If you want to have an affordable birthday party, the best indoor location is, of course, your home. But who doesn't cringe at the thought of all of those kids running around your house? With a little planning and organization, however, you can pull off an indoor birthday party with a minimum of headache and property damage!
1. Less is more
Keep the number of guests to the amount you feel can sit around your table, or in a circle on the living room rug. For an indoor party, you want enough room for games and a place for the kids to eat. To accommodate more guests at the table, move the chairs and let the kids stand to eat and sing Happy Birthday.
2. Skip mealtimes
With younger kids, be sure not to schedule during nap time. Avoiding the lunch or dinner hour makes your job easier, because you won’t feel obligated to serve a meal.
3. Keep 'em busy when they come
Guests seldom arrive at the same time. You don’t want to start a game and leave someone out, plus you will likely be tied up chatting with parents about pick-up times. For younger kids, try providing coloring sheets and crayons, or have your guests decorate their own party hats with stickers. For older kids, free play with LEGOS or a craft project will do.
For colorful party hats try Oriental Trading Company. They also have a wide variety of stickers.
4. Plan the plan
A good amount of time for an elementary school party is one and a half to two hours. Assume the first 15-30 minutes will be taken up with arrivals, and the last 30 minutes with cake and presents, so you will need to fill one hour of time. Games and activities will keep the kids focused and the party moving along. Plan to start with active games, and finish with a sit down, quieter game such as Bingo.
Always plan a couple of extra games for those times that one isn’t working or the kids finish faster than you had expected. Check out these printable Bingo cards. With a quick Google search, you can easily find dozens of other Bingo themes, from Lego to American Girl.
5. Low-key games win
For indoor games, you will want to keep the running around to a minimum. Great games for indoors include: Pin The Tail on the Donkey, Musical Chairs, Pass the Parcel, Freeze Dance, Hot Potato (pass around a stuffed animal but don’t be caught holding it when the music stops), and Bingo. Check out this article for more indoor game ideas.
6. Pull out the perfect piñata
Piñatas are fun, but no one wants a 5-year-old swinging a stick in the house! The solution? A pull-string piñata. These clever piñatas have a trap door at the bottom, and only one string will open the door. Then, to avoid a mad scramble and bonked heads, consider filling the piñata with the goodies portioned into individual snack-sized reclosable bags. This is great for younger kids, no fighting over who got more! Check out Amazon’s offerings for a wide variety of pull string piñatas here:
7. Simplify, simplify, simplify
Avoid ice cream if possible, but if the birthday kid insists, get ice cream in individual, disposable cups. Cupcakes are great for automatic portion control — and no need for forks. Open cups present a spilling hazard, so juice boxes or pouches work best for little hands. Keep a trash can near the table for quick clean up and instead of paper napkins put out a package of wet wipes. Using a plastic disposable tablecloth allows you to gather all of the cupcake wrappers and empty juice boxes in the table cover and put the whole thing in the trash.
8. Curb gift craziness
Most parties have kids open presents after cake, a strategy that works well so kids are sitting down and not running around on full tummies. Have a trash or recycle bag at the ready and recruit another adult to write down who gave what. Or, for a fun addition to thank-you notes, take a picture of the birthday child with each present.
9. Ask for help
For short celebrations, many parents will stay for the duration. Don’t be shy about asking for help! Most will be glad to have something to do.
10. Have an end game
Get out those coloring sheets again or allow kids to decorate a giant card (a piece of poster board folded in half) for the birthday kid. An activity for which kids don’t need an adult helper for is best, as you will be thanking your guests and (maybe) handing out goody bags. These Sticker Scenes from Oriental Trading Co. are a great non-messy craft.
No party ever goes exactly as planned, but the birthday boy or girl won’t care! And neither will your small guests, as long as they go home with a cake-smeared smile, you’ll have done your job. I promise. Besides, after the party there is always Advil. And wine.
More at-home birthday tips
Indoor and outdoor party games
ParentMap's birthday directory
Loads of themes, from Star Wars to Cars