How to plan the perfect party
Gearing up for your little one's party, but don't know where to start? We have the best tips from a party expert.

We all want to throw the perfect party for our babies- one that friends and family will be talking about for years to come- but with so much going on in our lives, the added pressure of putting a birthday party together can be just too much. So we asked co-author of über-beautiful party book Let's Celebrate, Debbie O'Flaherty, for her tips on party planning the stress-free way.

Plan around your child

This is all about him after all, so throw around a few ideas and see what he really wants to do. "The deciding factor for me when first starting to plan the party is the child himself. This relates mainly to their age, gender, and, most importantly, interests," she says.

"You have to ignite a spark in the party child and create a feeling of excitement from the very beginning. At the same time, I feel it is important to be totally unique and original in the kind of party you want to put together, as we all have been to so many Barney and Disney parties!"

Put together a mood board

Debbie recommends gathering pictures, photos, ideas and colour examples and putting them together on a pinboard so that you get a feeling of what the party is going to be like and what you need to do to pull it off. "This allows you to add pictures, photographs and notes on a continual basis. Let your creativity run wild!"

Choose a theme, that suits the guests, and not just the party boy

Debbie points out that although an age-appropriate theme definitely plays an important role in your child's party, the guest list will most probably also include children of various ages (like cousins, siblings and other freinds' children). "Factors like food therefore need to relate to a range of children," she advises. "This still allows you, the party planner, to be creative with your chosen theme."

Be discerning with the guest list

We often feel pressure to invite the whole preschool class to our child's party, which can end up being costly and overwhelming. Debbie says that the number of guests you invite is actually totally dependent on your child and his age and personality. For example, if your toddler is particularly shy, a big party might just be too much to handle, so a smaller, more intimate party will suit him better.

Send the invites out soon enough

We've all been there- so busy with everything going on in our lives that we suddenly realise a week before the time that we have to put a party together! The invites go out a few days before the party, and not many little guests show up. Avoid this by sending the invites out about three weeks before the party. "Given the hectic lives we all lead, this gives everyone enough time to consult their diaries and make plans accordingly," Debbie points out. 

"Remember that you set the tone for the party the very minute you hand out those invitations. You immediately create excitement in a child by choosing an eye-catching and awe-inspiring design. My general rule and biggest challenge when it comes to the invitations is to create something that no-one else has done before."

Go big on the food

We don't mean that you should hire a Sui chef or have Barney jump out of the birthday cake, but do make an effort so that the food you serve at the party matches up with your theme, and so creates a feeling of cohesion. Debbie believes that the food served at a party is as important as the décor. "Always try to create theme-related food that is not only delicious but tantalising to look at too. For example, at my son's "bug party" for his third birthday, I made crispy bees out of marshmallows and rice crispies, as well as layered jellies with snake sweets in them. A good choice for food is theme-related biscuits too- these are a treat for any age group, adults included," Debbie says.

Cupcakes are always a hit

Debbie says that cupcakes have become the trendy option for children's parties. They are a great idea with the younger age group, as small children tend to waste less of an individual cupcake as opposed to a slice of cake. However, she is still a big fan of the impressive birthday cake- something for all the guests, young and old, to marvel at.

Enjoy it!

This is a chance for you to get really creative, so grab the bull by the horns and go for it! It's quite easy to get bogged down by all the details, but try to focus on the big picture and set aside all stress on the big day. Enjoy the time with your family and friends!

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