Toddler Birthday Parties (ages 2-4)
By an Award-Winning Professional Party Planner
Get ideas for Toddler Birthday Parties
If this is the first page you've landed on, let me give you a quick introduction. I'm Matt James, a professional party planner, and the purpose of this site is to show you the most creative way you can use regular, shop-bought party supplies that can be found in most stores. Not everyone has the craft skills of Martha Stewart or the time to spend several days with a glue gun making things from scratch. It's fine to use shop-bought decorations and supplies—as long as you choose them carefully and know the best way to put them all together. So I'll share a few simple tips and trade secrets that anyone can use to add some creative touches to your party—whatever your budget.
One general tip for all toddler birthday parties is that although it's traditional to have some gift-opening time, try to avoid a big fanfare for this age group as it can be difficult for other kids to understand why they’re not getting presents.
You might want to consider leaving the present opening until later, after the party has finished. This can create some nice family time after all the guests have gone home. Or, if you do want to open them during the party, maybe do it towards the end and make sure that’s when the other kids are given their goody bags.
Schedule toddler birthday parties around nap times—late morning or late afternoon work well.
Keep numbers small as 2 year olds can be easily overwhelmed by too many people or too much excitement, so they quickly become exhausted and then the tears start.
Don’t make the party too structured—save that for when they’re a bit older. 2 year olds tend to get a bit overwhelmed when you try to entertain them too much. Keep everything loose and fluid. They often just want to have fun (the messier the better) so opt for lots of free playtime.
Forget about laying on classic party games and think more arts and crafts type activities. Set out plenty of things for them to play with such as Play-Doh, large bouncy balls, colouring, blowing bubbles and finger painting. And let them make a little bit of noise with some blow-outs.
It’s OK to mix in some moments when they all do something together—such as singing songs or dancing games (Hokey Pokey, etc)—but don’t work out a schedule for the entire party.
By 3 years old confidence has increased and they start becoming more sociable, so it’s good to introduce a bit more structure by including a few more games and activities.
Some parents think about getting a children’s entertainer to do puppet shows, magic, or balloon modelling. I personally feel that activities are always more enjoyable for kids than entertainment. (Even with professional parties for adults, there’s been a huge shift in recent years towards interactivity. 'Experiential' has become the new buzz word. People want to do rather than watch. And this applies to kids too. So think about simple activities such as cookie decorating, pizza making, painting, or making their own party hats.
Games are also good for this age—simple things like musical statues or Piñatas (get the pull string ones rather than the ones you have to hit)—nothing too competitive though. Let everyone win something.
Treasure hunts are also a good way to keep kids amused at this age—you could use this as a way for them to find their goody bags.
By this age you can start to structure the party a lot more.
4 year olds will have plenty of energy, so think about including more physical activities—especially things that will have them running around and doing things—rather than sitting down. Replacing musical statues with musical chairs is a good example, or see who can bounce a balloon in the air for longest using only their heads. Organize dress-up games by putting out a pile of clothes, splitting them into teams, and having them race to see who can put them all on first.
They don’t all have to be physical activities. A great game for this age group, is to put different objects into bags and have them take turns to reach in and identify the object just by touch. Don’t forget to include a range of different textures and plenty of slimy, gooey, horrible things that 4 year olds love.
Click on any of the toddler birthday party themes below for complete party plans including ideas for invitations, food & drink, decorations, and party favors.
Matt James is a professional event planner and owner of event agency Left Field Productions, which has produced events for Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kevin Spacey, Stella McCartney, David LaChapelle, John Waters, and Elvis Costello & Diana Krall. Since 2004, Left Field Productions has won 30 industry awards for excellence including Production Company of the Year. Matt is the author of the book Become an Event Planner: Secrets for Getting Hired from Employers, Recruiters, and Event Professionals.
toddler birthday party ideas
by an award-winning professional party planner