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How to Plan the Perfect Kids’ Birthday Party on a Budget

Throwing a birthday party for your child can be a lot of fun, but it can also be expensive. If you are looking at how to plan a kids’ birthday party on a budget, while still giving them the party of their dreams, you’ve come to the perfect place!

We outline a step-by-step schedule for planning and throwing a great birthday celebration without breaking the bank.

Find all my party planning articles and resources here.

Kids at a birthday party with decorations

How To Plan A Kids’ Birthday Party On A Budget

Kids’ birthday parties don’t need to be expensive or extravagant for the birthday kid to have the time of their lives.

Whether you are looking for ideas on how to plan a birthday party at home or preparing to host the special day elsewhere, this step by step party planning guide for kids’ parties will help take the stress out of the planning!

You might also want to check out my mammoth guide to planning birthday parties for adults too!

The Essential Checklist For A Kid’s Birthday Party 

Work through this step by step checklist for a kid’s birthday party to help you tick off each of the essentials for planning a party.

Follow along with each step of the party planning process until you’ve got all the details planned and the perfect children’s birthday party is ready to go!

You can also grab this free printable checklist for kids birthday party planning to help you along the way:

Free printable birthday party checklist on clipboard with decorations

Choosing A Party Theme For Kids

Selecting a birthday party theme is a great way to start planning and is usually one of the first things to consider.

It will help you determine the decorations, activities, and food you’ll need for the big day. Once you have a theme in mind, the rest of the planning process will be much easier!

To choose a birthday party theme for kids, you will find 200 ideas for children’s party themes and more ideas to help you choose the perfect theme.

The best theme is one that suits your child’s interests, but one that is also relatively easy to decorate for. The kind of party will also depend on the ages of the children.

For example, you don’t want to be hosting a pool party for a bunch of toddlers! But for 10-year-olds, it’s a pretty fun option! Except for if it’s the wrong time of year since no one plans to swim in winter… (we get this request every year for our youngest daughter’s winter birthday).

You might also find inspiration from over 200 party themes for adults and teens as well!

Best Places To Have A Kid’s Birthday Party

Child upside down on a jumping castle

Now that you have a theme in mind, it’s time to start thinking about where the party will be held. If you are planning on having a home party, there are a few things you will need to take into consideration.

  • Do you have enough space to accommodate the party?
  • If it will be held outdoors, do you have a wet weather backup plan?

If you’re planning on having the party at a venue, here are a few things to consider:

  • Any costs associated with hiring the space
  • What is included in the price? Do they have a party package?
  • Can they accommodate your chosen theme? 
  • Is it large enough to accommodate your guest list?

One of the biggest perks of hosting a birthday party at a venue is that there is less mess to clean up at the end since most of that is taken care of for you.

Usually, the entertainment and food are also organised as part of a party package, making this a low-stress option that is sometimes worth spending a little extra for.

The other alternative to hosting a party at home or at a paid venue is by hosting it at a free location, such as a local park.

In this situation, you will need to bring everything with you from home.

Unless you are able to reserve a gazebo or picnic area from your local council, you may need to either arrive really early in the day to reserve your preferred spot (and hope no one else does the same) or take some portable shade with you such as fold-up gazebos.

How to plan a birthday party checklist

Planning The Guest List

Now that you know where the party will be held, it’s time to start planning the guest list. If you are having the party at home or at a local park, you may have a little more space to accommodate more guests.

However, if you are paying for a party package at a venue, such as a play centre or skating rink, they will typically have a minimum number of guests you will need to meet for their party packages.

The cost may also determine your maximum number if you are wanting to keep everything within a reasonable budget.

The type and location of the party will also determine if you are having a birthday party with family members and friends or just keeping it as a kids’ party, with your child inviting their school friends and peers.

For parties where you will be doing a make and take or special project or kids’ slumber parties, small groups are best!

Alternatively, you need to decide if your child is able to invite their entire class or just a few best friends.

Invitations For A Kids’ Birthday Party

Once you have the guest list finalised, it’s time to prepare and send out the invitations. If you are wanting to save some money on invitations, there are a few ways you can do this:

Child putting party invitation in envelope
  • Make your own invitations at home – Use a free editing program such as Canva to create printable invitations. They have thousands of templates and free graphics you can use or upload photos for a more personal look. When doing this, I usually create them in 4 x 6 photo size and print them on matte photo paper at home or at the local office supply store.
  • Get fillable party invitations – You can find ready-made invitation pads in a huge variety of party themes for kids. Simply fill in the blanks for thrifty and quick invitations for kids’ birthday parties.
  • Order a custom printable invitation from Etsy – If you are wanting something a little more personal or don’t have much time to make your own, there are many talented designers on Etsy who will create a printable invitation for you. This is usually much cheaper than having them professionally printed and can be done quite quickly once you provide the designer with all of the information they need. They send you the digital file and you can print them at home or at your local printing service.
  • Create a Facebook event – If all your party guests (or their parents) are on Facebook, you can easily set up a private event for the birthday party and invite the guests online. This gets trickier once your birthday child is at school, but for younger kids whose birthday parties mostly consist of extended family and close friends, this is a budget alternative to invitations.
  • Email or text your invitation – If you have the contact information for your guests, you can always send out a quick email or text with the party details. Just be sure to include all of the important information like date, time, location and what they need to bring (if anything). Alternatively, you can send an image with a digital invitation.

For kid’s birthday parties, aim to send out invitations around 2 to 3 weeks before the party.

Make sure to include the following on your party invitations:

  • Date
  • Start and end time
  • Address including venue name if not at home
  • RSVP date and your contact information
  • Any extra details they need to know or items they need to bring i.e. messy play clothes, swimmers and towel etc
  • Optional: You may also like to request if any guests have food allergies so you can cater to these needs.

If hosting a party for younger children, you may also consider specifying whether a parent needs to stay with the child or if they are free to pick them up later

Food Ideas For A Kids’ Birthday Party

One of the biggest cost factors for a kids’ birthday party is the food. If you are having your kid’s party during lunch or dinner time, you will need to provide a meal for your guests.

Alternatively, you can host a morning or afternoon birthday celebration and provide snacks and finger food instead.

Kids at birthday party with party hats

If you are wanting to keep costs down, here are a few tips for budget-friendly food ideas for kids’ birthday parties:

  • Serve a simple menu – Keep the menu simple with easy to prepare foods that don’t cost a lot. Think about serving things that don’t require heating so you can simply bring them out when it’s time for food.
  • Don’t go overboard with the sweets – A birthday party is not the time to worry about sugar content! However, you don’t need to go overboard either. Provide a selection of a few different sweets but make sure there are plenty of healthy snacks for them to choose too. This will help avoid the chaos of 10 kids on a sugar high!
  • Choose finger foods – A great option for a kid’s birthday party is finger food and often this is exactly the type of food they enjoy eating too. Party pies, cheese and crackers, sandwiches, fruit kabobs, and muffins are all great options for kids.
  • Don’t forget drinks – Playing is thirsty business so make sure you’ve got drinks sorted too. Kids drink a lot at parties, especially if you’re offering up fun drinks that they might not have every day, such as juice or fruit boxes (poppers, as we call them here in Australia). Chilled water in a jug with cups is also a good idea since not all kids enjoy sweet drinks.

Make sure you also have the essential party supplies for serving guests – plates, napkins, bowls, cups, serving platters, cake stand, etc.

Birthday Cakes For Kids

Themed kids birthday party with bunny cake and decorations

As for birthday cake, you can either make one yourself, order from a bakery or cake decorator or buy a pre-made cake from the supermarket.

If you have time, making your own birthday cake is a great way to save money but if you’re short on time or not confident in your baking skills, there’s no shame in buying a cake.

I often do a little of both, converting a simple store cake into a more extravagant cake by adding extra decorations.

Check out this guide for cake serving sizes if you are unsure of what size cake to get for your birthday party celebration.

You can make your own cake topper in the theme of your party, or check out Etsy for lots of affordable custom cake toppers as well.

And of course, don’t forget the candles!

Kids Birthday Party Games & Entertainment

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on games and activities for a kid’s birthday party but you do need to have some planned.

Kids will often entertain themselves but if you want to avoid any potential boredom situations, it’s always good to have something for them to do for at least half the party time frame.

Make sure you have small prizes ready for game-winners.

Here are some fun birthday party games for kids:

Find a list of 50 party activities and birthday party games for kids along with 20 balloon games and water balloon games to play!

You can find more ideas with these Christmas party games and Halloween party games that can easily be themed around your child’s birthday party theme.

Along with party games, there are other ways you can entertain the kids during the party that will ensure they stay occupied until pick up time.

This may include hiring professional entertainers, such as a clown or magician, or having face painting, a petting zoo or pony rides at your home.

These kids’ party entertainment ideas tend to be on the more expensive side, but can be a lifesaver when hosting a large group of kids!

Or have a craft project or make and take for the kids to do. Some fun party activities we have done are having a paint party with mini canvases for the kids to decorate and a tie-dye party, with each child taking home their own tie-dyed shirt.

But it can be as simple as decorating a party hat or having a colouring-in station for them to enjoy too.

Find more activities to do at home with kids plus over 100 fun ideas for the backyard too!

Decorations For Kids’ Birthday Parties

Birthday party balloon arch pink white and black

Once you have the food, games and entertainment sorted, it’s time to start thinking about decorations and party supplies.

This tends to be another area that can blow out the budget!

You don’t need to go overboard with decorations, as a few well-placed items can really transform your party space into something special.

Choose a colour scheme or theme for your party and base your decorations around this. You can find lots of affordable party decorations online, at your local discount store, or make some of your own.

Some fun and easy DIY decoration ideas include:

  • Make banners or bunting out of paper or fabric
  • Create cupcake, cake and table toppers from printed images on cardstock
  • Hang coloured streamers down a wall to create your own photo or food table backdrop
  • Tie bunches of balloons together into an arch

Party Favour Ideas For Children

Last but not least, don’t forget the party favours!

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on these either but it’s always nice for guests to take home a little something from the party.

There are lots of cheap and cheerful party favour ideas that kids will love, and these do not need to be a sugar-loaded bag of lollies either!

In fact, there are so many cool options for party favours that aren’t edible that kids can enjoy long after they head home.

You can find over 60 fun alternatives to candy party bag fillers to give you plenty of ideas.

Or send each child home with a single gift instead of goodie bags, such as an accessory or trinket related to the party theme.

Kids’ Birthday Party Schedule

Mother and child at 1st birthday party

The key to a successful child’s birthday party is to have a schedule or run sheet of how the celebration will go.

This will help you stay on track, avoid any potential boring moments and make sure you get through all the activities you have planned before the guest’s parents arrive to take them home.

Kids’ birthday parties are typically between 2 and 3 hours long, increasing in length for older kids who require a little less supervision and activities to entertain themselves.

A rough guide for how to schedule a kids’ birthday party may look something like this:

  • Welcome guests and get everyone settled
  • Play the first game or commence entertainment
  • Serve food (have some nibblies out just before guests start to arrive)
  • Play another game or do an activity
  • Free time for kids to play
  • Cake cutting
  • Another game or activity if time permits
  • Opening presents (if you choose to do this while guests are there)
  • Hand out party favours and say goodbye to guests

It is important to remember that when it comes to children, things often don’t go exactly as planned and they also can take a little longer than you might have anticipated so having a little room for movement can help.

You can always have an extra game or two in mind in case you run through everything too quickly and have time to spare, but you will often find that kids will enjoy simply playing together during those unplanned moments.

The Ultimate Printable Party Planner

The ultimate birthday party planner

Need a little extra help on how to plan a kids’ birthday party? Grab my ultimate printable party planner.

This printable planner has been designed for planning parties and events for any type of celebration and it has over 40 pages to help you organise every aspect of your party! Best of all, you can reprint it to help you plan future celebrations as well!

Grab the printable party planner here:

Planning a kid’s birthday party doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. With a little bit of organisation and some creative ideas, you can throw a celebration that your child will remember for years to come. By following these simple tips, you can easily plan the perfect birthday party for your child, without breaking the bank!

Do you have any other great tips for planning a kids’ birthday party on a budget? Share them with us in the comments below!

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How to plan a kids birthday party