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Birthdays are a time to commemorate the incredible day a little one entered this great big world. The pressure is on for parents to plan the “perfect” event to celebrate their child’s birth, help them feel special and hope to create memories that will last a lifetime. In a culture of birthday extravaganzas, it can be tempting to go all out every year, with endless invitations, theme parties, gifts, event space rentals and the whole shebang. 

But planning a birthday that is age appropriate for you child can be just as meaningful and sometimes less stressful for you. Considering their age, developmental stage and unique personality in relation to large groups and stimulus are all important things to think about when party planning. 

Baby’s 1st Birthday

The excitement over the baby's first birthday is immense. While it may be tempting to invite all the mamas and babies from your birthing class or the whole extended family, this doesn't have to be a huge celebration. Baby likely won’t remember it. Make this birthday short and simple with close family, grandparents and maybe one or two special family friends. The climax of this event will be when the baby smashes into that cake or cupcake, so have that camera ready for many Kodak moments. Remember at this stage the wrapping and ribbons are more fun than the presents. 

Age 2 

They call it the “Terrible Twos” for a reason. The emotional mood shifts from delightful glee to fall out tantrum present many challenges and rewards. Hosting a party for a 2-year old can be tricky because they are likely to be possessive of their toys and sharing is a skill that they will develop later. At this developmental stage, most 2-year olds are practicing parallel play and not actively engaging with peers, so there’s no need for party games. This is a good age to invite a few friends and focus on a sensory experience like water play, an art project or even a fun park party where kiddos can play in a sandbox side-by-side. Find more ideas at https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/age-by-age-birthday-party-guide.

Ages 3 – 4

These are the ages when children really understand birthday parties and get excited to celebrate their big day. If your child is in a daycare or preschool setting and used to bigger groups of children, this might be the time to invite a manageable group of friends (before they enter school). The options are endless at this stage as children are starting to make friends and play together. Simple circle games, music and organized play are all possibilities. Since this stage is bounding with energy, a birthday party at a kids’ gym, renting a bouncy house or a park party are all great ideas.

Ages 5 – 6

At this age, planning their birthday can be just as fun as the party itself. This is the age group when you might want to “go big” with a themed party and let your child be a part of the planning, decorating and selecting games. Children this age have usually navigated learning in large groups. so fun group games like “Hokey Pokey,” hide and seek, freeze tag, relay races or favorite board games can be great ways to celebrate. This can also be a good age group for a craft party.  

Ages 7 – 10

This age group is ripe for a multitude of options. Hosting parties with more complex games that involve mystery and discovering can be fun. From a nature or photo scavenger hunt to hosting a science lab experiment to make slime, there are many options. For busy parents tired of party planning and stress, this is also a good time to give your child the option of a birthday experience such as a family camping trip or a special movie or event with two or three close friends. For the bold and brave parents out there, this is also the time that some children have sleepovers which can include a special movie, spa night or campfire outside. 

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