties I had were just after lunch, which I know is nap time for most, but you could include a lunch party and have small finger sandwiches. Just let the parents know on the invitation. It is not up to you to adapt the parents. This is a party for children not grownups. Good luck. I'm sure it will go fine.

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