Party Planning 101


Remember when a preschool birthday party meant gathering in someone’s home to bat around a few balloons, streaking through the hallways like sugared-up cheetahs, and pausing just long enough to enjoy home-baked cake?

We still think this sounds like a wonderfully age-appropriate celebration. Unfortunately, many city families just don’t have the space, and many of us just simply don’t have the emotional fortitude to watch every single toy in our homes get hurled around and subsequently ground in with the cheddar bunnies into the freshly-vacuumed carpet.

And then there’s Pinterest. The wolf in sheep’s clothing of party planning. Pop on to get an idea for a cake you might order and 20 minutes later you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of planning your very own fondant creation (never mind that you hardly have time to butter bread) and spending 25 minutes apiece hand-assembling party hats (true story).

This is how the stress starts and we, as parents, don’t need any more of that.  Fortunately, having hosted several hundred parties for the six-and-under set at Purple Monkey Playroom, we have a few simple, and guilt-free tips that can help you create a fun, welcoming celebration, without picking up a glue stick.

Set your budget

This is key to figuring out how your party should come together. A home party is wonderful if you have the space and don’t get stressed out by the clumsy antics of young children. If the preceding two criteria don’t apply (raising our hands), you’ll want to dedicate a decent percentage of your dollars toward a venue. The next largest expense should be food and cake, which are the other two cornerstones of a successful children’s party. If you still have money to spend after that, it can be fun to go for trendy “extras,” such as elaborate pastries sweet tables, decorations, and performers. But remember, the fondant is the icing on the cake. Not the actual cake. Which, trust us, will be the singular focus of your young guests.

Party Planning 101 cake -

Consider Your Entertainment

If you have an in-home party or choose to rent out a restaurant, for example, it’s a good idea to have some form of entertainment. On the less expensive side, you can provide an activity mat for toddlers and maybe plan some games for older children. Other popular options are guitar players, costumed characters, face painters, and fairy tale performers.

A child-centric venue such as a playroom or art studio is a great way to avoid paying for entertainment, as it’s already included in what the space has to offer. A larger budget may allow you to do both, but you should only go over-the-top if that’s what you really want and can do comfortably. If your guests are entertained, they don’t expect a buffet of options.

Feed Your Guests

In our opinion, this is as important as hosting the party itself. Your guests will come expecting some sort of food and drink. If you plan your party during mealtimes, you will definitely want to provide something substantial. If your budget is tight, you can plan your celebration between lunch and dinner and get away with some fruit, veggies, and chips. At Purple Monkey we recommend breakfast pastries, a budget-friendly and substantial way to feed your guests. Pizza is always a favorite for lunch and dinner.

As moms, we also think it’s nice to be fed when we’re supervising our children at a 2 hour+ celebration. Make sure you offer your adult guests a bite to eat, and plan your dessert servings to include adults in attendance, as well. This will leave your guests with a nice impression of your hospitality.

Party Planning 101 Tablescape -

Decide what to outsource

Is Pinterest calling to you? We know. It’s a seductive beast. Water bottle labels and hand-made centerpieces are adorable if the budget allows for it. But only start this type of project if you think you will enjoy the time it will take to put them together. A fully assembled product off of Etsy is worth the $10 extra, to avoid all of the cutting, tying, and gluing, that comes with putting together your own banner or centerpiece. There are also local artists who specialize in making these extras (we recommend September Blooms).

Drop the guilt

Repeat after us. “I will not make myself crazy.”

Yes – people love to throw wonderland-style celebrations for their toddlers and that can be a lot of fun – *IF* time and money allows. Purple Monkey’s newest package, the King Kong, is designed for families that want it all – and want it all done for them. As owners and staff of a party space, we’ve also all indulged in our share of the madness, because well – monkey-see-monkey do – and we love our incredible vendors.

But we host many celebrations with proudly home-baked cakes, a few balloons and streamers, and party-themed plates. And trust us. The birthday celebrants and their guests who drink from plainly wrapped organic juice boxes have just as much fun as the ones whose boxes are wrapped with themed paper before making their way to the recycle bin.

There’s no one way to host a party. Just try to enjoy the process, and don’t forget to take lots of pics of your birthday child!

Other resources

Bucktown Music for musical storytime

Goldenfeather Productions for fairytale theatre

Ice Cream Team for costumed characters, princesses, magicians, and balloon twisters

Miss Jamie from the Farm for a costumed music performance

The StoryBook Mom to make books truly come alive

UrbanSitter for party assistance!


Happy Party Planning!

Jessica Roubitchek


    • amandasimkin says

      I wish I were as strong as you…I always tend to stress about some little thing that really isn’t important at all.

  1. Jeanine says

    We usually just do family things for Birthdays but as my kiddos get older they do want to discuss birthdays, so this is all so great to know!

  2. Elizabeth O. says

    I think going crazy always comes when you’re planning a party. These are wonderful tips and I have to remember not to got crazy.

  3. Terry says

    I don’t have to plan kids birthday parties any longer, but I do like to have a party for my Hubs every couple of years. The last one I did for him was a surprise Texas Holdem Party. That was really hard to keep it a secret from him, but I did it and he was very surprised.

  4. Nancy says

    Even though I’m a graphic designer I feel like I’m not creative at all when it comes to party planning or even kids parties. I hope my future kids (when I have them lol..) aren’t disappointed in the parties I throw for them. They will probably be super boring. Haha! Hopefully I will remember some of your tips in a few years time..

  5. tammileetips says

    Birthday parties can get out of control fast! I always do a checklist a week ahead of time for any party that we host. It makes it so much easier to stay focused and to not forget anything.

  6. Mommy Peach says

    LOL on @”I will not make myself crazy”! Indeed, party planning has taken a few levels up but we should get ahold of ourselves and keep it stress-free and fun!

  7. Chantal says

    This is an awesome post for ‘sane’ party planning. I need to repeat your mantra over and over… I tend to get stressed out about these things and then do not have nearly as much fun as I could when guests arrive. Setting a budget is also a great tip for planning any type of party! Great post 🙂

  8. Ourfamilyworld says

    Budgeting is important for every party as there is a tendency to go overboard when shopping for food, decorations and party favors. Party planning is fun, but it can be stressful, too. These are awesome tips.

    • amandasimkin says

      I always feel like it is okay to go overboard on the food, since I prefer to outsource that aspect of the party prep, and I always like to send my guests home VERY full.

  9. Brittnei says

    I love your self affirmation “I will not make myself crazy,” because man oh man, can people get a bit hysterical when it comes to planning things with kids. Understandably so because hosting parties for adults is a lot of work but with kids, it definitely can be more overwhelming in some ways. I love your tips. I was putting them in the back of my mind because I have events to play for very soon!

  10. Melissa says

    I totally feel your pain with the crackers into a fresh carpet…been there done that. I have also seen things get broken and parents looking at me like I was crazy for telling their kids not to jump on my kitchen table. So bringing them to a fun place is a great way to avoid mishaps in your own home. I love this idea!

    • amandasimkin says

      I do the same thing for play dates just because I hate how my house can be left as a disaster zone. Thank goodness for great venues like Purple Monkey Playroom.

  11. Abundant Journeys says

    Oh how I love to plan a party. Adult parties, kids parties, parties for clients. Party planning is oodles and oodles of fun. I, too, always start with a budget in mind. Budgets are important whether the total spend is $100 or $100,000. It helps keep you on track to giving the best party your guest will absolutely love.

  12. Holly says

    I love how you compare Pinterest to the wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is so true! I don’t get on there very often, but when I do, I come away with so many ideas that I want to try, but will never be able to do as well as the photo. The only time things turned out how I hoped was for my daughter’s first birthday. She’s turning three this year and I don’t even want to think about it.

  13. Melissa says

    I love these tips for planning a party. I agree set a budget and stick to it. I also love to outsource what I can to keep it simple. I will be pinning this!

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