They have the energy of an aerobics instructor, the taste level of, well, a toddler, and slightly better judgment than the family dog. The 1- to 3-year-old set is tough to herd and easy to bore, making your toddler's birthday party one of the more difficult ones to plan well.
Here, five party ideas that will entertain the kids without destroying the carpet or breaking the bank. With a little time and preparation, you can throw your toddler a party that he or she will, if not remember, then at least completely and utterly love for a couple of hours in a row -- which is saying a lot at that age.
First: Why not make the favors into the party?
Let the birthday girl or boy pick a few crafts and games (safe and appropriate for your target age group, like decorating cookies or making music with tambourines), and set up a kiddie space in the den. Cover any surfaces you don't want ruined. Rotating through activities will extend attention (and enjoyment) levels, and the little ones will go home with party favors they made themselves.
A craft or party store will have all the supplies you need, and the overall cost should be quite reasonable. See if a grandparent or aunt might help run a station so you can be free to run the show.
Up next: Bring in a pro.
Let's be honest: Sometimes, a professional toddler-entertainer can be worth every penny.
Clowns, magicians, musicians, balloon artists and puppeteers can all make toddlers squeal with glee. If you have some extra money lying around (an hour might run about $150), a pro can provide a great time for all -- including moms and dads, who can take a load off and finish a sentence while the kids watch the show.
Lots of companies specialize in party entertainment. Check online or in a phone book for providers.
Up next: Go outside and play.
If your kiddo's birthday falls in a warmer month, you're in luck: Parks, which are typically free to use for a party, are a big hit with the toddler set.
Find one with all the amenities, including a playground (which must be fully supervised, of course), picnic tables and bathrooms. Bring a cooler for snacks, juice and cake. Bring some cups and buckets if the playground has sand, and some extra sunscreen in case any of the parents forget. It's an easy, affordable way to show some little kids a great time.
Up next: An even easier (but slightly less affordable) way to play.
Turning your house or a park into a toddler entertainment zone is doable, but it does take a bit of time planning. If you're short on time or will, a ready-made, fully dedicated play zone might be the way to go.
There are plenty of them around, freestanding or in malls; you just need to track one down (use search terms like "kids indoor fun") and reserve space for your party. They've got all the equipment -- slides, jungle gyms, bouncies, play houses, you name it -- safely situated on a soft, fall-absorbing floor. You'll typically find an area with tables and chairs so you can serve cake, snacks and drinks for the little partygoers.
Up next: Some real animals ...
OK, so this may count as "overdoing it," but sometimes you just can't help it: A petting zoo can bring such joy to tiny little faces it can easily win Party of the Year. If you're into that kind of thing.
Most (but not all!) little ones love animals, and you can pretty easily turn your yard into a petting zoo. A supplier will send the appropriate fence, animals and supervisors to make it safe and fun. Typical animals for toddlers might include chicks, rabbits, goats and ducks (it's best to avoid the pony-ride option for such young children).
Just remember, with all the hubbub surrounding the big 1, 2 or 3, it's still a party for someone who would probably be happy unwrapping empty boxes and sitting in them. So don't get too stressed out. In the end, cupcakes, juice boxes and toys will do just fine.
For more information on toddlers, party planning and related topics, look over the links on the next page.
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- 5 Things You Should Know: Birthday Party Entertainers
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- How to Throw a Ballerina Birthday Party
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- How to Throw a Superhero Birthday Party
More Great Links
- Baby Center. Play & Activities. (Dec. 18, 2010)http://www.babycenter.com/toddler-play-activities
- Bay Zone. Fun & Travel. (Dec. 18, 2010)http://www.babyzone.com/toddler_preschooler_fun
- Disney Family Fun. Parties By Age. (Dec. 18, 2010)http://familyfun.go.com/parties/parties-by-age/
- Elliot, Stephanie. "What's Your Party-Planning Style?" Baby Zone. (Dec. 18, 2010)http://www.babyzone.com/toddler_preschooler_fun/birthdays_parties/quiz/party-planning-style/
- National Network for Child Care. Toddler Development. (Dec. 18, 2010)http://www.nncc.org/child.dev/todd.dev.html