Birthday parties are supposed to be fun! But, if you have ever planned one yourself, you know that it can be stressful and overwhelming if you don’t have a good plan to follow. Once you have an organized list of what to do, you can have a lot of fun planning the perfect party. I’ve complied my favorite tips on how to plan a birthday party, complete with a free birthday party checklist for you to print. This compete party planning guide will walk you through party planning tips, party planning timeline, and how to make the planning process as stress-free as possible.


Birthday Party Checklist (To Print)


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How to plan a birthday party checklist with free printable party planning worksheet. This complete party planning guide will walk you through party planning tips, party planning timeline, and make the planning process as stress-free as possible. The ultimate template on how to plan a birthday party for children/kids at home (to print). Perfect for planners!


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Party Planning Timeline


There are plenty of birthday party checklists that you can find that outline all the tasks you need to do to plan a party, and when you need to do them (i.e. 1 month prior, 3 weeks prior, 2 weeks prior, etc…) (My birthday party checklist is not one of them!)

My issues with this approach is that there can be a lot of variablity in planning a party and that structured timing may not work for everyone.

For example, for my oldest daughter’s first birthday party, I started planning when she was around seven months old. For my second daughter’s party, I started planning around two months prior to her party. (Note, you don’t need months to prepare for a party, you can do it in a few weeks if you’d like. My point here is that timing will likely vary for everyone.)

The free printable birthday party checklist is set up to outline tasks by category rather than due date given this variability. However, see below for some general party planning timeline tips.


Birthday Party Planning Timing Tips


  • Book all major vendors as soon as you know you want to use them. Several vendors may book a few months in advance. If you have not yet finalized your vendors, but have a few in mind, reach out to them and ask them what their lead time is for booking parties.
  • Send invitations to guests 3 – 4 weeks prior to party.
  • Your goal should be to complete everything you can do in advance of the party and minimize your prep day of. If you are home cooking your meals, many foods can be frozen in advance and thawed the night before your party.


Party Planning Tips


Deciding on the Time of your Party


  • If you are planning a birthday party for a young child, or have a guest list with multiple young children, keep nap and bed time in mind as you set your timing. For example, if you have a children’s party in the evening, many of your guests may have to leave early (or not come at all) due to early bed times. In the early years, nap times may be dependent on age of child.
    • For a first birthday party, suggested timing is right after their morning nap, or right after their afternoon nap.
    • For a toddler birthday party, you will want to avoid around 12:00 – 3:00 pm as this is a common nap time for toddlers.


Deciding When to Have your Party


  • Prior to choosing the date for your party, run your date by your key guests to confirm they can attend on the preferred date. (Key guests may include parents, siblings, grandparents, etc…)
  • When picking out a date and time, factor in the locations of your guests. If you plan on inviting out-of-town guests, keep in mind the travel time that they will need to get to your party and if your party will require that they spend the night.

Inviting Your Guests


  • You can send invitations either by mail or online using a site such as Evite. (I used to swear I’d always send paper invites, but for the past few parties I’ve change to online invitations and it is so much easier to communicate with guests and keep track of RSVPs!)
  • Be sure to indicate if siblings are allowed on your invitations.


Planning your Food/Drink Menu


  • If you are having a party around lunch time or around dinner time, be sure to serve a meal.
  • Have options available for both children and adult guests.
  • Children menu Ideas:
    • Pizza
    • Chicken nuggets
    • Macaroni and cheese
    • Fresh fruit
    • Snacks that are easy to carry on the go
  • Adult Menu Ideas:
    • Catered platters of food (chicken, pasta, veggies)
    • Pizza
    • Grilled food (burgers and hot dogs)
    • Sandwich subs
    • Build you own sandwich station
  • If you do not plan on serving food right away, plan on a few appetizers to have out when guests arrive.
  • Keep allergies in mind and try to make sure there are options for all of your guests to enjoy.
  • Have drinks available for both children and adults.
  • If you are serving alcoholic beverages, plan on 2 drinks per (drinking) guest during the first hour of your party and 1 each hour after. (Of course, if this is a children’s birthday party, you will likely have less consumption and you can round down in your estimates.)




  • You will want to have some sort of entertainment or fun activity at your party to keep guests occupied and having fun.
  • Keep in mind the ages and interest of your guests. For example, if you are planning a first birthday party, but most other children attending are toddlers, you may want to have entertainment or activities suited for multiple ages.
  • You can hire entertainment or create your own fun.
    • Examples of hired entertainment include:
      • Bounce house
      • Face painter
      • Hire a costumed character
      • Traveling petting zoo
  • Examples of DIY entertainment
    • Yard games
    • Scavenger hunt
    • Create an obstacle course
    • Sidewalk chalk
    • Water table
    • Craft
    • Piñata



  • Whether or not you open gifts at the party is your choice (though I have seen this not done at most parties for young children). Whenever you do open gifts, be sure to write down the name of the gift and the name of the gift giver to make writing thank you cards easier.

Thank You Cards


  • Your thank you cards should be specific to the gift giver. If someone took the time to come to your party and purchase a gift, they should receive a personalized note back expressing thanks. See below for a few sample thank you card wordings that you can use.

Dear {Name},

Thank you for attending {your child’s name]’s birthday party. We had a lot of fun and hope you did as well!

{Your child’s name} was so excited to receive the {insert gift here} that you got her/him. He/She plays with it all the time. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

We hope to see you soon.

{Your name}


(If gift is cash or gift card)

Dear {Name},

We are so happy that you were able to attend {your child’s name]’s birthday party. The party wouldn’t have been the same without you there.

We greatly appreciate your generous gift. We plan on putting it towards {insert what you plan to purchase with cash or gift card, or how you plan to save it}.

We hope to get-together again soon.

{Your name}

Don’t Forget to Grab your Free Birthday Party Checklist!

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Wondering how to plan the perfect birthday party? Read this complete party planning guide that will walk you through everything you need to know to plan the perfect birthday party for children or adults. (Perfect for planners!) Complete with a free printable checklist to keep the planning process as stress-free as possible. This ultimate guide goes over party planning tips, party planning timeline, supplies, and even what you need to do after a party!


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