Planning a birthday soiree for a toddler? Keep it short and sweet – 1 1/2 hours max. The key is to end it before your guests reach toddler meltdown mode. Remember, too, a tired munchkin is a cranky munchkin, so time the soiree around the birthday child’s nap. Since most kids this age snooze after lunch, plan a mid-morning or late afternoon party.
Don’t plan games or activities with a lot of rules, as toddlers are too young to understand them. Remember, their attention spans run short. You might want to try a few circle games like putting on the “Hokey Pokey” song — and letting them follow your lead in doing the steps. But mostly, just let the toddlers choose what they want to do. Provide them with age-appropriate toys — and let them make their own fun. If it’s nice outside, let them play on toddler equipment or in a sandbox in the yard – while you supervise, of course.
Limit the guest list to people with whom your little one is familiar. Toddlers are often stranger-shy, so help make your kiddo’s day anxiety-free. A relative-only party at this age is perfectly acceptable. You might also consider inviting a few of his close friends and their parents. Keep in mind that kids this age are just learning how to get along, so be prepared for some temper tantrums and squabbles alongside the squeals of delight. Ensure adequate adult supervision to help with the toddler antics.
While parks, restaurants or indoor-playgrounds are worth considering, a home-based party is often your best bet. Your little munchkin will feel comfortable in familiar surroundings, and can retreat to her room if she becomes overwhelmed. You’ll likely get distracted at some point, so ensure the party zone is safe. Block off stairs with a gate and lock the doors to rooms with potential hazards like the workout room or garage. Make sure dangerous items are out of reach of little hands. If you have a pool or pond nearby, keep the toddlers away.
It’s a short party, so don’t go all out and make a pile of food. Finger foods are a good bet to go over well. Ensure that all the food offerings are easy to chew and swallow for little people – cut or break food pieces so they are no larger than ½ inch in size. Soft, small pieces of fruit like ripe melon, halved grapes or berries are nutritious — and most tots will enjoy them. Crackers are also palatable and toddler-friendly. Chicken fingers or a plain cheese pizza cut into toddler-sized pieces is perfect party fare. Jam or cream cheese mini pinwheel sandwiches are always fun.
If you’d like separate nibblies for your grown-up guests, keep them out of reach of the little ones. And don’t forget the cake. Hands-down, cupcakes or cake will be the highlight of the party for your toddler. Serve it at the end of the party, just before it’s time to send the ramped-up-on-sugar kids home with their parents.
Although you don’t need a theme, it doesn’t hurt. Your kiddo will be happy as long as there’s cake, presents and people to shower her with love. If you decide to have a theme, choose one that speaks to the guest of honor. Is she a fan of Dora or does she like princesses? Perhaps your tot has a thing for cars or any kind of construction vehicle. Choose your theme and decorate accordingly. You can pick up balloons, streamers, paper plates, napkins and other party supplies at your local dollar store.